grad school apps

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grad school apps

Postby Olivia » Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:52 pm

I am a junior in college studying biology. I intend to go to graduate school in cell biology or bioengineering and I am wondering what kind of GPA and GRE scores I would need to get into a top tier graduate program.

grad school apps

Postby indapa » Tue Feb 08, 2005 1:25 pm

I would check out the grad programs you think you would like to apply to and see what they say.

But I think getting some undergraduate research experience is far more important.

grad school apps

Postby Emil Chuck » Tue Feb 08, 2005 2:43 pm

I would also agree that if you have some experience working in a lab, you should emphasize it.

As for GPA, GRE, and other numeric data, I suggest you actually make some phone calls or web searches to see if that information (at least on GRE scores) is available. I'm sure that it would be. At the very least, have a competent B or better GPA, great recommendations from the instructors who know you, and decent GRE scores.

Yes, you should also ask your instructors of places they'd recommend as good graduate schools for you. Top tier is great, but it may not have the labs that really interest you into becoming a productive member of the scientific community.
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grad school apps

Postby John Fetzer » Tue Feb 08, 2005 10:27 pm

The GPA is less important than what you took to get it.If you branched into other applicable areas, such as statistics, biochemistry, and so on, that show you sought more diversity in your studies and challenged yourself, the schools will take note. If you took advanced courses, particularly grad-level ones (yes, they look at course numbers and titles), you will stand out. A B in an enzymology class will be worth more than an A or two in less applicable and challenging courses.

Timing is key, too. As I have posted before, early means the schools are more liberal with acceptance and money. They get close to the vest after the New Year of your senior year.

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grad school apps

Postby Doug » Wed Feb 09, 2005 8:52 am

FAR more important than GPA, GRE, or any courses you may or may not take, would be how prepared you are to DO research. If you can hook up with a lab and get a publishable paper out of it (at least something submitted or in review), this shows the department (and ideally potential advisors) that you already have an understanding of lab norms, experimental protocols, writing manuscripts, and doing what it is that an academic scientist does. The easier it is (i.e. the less work it takes) for an advisor to get a student successfully through a Ph.D. program, the happier they are. As touched on in another thread, having funding prior to grad school lets you almost write your own ticket. So apply for the HHMI and NSF predoc, before you apply to grad schools!

grad school apps

Postby TF » Wed Feb 09, 2005 9:36 am


I have a question with regard to what you said. I've never heard of an undergrad getting external funding for predoctoral work. Wouldn't that limit your choices in labs and PI's if you put together essentially a grant to do certain work? And how would the money disbursement work? If I understand you correctly, you are basically getting funded for grad school work as an undergrad. Wouldn't it be kind of risky for funding agencies to do this sort thing if you haven't even been accepted to school. Nothing in life is guaranteed. I know for the NIH predoc fellowship I applied for they wanted to know graduate grades as well. They also wanted information from your sponsor in said grad school. A lot of things don't add up to me, unless I am totally missing the point.

To me, and this is just my opinion, getting funding as an undergrad for grad school, while it may look good, is rather small minded. People change their minds all the time for what they want to do. The perceived work environment in a given lab may be far, far different than what it seems during a visit/interview. I have always been told that you should have an open mind when entering grad school, having your mind set on one specific project with one particular PI is not always the best way to start a productive grad school career.

Or, am I not understanding you?
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grad school apps

Postby Carlysle Tancha » Wed Feb 09, 2005 10:17 am


I think you are totally right on. If a student entering grad school can get the grants--why not just jump into being a post-doc?--or for that matter, just start up a lab and be a PI?!

I totally agree with a person having an open mind. I know what it is like to have to make choices about leaving departments and PIs for reasons that are not so scientifically oriented. This made me all the stronger--not that I would want others to go through this kind of experience, but it does happen. The whole thing is NOT guaranteed. I think that one should let the student be a student--there will be plenty of time to be a PI. Why burnout at the beginning--there is no reward for being the first to bail and we all know it's about the perseverance in this game. Graduate school is not a set number of years and the experiences go so far as to eliminate the word "school," in the sense that you totally have to become the driver and not the passive student at the desk. If you don't take charge during the course of your graduate career, no one is going to really take the initiative until the grad school admin finds out--then it is another game.
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grad school apps

Postby Doug » Wed Feb 09, 2005 12:13 pm

This is directly from an NSF announcement (it's somewhat dated, but if anything, NSF has become more liberal in its award pool...e.g., students who already have an MS are now eligible to apply).
"Eligibility for NSF Graduate Fellowships

NSF Graduate Fellowships are intended for students at or near the beginning of their graduate study in science, mathematics, or engineering. In most cases an individual has two opportunities to apply: during the senior year of college and in the first year of graduate school."

This was recently extended to the 2nd year of grad school as well.

My point is not that you should have your research already lined up by the time you enter grad one would suggest that. What I'm saying is that it's to the potential grad student's benefit to show that he/she understands about research, funding, etc., and is resourceful enough to go out and find those funding sources. There are plenty of opportunities for undergrad research (HHMI, NSF REUs, etc), and involvement only enhances graduate school opportunities.
I'd say, off the top of my head, that maybe 5% (but even that may be high) of prospective grad students that I've seen in the past 5-6 years have some funding secured. But that's off the top of my head. It's rare, because few undergrads have ANY research focus yet, but it's not unheard of. Those I can think of immediately that already had funding were undergrads at research universities who were RA's for a year before applying to grad school. So they get a little grounded in research at least.
I'll wait for some responses before I write more...

grad school apps

Postby TF » Wed Feb 09, 2005 12:39 pm

Ok, so NSF appears to work things a little differently than NIH. So what does the NSF base their awards on? You stated that you didn't expect anyone to know their project going into school. Does that mean the NSF doesn't require you to set forth a research proposal? Is it based in grades/scores/recommendations exclusively? Do you have to be accepted to a grad program before acquiring the funding? Does the funding last for as long as you are a grad student.

Just as an aside, not sure if you would know this, but does the NSF set aside a separate pool of funds for the student for travel to meetings and/or lab supplies?

Sorry for all the questions, not that I would have been remotely in the running for one of these when I was an undergrad, but I'm curious as to which type of grants give the best grant writing experience and have the best pay/benefits.

grad school apps

Postby Madison » Wed Feb 09, 2005 2:23 pm

The NSF and HHMI awards are given on the basis of grades, test scores, rec letters, and personal statements. They are to be used at the student\\\'s descression at the school of their choice. Acceptance into a program is not required to apply - my friends that got these applied at the same time they sent out their grad school applications. I think there is some small amount of money available for travel to meetings, but it\\\'s not supposed to be used to fund lab work, just to support the student. It\\\'s a prestige thing, not a research grant.


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