Dank

2017 Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results

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This may be considered a little early, but I wanted to start the 2017 application profile thread, so here it is! I'm copying the 2016 thread for consistency. Use the following templates to enter your information, before and after you obtain your results, and remember to submit your results at the end of the cycle for posterity and to help the next cohort of applicants HERE.

You can find the threads by clicking on the year.

2016: //forum.thegradcafe.com/topic/67840-2016-applicant-profiles-and-admissions-results/?page=1
 

Undergrad Institution: (School or type of school, such as big state, lib arts, ivy, technical, foreign (what country?)... Overall Reputation in Biology?)
Major(s):
Minor(s):
GPA in Major:
Overall GPA:
Position in Class: (No numbers needed, but are you top? near top? average? struggling?)
Type of Student: (Domestic/International, male/female, minority?)

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q:
V:
W:
B:


TOEFL Total: (if applicable, otherwise delete this)

Research Experience: (At your school or elsewhere? What field? How much time? Any publications (Mth author out of N?) or conference talks etc...)

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: (Within your school or outside?)

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: (Such as tutor, TA, SPS officer etc...)

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:

Special Bonus Points: (Such as connections, grad classes, famous recommenders, female or minority status etc...)

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

Applying to Where:

School - Department - Research Interest
School - Department - Research Interest
School - Department - Research Interest

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Here's mine: 

I am having trouble pinpointing where I should apply and how to figure out which schools may be safe for me to apply to and which ones are completely out of reach. I hope to get some insight from those of you on here who are hearing back from your applications in the 2016 cycle, or from previous cycles. I would greatly appreciate any advice!

Undergrad Institution: ~60th ranked private liberal arts college
Major(s):  Biology
Minor(s):  none
GPA in Major:  unsure, but probably around 3.5, definitely higher than overall
Overall GPA:  3.35
Position in Class: no ranking
Type of Student: Domestic, LGBT white male

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q: 154
V:  158
W:  4.0
B:  Not going to take 

-I am going to retake the GRE, I am a terrible standardized test taker, so hopefully I can do a lot better. 


Research Experience:

Worked in a Biomechanics lab for half junior year and all of senior year at undergrad. I presented a poster of our research at a conference.

I'm currently working as a tech in an immunology lab studying HCV infection and HIV/HCV coinfection at a Harvard affiliated hospital and getting experience with flow cytometry, qpcr, allospot and other lab techniques. I hope to have my name on at least one paper by the end of my 2nd year here or slightly thereafter (working here from 2015-2017). 

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: 

University Dean's List for 4 semesters 

Member of beta beta beta biological honors society senior year of college

Pertinent Activities or Jobs

RA during senior year or college

Special Bonus Points: 

I should be able to get some really strong letters of recommendation from current employer and professor I worked for during undergrad who know me well and want to see me succeed. I should also be able to get a letter from one of the post docs here in the lab who I am working closely with on a project and can attest to my abilities.
Applying to Where: 

  • BU
    •  Biomedical Sciences
  • Rockefeller,  either
    • Medical Sciences, Systems Physiology and Human Genetics
    • immunology virology and microbiology
  • NYU Sackler
    • Biomedical sciences
  • Mt Sinai
    • Biomedical sciences
  • Weill Cornell
    • Immunology & Microbiology pathogenesis
  • Einstein
  • UCSF 
    • Tetrad
  • UCSD 
    • Biomed
  • University of Miami
    • Cancer Bio
  • Scripps (Florida)
  • Baylor college of medicine
  • UVM

I'll appreciate any feedback I can get.

Thanks!

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What Exactly are your research interest as this will really determine good schools for you. If i were you I would look through a bunch of programs and immediately nix anywhere where you cant find at least 3 faculty whose research seems interesting to you. WashU's DBBS program would also be good to look at as they are a very good program with hundreds of faculty to choose from regardless of your declared track

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Is there a particular reason you want to apply to UCSF Tetrad? From your experience and the other programs you've listed, it seems like BMS might actually be a better fit for your interests.

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@Agent Orange Thanks for the response, I'm most interested in studying T-cell biology, but I am also very interested, in general, in molecular/cellular bio and virology. I'll take a closer look at the faculty at the schools I listed, that's great advice.

