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Yuanyang

Preparing for the worse.

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You've been working at MiT for 3 years- did you ask the faculty there why you didn't get in?

 

This is the best advice i've seen. I'm assuming you had letters of recommendation from there (you said from your workplace), It might be more than your GPA. You should find out for sure.  

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For a program to admit you with a 2.3 GPA, they'll have to pull a lot of favors with the graduate school to bypass the school-wide requirements. For the department to want to pull those favors, you'll need to be one of the best, if not the best applicant that year.

 

You've been working at MiT for 3 years- did you ask the faculty there why you didn't get in? The network you've built there, as well as (hopefully) going to conferences and presenting your work over the last 3 years is your best bet at getting in. The personal connections are what is most likely to make someone willing to cash in favors to get you into a school, coupled with a good portfolio of research and (hopefully) first author or really solid second author publications.

 

I'd also suggest not being terse and abrasive to people trying to give you advice.

 I don't know if adcoms have that much pull with the graduate school. 3.0 is the minimum, I don't know if you can get around that.

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 I don't know if adcoms have that much pull with the graduate school. 3.0 is the minimum, I don't know if you can get around that.

Depends on the university, I'm sure, there are people who get into PhD programs with less than a 3.0 GPA. We had a big thread about that last year.

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I apologize if i seem abrasive, I just don't like repeating myself and I don't like being treated as if I don't know what sacrifices mean and have never made them before. Also, I can be a very stubborn person which might be very frustrating for some people. I appreciate your patience, just not your admonishment. I have no illusion that it might take 15-30 years before I hold any kind of academic post at this rate.

 

I don't think its a surprise I didn't get into MIT. I've talked to the MIT faculty including the head of the admissions committee. I already had been advised that it was generally not a good thing to have research experience nor degrees from from BA to PhD from same institution. Many admissions committees right now are hyper-aware of the dismal job market and are making decisions that they feel will best-equip their students to find academic jobs. Staying in one institution for too long is not something you would want to explain. At least that is what was told, this could be their very polite way of telling me not to anticipate any favors. Still, no one told me to not to apply and I had to try anyways on blind hope and foolishness.  The rejection from MIT is not so bad as finding out that that I can not work on a PhD this fall, period.

 

I imagine going back and asking the faculty again will be awkward but might give good feedback. I'll give it a try when Boston starts to melt.

Edited by Yuanyang

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It's not just about it being 15-30 years before you hold an academic position- it's also the fact that the way ageism runs in academia, it becomes much harder to land an academic position after a certain age, sad as it may be.

Hence why I'm asking about what kind if academic you want to be. Something despite all your downvores, you still haven't answered.

The advice you will get is different depending on your answer.

Having your BS and PhD at the same institution isn't ideal, but also not a career killer. Having post bac research and a PhD from the same institution isn't bad at all. It's fairly common, in my experience.

I strongly suggest you talk to the faculty at MIT, especially your letter writers. I'd worry that if they didn't have the pull to admit you st their own school, the letters might have been on the weak side.

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Considering how awful people make out the academic job market, will i even have a choice? What if I finally do graduate and find that I don't want a tenure-track job, will I have the flexibility to find other acedemic postions? 

 

I personally would enjoy some sort of tenure-track job at a 4 year University teaching 6-8 courses a year. I could change my mind in gradschool; depending on how easy it is for my ideas to get published I might enjoy research better and would find a position with a heavy emphasis on research.I would like to one day find a job with the perfect mix of teaching and research but I have the feeling I might never even make it to the first year of a masters program. My worry now is how to get into a program in the first place and I feel that this kind of discussion is not helpful, at least not right now. If it would make it easier for you to suggest something more constructive, then assume I wish to chase after external dollars and spend long hours in a lab as an academician.

 

Also, would it be wise to ask my recommends for  a copy of their letters? I would like to see exactly how good/bad the letters were but I also might need to ask the same people to write letters immediately if I want to apply for some sort of degree program this year.

 

People told me that a low undergrad GPA isn't ideal, but also not a career killer. 

Edited by Yuanyang

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But yes, I don't know what your mentors told you, but a uGPA that low can easily keep an app from even being looked at, especially at competitive programs.

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I meant to indicate that in addition to the advice I got from my mentors, I also paid $120 for an academic advisor/career counselor who understands graduate admissions, and gave advice on how to best address it. Obviously it wasn't well spent. Do you know of any who might be better, and might not rip me off again?

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I meant to indicate that in addition to the advice I got from my mentors, I also paid $120 for an academic advisor/career counselor who understands graduate admissions, and gave advice on how to best address it. Obviously it wasn't well spent. Do you know of any who might be better, and might not rip me off again?

Emailing programs and PIs directly may be your best shot. Explain your situation and ask what they think your chances are. Some may give you the song and dance of "oh we look at the entire app" but others may be straight forward and say they have a minimum GPA or that they're more willing to look around that. Also having a PI of interest pulling for you may help pull your app out of the pile of those rejected.

