To quote the walrus, the time has come. After five years out of school working in a clinical lab, I desperately need to get my ass back into grad school and get working on a PhD. My field is molecular biology. And I’m stuck. Badly stuck, and I need some help to break my inertia and get going.
Here’s my problem. Well, problems. They all fall under the heading of “Where do I apply?” I’ve talked to many people and gotten the same advice from nearly all of them: find out who’s doing the most interesting research in the field you’re interested in and go there. Fine. Lovely. Except that it ALL interests me. I read pages of descriptions and think, “Oooh, neat. Cool. Sounds interesting. Yep, I could do that. Sure!” So. Problem #1: How do I narrow down the field?
Problem #2: I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how good a candidate I am as compared to the average grad student at any given college. Go to any program’s website, and they’ll make it sound like they only accept the three most clever people on earth, and two of them drop out the first year. The third goes on to create life during their second year. I looked at the US News & World Reports ranking, but I don’t know how to draw the line and say, “Yeah, OK, I should have a good chance HERE but not HERE”. For the record, I’ve taken the GRE and got ridiculously good scores - perfect on the math, and in the 99th percentile in English - but frankly, it was an easy test, and I don’t know how seriously anyone takes it. I haven’t taken the subject test yet, which I know I badly need to do. My GPA was in the 3.8-3.9 range (out of 4.0) from a pretty reputable school. My weaknesses are that I never did any undergrad research. I’ve been working in a clinical lab for five and a half years now, but it’s not a research setting. I can also scrounge some letters of recommendation, but they won’t be earth-shattering.
I think those are the biggies for now. If I could simply figure out a short list of where to apply, I could get going on this. Not being in school, I don’t have an academic advisor or anything, and I’m finding it frustratingly difficult to figure this all out on my own. So this is part rant, but mostly a plea for any help or advice people can offer, whether it’s recommending specific schools to consider (or avoid) or just pointing me to some good resources. I’d appreciate it.