 

@Ferroportin I thought the program was very interesting because it bridges together different areas of biology and seems incredibly diverse. I'll check out the BMS program though. Thanks for the response. 

 

Am I aiming too high with my list of schools? I'm worried that my stats aren't up to the level that these schools are looking for? 

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23 minutes ago, Dank said:

Am I aiming too high with my list of schools? I'm worried that my stats aren't up to the level that these schools are looking for?

I cannot say for sure, but I do think some of those schools are a stretch.  But I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing!  You have very similar stats to me.  I say just make sure to apply to a few stretch schools and a few fallback schools.  That's pretty much what I did.  The most important thing seems to be experience.  Honestly though, you never know what a program is really looking for.  If you are a perfect fit you can get into a top program and not get into a lower tier program that isn't a fit.  

You can see my current results in my signature below.  For reference I had a 3.25 GPA, 157/161/4.0 GRE, 1 first author pub, multiple conference presentations, and ~4 years of experience working in labs (2 academic, 2 industry).

Edited by HopefulPHD14

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@Dank I can't speak to the majority of the schools on your list, but I do think that your stats are a bit of a stretch for UCSF and UCSD. I think your GPA is a bit low for top tier programs, so I would recommend getting that GRE score up as high as possible to try and compensate for it. Also, for the postdoc LOR - I highly recommend that you get your PI to co-sign it. Just having the PI's name on there really helps to strengthen the letter.

What @HopefulPHD14 said is pretty fair, don't shy away from applying to reach schools! But just make sure to supplement with fallbacks. 

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50 minutes ago, Dank said:

Am I aiming too high with my list of schools? I'm worried that my stats aren't up to the level that these schools are looking for? 

To be honest, stats aren't that important. Stats are the bar that you have to clear, but as long as you meet the minimum you're good. It's mostly about your letters of recommendation (I think it's near universally agreed upon that this is the most important part of your application), your research experience, and your statement of purpose. I say this as someone with multiple offers from top tier programs and a 3.5 GPA. The one place where you may not meet the bar is GRE - but you've noted that. Additionally, as someone with a more average GPA, there may be some benefit to looking into more specific programs - as they tend to be more self-selecting and flexible with statistics than umbrella programs (the difference between something like Harvard BBS and Harvard Immunology/Virology/Systems Biology/Chem Bio is worth noting here).

On the topic of letters, I would caution against having a post doc write (and sign) one. There's a world of difference between having a tenure-track/tenured academic writing a letter and a post doc writing a letter. And at the top tier programs, you're going to disadvantage yourself if the letter is from someone in academic science that doesn't have the work "professor" in their title.

Re: UCSF, if you're interested in virology/immunology/cancer biology, then BMS is the program for you. Other programs you may want to consider are Emory (IMP/MMG), Duke (MGM or maybe Immunology), UW (Microbiology, Immunology, or maybe Pathobiology if you want the public health connection). If you want to consider reaches, UPenn (CAMB) is pretty strong in virology and UPenn (Immuno) is great. Harvard Virology or Harvard Immunology may be worth a shot as well (both have significant overlap with cancer biology if you're interested in that).

 

EDIT: And Pitt. Look at Pitt. If you want to study virology, Pitt is pretty great and rumor has it that Terry Dermody, one of the amazing virologists at Vanderbilt, is heading to Pitt.

Edited by immuno91

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5 minutes ago, immuno91 said:

Additionally, as someone with a more average GPA, there may be some benefit to looking into more specific programs - as they tend to be more self-selecting and flexible with statistics than umbrella programs

I can attest to this!  I got interviews/acceptances to most of the smaller departments and didn't get into any of the umbrella programs I applied to.

Just make sure when applying to the more specific programs that the research really fits you interests.  

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2 hours ago, Dank said:

Here's mine: 

I am having trouble pinpointing where I should apply and how to figure out which schools may be safe for me to apply to and which ones are completely out of reach. I hope to get some insight from those of you on here who are hearing back from your applications in the 2016 cycle, or from previous cycles. I would greatly appreciate any advice!

