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2015 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results


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Personally, I would not mention the depression.  On the one hand it seems like too easy of a copout and I would bet the farm that this is the #1 "reason" adcoms see in the SOP.  On the other, even though there was an upward swing in terms of GPA and productivity the adcoms might fear the depression will return.  And if they are going to (potentially) drop a few $100K on your education/research, you can see why they might choose to pass.

 

I think it would be better to say that "you" had a hard time adjusting: new city, school, people, first time away from family, and so on.  Even stating that you were unsure about college at first would be better. 

 

Hmmm... while I see your point that it might be a common reason on apps for people to excuse bad grades, I would hope that a neuroscience adcom would be far more understanding and empathetic than others, perhaps. It seems hypocritical to me that a group of people dedicated to studying the brain would have such a strong stigma against those with mental health issues. 

 

BUT, what do I know? That's why I'm posting here after all. Obviously I wouldn't make a big deal/sob story about my struggles, but it would untruthful to chalk it up to having a hard time adjusting, or being unsure about college. For me, those would be complete lies. 

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eteshoe, at least turn down SOME of those acceptances.  It's not polite to hold onto so many when others might want in.

YES!! Got my first official offer today! Happens to be from the same school that rejected me two years ago.   

Hmmm... while I see your point that it might be a common reason on apps for people to excuse bad grades, I would hope that a neuroscience adcom would be far more understanding and empathetic than others, perhaps. It seems hypocritical to me that a group of people dedicated to studying the brain would have such a strong stigma against those with mental health issues. 

 

BUT, what do I know? That's why I'm posting here after all. Obviously I wouldn't make a big deal/sob story about my struggles, but it would untruthful to chalk it up to having a hard time adjusting, or being unsure about college. For me, those would be complete lies. 

 

Adcoms are also made up of people with their own biases, and being educated in neuroscience doesn't mean an adcom's going to lose its biases.

 

The adcom will look at your application and wonder if they're making a huge gamble on you, if you're likely to get depressed again, and if you're just not going to be a good person to expend resources on.  There's no way, once you mention the D word, to differentiate 'depressed because of poopy times in college' from 'depressed because of an organic, chronic, ongoing problem with brain chemistry that has nothing to do with the environment'.  Regardless of whether you've been or are being treated, and whether it was successful, there is a not-insignificant risk that they will think of you as a loose cannon.  This is probably the most uncharitable possible interpretation, but from what I've heard, it is still persistent.  I have a relative who has a coworker who went out with her depression; she lost a lot of assignments, got dinged otherwise jobwise, and finally left because she got fed up.

 

And consider they may be charitable towards Average Jane or Joe on the street, but any lingering bias may come out more strongly when they're recruiting grad students, who they will hold to higher standards.  Mental illness is mental illness, and mental illness, as anyone in neuroscience knows, can make people do some supremely unproductive, stupid, self-defeating, sometimes hurtful stuff, which WILL anger the boss of a mentally ill person to at least some extent.

 

You will HAVE to lie if you want an offer.

 

I know I'm being this thread's perpetual Negativity Spouter here, but sometimes I think thegradcafe paints a rosier picture of admissions than may be warranted.

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Adcoms are also made up of people with their own biases, and being educated in neuroscience doesn't mean an adcom's going to lose its biases.

 

The adcom will look at your application and wonder if they're making a huge gamble on you, if you're likely to get depressed again, and if you're just not going to be a good person to expend resources on.  There's no way, once you mention the D word, to differentiate 'depressed because of poopy times in college' from 'depressed because of an organic, chronic, ongoing problem with brain chemistry that has nothing to do with the environment'.  Regardless of whether you've been or are being treated, and whether it was successful, there is a not-insignificant risk that they will think of you as a loose cannon.  This is probably the most uncharitable possible interpretation, but from what I've heard, it is still persistent.  I have a relative who has a coworker who went out with her depression; she lost a lot of assignments, got dinged otherwise jobwise, and finally left because she got fed up.

