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Thread: Profile Evaluation for PhD in Organizational Behavior

  1. #1
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    Profile Evaluation for PhD in Organizational Behavior

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    Hi guys,

    I'm a senior at a top-3 ranked U.S. university who's interested in a career in academia, and I would love to hear some of your recommendations.

    Background: Black female, US citizen
    Test Scores (GRE): 314 (157Q 157V 5W) (taken w/ no prep as a sophomore - practice tests are now ~162 on Q and V)

    GPA: 3.15/4.0 in Psychology (Psychology GPA - 3.4)
    Minors: Neuro, Cog Sci
    Research Experience: Published as second author in top medical journal (a study on memory), published independent project in undergraduate journal (a study on social perceptions), junior research project (critical review of amputation research), and currently conducting an honors thesis that will be submitted for publishing (more on memory)
    Work Experience: 3 months as a Program Manager at a school in Thailand, 3 years of Calculus and R tutoring through UG university, 2 years at private tutoring companies, 1 year I/O Psychology research assistant at Rice University (helping a student with a dissertation and a Prof with a publication), 3 years of memory research at MDACC
    Awards/Honors: Presented at 3 conferences, received several top merit and athletic scholarships before entering UG and disability scholarships/research grants in UG
    Concentration Applying to: OB (micro)
    Number of programs planned to apply to: 15


    Questions or concerns you have about your profile?
    Low UG GPA - I was a pre-med student suffering from an undiagnosed autoimmune condition. After switching out of pre-med and being put on proper disability, I earned a 3.8 GPA as a junior. I have heard your last 2 years of UG matter most - is this true? Will having a recommender explain my situation help? I don't think PhD programs will really care why my GPA is low, it will still hurt me heavily, but I'd appreciate honest opinions. My university is also known for deflating grades. I will likely be able to raise my Psych GPA to ~3.5 and my UG GPA to a 3.3 if my senior year goes well.

    Do you think I have a shot of getting into a top pre-doctoral program? There's a few research associate positions and more tailored programs (Stanford Research Fellows, NYU pre-doctoral, etc.). Some programs offer free GRE prep. I would like to get into one of these programs or work as an RA while taking a few graduate courses to boost my chances of matriculating at a top program. Any thoughts on this plan?
    I'm trying to avoid an MBA because of the cost, but is this a better option?
    Would a 324 GRE be a competitive enough score considering my GPA?
    Lastly, should I focus more on taking graduate courses or gaining OB research experience?

    Many thanks in advance!

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for PhD in Organizational Behavior

    See responses to your questions below:


    Questions or concerns you have about your profile?
    Low UG GPA - I was a pre-med student suffering from an undiagnosed autoimmune condition. After switching out of pre-med and being put on proper disability, I earned a 3.8 GPA as a junior. I have heard your last 2 years of UG matter most - is this true?

    Varies by adcom. You can discuss this in your SOP and have your LORs discuss this as well. I have no clue what the GRE scores represent, in terms of the percentiles... If you're around 90%+ for each, your application should be looked over at a lot of places.


    Will having a recommender explain my situation help?

    Sure. Couldn't hurt.

    I don't think PhD programs will really care why my GPA is low, it will still hurt me heavily, but I'd appreciate honest opinions. My university is also known for deflating grades. I will likely be able to raise my Psych GPA to ~3.5 and my UG GPA to a 3.3 if my senior year goes well.

    Adcoms look for certain criteria to not look over some of the applications, especially if the school has a lot of applicants. GMAT/GREs is usually the first cut. With the narrower pool, the adcom will look over the other supporting documents more specifically. I'll be frank, some schools may use GPA in general as a screening criteria. Where the bar is varies. At other places, they may look over all of the applicants. These are factors outside your control, and given how your GPA is history, there's not much you can do at this point. Focus on strengthening everything else that is within your control.

    Do you think I have a shot of getting into a top pre-doctoral program?

    Sure, pre-doctoral programs aren't as competitive as doctoral programs. Why not take a few shots at both and see what options emerge?

    There's a few research associate positions and more tailored programs (Stanford Research Fellows, NYU pre-doctoral, etc.). Some programs offer free GRE prep. I would like to get into one of these programs or work as an RA while taking a few graduate courses to boost my chances of matriculating at a top program. Any thoughts on this plan?I'm trying to avoid an MBA because of the cost, but is this a better option?

    I don't think you necessarily need an MBA, especially if you are going for a PhD. The question is can you get into one of these pre-doc programs and are you willing to spend the time and money to live in that area while you go through it.

    Would a 324 GRE be a competitive enough score considering my GPA?

    Sorry, have no clue what that translates to.Lastly, should I focus more on taking graduate courses or gaining OB research experience?

    Research experience for sure.Best of luck!

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for PhD in Organizational Behavior

    A 324 is fine at most places (I know of people for whom that was enough to get offers at schools such as Yale, Berkeley, USC) but it is not great, especially when coinciding with a GPA that doesn't stick out. Explaining your GPA situation should definitely help, just make sure that you only touch upon it briefly in your SOP and therefore don't take away space from the more important topics (research interests, etc.).

    I would also agree with @tm_associate, in that you should definitely apply to both pre-doctoral and PhD programs. The process can be quite arbitrary, so why not take your chances.

    You definitely should not(!) do an MBA if you know that you want to do research. Some people figure out that they want to do research during their MBA, but it is by no means a requirement or an effective form of preparation for a PhD program.

    Lastly you should take some confidence from your publication record. Hardly anyone has published anything before starting their PhD, let alone in a "top medical journal". This is easily going to make you stick out, so for now you just have to worry about making it through GRE/GPA screening stage and then convincing adcomms that you/your interests would fit well into that department. The question of whether you are interested in, and have the abilities to do successful research projects should be redundant after taking one look at your CV. Nonetheless, you should stress that experience heavily in your SOP, even more so if your current research interest link to your previous work.

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    Re: Profile Evaluation for PhD in Organizational Behavior

    A 324 is fine at most places (I know of people for whom that was enough to get offers at schools such as Yale, Berkeley, USC) but it is not great, especially when coinciding with a GPA that doesn't stick out.
    I second this. Explaining a low GPA is fine, but also having a lowish GRE score doesn't help your argument. However, I don't think your scores will leave you out of the running at a lot of programs since you have some good research experience. That being said, you want to do your best and make your application as consistently strong as you can.

    I saw you have some experience working in the area of I/O psychology - this is good, because I was going to ask why you're moving from pre-med/cognitive psych to OB. You have some experience in the area, so you have some idea of what you're getting into. Gaining more OB research experience will probably be the better option (as opposed to taking grad courses). Strong upward trends in undergrad GPA are considered, and it seems you are trending well, so I don't think getting good grades in one or two grad courses will be necessary or make a substantial improvement to your applications if everything else is strong. Focus on your GRE, research experience, and identifying pre-doctoral and/or PhD programs with a good fit for your interests.

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