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I want to get into a Neuroscience PhD program and I have a BS in Biology.

Canas8762Canas8762 Posts: 11Registered User New Member
edited July 2013 in Graduate School
I have a 3.26 cumulative gpa, with a 3.1 major gpa. I have one and a half years of research experience. One year for Neuroscience research and 1/2 a year in Chemistry research. I haven't taken the GRE General Exam yet, I'm studying for it now. Oh and I got a D in Biochemistry which was my only D ever. I was wondering if this will prevent me from getting into a Neuroscience PhD program? I'm planning to take the Biochemistry GRE Subject Exam and studying for the exam for 4-5 months.
Post edited by Canas8762 on
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Replies to: I want to get into a Neuroscience PhD program and I have a BS in Biology.

  • ParAlumParAlum Posts: 439Registered User Member
    what kind of neuroscience graduate program are you interested in?
    Your record as stated does have rough spots and you will need good GREs and very good LORs from your research and undergrad profs. If you are a domestic applicant, you will be able to find a neuroscience grad program, but you may have to look for a program where you are a good fit.
  • Canas8762Canas8762 Posts: 11Registered User New Member
    Yes, I am a domestic applicant. I'm going to apply to University of Cincinnati, Indiana University (Bloomington; I'll apply to both the Neuroscience and Psychological and Brain Sciences programs), University of Maryland, UCLA, and Johns Hopkins University. I probably won't get into the latter two, but I was told to apply to two reach schools anyway. By the way, I was severely ill around the second exam when I took that Biochemistry class which is why I got a D. I was wondering if saying that will help me any? Oh and like I said before I plan to take the Biochemistry GRE Subject Exam and I hope to do well to offset the bad grade in Biochemistry.
  • Canas8762Canas8762 Posts: 11Registered User New Member
    Oh and I'm going to apply to Emory University and University of Minnesota too.
  • MaceVindalooMaceVindaloo Posts: 221Registered User Junior Member
    I think those last two might be beyond reach, unless you have had a fantastic research experience with amazing LORs. So unless the research or LOR part is stellar, I would suggest your reach schools be less prestigious than the two you chose.
  • Canas8762Canas8762 Posts: 11Registered User New Member
    Which two? UCLA and Johns Hopkins? Or Emory and University of Minnesota?
  • MaceVindalooMaceVindaloo Posts: 221Registered User Junior Member
    Sorry, I meant UCLA and Johns Hopkins.

    What is the quality of your research experience? Did you work on independent projects? Any posters/publications/etc.? To make up for your GPA, you need this portion to really stand out for those two schools.
  • Canas8762Canas8762 Posts: 11Registered User New Member
    Well I didn't have any posters or publications. I honestly knew it would be a reach if I applied to UCLA and Johns Hopkins. But most people suggest applying to two reach schools anyway, you know? It's not like I expect to get into UCLA or Johns Hopkins. Oh and the D in Biochemistry really pulls my grades down, but like I said in the original post I was sick around the second exam. And please don't compare my gpa to other non-Science majors because hard Science, Engineering, and Mathematics are the hardest majors you can take. Sometimes I regret not going into Psychology, which I also love, because it would have given me a much higher gpa.
  • Canas8762Canas8762 Posts: 11Registered User New Member
    So, Mace, you would advise just focusing and saving money on other lesser ranked schools than applying to UCLA and Johns Hopkins? Oh and do you think I should say in my personal statement that I was severely ill around the second exam in Biochemistry? Which is one of the major reasons why I did so poorly.
  • MaceVindalooMaceVindaloo Posts: 221Registered User Junior Member
    I am in graduate school for neuroscience right now, so I was comparing your GPA with those around me and those I interviewed with. Your GPA is low for your two reach schools, but luckily graduate admissions focus on your research experience and LORs a lot, and it can help overcome a lower GPA to a certain extent. However, you might be better suited picking schools that are your level of "reach" and not just an overall "reach", if that makes any sense. You might go a tier or so down from UCLA and Johns Hopkins which can give you a better shot at actually having a chance.

    I give this advice because my reach schools were also at the same tier as yours, and looking back on it, I really had no chance. It was kind of a waste and I regret not choosing better "reach" schools. Also, make sure you chose schools that actually have faculty you could work with. Johns Hopkins is great but if it does not have enough faculty doing what you want, there is no benefit for you.

    In the end, only you know the strength of your own application. I personally regretted some of my choices, but my application could have been lacking what you have. Just know that those two schools will probably have an average GPA of 3.6 (or greater), 2+ years of research experience, etc. so that is why I stated you needed to stand out with some other aspect to get noticed.