 

And consider they may be charitable towards Average Jane or Joe on the street, but any lingering bias may come out more strongly when they're recruiting grad students, who they will hold to higher standards.  Mental illness is mental illness, and mental illness, as anyone in neuroscience knows, can make people do some supremely unproductive, stupid, self-defeating, sometimes hurtful stuff, which WILL anger the boss of a mentally ill person to at least some extent.

 

You will HAVE to lie if you want an offer.

 

I know I'm being this thread's perpetual Negativity Spouter here, but sometimes I think thegradcafe paints a rosier picture of admissions than may be warranted.

 

Don't lie about it, but you don't need to mention it in your SoP or intentionally draw attention to it. If somehow they ask you something related to it at interviews, talk about it. If not, it is probably a non-issue unless you've got a condition that requires special treatment. It sounds like you don't need special treatment and that you're doing pretty well, kravity13, so there's no need to mention it. :)

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Don't lie about it, but you don't need to mention it in your SoP or intentionally draw attention to it. If somehow they ask you something related to it at interviews, talk about it. If not, it is probably a non-issue unless you've got a condition that requires special treatment. It sounds like you don't need special treatment and that you're doing pretty well, kravity13, so there's no need to mention it. :)

 

If kravity13 doesn't touch on it, they might not consider kravity13 at all.

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If kravity13 doesn't touch on it, they might not consider kravity13 at all.

 

That's definitely the fear- that if I don't mention it, it just looks like I am incompetent in the classroom, or didn't care. I think that's not the case at all, and my professors would back me up on it, but numbers are numbers  :(

 

I certainly wouldn't consider myself a loose cannon by any means, and I'm not even in treatment anymore, but those 4 years were a different story. I do understand the perspective of the adcoms being wary of anyone that doesn't look like a guarantee on paper. I just wish that one number didn't blemish my otherwise decent chances of getting into my dream programs.

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Hmmm... while I see your point that it might be a common reason on apps for people to excuse bad grades, I would hope that a neuroscience adcom would be far more understanding and empathetic than others, perhaps. It seems hypocritical to me that a group of people dedicated to studying the brain would have such a strong stigma against those with mental health issues. 

 

BUT, what do I know? That's why I'm posting here after all. Obviously I wouldn't make a big deal/sob story about my struggles, but it would untruthful to chalk it up to having a hard time adjusting, or being unsure about college. For me, those would be complete lies. 

 

I am in a very similar situation but my issue is ADHD. My undergrad GPA is a 3.3 but my grades are very very mixed. I made straight As in the standard classes that are easy to breeze through and even in some of my upper level classes, especially the ones that I could memorize my way through. In the classes that required intense focus and thinking on the exam, I did horrible, even if I had a good grasp on the concepts. The result is an undergrad transcript full of As and Bs, with the occasional C or even D in those intense classes. I am now effectively treating my ADHD and have a 4.0 MS GPA. I am leaning towards mentioning that I had a medical issue during undergrad that will no longer be an issue. You could do something similar related to your depression. Maybe mention that a medical issue held you back but do not go into details. If you are questioned about it at interviews then you can just say that it is personal but is completely resolved. I have even considered having a LOR writer mention this for me, instead of taking up space in my SOP.

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I am in a very similar situation but my issue is ADHD. My undergrad GPA is a 3.3 but my grades are very very mixed. I made straight As in the standard classes that are easy to breeze through and even in some of my upper level classes, especially the ones that I could memorize my way through. In the classes that required intense focus and thinking on the exam, I did horrible, even if I had a good grasp on the concepts. The result is an undergrad transcript full of As and Bs, with the occasional C or even D in those intense classes. I am now effectively treating my ADHD and have a 4.0 MS GPA. I am leaning towards mentioning that I had a medical issue during undergrad that will no longer be an issue. You could do something similar related to your depression. Maybe mention that a medical issue held you back but do not go into details. If you are questioned about it at interviews then you can just say that it is personal but is completely resolved. I have even considered having a LOR writer mention this for me, instead of taking up space in my SOP.

 

I've thought about this too.... but then I'm not sure how comfortable I am asking previous professors to do that. Maybe they don't have to outright spell out the issue, but I could give them the background info and ask them to just really chalk up the extra efforts I made outside of the classroom. 