Undergrad Institution: ~60th ranked private liberal arts college
Major(s):  Biology
Minor(s):  none
GPA in Major:  unsure, but probably around 3.5, definitely higher than overall
Overall GPA:  3.35
Position in Class: no ranking
Type of Student: Domestic, LGBT white male

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q: 154
V:  158
W:  4.0
B:  Not going to take 

-I am going to retake the GRE, I am a terrible standardized test taker, so hopefully I can do a lot better. 


Research Experience:

Worked in a Biomechanics lab for half junior year and all of senior year at undergrad. I presented a poster of our research at a conference.

I'm currently working as a tech in an immunology lab studying HCV infection and HIV/HCV coinfection at a Harvard affiliated hospital and getting experience with flow cytometry, qpcr, allospot and other lab techniques. I hope to have my name on at least one paper by the end of my 2nd year here or slightly thereafter (working here from 2015-2017). 

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: 

University Dean's List for 4 semesters 

Member of beta beta beta biological honors society senior year of college

Pertinent Activities or Jobs

RA during senior year or college

Special Bonus Points: 

I should be able to get some really strong letters of recommendation from current employer and professor I worked for during undergrad who know me well and want to see me succeed. I should also be able to get a letter from one of the post docs here in the lab who I am working closely with on a project and can attest to my abilities.
Applying to Where: 

  • BU
    •  Biomedical Sciences
  • Rockefeller,  either
    • Medical Sciences, Systems Physiology and Human Genetics
    • immunology virology and microbiology
  • NYU Sackler
    • Biomedical sciences
  • Mt Sinai
    • Biomedical sciences
  • Weill Cornell
    • Immunology & Microbiology pathogenesis
  • Einstein
  • UCSF 
    • Tetrad
  • UCSD 
    • Biomed
  • University of Miami
    • Cancer Bio
  • Scripps (Florida)
  • Baylor college of medicine
  • UVM

I'll appreciate any feedback I can get.

Thanks!

To be honest, UCSF, Weill Cornell, and Rockefeller might be stretches based on your GPA.  However, that doesn't mean you should not apply to them!  But I would add Vanderbilt IGP, Emory, UTSW, and maybe like University of Wisconsin or University of Washington.  These have great programs that are really competitive.  You may need to apply to 12 to get a good range of interviews especially if you add big names like Harvard later but if you can afford it, go for it!  You can see my results below and I have a degree in biochemistry with minors in microbiology, 3.76/3.86 cumulative/major GPA, 30 credits of graduate coursework, two years of a long term project plus two summers at other institutions and 3 letters of rec, 1 from each of my research mentors.  I would personally recommend narrowing your application list down to like 7 or 8 that you KNOW are decent fits research wise and that you have a chance of getting into.  Because let me tell you, 4 interviews is already a lot.  I don't know people do 7+.

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10 hours ago, biochemgirl67 said:

 Because let me tell you, 4 interviews is already a lot.  I don't know people do 7+.

I've done 6 out of my 7 interviews so far. If I were to start over, I would have applied to fewer schools.

Applying to 10 schools and some fellowships took a lot out of me, and interviewing has taken a lot out of me (even though they are generally very fun). 

My advice to OP: get some insight from your department about the competitiveness of your application. Email a couple people from the schools on your list, send them your CV, transcript, and research interests (in brief). If they get a chance to reply, they may give you an indication of your chances of getting in. With that said, emailing profs at your prospective programs probably won't help your application all that much, if at all.

Good luck!

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Hey folks, any input on my application stats? Any and all feedback is much appreciated!!

Undergrad Institution: Top public school, well known in the field of biology
Major(s): Molecular Biology
Minor(s): Toxicology
GPA in Major: 
Overall GPA: 3.54 (one bad semester due to burnout...)
Position in Class: 
Type of Student: Domestic Asian Male

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q: 164
V: 158
W: 4.0
B:


Research Experience: (At your school or elsewhere? What field? How much time? Any publications (Mth author out of N?) or conference talks etc...)

I have been doing research since beginning of my second year (I am a third year now) in a physiology lab. Currently preparing a manuscrupt (1st author) that will be submitted by the end of this semester. 

