Ivy requirements for Neuroscience PhD thread.

<p>time to delurk the cc forums.</p>

<p>I have read many of the posts here, especially those related to neuroscience phd programs which is my area of interest (i will be applying this fall).</p>

<p>I'm tired of reading posts that are ALWAYS something along the lines of: GREAT/POOR GPA/GRE/Research etc or POOR GRE, GREAT GPA.... CHANCE ME!!!!!!!</p>

<p>What I would like to find out is what sort of application not just what GRE or GPA gives you a GOOD shot at top schools. </p>

<p>From my own research, i have found that a GRE of >1400 gives you a GOOD shot coupled with a GPA>3.7 along with at least 2 years of research experience. </p>

<p>My stats:
GRE: Q800, V710, AW4.5
GPA: 3.86
Research: 3 years, several conferences, no papers
LOR: positive</p>

<p>Some schools email back specific GRE and GPA scores for their neuroscience programs posted here:</p>

<p>2011~2012</a> Neuroscience Graduate School GRE and GPA Requirements | Michael Jiang</p>

<p>HOWEVER, i have also stumbled across many people with >1400 GRE and >3.7 gpa who were rejected from top schools like harvard and stanford.</p>

<p>What i would like to find out is that when top schools mention things like having a <10% admittance rate, is this because about 90% of the applicants simply do not have a strong enough application? OR is it rather the case that among people who apply to top schools, EVERYONE has a great GRE and GPA and then it just comes down to reading about who seems like the best fit according to their recommendations and SOP?</p>

<p>All that to ask, if someone applies to a top school with a solid application is there any reason to be worried?</p>

<p>Another thing to note is that I have also read many applications from international students with phenomenal GRE scores (>1500) but low GPA or LOR making me think that graduate schools simply cannot use GRE as anything other than a threshold for consideration into programs. (btw they get really high scores by just straight memorizing the baron wordlist, lots of tutorials for how to do that on other forums)</p>

<p>GRE, and to a lesser extent GPA, are mainly used by top programs as red flag/green flag factors – if they’re bad enough, they can hurt you, but if they’re good or even great, they won’t help you that much. </p>

<p>My PI is on the admissions committee for Harvard’s neuro program, and he says that the vast majority of applicants to that program have no problem with their GRE scores or GPA. Interview invitations are made mostly on the basis of an applicant’s research history and letters of recommendation, and acceptances after interview are made on the basis of the application factors plus interview performance.</p>

<p>thanks molliebatmit, but could you clarify what a “good” research history means? for example does the “complexity” matter? and do shining LOR’s trump even the research experience?</p>

<p>Well, presumably you will have letters of recommendation from one or more PIs for whom you’ve done research, so an outstanding research history and great LORs tend to go hand-in-hand. </p>

<p>There are obviously many factors that go into judging the relative merit of research histories. Some factors might be length of total time spent doing research (more time better than less time), number of different labs (fewer labs generally better than more), publication or presentation history (publications/presentations good, high-impact publications/presentations better than non-high-impact, first-author better than middle-author), and your ability to summarize the subject and impact of your research.</p>

<p>Overall, faculty members are looking for evidence that you will be a good PhD student: that you are an independent, original thinker, that you are a hard worker, that you like research and can communicate well, and that you will have the smarts and gumption to stick out your degree for 5-6 years, even when the going gets tough.</p>

<p>Bio graduate schools are looking for the next leaders in biosciences research. As long as you provide strong evidence to tell the admissions committee you are the person they are waiting for, you will surely catch their eye. And usually the most direct evidence for this is publication. If you publish high quality paper as 1st author, then you’ve demonstrated you are an independent scientist.</p>

<p>In my case, I am in the field of stem cell research. I have publications as 2nd or 3rd author in other fields such as microRNA, immunology, and metabolism, but this part is not the one I am going to emphasize in my application. Instead, I furthermore have a 1st-author paper in Stem Cells, which is recently cited in NRMCB to illustrate nuclear reprogramming. With this record, I will be able to tell the committee that I possess the ability to put my independent creativity into publication, communicate my ideas to other scientists, and make valuable contributions to the development of scientific research. In my opinion, being a published scientist is the best way to demonstrate your research potential. And the rests, such as GPA and GRE, would not be so important, in comparison with your research record. Strong GPA and GRE cannot easily distinguish yourself from other applicants, but strong research record can.</p>

