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So. I have wanted to go the direct-track PhD path for a while now, but I am afraid my stats simply won't be competitive for the programs I'm looking at.  At this point I'm most worried about my GRE scores. I had planned on applying to the BME PhD programs at UMN, UF, UM, UR, and CMU. Although CMU was a stretch to begin with, it's downright unrealistic at this point. I had only considered it because one of my LOR writers has worked with many of the profs in their department, so I'd hoped that would carry extra weight. Most likely not gonna apply there now.

Regardless, I have:

a 3.5 GPA; this will potentially be lower depending on how applications decide it should be calculated.

Research experience in two labs plus a short time in a lab in Europe; broadly, my research background is in both stem cells and nanomaterials. However, I have nothing published and haven't presented at any professional conference or other event.

Had a job throughout undergrad; I have basic machinist skills, have helped with lab management, and have design experience with a few different types of lab instrumentation and equipment.I work in a university-affiliated machine shop and under a chemical hygiene officer.

Should be able to get 3 shining LORs: one from an advisor who has had me in class, another from a prof who has worked with me some in research, academics, and as part of my job, and a third from an as of yet undecided source. Could be a boss, another professor, the department chair, or possibly even the dean of the college. We will see what I can get and what my advisor thinks.

SOP and essays will most likely be quality stuff, as I'm a good writer for the most part. They're currently in the works.

And finally, a GRE score of 162V and only 156Q. My writing score isn't in yet because I took them so recently.

So to sum up, I have a lackluster GPA, a mediocre (maybe even downright bad) GRE quant score that probably won't fly in any engineering program, but some potentially notable experiences and skills. But I can't really judge those objectively, and I feel like they may not even be strongly considered by an admissions board. I'm not asking to rate my chances of getting in; what I need to know is if I should even try. If there's no reasonable chance of getting into these programs, I can focus my energies on other endeavors, like getting a proper job. Alternatively, I've considered trying for a Master's first or even trying for a different but less quant-heavy field, like biology. I've even wondered if I should retake the GRE in December, and ask each department if they'd consider a second score if I sent it after the deadline. I know I could do better if I practiced those stupid problems a little better, but again, would a 160Q (or maybe above, if I'm lucky) even help considering everything else?

 

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