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Should I retake to raise my AW score - applying for PhD in hard sciences


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I applied for PhD programs in bioinformatics/computational biology last application cycle but didn't get in anywhere. I had great letters of recommendation, solid research experience, but a low gpa (2.9). I'm aware that the gpa was my major stumbling block, but since that's the only thing I can't change anymore, I'm trying to improve my application in other ways. I scored a perfect 170 on both verbal and quant, but my analytical writing score was a bit lower - 4.5. Do grad programs in hard sciences care about the AW score? If I can raise it to a 5.5 or 6, would that give me any sort of advantage?

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I honestly think it would make no difference. I would address the GPA. You need to maintain a higher GPA than that in even harder classes to avoid getting kicked out a PhD program so with that GPA, I think that any adcom would feel that you would have little chance of getting through the classes and qualifying exams.

If there is an upward trend in your GPA and your last couple years average more like a 3.5 then they would be less worried since that proves that you can handle the coursework. I think your best bet would be either a masters first or a couple years of post bac classes. It would be very important that you make nearly straight As in these. My opinion is that your GPA will hold you up until you can prove that you can handle PhD level coursework. Good luck!


Also, what is your undergrad major? I am in a bioinformatics masters and have noticed that the bio people tend to struggle in the program way more than the math, CS, stat people since the bio people have to pick up a whole new way of algorithmic thinking but the math, CS, stat just have to study some cell bio to catch up. If you come from a math, CS, stat background, then they may be more forgiving of your grades. If you come from bio, then they would probably find them more worrisome and the quickest way to help your application would to get As in some classes like CS, data structures, stat, linear algebra, etc.

Edited by bsharpe269
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I just want to add that I saw your post about anxiety and since you have a good reason for your mixed grades, you may be an exception to needing post bac classes. I'm in a similar position with a mixed undergrad record due to pretty extreme ADD. Now that I have that under control, my MS gpa is a 4.0. I plan to say that I had a medical issue during undergrad that has been resolved.

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