Another publication has already been submitted (3rd author out of 5)
Awards/Honors/Recognitions: (Within your school or outside?)

Dean's List: freshman/soph years
Pertinent Activities or Jobs: (Such as tutor, TA, SPS officer etc...)
Tutor for intro biology and chemistry courses since beginning of sophomore year. TA for chemistry lab courses since beginning of sophomore year. 
Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:
Programming knowledge? I have very good working knowledge of C, python, and R. 

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter:
Any ideas for explaining the one bad semester? It was quite a bit of an outlier, frankly...I had a 3.7+ prior, and after getting 2 C's in Physics E&M and Calc II my GPA was trashed. 


Applying to Where: **Research Experience will focus more on toxicology**

UCSF
UC San Diego
Emory University
Johns Hopkins University
Harvard University
University of Michigan
Rockefeller University
Columbia University
UNC Chapel Hill
University of Pennsylvania
Baylor University
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
University of Pittsburgh
University of Washington
 
 

 

 

 

 
 

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6 minutes ago, desi_dude said:

Hey folks, any input on my application stats? Any and all feedback is much appreciated!!

Undergrad Institution: Top public school, well known in the field of biology
Major(s): Molecular Biology
Minor(s): Toxicology
GPA in Major: 
Overall GPA: 3.54 (one bad semester due to burnout...)
Position in Class: 
Type of Student: Domestic Asian Male

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q: 164
V: 158
W: 4.0
B:


Research Experience: (At your school or elsewhere? What field? How much time? Any publications (Mth author out of N?) or conference talks etc...)

I have been doing research since beginning of my second year (I am a third year now) in a physiology lab. Currently preparing a manuscrupt (1st author) that will be submitted by the end of this semester. 

Another publication has already been submitted (3rd author out of 5)
Awards/Honors/Recognitions: (Within your school or outside?)

Dean's List: freshman/soph years
Pertinent Activities or Jobs: (Such as tutor, TA, SPS officer etc...)
Tutor for intro biology and chemistry courses since beginning of sophomore year. TA for chemistry lab courses since beginning of sophomore year. 
Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:
Programming knowledge? I have very good working knowledge of C, python, and R. 

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter:
Any ideas for explaining the one bad semester? It was quite a bit of an outlier, frankly...I had a 3.7+ prior, and after getting 2 C's in Physics E&M and Calc II my GPA was trashed. 


Applying to Where: **Research Experience will focus more on toxicology**

UCSF
UC San Diego
Emory University
Johns Hopkins University
Harvard University
University of Michigan
Rockefeller University
Columbia University
UNC Chapel Hill
University of Pennsylvania
Baylor University
Mount Sinai School of Medicine
University of Pittsburgh
University of Washington
 
 

 

 

 

 
 

Which programs are you applying to? Hopefully your GPA gets a boost but it's not bad at all now. No one really cares about your Cs in Physics so it's fine (I got 2 C+ in some life sciences ugh). I think you should get interviews at most of these places, but UCSF is a stickler for GPA so it might be tough.

In the end, letters of rec and how good your SOP will be most important in determining if you get interviews at the top tier schools.

Also, I would recommend taking the GRE again if you could be bothered, just to bump up a couple points for safety, but as of now it shouldn't be a major concern (mine are 162V167Q 5.5W if that's of any help). I also would recommend way fewer programs, maybe 4-10? Good luck!

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I'll give you my feedback and/or a re-iteration of other's advice on your profile backed up with real-life examples from what i've learnt in the past 6 months.

1) You really don't want to apply to so many programs, especially not if you are casting a broader net just for safety and some schools on your list aren't a good research fit. As @bicsy said, definitely do email profs at prospective program to gauge the competitiveness, and their interest in your profile - that will help you narrow down your list. THAT BEING SAID, I would improvise on his/her advice by saying a) you don't need to attach your transcripts but instead have a sharp, crisp and a succinct CV to attach, and b) have a pretty darn good reason as to why you're emailing that prof vs the others in that department (tailor the email to show how your research matches theirs - you should be emailing professors having the same research interest anyways). LASTLY, emailing professors at prospective programs helped ALL my applications. EACH ONE. If you have a very tailored, specific and an interesting email, conversations will flow, and they can definitely help your chances. They helped mine.

