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How do I go about selecting the right school(s) to apply for?

What are my chances of getting into a school with a decent neuroscience program or biology program? I had decent ACT scores, didn’t do the SAT (it wasn’t an option at the time) and brought my overall GPA in high school from 1.5 to a 3.5 in my last two years. I know I won’t be getting into any Ivy-league schools, and I also know there’s got to be something feasible for me between that and community college…any recommendations for what schools to be looking at (or how to find schools that are in that range ?)

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Rian’s Answer

Hi Marion,
You should feel super proud of yourself about raising your GPA by such a signficant margin. While you may think this hurts you, it actually demonstrates tremendous on your part, and is something that is definitely seen as a positive in college admissions. In your application, it would be worth mentioning how your circumstances changed, and what led to your improvement. These sort of positive growths are amazing to see and something you should definitely write about.
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Patrick’s Answer

Marion, first off, I want to express my gratitude for your openness in asking your question and sharing something so personal. I also want to celebrate your achievement in improving your GPA - that's truly commendable! Your proactive approach in choosing the right school for your academic path, particularly with your interest in neuroscience or biology, is something I greatly admire. Your solid ACT scores lay a robust foundation, and not taking the SAT won't hinder your choices. Many schools today focus more on other elements of a student's profile. It's important to know that not all schools require the SAT or ACT, and recently, many have stopped requiring either.

To find the right schools, I recommend researching programs, exploring admission requirements, and considering a combination of reach (schools where you might not meet all the requirements, but you should apply anyway), match (schools where you fit perfectly and meet all requirements), and safety (schools you're likely to get into with a 70+% acceptance rate) schools. Highlight your personal growth and achievements in your application, along with your extracurricular activities and volunteer work. Reach out to admissions advisors and your high school counselors for advice and guidance. Starting at a community college and then transferring is a cost-effective option worth considering.

Lastly, I want to encourage you to look beyond Ivy League schools. There are many excellent institutions where I'm confident you'll thrive. Remember, the key is to find a school that aligns with your goals and values.
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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Marion !

I will first advise you that if you really want to go to an Ivy League school, read up on the admission requirements and if you're eligible to apply, go for it if that's what you want. But you are correct. You should start looking at various colleges, and in my opinion both Ivy League and non- Ivy League. Decide if your college plans include living where you are now or relocating to attend college and apply for colleges accordingly.

Which ever school you decide on, it should be one that has a strong human sciences offering. Anatomy or Biology would be a good undergraduate major. Try to find a school that offers several courses about the study of the human brain since you want to go into neuroscience. Look at their websites and get an initial idea of what the campus and offerings may be like. And yes, look into the Ivy Leagues because you cannot tell the opportunity you may have. Look into Dartmouth first to see what their human sciences offerings are like. They are in New Hampshire. The top eight Ivies are on the East Coast so it wouldn't be that huge of a relocation for you.

I would also like to advise not to forget about the Semi-Ivies, too ! I have left a link for you of the Semi-Ivies which are also known as Little Ivies. Become familiar with them and check out some of the schools at the link below. Try not to pre-determine who will accept your application for admission. When the time comes to apply, you will have a full understanding as to what your application should reflect. Apply to as many as you want to increase your chances of being accepted to a University that you will love. You can do it !

I hope this is a help and I wish you all the best !

Michelle recommends the following next steps:

VERMONT STATE UNIVERSTY https://www.ed2go.com/vtc/online-courses/human-anatomy-and-physiology/
VERMONT COLLEGES https://www.universityreview.org/vermont-colleges/
THE IVY LEAGUE SCHOOLS (go for it !) https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/ivy-league-schools
DARTMOUTH COLLEGE WEBSITE https://home.dartmouth.edu/
SEMI-IVY LEAGUE SCHOOLS OR LITTLE IVIES https://www.quadeducationgroup.com/blog/little-ivies-what-you-need-to-know
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Verna’s Answer

First, don't assume you won't get into an ivy league school. Some take a comprehensive look at admissions that includes not just GPA but engagement in other activities, organizations, charity and community service, character references for a well-rounded candidate. If you can, you should still apply.
Look at the criteria for neuroscience programs at the masters and PHD levels and select an undergraduate program where you feel confident, you can meet the ultimate criteria.
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LaTausha’s Answer

Apply to all schools that interest you. Don't count yourself out. Improving your GPA that drastically is commendable. You may need to address why your GPA suffered and how you got back on track. A personal statement of redemption and refocus may be helpful if there's an option in the application to include that information.
Furthermore, just because a school isn't ivy league doesn't mean it's not a great education. Biology is very general and you're not likely to study neuroscience in undergrad. That's more grad, Doctoral, or med school. Maybe look for biology programs that offer neuroscience electives.
Extracurricular such as sports and community service also help beef up an academic resume. But be careful that they don't hinder you academic progress. Colleges are evaluating everything which includes if you're capable of managing your time to all you commitments.
Don't be discouraged. The school doesn't matter as much as the experience
Good luck
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Xiaojie Johan’s Answer

Hi Marion,

Thanks for asking. You could look at flagship state schools such as the University of Vermont (since they live there!), other Vermont state schools and the flagship state schools in the region such as University of Connecticut or University of Massachusetts Amherst. The University of Vermont is great though! There are also some reach competitive private schools in the region (if you can afford it) that you can apply to like Boston University and Northeastern University that have a great biology or neuroscience program. I'm particularly biased towards those two since I went to both! My dad is a neuroscientist and he can say that you don't need to go to a great undergraduate program if you're considering a Neuroscience PhD program or medical school. Just gotta get into the best undergraduate institute you can and try to do the best you can there!

Best of luck!

Thanks,

Johan
Thank you comment icon Thank you! This is very helpful!! Marion
Thank you comment icon Hi Marion, If there's anything else you need advice from me, I could answer more questions for you! - Johan Xiaojie Johan Liu
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