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Ask questions about the PhD application process!

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On 4/10/2018 at 10:26 AM, facelessbeauty said:

Hi all,

I am in the process of drafting personal statements for graduate school, and I was wondering how open I should be about pursuing a non-academic career after completing the degree. If I do decide to mention it, will it hurt my application?

It should NOT hurt your application. If it does, you don't want to go that institution, anyway. While a lot of PIs still want their students to go into academia, they and the institutions have to be realistic about where their students will end up. That's why my institution, BCM, now has an awesome career development center to help students figure out what skills they need to hone for their future careers.

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While I am fresh out of the Ph.D. admissions process (see my results in my signature below post) and committed to Notre Dame Biology Ph.D. program, I am happy to answer any prospective Ph.D. applicants for next year's cycle including how the interview process works if you get invited to interviews next year. Btw interview weekends are awesome and so much fun and be warned you will gain pounds from those interview weekends! (Us swimmers have no problem burning those pounds off quickly though. lol.)

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Hi everyone! This is a bit specific (and also early to ask), but I figure I'd put it out there anyway for anyone who has similar experience. My significant other will start his PhD (in a social science field) next year at a prestigious Ivy school, and I'll wrap up my master's degree in Toronto and apply next year to PhD programs in biology in the US. It would be ideal to attend the same school with him, though I do have a number of options for programs that are a bit further away but still convenient to get to. My question is, should I mention my relationship anywhere in my application for the Ivy school that my SO attends? The program is top-notch and there are many PIs I want to work with there, so it's already a very appealing program for me and my SO is an extra reason, not the only one, that makes me want to go there. I definitely don't plan on elaborating on my personal relationship in my SOP, but would it help or hurt my chances to mention it elsewhere in the application?

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14 hours ago, thinhtran said:

Hi everyone! This is a bit specific (and also early to ask), but I figure I'd put it out there anyway for anyone who has similar experience. My significant other will start his PhD (in a social science field) next year at a prestigious Ivy school, and I'll wrap up my master's degree in Toronto and apply next year to PhD programs in biology in the US. It would be ideal to attend the same school with him, though I do have a number of options for programs that are a bit further away but still convenient to get to. My question is, should I mention my relationship anywhere in my application for the Ivy school that my SO attends? The program is top-notch and there are many PIs I want to work with there, so it's already a very appealing program for me and my SO is an extra reason, not the only one, that makes me want to go there. I definitely don't plan on elaborating on my personal relationship in my SOP, but would it help or hurt my chances to mention it elsewhere in the application?

I don't think it would help your application, and in fact might hurt it. Talking about your SO, even briefly, probably doesn't belong in your application and may stand out in a red-flag kind of way.

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On 4/17/2018 at 8:18 PM, thinhtran said:

Hi everyone! This is a bit specific (and also early to ask), but I figure I'd put it out there anyway for anyone who has similar experience. My significant other will start his PhD (in a social science field) next year at a prestigious Ivy school, and I'll wrap up my master's degree in Toronto and apply next year to PhD programs in biology in the US. It would be ideal to attend the same school with him, though I do have a number of options for programs that are a bit further away but still convenient to get to. My question is, should I mention my relationship anywhere in my application for the Ivy school that my SO attends? The program is top-notch and there are many PIs I want to work with there, so it's already a very appealing program for me and my SO is an extra reason, not the only one, that makes me want to go there. I definitely don't plan on elaborating on my personal relationship in my SOP, but would it help or hurt my chances to mention it elsewhere in the application?

I agree with @eevee. It's something you could mention briefly were you to get to the interview phase (interviewers are also gauging how likely you'd be to attend the school were you to be admitted), but definitely not on the application. Emphasize the academic reasons why you want to and are qualified to go there.

Edited by BabyScientist

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On 4/17/2018 at 10:18 PM, thinhtran said:

Hi everyone! This is a bit specific (and also early to ask), but I figure I'd put it out there anyway for anyone who has similar experience. My significant other will start his PhD (in a social science field) next year at a prestigious Ivy school, and I'll wrap up my master's degree in Toronto and apply next year to PhD programs in biology in the US. It would be ideal to attend the same school with him, though I do have a number of options for programs that are a bit further away but still convenient to get to. My question is, should I mention my relationship anywhere in my application for the Ivy school that my SO attends? The program is top-notch and there are many PIs I want to work with there, so it's already a very appealing program for me and my SO is an extra reason, not the only one, that makes me want to go there. I definitely don't plan on elaborating on my personal relationship in my SOP, but would it help or hurt my chances to mention it elsewhere in the application?

I agree with everyone else who says I don't think it belongs in your application. I also agree with @BabyScientist that if it comes up naturally during the interview or visitation process I think it is perfectly acceptable to mention it then. I say this because this is exactly what I did during my application process with my partner this year. I never mentioned that I was jointly applying with my partner in any of the application stages but if it came up naturally during an interview or a school visit I would mention it then. I did this because I didn't want to be taken any less seriously and I really was most interested in the science I would potentially be doing with that advisor. I did find though when it came up during an interview or visit it was received well and I don't think I was treated any differently afterwards, at least in my experience thankfully.

I will say though only bring up that this part of your application process if it comes up naturally and you are the one to mention it. I don't think interviewers have the right to ask what your relationship status is because if they maybe didn't choose you because of the relationship component of the application, you would have grounds for a pursuing action of being discriminated against because of your relationship circumstances. So only bring it up if you are the one initiating that conversation and want to be clear that one of the other reasons you are very interested in a program is the proximity it would put you to your partner.