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Emailing programs and PIs directly may be your best shot. Explain your situation and ask what they think your chances are. Some may give you the song and dance of "oh we look at the entire app" but others may be straight forward and say they have a minimum GPA or that they're more willing to look around that. Also having a PI of interest pulling for you may help pull your app out of the pile of those rejected.

 

I think the more straight forward ones have a better way of telling me to not apply. They ignore my e-mails.

 

I had a correspondence with a guy at Columbia University. He also went to my alma matter and understood why my GPA was so low. Unfortunately he was very non-committal to helping me get in, I assume because he was unsure if he could afford to hire a grad student this year.

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I agree with all of the sound advice offered by the members here. If you want to pursue a career in academia (and if that is what you truly want to do and if you still see yourself doing that in the future), my advice is NEVER EVER GIVE UP. I knew a few people whose applications kept being turned down due to their low GPA. Guess what they did? Some enrolled in a new undergraduate program to aim for the highest grades possible in sciences or any core course requirements, and they succeeded and now are pursuing Ph.D. (they are currently in their late 20s to early 30s). One person I know actually finished his new undergrad degree in three years. Another person was working part-time in a lab while taking quite a few courses at a local university/community college as a non-degree student, and that person also succeeded in being admitted to a Ph.D. program. 

 

I apologize if i seem abrasive, I just don't like repeating myself and I don't like being treated as if I don't know what sacrifices mean and have never made them before. Also, I can be a very stubborn person which might be very frustrating for some people. I appreciate your patience, just not your admonishment. I have no illusion that it might take 15-30 years before I hold any kind of academic post at this rate.

I too have a rather stubborn attitude. I don't blame you; every graduate student, whether current or prospect, have their respective pride (I used to be immature and a little defensive when my advisor suggested some unexpected changes for my research project early on - looking back, I hugely regret my attitude). I used to be very stubborn when I started my master's, but as my research project progressed, I realized that I still had LOT to learn, and by embracing changes & sacrifices (and becoming more open-minded and less stubborn), I was capable of impressing a number of my colleagues, my major advisor, and my committee within 15 months after I started graduate school.

 

However, let me remind you this: a persistent stubborn attitude will get you only so far (yes it is true, I cannot emphasize it enough). In fact, even if you get admitted to a program, if you continue to be very stubborn, you will have a very difficult time building bridges with other faculty, other graduate students, and maybe even your advisor. A persistent stubborn attitude can be perceived very negatively by the people around you. Many people who have responded and given you advice on this thread have substantially more experience than you when it comes to graduate application process / admission procedures, and hence are trying to help you, not discourage you. Nobody here is trying to treat you as though you don't know what sacrifices mean. 

 

Don't get defensive or abrasive, and cut down on your stubbornness, because with those traits you will have a difficult time building a network even when you are in a graduate program. 

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Its unlikely I will ever know exactly why I didn't make it this year, though as some of you will notice it is probably the undergrad GPA. I've tried to explain it as best I can (just say it involves SSRIs). I spent tons of money and hours for my SoP, GRE, and got some solid recs from good professors. Though admittedly, no one even tried to discourage me and I don't know what's holding them back. 

 

The whole point of the job at MIT was to get research expereience, I'm not sure if more will help. And, more to the point, that position is gone now and I doubt anyone would want to hire me. I'm too old the NIH and OSHU post-bacc programs, they both only accept students who have graduated in the past 2 years. The only option I can see now is a masters degree in biology or psych. I need to be in a program now, I cant waste another year applying for next fall; so far I cant find any masters in neuroscience that has rolling admissions. It will be tough for me to afford it though, I'm still paying off my undergrad loans. I'll probably be in my 30s by the time I get into a PhD program. 

I was rejected from all programs last year.  When the final rejection came in I emailed or cold-called the respective program directors or POIs and asked which parts of my application were delinquent.  Every one of them gave me straight-forward, honest, answers including advice on what I could do to improve my chances based on what they have seen other rejected-to-admitted students do in the past.  My GPA is low by grad admissions standards, but higher than yours.  The GPA alone was not a factor in any rejection and only one program mentioned my GPA specifically; the rest only cited certain grades in certain courses.    

 

My GF works at NIH.  Yes, the program you are speaking of is only for recent graduates but I do believe they have other programs as well.  They bring in people all time, many with only BS, for short assignments and projects.  

 

 

   

 

 

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Regardless of how helpful we have been, we are taking time to try and offer our advice, and I think people are more inclined to help when the person responds neutrally, if not positively - I don't think that trying to excuse the tenseness of your responses by stating that you have a stubborn personality is contributing positively to this discussion and encouraging people to respond.

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*terseness. But so-called professional career counselors aren't dependable, in my experience and in my friends' experiences. I would suggest expanding your network and I second the notion of reaching out in April or May after the cycle is over and finding out what went wrong and how to fix it. Be aware that some programs may not have a rationale on file and do not keep a written record of comments regarding your application.

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Also, to clarify, when I said career counselor, I didn't mean a private, for profit one - I meant speaking with someone working at your institution in the career services section, either at MIT or at your alma mater, who specializes in advising students on their professional/academic careers.

