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Strong Profile, Low GRE for Top 10 BioE/BME PhDs


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My official GRE score came back as 161Q (~80%) / 153V (~59%) / 4.0 AW. I am a bit disappointed since I was consistently scoring between 166-170Q and 158-162V on my practice exams; however, I have no excuse other than the fact that I probably just did not pace myself very well during the actual test.

Prior to receiving my GRE scores, I was told by professors and potential advisors at conferences that I have a very strong profile for top 10 PhD programs in my field (Bioengineering/Biomedical Engineering).

GPA: > 3.9 at a state university

Research Experience: 3+ years. Summer research program as a high schooler, research assistant at my home university since the start of freshman year, and 3 REU/similar programs (1 international).

Publications: 1 mid-author publication in a high-impact journal, 1 first-author publication in progress (to be submitted this upcoming Spring), and 1 second-author publication & 1 third-author publication in progress (both to be submitted by January/February 2017)

Additionally, I have presented posters at 3 national conferences, 1 talk at an international conference, and several posters & talks from local symposiums and my summer research programs. I have also been an undergraduate TA for 2 years, and have been heavily involved in STEM outreach/mentoring activities and leadership positions in student organizations (BMES).

My current list of schools includes UC Berkeley/UCSF, Johns Hopkins, UPenn, Columbia, Georgia Tech, UWashington, Stanford, and Rice. I am worried because most of these programs usually report average GRE scores around at least the 90th percentile for both verbal and quantitative. I have also been told that many universities often do an initial cut of applications that fail to meet their minimum GRE scores. Do you all suggest that I include less competitive programs instead (or am I overreacting)? I do not have time to retake the GRE before my application deadlines this cycle. Any help is greatly appreciated, thanks!

Edited by ToastedButter
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  • 4 weeks later...

I would not fret about the GRE scores. Based on your research experience and publications, you are very strong candidate for any of those schools listed. I myself had similar scores as you and was accepted to the following BioE/Biomedical programs last year: UCB-UCSF, JHU, Columbia, Stanford, UCLA, UCSD, and University of Michigan. All these schools were great and deciding in the end which one to attend was the most difficult decision I have ever made in my life. 

(Although it varies per person) In my opinion, this is what I believe graduate schools prioritize when accepting students (in descending order): Publications, research experience/LOR (tied and correlate), personal statement, GPA, GRE scores, etc.. Some schools, particularly Berkeley, favor candidates who can increasing diversity so I would try to emphasize some aspects of it in either one of your two essays for that program (last year they had us submit two essays; not sure if it is the same for this year). 

Also, all those schools I listed had interviewed candidates before accepting them (acceptance rate varies per school though most generally accept all the candidates they invite to interview except JHU and Stanford). 

I went through the same dilemma last year and was told not to worry about it. If you have any questions about the applications or a particular program, feel free to ask! 

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