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Hi Everyone! I am not new to the forum but have not been here for a while. I previously applied to PhD programs for the Fall 2015 cycle and didn't get one interview. Not even a rejection email (ouch). Since then I have worked on trying to better my application to make me really stand out. I would like advice on what else I can do to make me be a better candidate.

I have completed a Master's in Molecular Biology with a 3.75 gpa. My undergrad GPA was pretty low (3.03) so I know that really hurt me. 

 

I have worked a year in Alzheimer's research and now currently work as a Lab manager for a gastric cancer lab. I have been at this position for the past 3 years.

 

I have 2 First author publications, 1 second author publication and will have a third First author publication before the end of the year. 

 

I have 3 poster presentations and have learned a lot of new skills.

 

My GRE scores are pretty subpar so I know I have to retake them. Is there anything else I should be doing to make me stand out?

 

I am looking into Cancer biology or Immunology/inflammation programs in the NY/NJ area.

Edited by Ivey0126

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Here we go with the neurotic questions....

  • My stats:
    • GRE: 161V, 164Q, 4.5W, (58th percentile Biology Subject test).
    • GPA: 3.3 undergraduate (majors: Physics, Philosophy). 4.0 post-baccalaureate.
    • Experience:
      • 6 years bioinformatics (4 years undergraduate, 2 years post-baccalaureate, 2 summer undergraduate programs). 
      • 2 papers (one 1st author, one 2nd author).
  • My grad school list:
    • Bioinformatics PhD's: UNC, Duke, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, U Penn, UCLA, Wash U in St Louis, U Washington, Cold Spring Harbor, NYU.
    • Computational Neuroscience PhD's: USC, UCSD, U Washington, Boston U, U Chicago, Caltech.

Does this grad school list seem realistic?

Edited by Logic
Don't want to ask one of my questions

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10 hours ago, Logic said:

Here we go with the neurotic questions....

  • My stats:
    • GRE: 161V, 164Q, 4.5W, (58th percentile Biology Subject test).
    • GPA: 3.3 undergraduate (majors: Physics, Philosophy). 4.0 post-baccalaureate.
    • Experience:
      • 6 years bioinformatics (4 years undergraduate, 2 years post-baccalaureate, 2 summer undergraduate programs). 
      • 2 papers (one 1st author, one 2nd author).
  • My grad school list:
    • Bioinformatics PhD's: UNC, Duke, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, U Penn, UCLA, Wash U in St Louis, U Washington, Cold Spring Harbor, NYU.
    • Computational Neuroscience PhD's: USC, UCSD, U Washington, Boston U, U Chicago, Caltech.

Does this grad school list seem realistic?

I think the chance of you landing an interview and acceptance from one of these programs with your profile is very high. I had similar numbers (3.3 undergrad gpa biology, 3.6 gpa masters, 154V, 156Q, 4.5 W) but tremendous research experience in cancer immunology which landed me with a lot of interviews including UNC (results in signature). Make sure to get ALL recommendation letters from your PIs and related faculty who knows you and your research skills well. 

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On 5/11/2018 at 2:46 PM, Logic said:

Here we go with the neurotic questions....

  • My stats:
    • GRE: 161V, 164Q, 4.5W, (58th percentile Biology Subject test).
    • GPA: 3.3 undergraduate (majors: Physics, Philosophy). 4.0 post-baccalaureate.
    • Experience:
      • 6 years bioinformatics (4 years undergraduate, 2 years post-baccalaureate, 2 summer undergraduate programs). 
      • 2 papers (one 1st author, one 2nd author).
  • My grad school list:
    • Bioinformatics PhD's: UNC, Duke, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, U Penn, UCLA, Wash U in St Louis, U Washington, Cold Spring Harbor, NYU.
    • Computational Neuroscience PhD's: USC, UCSD, U Washington, Boston U, U Chicago, Caltech.

Does this grad school list seem realistic?

Your stats overall look awesome, though you might not want to include the biology subject test (58th percentile probably won't help your application, and most schools don't require a subject test). I might also recommend that you try to narrow down your school list a bit -- 16 programs is a LOT, especially given that 1) you're going to be tailoring your SoP and potentially also Personal History Statement (some schools I applied to asked for both) to each program, and 2) the application fees + cost of sending GRE scores can easily add up to over $120 per program, and you probably don't want to be out $2000 just for applications. If you can, see if you can bring the list down to 8-10 programs; it'll be more realistic and manageable. 

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If this is my second year applying to grad schools, can I use the same SOP I used last year, and just add the research I've done in my gap year, and add to the last paragraph how I am now ready for grad school? Will they be able to find out that my SOP is the same from the year before except for the 2 paragraphs?

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On 6/8/2018 at 4:00 PM, champion321 said:

If this is my second year applying to grad schools, can I use the same SOP I used last year, and just add the research I've done in my gap year, and add to the last paragraph how I am now ready for grad school? Will they be able to find out that my SOP is the same from the year before except for the 2 paragraphs?

Generally speaking, this is a bad idea. If you're applying to the same schools, it is possible that the same professors will be reading your application. Whether they will remember it after reading dozens of other SOPs is another question, though some schools may have a procedure in place for tracking repeat applicants.. More to the point, if you want to be successful with your second round of applications when you weren't in your first, there should be major differences between your first and second applications, and those differences should manifest as more than two new paragraphs in your SOP. You should take the opportunity of applying a second time to do a serious, critical review of all aspects of your application, including the SOP. For starters, you should have some other qualified people read your SOP and give their comments on it , and you should definitely give how you can improve your SOP some serious thought yourself.

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