    As for your illness, did you have a strong upward trend after that D? They do look favorably on that. I cannot say what difference it will make discussing your illness if you did not show improvement afterwards.
  • Canas8762Canas8762 Posts: 11Registered User New Member
    Well, that was my only D. And I took a similar class to Biochemistry my last semester in university and it was Cell Biology. I ended up getting a B. Oh and thanks for giving me a realistic look at my chances. I guess I should focus my energy and money to schools where at least I have a chance. Johns Hopkins wasn't THAT great of a choice for me with my research interests, but UCLA had a lot of professors in the field I want to go into. University of Cincinnati, Emory University, and University of Maryland have probably even more professors than UCLA that I want to work with. I was told I would be a "competitive applicant" at Indiana University, University of Cincinnati, and University of Maryland. Of course I need to do well on the GRE which I am studying currently.

    I was wondering if taking the Biochemistry GRE Subject Exam would be wise for me? I was planning to study it for like 4-5 months.
  • somemomsomemom Posts: 9,194Registered User Senior Member
    You may end up getting a masters first to prove to PhD profs that you are ready to commit and succeed before they commit time & funding to you.
  • belevittbelevitt Posts: 2,005Registered User Senior Member
    I think you ought to take the GRE biochem test. If you pull a good score on it, you can allay the fears that admissions committees might have about your competence in biochemistry. If you don't score well, you shouldn't send the report as it would confirm their suspicions to the contrary.

    Personally, I don't think that your grade point is that low, but why focus on it now; it's the one part of your application that is set in stone. Has your year of research experience been in a directly related area to your intended graduate work? If so, I think you could significantly improve your odds by asking your current PI for a letter of introduction to a faculty member you would want to work with for grad school. Beginning a professional relationship with this person now would ease your concerns about admissions and that person may lead you to others in the same field, potentially even others in less competitive departments.
  • ljalkasmljalkasm Posts: 2Registered User New Member
    I was just wondering that when applying to a graduate school in the neurosciences, if it would be alright to include, in my application, that I have multiple sclerosis and discuss about the experiences I have had with this disorder as well as the machinery/neurological tests (EEG/MRI/Spinal Tap) that I have taken.
  • somemomsomemom Posts: 9,194Registered User Senior Member
    I am not an academic, I am a parent, but I have surfed this site and other educational sites in researching my kids options. In what I have read, I would not recommend that you reveal personal health history. It seems like TMI, however, my one of my DDs has a fellow student with a similar health issue and a strong physical disability and I wonder if their is a certain PC component where they might like to check that box?

    The risk is that they don't accept you because they are subconsciously concerned about your health affecting your progress. The upside would be that they look twice at your app to be politically correct. It might get you looked at a second time.

    It definitely seems to not be wise for students who have had all the normal ups & downs to explain their story..."my GPA is 3.3 not 3.8 because my family member died, because I was assaulted, because yadayadayada." Sounds really harsh, but now that I have followed for years, especially the med school SDN site, it is nothing new, and becomes a series of distracting excuses. No one wants to hear excuses and whilst it is each writers real life and true story, after reading hundreds of stories, it begins to sound like an excuse. You would have to shape your story differently. Not to be confused with excuses and TMI, but how you have arrived at a passion for neuroscience.

    Your case, ljalkasm, is different than the excuses, but you would really have to tie it in to where you are going with your degree, how MS has shaped your passion, etc.
  • narsatyanarsatya Posts: 14Registered User New Member
    I have my story similar to what ljalkasm and somemom have conversed
    My story goes as: I somehow got mood and anxiety disorder. Further, while treating doctors were fooling around experimenting many drugs on me to add to difficulty, creating its own side-effects in form of cognitive dysfunctions. I am bent upon reversing it by hook or crook. I don't believe that doctors, clinics, hospitals, how highly reputed they be are capable of and equipped with knowledge and don't believe in clinical methods. I want to find out the biological reason that the doctors dont go by. For that I strongly feel researching that in sophisticated state-of-art laboratories and unlimited free access to variety of journals and books that are commonly available in universities.

    I have all my degrees in mathematics. I myself realized that I should be doing research. My UG lecturer too commented about me "I dont know how he would doing in exams but I will say he will be doing well in research." But I fared well in my UG.

    Given this situation of combination of need and resources or research instinct, how to get into a university having excellent laboratories? Which universities in the US have sophisticated laboratories? What more should I be needing beyond knowledge in math? I believe knowledge in 4 fields are important - mathematics, computer science, psychology, neurobiology.
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