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That's definitely the fear- that if I don't mention it, it just looks like I am incompetent in the classroom, or didn't care. I think that's not the case at all, and my professors would back me up on it, but numbers are numbers  :(

 

I certainly wouldn't consider myself a loose cannon by any means, and I'm not even in treatment anymore, but those 4 years were a different story. I do understand the perspective of the adcoms being wary of anyone that doesn't look like a guarantee on paper. I just wish that one number didn't blemish my otherwise decent chances of getting into my dream programs.

 

I remember what I did on my SOP was that I did mention the discrepancies in my academic record.  I also wrote in what I was going through at the time in order to explain why I had a tough time getting some high marks in some of my classes.  I wrote it in a way that explained why it happened, but I didn't write it in a way that it would give me an excuse if that makes any sense.  During the interviews, the committee members did ask me about my grades and I essentially reiterated what I wrote down.  Thankfully, they were understanding and had a much better idea of what was going on in my life during those times, and ultimately it led them to overlook what they saw on my transcripts.

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I would just mention that I had previously dealt with a medical issue, that was now under control.   You can mention that the medical issue, and the treatment for the condition, affected you at the time, but that it is now under control.  Mental health issues are medical issues, just like diabetes and cancer are medical issues.  There is no need to go into detail or to lie.  Be honest about having a medical condition, but let them know that it is no longer an issue.

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Very early sort of 'good news', maybe, but I have a Skype chat scheduled with a prospective PI across the pond at Cambridge!

 

Over there you're supposed to talk to the PI first and then they tell you to apply.

Thats awesome! Good luck

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Very early sort of 'good news', maybe, but I have a Skype chat scheduled with a prospective PI across the pond at Cambridge!

 

Over there you're supposed to talk to the PI first and then they tell you to apply.

Congrats! Good luck on your chat. Tell us how it goes.

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I am in a very similar situation but my issue is ADHD. My undergrad GPA is a 3.3 but my grades are very very mixed. I made straight As in the standard classes that are easy to breeze through and even in some of my upper level classes, especially the ones that I could memorize my way through. In the classes that required intense focus and thinking on the exam, I did horrible, even if I had a good grasp on the concepts. The result is an undergrad transcript full of As and Bs, with the occasional C or even D in those intense classes. I am now effectively treating my ADHD and have a 4.0 MS GPA. I am leaning towards mentioning that I had a medical issue during undergrad that will no longer be an issue. You could do something similar related to your depression. Maybe mention that a medical issue held you back but do not go into details. If you are questioned about it at interviews then you can just say that it is personal but is completely resolved. I have even considered having a LOR writer mention this for me, instead of taking up space in my SOP.

 

 

Speaking as someone with very similar Undergrad/Grad transcripts. I would say that it is important that you address why your grades were bad and then improved. In my case, I could point to undergrad and say this was during treatments, and then show the obvious improvement of grad school along with GRE and say this is now. I think that's the best way of dealing with it. 

 

For my situation, I could say that all the issues were in my past. But if you're dealing with a potentially continuing situation, I would avoid going into details. Like others have said, you don't want the adcoms to feel like they're taking a risk on you.

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Speaking as someone with very similar Undergrad/Grad transcripts. I would say that it is important that you address why your grades were bad and then improved. In my case, I could point to undergrad and say this was during treatments, and then show the obvious improvement of grad school along with GRE and say this is now. I think that's the best way of dealing with it.

For my situation, I could say that all the issues were in my past. But if you're dealing with a potentially continuing situation, I would avoid going into details. Like others have said, you don't want the adcoms to feel like they're taking a risk on you.

Thanks for the advice! I agree that I need to address it. My MS gpa is 4.0 and my GREs are 168Q/162V so everything recent it very good and I can easily show a huge improvement. I've had the highest grade in the class in all but 1 (and I was still in the top few in that one) of my MS classes so I think my LOR writers can back up the claim that undergrad does to reflect my potential at all. I hope phd programs are willing to overlook the undergrad grades and that they don't hold me back too bad. My current PI doesn't seem to think they will but I guess we will see soon!