<p>mollie and esinstra, did many of the people who were accepted with you guys have publications?</p>

<p>I was told when I applied that fewer than 5% of applicants to the PhD program run by my undergrad department (MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences) have publications. Publications are certainly very helpful for a PhD application, but are by no means necessary.</p>

<p>Good lord I hate threads like this.</p>

<p>I have a friend who was accepted into TWO top 20 bioscience program with a 3.7 GPA, 1240 GRE, only 1 quarter of research (his last quarter in college) and no publications. Also, top programs report the average GRE scores and GPAs of admitted students around ~1250-1300 and 3.5. So why are these averages so low, compared to the crazy high stats everybody posts on College Confidential? Because grad programs want PEOPLE, not drones. A program coordinator once told me that they don’t always like the applicants with the highest GPA or GRE score because they are usually the antisocial, weird ones.</p>



<p>Yes but that’s the type of cocky attitude that turns off adcoms. See my post above. Later! :)</p>


Well, I mean, I think that’s a little optimistic – grad programs absolutely want drones, in the sense that they want to admit the best future researchers, with very little regard for other factors. It’s just that the qualities that make an excellent researcher aren’t necessarily measured well by GPA and GRE, and so GPA and GRE are not as important as they are often assumed to be.</p>



<p>Any graduate student past his/her first semester will agree with this! If you are a workaholic, you’re golden. :)</p>

<p>Neuroscience programs seem to be among the most competitive of the biosciences because it’s a hot field right now, with students applying not from one or two majors but a whole slew of them: biology, biochemistry/molecular biology, bioeingineering, math and computer science, psychology, and neuroscience. </p>

<p>Mollie has given an excellent answer about what the programs look for, but I’d like to add one thing: research fit. When it comes to neuroscience, you need to know the strengths in the different branches – molecular, developmental, computational, cognitive, systems, and behavioral – and then you have to see how the strengths match up to your own interests and preparation. Some programs – Princeton, for example – lean heavily toward quantitative and molecular. Others, like Brown, are stronger in systems. If you want to do research on a particular animal, you have to look into that, too. Although most programs have rats and mice, not all programs have primates, bats, and birds. If you want to do cognitive and want to use medical imaging techniques, you’ll have to find a program that has the equipment. The more you demonstrate that you know about the program in your application, the better your chances if you make the initial cut.</p>

<p>@mollie, I feel much better that the majority of admitted applicants at your school did not have publications. I thought that at the highest levels since everyones gpa and gre are the same, it would have been the publications that set applicants apart. (edit: am I right or did most of the admitted students HAVE publications and that is what set them apart?)</p>

<p>@denizen, its likely that one can apply for >10 schools and be accepted somewhere as not all programs can recruit the cream. for example if you’re chicago, you probably will admit many highly qualified students and some “lower” profile students because you know that the highly qualified ones may choose UCLA or Rockefeller over chicago. furthermore, the numbers I mentioned are based off of actual average gre and gpa numbers from the department heads or secretaries. </p>

<p>@ denizen, mollie got into harvard… perhaps cocky is exactly what they want? mollie did you think you were “cocky” in your application?</p>

<p>@momwaitingfornew; so in your personal statement, one should allude to specific aspects of the school’s program? the problem with this is that it feels so dishonest. quite frankly I dunno what kind of animal or field in neuroscience I want to do so to mention that “oh you have primates? I have wanted to work with primates since I was in Kindergarten” just doesn’t feel right. how should one present a good “fit” while not being dishonest?</p>

<p>@momwaitingfornew: I have always wondered what new thing you are waiting for (according to your username).</p>



<p>I think a record like this can be pretty heavily dependent upon your field. I know in mine, publications can take upwards of a year to go through, so in order to have that ready for grad applications you’d have to have finished it by the fall of your junior year. By this point, hardly any students I’ve interacted with are even ready to begin doing a self-designed project, let alone already have performed it and written it up by that point.</p>

