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Advice on schools to apply to


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Hello all,

Chemistry (ACS) major (with a theater minor) from a good but small LAC here. I'm very interested in pursing a PhD in Chemistry and working at a college or university in the future (interested in both teaching/mentoring and research).

I'm currently a sophomore with a 3.4 Chemistry GPA (fairly confident I will bring it up to 3.5/3.6 by the end of junior year). I've faced severe mental health problems (Bipolar Disorder) that have taken over a year to get under control. Thankfully, I believe they are now but they have still contributed to two straight semesters of B+'s (and probably one more) in my core Chemistry classes.

I work for the Physical Chemistry prof here in an unpaid independent study and have been offered to continue this research this summer and for at least the next two semesters as a paid research assistant. I'm hoping to do an REU the summer after my junior year. I'm more interested Inorganic or Organic chemistry for graduate school and my career.

I have a great relationship with an Inorganic prof, a quite good relationship with said Physical prof, and hoping to deepen relationships with one or two more so I should have three strong recommendation letters.

I have excellent writing skills (except, clearly, in my late-night parentheses-loving state) presentation skills, and communication/public speaking skills (high school captain of forensics team and All-State in extemporaneous speaking in my first year of competition). I'm also a very practical, precise, and detail-oriented person.

I don't know how I will do on the GRE/ChemGRE but I have had great standardized test results in the past (e.g. 35 ACT).

Currently my list that I would like to narrow down from (although I am open to any suggestions) is

New York University

Columbia University

Harvard University

University of Chicago

Northwestern University

Duke University

University of Washington

University of Oregon

Oregon State

Yale University

My main reasons for choosing these include location (I would love to study/live in the Chicago area, NYC, or the Northwest), national/international renown, and personal connections.

Given this information, what range of graduate schools do you think I should consider applying to? Any other suggestion or pieces of advice?

I know I am rather early to be considering this, but I would like to look ahead with some idea of where I want to go.

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Your list is fine for now (roughly the right number of programs). What you have to do now is look up the research occurring at each of those programs. This means looking at the PI's research summary and reading some of their papers. You will have a better idea of whether you could see yourself working on these sorts of projects - i.e. finding your research fit. Also since you're a sophomore I doubt you've taken any advanced inorganic or organic courses, so I would say take those types of electives in order to see which field you can see yourself in since they are quite different. Overall good luck with your preparations (also aim for th 85-90th percentiles on the GRE and take the subject GRE as well).

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