2) DO include WUSTL's DBBS program, can't stress this program enough. As @Agent Orange said, hundreds of faculty and research projects to search from, regardless of the track you interview for,

3) The rank of your liberal arts college REALLY doesn't matter, if that was your concern anyway. I saw people at Ivies coming from colleges I had (no one else either) had ever heard of. That being said, also not a big proponent of GPA requirements, but what I have indeed gathered from my research is that if there are some top programs kinda finicky about their stat requirements, and also a little blurry in their admissions process, they are UCSF and Rockefeller, as @biochemgirl67 pointed out. I won't go so far as to say that you won't have a chance there with your current stats, but better GRE scores would definitely help your GPA for these two programs.

PM me if you need any help, would be happy to help!

22 hours ago, Dank said:

Here's mine: 

I am having trouble pinpointing where I should apply and how to figure out which schools may be safe for me to apply to and which ones are completely out of reach. I hope to get some insight from those of you on here who are hearing back from your applications in the 2016 cycle, or from previous cycles. I would greatly appreciate any advice!

Undergrad Institution: ~60th ranked private liberal arts college
Major(s):  Biology
Minor(s):  none
GPA in Major:  unsure, but probably around 3.5, definitely higher than overall
Overall GPA:  3.35
Position in Class: no ranking
Type of Student: Domestic, LGBT white male

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q: 154
V:  158
W:  4.0
B:  Not going to take 

-I am going to retake the GRE, I am a terrible standardized test taker, so hopefully I can do a lot better. 


Research Experience:

Worked in a Biomechanics lab for half junior year and all of senior year at undergrad. I presented a poster of our research at a conference.

I'm currently working as a tech in an immunology lab studying HCV infection and HIV/HCV coinfection at a Harvard affiliated hospital and getting experience with flow cytometry, qpcr, allospot and other lab techniques. I hope to have my name on at least one paper by the end of my 2nd year here or slightly thereafter (working here from 2015-2017). 

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: 

University Dean's List for 4 semesters 

Member of beta beta beta biological honors society senior year of college

Pertinent Activities or Jobs

RA during senior year or college

Special Bonus Points: 

I should be able to get some really strong letters of recommendation from current employer and professor I worked for during undergrad who know me well and want to see me succeed. I should also be able to get a letter from one of the post docs here in the lab who I am working closely with on a project and can attest to my abilities.
Applying to Where: 

  • BU
    •  Biomedical Sciences
  • Rockefeller,  either
    • Medical Sciences, Systems Physiology and Human Genetics
    • immunology virology and microbiology
  • NYU Sackler
    • Biomedical sciences
  • Mt Sinai
    • Biomedical sciences
  • Weill Cornell
    • Immunology & Microbiology pathogenesis
  • Einstein
  • UCSF 
    • Tetrad
  • UCSD 
    • Biomed
  • University of Miami
    • Cancer Bio
  • Scripps (Florida)
  • Baylor college of medicine
  • UVM

I'll appreciate any feedback I can get.

Thanks!

 

Edited by Microburritology

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Hey everyone! Just joined, can't wait to ride out the app cycle with you all. 

Undergrad Institution: Small, private LAC. Well regarded regionally but not known at a national level. 
Major(s): Biotechnology 
Minor(s): N/A
GPA in Major: 3.33
Overall GPA: 3.33
Position in Class: No idea. 
Type of Student: White Male 

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q: 152
V: 158
W: 4.0
B: N/A


Research Experience: 2 years undergrad. 2 years post-bacc at a large State U med school in a neuro lab. Will have 2 (hopefully 3) middle author pubs when apps are due. Will have at least one large national conference poster presentation. 

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Varsity athlete 4 years, student-athlete mentor 2 years. 

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: N/A

Special Bonus Points: My current PI has a ton of friends at other institutions, some on adcoms some not. Has made it very clear he will be going to bat for me come app time. 

Applying to Where: 

(All for Neuro, list subject to change) 

UPenn 

Vandy

Hopkins 

UCLA

UWash

Penn State

NYU

Cornell 

 

My GPA isn't going to help me —that's for sure, but what's done is done. I'm going to retake the GRE, I took it cold the first time so I'm confident I can bring it up a fair deal (especially Quan). Hopefully my experience will give me a boost. 