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I might actually be wrong about not getting into any publications from the lab I'm working in this summer. It probably won't show up in my application at all, though. Not with November deadlines.

You can list it as "manuscript in preparation or manuscript in submission"

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You can list it as "manuscript in preparation or manuscript in submission"

Good point. I think I will do that. Thanks!

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You know what sucks?  I have a list of a lot of schools right now.  I have to narrow it down to 10.  The bolded schools are the ones I absolutely am applying to.

 

UVA Neuro, Stanford Bio, UC Davis Neuro, OHSU Neuro, Carnegie Mellon Bio, Pittsburgh Neuro, Florida Neuro, Emory Neuro, UC Irvine Neuro, Duke Neuro, UNC Chapel Hill Neuro, UT Houston Genes and Development, Michigan PIBS, UT Southwestern Neuro, NIH/JHU GPP, Berkeley MCB, University of Washington MCB, USC Neuro, Case Western Neuro

 

I need to eliminate all but 5 of the remaining schools.  It is hard.

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You know what sucks?  I have a list of a lot of schools right now.  I have to narrow it down to 10.  The bolded schools are the ones I absolutely am applying to.

 

UVA Neuro, Stanford Bio, UC Davis Neuro, OHSU Neuro, Carnegie Mellon Bio, Pittsburgh Neuro, Florida Neuro, Emory Neuro, UC Irvine Neuro, Duke Neuro, UNC Chapel Hill Neuro, UT Houston Genes and Development, Michigan PIBS, UT Southwestern Neuro, NIH/JHU GPP, Berkeley MCB, University of Washington MCB, USC Neuro, Case Western Neuro

 

I need to eliminate all but 5 of the remaining schools.  It is hard.

 

I originally had a huge list, too, and ended up only applying to 6. I ended up picking all of the programs I loved, and then I dug around and decided which places I thought I could be happiest living in. So I selected school/program/poi, first, then narrowed the list by location/cost of living. Maybe that will help you?

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I'm thinking of eliminating all the UC schools.  I hear bad things about how they treat PhD students.

 

This is a bit of a blanket statement, don't you think? -  the few people I know who are grad students at UC schools love it. 

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Berkeley seems to have a perpetual problem with paying its students enough.

 

 OK well I don't know much about Berkeley grad schools - though probably best not to generalize to all ten UC campuses, no? Have you tried contacting the grad secretary at Berkeley or getting in touch with its grad students?

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I'm thinking of eliminating all the UC schools.  I hear bad things about how they treat PhD students.

 

Yeah, I would disagree on that statement as well.  I'm currently finishing up my appointment as a lab manager at my home UC campus, and I've noticed that the grad students on my campus tend to love their programs.  I'm actually going to be starting at my graduate program at another UC campus and it seems they treat their grad students well over there too.

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You know what sucks? I have a list of a lot of schools right now. I have to narrow it down to 10. The bolded schools are the ones I absolutely am applying to.

UVA Neuro, Stanford Bio, UC Davis Neuro, OHSU Neuro, Carnegie Mellon Bio, Pittsburgh Neuro, Florida Neuro, Emory Neuro, UC Irvine Neuro, Duke Neuro, UNC Chapel Hill Neuro, UT Houston Genes and Development, Michigan PIBS, UT Southwestern Neuro, NIH/JHU GPP, Berkeley MCB, University of Washington MCB, USC Neuro, Case Western Neuro

I need to eliminate all but 5 of the remaining schools. It is hard.

I have a suggestion, because you already seem to have a interest in the research at each school calculate how much each one's stipend would be corrected for cost of living and apply to the ones in addition to your selected five where you will live best.
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Berkeley seems to have a perpetual problem with paying its students enough.

 

Berkeley is also in an extremely high cost-of-living area, so I'm sure the 31K stipend (neuroscience program, for instance) are difficult to budget with. They should probably increase that to be more in the line with the NYC schools.

Other UCs like Davis and Santa Barbara may not have that issue.

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