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Also, to clarify, when I said career counselor, I didn't mean a private, for profit one - I meant speaking with someone working at your institution in the career services section, either at MIT or at your alma mater, who specializes in advising students on their professional/academic careers.

That's what I think is the right idea. Talk with people who have been a member of an admission committee. At minimum, talk to people who have been through the process recently including current grad students and post-docs.

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I think a second undergrad degree is a waste of time and $$$. You won't get any grants/scholarships from the new undergrad institution just loans. You may also have to re-do the general requirements in addition to the major requirements. Some schools will waive the gen requirements but not all. If the GPA is the main reason for your rejection then I would consider a Masters. You may not be able to do a Neuroscience Masters program, but general biomedical sciences program instead. What is your GPA for the last 60 semester/90 quarter units? Most masters will have a 3.0 minimum GPA, some will take the last 60/90 units instead. Also is direct admitting into your current lab not an option??

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I think a second undergrad degree is a waste of time and $$$. You won't get any grants/scholarships from the new undergrad institution just loans. You may also have to re-do the general requirements in addition to the major requirements. Some schools will waive the gen requirements but not all. If the GPA is the main reason for your rejection then I would consider a Masters. You may not be able to do a Neuroscience Masters program, but general biomedical sciences program instead. What is your GPA for the last 60 semester/90 quarter units? Most masters will have a 3.0 minimum GPA, some will take the last 60/90 units instead. Also is direct admitting into your current lab not an option??

 

Last 2 years or the last 60/90 units had a GPA of 2.8.

 

I cannot get into the lab I was working in because first, the position no longer exists because the funding does not exist any more for it. Second, it was only a support staff position and not a staff research job; I never worked on my own projects but I did work with other staff researchers and post docs on their projects.

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Last 2 years or the last 60/90 units had a GPA of 2.8.

 

I cannot get into the lab I was working in because first, the position no longer exists because the funding does not exist any more for it. Second, it was only a support staff position and not a staff research job; I never worked on my own projects but I did work with other staff researchers and post docs on their projects.

 Will your PI not take you as a graduate student? Another option in the short term would be to see if you can find a staff research associate job in another neuro lab close by. IF you like the research see if it would be possible to directly admit into that lab for your phd. I  know quite a few people who have done this.

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I have tried. No dice.

 

I asked the Tonegawa lab and the Fee lab, got interviews, and no job.

 

I know of no one at MIT who has ever admitted a lab technician to become a PhD student in the same lab.

Edited by Yuanyang

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I think if you really want to go into academia your going to have to spend 32 - 110k on a masters degree (depending on the school). Hopefully the cost of that will help you buckle down and get the grades (for whatever reason) you never could.

 

I'd also retake intro physics at a community college or something. A B- in an intro level course is pretty bad, considering even as a neuroscientist I'd think you need to learn E/M at beyond the intro level (perhaps not, but it seems highly relevant).  

 

You can get into research (in industry) without getting an advanced degree, and that might be something to also consider.  For someone who is so stubborn about what he/she wants, you haven't really shown you want it with your actions. You really need to be honest with yourself because if you end up spending even as little as 50k on another degree, that is an insane amount of money that could be leveraged into a lot more money in the future. 

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50K is not a little amount of money. And I still have at least 40K of debt already to pay back.

 

I just want to see how many paths there are, more options are good regardless of how much it may cost. But will paying 100K or more for a MS program be the best route? More to the point, I doubt that how much I spent on an MS will factor in PhD admissions.

 

Its really hard to get information on MS degrees in this field, which is why I'm asking here in the first place.

 

A part of me is considering taking summer courses of all the undergrad courses I failed, then applying to MS programs for next fall. Either that or apply to a rolling MS program in Biology/CS and see if I can get admitted this year.

Edited by Yuanyang

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I think what GeoDUDE! is trying to say is that you need a better, more positive attitude to succeed. Applying is hard, waiting is almost worse, and we all get disappointed when what we want does not come true. Many people are in the same situation. You applied to top programs, so getting in is very difficult, not just for you, for everybody. You need to look forward with a more positive outlook, rather than look back and count how much it costed you. 

 

Regarding the Masters, you can also find cheaper programs if you look at State School, for example Stony Brook. I would also look at City College in the CUNY system.

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UC Davis I assume? Unfortunately the deadline for the neuroscience program has passed at that school. I could try another field that might accept on non-priority (psychology might still have space) but I would like more input if that would fix anything.

 

 

At this rate, I fully anticipate being far past the prime age for making any great discoveries in my field by the time I enter a PhD program.

Yuanyang, maybe I am exaggerating (I'll have to see if other users agree with me on this), but I find your comment to NSG-mdx's reply pretty offensive: by "prime age" are you saying that people who start Ph.D. in their later years in neuroscience are less capable and less competent when it comes to making great discoveries? So should we too be discouraged from pursuing a PhD just because we are beyond "prime age"? Mind you, this can be quite insulting to many people on this forum who are starting their Ph.D. in their 30s-40s. 

Edited by UnagiForever

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