 

Thoughts? Thanks everyone! 

 0
Edited by Neuro15

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On February 17, 2016 at 11:56 AM, Dank said:

Here's mine: 

I am having trouble pinpointing where I should apply and how to figure out which schools may be safe for me to apply to and which ones are completely out of reach. I hope to get some insight from those of you on here who are hearing back from your applications in the 2016 cycle, or from previous cycles. I would greatly appreciate any advice!

Undergrad Institution: ~60th ranked private liberal arts college
Major(s):  Biology
Minor(s):  none
GPA in Major:  unsure, but probably around 3.5, definitely higher than overall
Overall GPA:  3.35
Position in Class: no ranking
Type of Student: Domestic, LGBT white male

GRE Scores (revised/old version):
Q: 154
V:  158
W:  4.0
B:  Not going to take 

-I am going to retake the GRE, I am a terrible standardized test taker, so hopefully I can do a lot better. 


Research Experience:

Worked in a Biomechanics lab for half junior year and all of senior year at undergrad. I presented a poster of our research at a conference.

I'm currently working as a tech in an immunology lab studying HCV infection and HIV/HCV coinfection at a Harvard affiliated hospital and getting experience with flow cytometry, qpcr, allospot and other lab techniques. I hope to have my name on at least one paper by the end of my 2nd year here or slightly thereafter (working here from 2015-2017). 

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: 

University Dean's List for 4 semesters 

Member of beta beta beta biological honors society senior year of college

Pertinent Activities or Jobs

RA during senior year or college

Special Bonus Points: 

I should be able to get some really strong letters of recommendation from current employer and professor I worked for during undergrad who know me well and want to see me succeed. I should also be able to get a letter from one of the post docs here in the lab who I am working closely with on a project and can attest to my abilities.
Applying to Where: 

  • BU
    •  Biomedical Sciences
  • Rockefeller,  either
    • Medical Sciences, Systems Physiology and Human Genetics
    • immunology virology and microbiology
  • NYU Sackler
    • Biomedical sciences
  • Mt Sinai
    • Biomedical sciences
  • Weill Cornell
    • Immunology & Microbiology pathogenesis
  • Einstein
  • UCSF 
    • Tetrad
  • UCSD 
    • Biomed
  • University of Miami
    • Cancer Bio
  • Scripps (Florida)
  • Baylor college of medicine
  • UVM

I'll appreciate any feedback I can get.

Thanks!

Why would you ask the postdoc in your lab for a letter if the PI is already writing one? If you bring up your GRE to  320+, especially a higher quant score, and write a pretty good SOP, I think you'll be fine :) 

Being LGBT might also help if the school's you apply to ask for diversity-related affairs! I was in a similar position as you in this regard.

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As general advice, I'd strongly advice against applying to more than 7 schools. It's a lot of money and there's just a limit to how many schools you can ACTUALLY be interested in. If you make it to the interview, they'll be able to tell if you only applied as a safety. Also, interviewing is a very tiresome process, regardless of how much fun you have during these weekends :D

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1 hour ago, Bioenchilada said:

As general advice, I'd strongly advice against applying to more than 7 schools. It's a lot of money and there's just a limit to how many schools you can ACTUALLY be interested in. If you make it to the interview, they'll be able to tell if you only applied as a safety. Also, interviewing is a very tiresome process, regardless of how much fun you have during these weekends :D

So I'm going to put this on here before this thread before the new cycle of people get here... THIS IS TOTALLY 100% TRUE.  You, before you apply and even begin to look at programs, need to sit down with yourself and decide what are your priorities.  Do you want a med school attached?  Do you want a highly independent program where you are left to your own devices?  Do you want a program with mostly famous PIs?  What type of location do you want?  What is your personal life like and how will this affect where you live, work expectations, etc?  How do you want to handle your finances?  Do you want to commute or live next to campus?

