Neuroscience/ P.A. school/ or Off-shore medical school?

<p>Hello, I'm looking for advice based off my current credentials, and am wondering how qualified I am for these programs. I'm going to be a senior at Emory University majoring in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology (which is one major in itself), and with a minor in anthropology. I'm taking a graduate level neuroscience/anthropology with a prof. that got his MD/PhD at Harvard and has retired to teach at Emory, so I'm planning on getting an A in his course and getting one of my recs from him. I'm also going to be working on a neuro lab this year in which I'll actually be able to perform surgery on rats in the lab. My undergrad advisor has fortunately been my teacher for neurobiology (which is very rigorous at Emory), although I don't know how it stands in relation to other schools exactly, and I also have her for two other 400-level neuroscience classes. I know she is going to write me a solid rec...
Anyways, I'm worried because my GPA is sub-par due to a lot of GER's i've been forced to take, which were very rigorous (especially for non-majors). But, I'm going to graduate with ~3.4 in my major, and ~3.2 overall. I'm passionate in both neuroscience and medicine, and am wondering what I'm realistically qualified for. I'd like to go to a top 100 school.... and I'd really like Umiami for neuroscience, and Nova Southeastern for PA school.</p>

<p>If by PA school you mean to be a physician's assistant, in order to get into those programs you need to have some kind of clinical experience. Most PAs were nurses, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, or some other kind of medical clinician before they became PAs. Nova Southeastern only says that it is highly recommended, but they also require recommendation letters from people you've worked with in the heatlh care field. Nova also says that they require at least a 2.9 GPA but that most people are admitted with a 3.2 or higher, so I'd say that you're just on the edge of being competitive. With a lower-end GPA and presumably no healthcare experience, you're not very competitive at all - in the range of acceptable, but definitely not a shoo-in.</p>

<p>As for a neuroscience research program (like a PhD), your GPA is not competitive at all. people usually have a 3.5 GPA in their major at least, if not overall. Have you done any research at all? You mentioned your classes and GPA, and that you're doing some research this semester but in order to get into a PhD program in neuroscience, you need to have done some independent research with a professor prior to this. If you are a senior and all you will have to report on your applications is a not-yet-finished semester, you won't be competitive for PhD programs in neuroscience for 2011-2012. Most of the other applicants will have at least 1 year of experience doing research (throughout their junior year), and the more competitive ones will have 1.5-2 years (sophomore and junior year). But you might be competitive for some MS programs and the MS may give you the research experience you need if you are proactive.</p>

<p>Personally I think a better idea than an MS for a biological/neuroscience researcher is to work in a research lab as a lab tech or research coordinator for 2 years. Around March of 2011 they're going to start posting those positions, or e-mailing them through listservs. Usually you get paid around a PhD student's salary to work for a professor as a lab tech or coordinating research projects for the lab. They've got such positions at the National Institutes of Health, too (in fact they have a special program for it - can't recall the name). IMO those are better because they are full-time research experiences AND you don't have to pay for an MS, only to start over when you do a PhD program.</p>

<p>As for medical school, your GPA is not competitive for the top schools. Perhaps a lower-tier school, but as far as I know ALL medical school admissions are competitive. A lot of my friends did a master's in nutrition or public health just to be more competitive for medical school and they had good grades in undergrad, and they didn't go to the top 10 - they went to mid-range medical schools.</p>

<p>Actually, there aren't many MS programs in neuroscience -- and they don't act as bridges to neuroscience programs. Your best bet to strengthen your application is to do more research. Students with lower undergraduate GPAs can overcome this past by working as a lab tech for a year or two. That said, you may still be able to get into a PhD program in neuroscience right out of undergrad as long as your PI can rave about you. Emory has an excellent PhD in neuroscience program, so you may be aided by letters from your profs, provided you've done first-rate research with them. Chances are, they are well-known in the field. Talk to your academic advisor about your plans. I'm sure he/she will have a good idea of what you need to do. </p>

<p>Generally, a 3.3 is considered the cut-off GPA for PhD programs, but many are flexible about that, especially when the application contains first-rate LORs and great research experience.</p>

<p>wow, thank you for such an extensive response. I failed to mention that I will be taking a year off, as I wasn't expecting to matriculate immediately. I'm hoping to get hired in a neuroscience lab after I graduate, as a few of my friends have done this to build their resume. As for P.A. school, my friend only had 600 hours of shadowing experience, but had a 3.8, and Nova accepted her. I can pull off a 3.5 in my major if I get all A's and A-'s for my senior year. If I can continue to work in the lab as a paid position when I graduate, what else can I do to boost my resume? I know I will get great rec's from all of the people I've researched with. I don't want to get into a great school at all, just one that is accredited... I'd rather not be lab-tech my whole life. Any other help from anyone is greatly appreciated.</p>

<p>I think it is wise of you to be exploring multiple career paths before committing to one. Juillet is correct about the nature of PA programs requiring a year or more of clinical work experience. Juillet is also correct about the nature of Phd admissions requiring at minimum a year or two of research experience. Finally, medical degrees, even osteopathic ones, are quite competitive and your grade average is not that high.</p>

<p>Don't despair. You probably won't be in a graduate or professional school next year but that doesn't translate into wasted time. What I and many others with GPAs close to yours have done, is to work as a tech for a couple of years (lifelong lab techs get different titles such as research specialist). My previous PI has sent over 40 techs to graduate or medical school in his career. In my last lab, there were seven techs (it was a clinical division, so each group had one tech) and we were all on two year cycles such that we would work two years in the lab and then go on to our next career stage. Of the 7, one is doing an MPH, two went into nursing, two are doing Phds (me included), one is doing an MD and one went into biotech. As a tech, you can take free graduate courses, possibly publish, attend conferences, build collaborations, take part in grand rounds with fellows, shadow physicians, present posters etc. If you prove yourself to be competent as a tech, you would be in a much better position for whatever you do afterwards.</p>