<p>Getting non-primary authorship also depends on your lab/field, as some really only like to put people that had heavy intellectual contributions to the project, while others are happy enough to put anyone that did any part of the project (be it designing, performing, interpreting, or all the other tons of tasks in the middle).</p>



<p>Read again, my quote was from esinstra, not mollie. :rolleyes:</p>

<p>@maverickjay: no, you shouldn’t say anything remotely like that in your SOP, but you should know what specific area in neuroscience you want to study. For example, if you want to examine higher-level visual processing and that work is being done primarily with primates, you probably will be rejected from a program that doesn’t have primates. (Purely hypothetical.) Different areas of neuroscience require different tools. Sometimes those tools are animals, from c. elegans to primates. Higher-level animal research is much more heavily regulated and therefore expensive than doing work with, say, zebra fish. </p>

<p>As for my user name, when I first registered, the system kept rejecting all my monikers, so in frustration I typed “Momwaitingfornews,” and the system took it, except for the last letter because the name was one character too long. Unfortunately, I got stuck with the name since the Terms of Service do not allow for multiple accounts. When I become a moderator, I was not allowed to change it then because I was already know by that name. I prefer an abbreviation now: MWFN. :)</p>


Oh, totally. There are so many different types of programs – some of them don’t even seem like the same subject. When I go to the Society for Neuroscience meeting every year, I am amazed at the breadth of neuroscience research that goes on. (Okay, really I am more amazed that other people want to study boring things like everything other than developmental neurobiology. ;))</p>


No, it’s really more that a publication is icing on the cake. As RacinReaver says, not many people have been lucky enough to land on a project that was close to publication essentially when they arrived in the lab, but to which they were able to contribute sufficiently to be recognized with authorship. Publication is a great thing for grad school applications, but it’s fairly rare. </p>

<p>It’s certainly true that students with publications are admitted at high rates, but publication tends to be a sign of a great research history rather than an independent factor. </p>

<p>Remember, also, that you’re free to list publications “in preparation”, “under review”, “in revision”, or “in press”, as appropriate. The people reading your application can decide whether they want to take those seriously, but you’re free to list them. </p>


Cocky, no. But I wasn’t shy about putting forward my strengths as a student and as a scientist, either. Grad school applications are not the time to be modest.</p>

<p>@esinatra, I found another one of your posts in response to fiona that said stanford puts most weight on the LORs which I found helpful. Are you applying this year or have you already been accepted?</p>

<p>@denizen, right you are.</p>

<p>@MWFN, thanks for all your worldly advice not just here but in all your other posts which I have read.</p>

<p>@racinreaver, good point although I know of several of my friends in my field who have published, although their r</p>

Maybe there is some miscommunication. And I apologize if any of my description looks inappropriate to you. I have no intention to show how “cocky” I am, and I don’t think a “cocky” person will get admitted. What I want to emphasize is that it is important to show to the committee the evidence of your research potential. I just use my case as example. In SOP, there is limited space to talk about your own history, and you have to describe directly your strength so that the admissions committee will know clearly your competence. Therefore, being confident (but not over-confident or too humble) in describing your strength is important.</p>

I am going to apply this year. The link in “Stanford - HHMI Pregrad program” is very constructive and hopefully will bring you useful suggestions.</p>



<p>Not cocky. I used the wrong word from the onset. Just overestimating the weight of your publications. As molliebat says, it’s just very rare that PhD applicants actually have publications by the time they apply. Which leads to my next question, where do all these CC members w/ publications come from? Are they just liars? LOL.</p>

<p>@esinatra, the stanford hhmi page is a great find. my research also tells me that international students have a tougher time getting admitted (I am an international from australia but was lucky enough to go to undergrad in the US)</p>

<p>@denizen, several of the seniors at my college have publications off of the work they did sophomore or junior summers. but I agree that it must be very field specific. lots of people with multiple publications are usually masters students or have taken time off between undergrad and grad school to do research. why would anyone lie about that kind of thing, it would get you nowhere fast.</p>