Once you get done with priorities, you need to decide where you'll be competitive.  I think either people have no idea (and therefore apply to like 12-15 schools) or overshoot and apply to too many top programs for their profile.  Your most important aspect of your profile is your research experience.  Was it long-term?  Did you get results?  Did you do conferences/papers/poster sessions/presentations?  NO COURSEWORK WILL BE APPLICABLE HERE.  I've sometimes seen people try to pass a class-based project off but it doesn't count, unfortunately.  Not unless you wrote a grant or paper or something that then got accepted by the NSF/NIH or a journal.  Now, we've talked before about if GPA is important.  Simply put, it is, but it isn't the end-all, be-all.  If you're going for Harvard/MIT/UCSF/Caltech/Rockefeller, you're going to need a great GPA.  Although adcoms do know that personal situations, course difficulty, and other things can affect it.  Generally speaking *FOR TOP PROGRAMS*, over a 3.5 is good, 3.75 and up is great, and 3.9+ is fantastic.  However, if your science/major GPA is higher than your overall, make sure you point that out on your CV.  Mine was, and significantly.  (3.76 cGPA/3.86 science GPA)  GPA matters, but if you have a low one, get great recommendations!  It'll go a long way.  Actually, just have great recommendations in general.  3 from your supervising research mentors would actually be ideal.  Grad school is much less about classwork than research and your GPA can demonstrate your academic success.

It's really important to be honest with yourself about where you're competitive.  If you're not, you could end up with a disappointing cycle.  But the most crucial part is to combine your priorities with institutions where you'll be competitive.  Myself, I applied to 7 places and I actually should not have applied to UCSF and Stanford based on my priorities... I wanted to live with relatively low financial debt during this time with a relatively high quality of life in an interesting area.  Based on my knowledge of the Bay Area, that would have been difficult to do with the cost of living there.  But all in all, I think that I chose schools at which I was relatively competitive and was fairly successful.

If you narrow it down like this, you will have an easier time deciding on where you want to go.  I have had a really clear vision of how I want to live for the next five years.  I want to have a supportive environment with a PI that is around to help mentor me through this.  I want to be able to live near a city center to be close to the excitement of city life.  I don't mind having to have a car.  I want to be able to afford to live where I live without huge credit card bills.  I want an institution with a good name/reputation so I can go to a good post-doc.  I also want an institution with a high degree of collaboration and dynamic research in molecular signaling in disease.  It actually hasn't been a difficult decision thus far and I only have the final interview which is in NYC (and I'm like 90% sure I'm not a NYC girl :P).  And I would NOT want to do more than the 4 interviews I have so far.

Good luck, young padawans.  (Oh and feel free to PM me if you want.  I'm just going to be relaxing all summer anyway)

Edited by biochemgirl67

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1 hour ago, Bioenchilada said:

As general advice, I'd strongly advice against applying to more than 7 schools. It's a lot of money and there's just a limit to how many schools you can ACTUALLY be interested in. If you make it to the interview, they'll be able to tell if you only applied as a safety. Also, interviewing is a very tiresome process, regardless of how much fun you have during these weekends :D

I think I definitely underestimated how tiring the interviewing weekends would be (they really are super fun though!). I only interviewed at 4 schools and by the last one I was exhausted. I chose to apply to more schools and did my culling at the interview stage after I found out which schools were inviting me for a visit - so that's another way you could approach it if you're nervous about how your application will hold up in the competitive pool.

I think @biochemgirl67 has provided a strong succinct post of helpful guidelines so I won't go rehashing the same ideas. But feel free to PM me with questions as well - especially if you have questions about the schools I applied to!

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17 minutes ago, Ferroportin said:

I think I definitely underestimated how tiring the interviewing weekends would be (they really are super fun though!). I only interviewed at 4 schools and by the last one I was exhausted. I chose to apply to more schools and did my culling at the interview stage after I found out which schools were inviting me for a visit - so that's another way you could approach it if you're nervous about how your application will hold up in the competitive pool.

I think @biochemgirl67 has provided a strong succinct post of helpful guidelines so I won't go rehashing the same ideas. But feel free to PM me with questions as well - especially if you have questions about the schools I applied to!

