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Should I even bother applying?


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Welp... this is yet another "What are my chances???" thread, but I was hoping someone could offer me a little guidance regarding my situation. 


I'm an undergrad (rising senior) student from a Top-3 mexican university studying B.S. Biotechnology Engineering, and was hoping to apply to a competitive PhD program (Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Yale). However, past threads regarding the profile of applicants depressed me. In a world (cue Don LaFontaine) where people with 3+ publications as first authors and a Masters from an Ivy School are being rejected from Stanford, do I even stand a chance?


My main drawbacks are (1) being international, (2) the fact that I was unable to secure external funding (missed deadlines), (3) lack of publications (though tons of research experience, I'd say) and (4) LoR will not stem from U.S. professors. Could anyone give a quick look to my profile and tell me if I should even try? Or should pursue a masters from a home university?


Any help will be greatly appreciated.


Undergrad Institution: Top-3 mexican university.

Major(s): B.S. Biotechnology Engineering

Minor(s): Does not apply
GPA in Major: 99.6/100 (Mexican grades are out of 100)
Overall GPA: 99.6/100
Position in Class: #1
Type of Student: International, funding required

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q: 165 (90%)
V: 160 (85%)
W: 4.5 (85%)

TOEFL Total: 8.0 @ IELTS

Research Experience:


Two research summers during High School. Ended up producing a technical report and presented it in a local congress. 

Been involved in research with different programs during undergrad, one program during semesters 1-2, other one during semesters 5, 6, 7 and another one during semester 7. Planning on continuing research during semester #9, so it will pop up in my application. 

No publications. 





90% scolarship in my school (academic scolarship, awarded by university due to HS performance)

Consistently recognized by my faculty as #1 student (past 2 years)

Gold medal in state and national biology contest, silver medal in the Ibero-American contest (during HS, mind you)


Pertinent Activities or Jobs: No

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: 


IB Program? 43/45 - Valedictorian (HS)

Part of the 2014 International Honors Program at Stanford, obtained a certificate in the Environmental and Water Studies Program (A/A)

Exchange student at The University of Nottingham during semester #8

Special Bonus Points: I'm afraid not.

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter:

Applying to Where:


Stanford - Biosciences

MIT - Biology


Yale - BBS

Edited by sanfonts
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Since you're an international applicant I would suggest you apply to more programs (and private programs at that since they tend to accept more international applicants). Also just to let you know, if you are accepted into these programs you will be fully funded. And a last point - having undergrad publications may be looked at as a plus (depending on the quality of the journal and if it's peer-reviewed) but it is by no means a requirement for acceptance into a PhD program. 


Overall, apply to these programs if they have 3-5 PI's you could see yourself working for and add a few more schools to your list. 

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If you were not international I would say you would be in the very top tier of applicants. You are still extremely competitive but the sad fact for international students is that there are far fewer slots available and you are competing against some of the smartest and most driven people in the world. I would still say your chances are very good but I would apply to more schools to be on the safe side. I am not sure how many slots Stanford has for international students in Biotech Engineering but I would be surprised if its more than a dozen. 

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