It particularly sucks if your first choice is your first interview and you get admitted way before you get to the others. hahaha

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32 minutes ago, Bioenchilada said:

It particularly sucks if your first choice is your first interview and you get admitted way before you get to the others. hahaha

But it's also good to get more reasons why that is your first choice!  Every time I went somewhere else, I found more reasons to fall in love with Vanderbilt.  Especially my other top choice, UW.  It was really a great experience getting to compare the two.  Future grad students, only go on four or five interviews.  For your sake!  I got suuuuuper sick from all the traveling and ended up in Seattle feeling (and acting) like a snot-filled, sinus infected, congested zombie.  Successive weekends sounds great but can actually be exhausting.

Edited by biochemgirl67

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5 hours ago, Bioenchilada said:
 

Being LGBT might also help if the school's you apply to ask for diversity-related affairs! I was in a similar position as you in this regard.

Only a few schools actually ask about that sort of status; the majority of them do not, and you would need to self-identify (sometimes at your peril if you get a curmudgeon personal statement reader). I didn't have it in my PS, but I did note a related activity in my C.V.

Anyway, I'll help out in this thread after I'm done with the current season. You can look forward to it <3

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I applied to 12 and have 6 interviews (would have 7 if school #7 was willing to give me an alternate date but they could not), and I have to say that money aside, I don't regret it at all but I think I could have eliminated 2 of them before I applied. I have a broad range of interests and five of my schools were ivies- so REALISTICALLY I thought I had a shot at 7 of the 12 although I was fairly competitive for all of them (3.8 GPA, 2 publications, started doing research in high school), and one of my invites was at one of the schools I thought wouldn't be interested in me.

I was interested in ALL of the programs- I asked myself "If this is the only school I get into, will I be happy there science/life wise?" and didn't apply if the answer was "no." I only applied in the northeast and only to schools within an hour and a half of a major city, and made sure I could find 5+ POIs I liked at each. That said, I applied broadly ranking and size wise to give myself options, but this was not the first priority in choosing schools. 

I  emailed probably around 75 POIs last spring/summer/fall to get responses from 2-3 from each school to get a feel for the environment and chat about their research and I DID NOT email a single person I was not interested in working with. This was the most time consuming part of the application process so I suggest you START NOW- if you are lucky you will find a couple people on adcoms who will remember you! 

Yes, I would have taken the 7th interview if I could have. Yes, I am exhausted, I have had one weekend WITHOUT an interview since the semester started and won't be done till after next week. But I have learned things on these interviews about myself, my future peers, the field I am going into, and even was able to rule a school out completely during the interview. 
Also, I feel great in business casual and suits now instead of like a kid playing dress-up so that's a plus. 

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30 minutes ago, bdnf_13.1 said:

I applied to 12 and have 6 interviews (would have 7 if school #7 was willing to give me an alternate date but they could not), and I have to say that money aside, I don't regret it at all but I think I could have eliminated 2 of them before I applied. I have a broad range of interests and five of my schools were ivies- so REALISTICALLY I thought I had a shot at 7 of the 12 although I was fairly competitive for all of them (3.8 GPA, 2 publications, started doing research in high school), and one of my invites was at one of the schools I thought wouldn't be interested in me.

I was interested in ALL of the programs- I asked myself "If this is the only school I get into, will I be happy there science/life wise?" and didn't apply if the answer was "no." I only applied in the northeast and only to schools within an hour and a half of a major city, and made sure I could find 5+ POIs I liked at each. That said, I applied broadly ranking and size wise to give myself options, but this was not the first priority in choosing schools. 

I  emailed probably around 75 POIs last spring/summer/fall to get responses from 2-3 from each school to get a feel for the environment and chat about their research and I DID NOT email a single person I was not interested in working with. This was the most time consuming part of the application process so I suggest you START NOW- if you are lucky you will find a couple people on adcoms who will remember you! 

Yes, I would have taken the 7th interview if I could have. Yes, I am exhausted, I have had one weekend WITHOUT an interview since the semester started and won't be done till after next week. But I have learned things on these interviews about myself, my future peers, the field I am going into, and even was able to rule a school out completely during the interview. 
Also, I feel great in business casual and suits now instead of like a kid playing dress-up so that's a plus. 

What schools did you apply to?

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