I am a third year who started research my second year. I worked in two labs, but stayed in the lab I started in. I have presented in 2 symposiums, published a paper. I have the opportunity of graduating early. My gpa is below a 3.0. Would it be a good plan to take the year off and stay in the lab I'm in and do more research? Or stay in school and try to pick up my gpa?

Strong research experience with supporting letter(s) of recommendation is a very important piece of the application, and it seems as though you are making good progress there.

That being said, the average GPA for this past year’s (2014) accepted students is 3.70. A GPA lower than this doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have a chance—it means the rest of your application will have to be very strong. Many applicants will complete additional coursework in order to improve their GPA.

What is the average GPA of accepted applicants?

The average GPA for this past year’s (2014) accepted students is 3.70.

Does Penn accept transfer students into the CAMB program? I am currently in my first year at another program and need to leave due to family reasons but I don't want to give up on my PhD. Is this something that is done at Penn?

Hello! We do accept transfer students but you will need to submit a complete application by the deadline and be accepted into the program.

Within your application, at least one of your recommendation letters must come from a faculty member at your current institution who is familiar with your work.

Hi, I am in my final year studying towards a bachelor of pharmacy in Rhodes University South Africa. Would I be eligible, if accepted, for the full cost financial support received by all PGG students?

In general, professional degree holders are ineligible for BGS funding. Such students are responsible for their own funding for the duration of the PhD program. BGS does not offer a stipend or other financial support.

However, a bachelor’s degree would likely not be considered a professional degree. This determination is made based on the level of clinical training, so if you have any doubts, please feel free to contact the Admissions Office directly.

I completed my undergraduate degree but I didn't do as well I should have. I went and got my Master's degree in Epidemiology and finished with a 3.8 GPA and I also took additional biology courses, including Cancer Biology and I did exceptionally well. Do I have a chance of getting accepted even though I finished undergrad with a C average?

We recommend that applicants with serious doubts about the overall strength of their application consider taking a year or two after completing your undergraduate degree to work in a lab and gain some additional research experience.

It sounds like you have done exactly that, which is great! Overall, the most important important thing is having strong research experience with supporting letter(s) of recommendation, and being able to write about it clearly in your application.

Hi, I am international student and interested to apply for the Immunology graduate group of the BGS. I had a few questions: 1. Should I be contacting potential research mentors as of now is that recommended? 2. Is having a masters positive to the application? 3. Is there a GRE minimum used for application screening? Thanks.

Hello! In answer to your questions:

1. Contacting a potential research mentor is definitely not a requirement for admission, but it is not prohibited.

2. Holding a master’s degree can help to make an application stronger, but does not necessarily guarantee that you would be accepted.

3. We do not use a minimum GRE score for application screening. However, for reference, average scores/percentiles for this past year’s (2014) accepted students are as follows:
GPA: 3.70
GRE: 78.5% Verbal, 79.59% Quantitative, 4.32 Writing (66.17%)
We typically accept around 20% of our applicants, but this number varies with each graduate group.

I've been out of school several years and working as a tech in academic medicine, and I really love it and want to apply to a biomedical grad program this upcoming year. My undergrad GPA is on the low 3 side, but my undergrad adviser and PI want me to apply to more competitive programs that typically take much higher GPAs. Penn is one of them. What are your thoughts on lower (but not below 3.0) GPAs?

A lower-than-average GPA doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have a chance—it means the rest of your application (research experiences, recommendation letters, test scores, publication record, etc.) will have to be very strong.

Overall, the most important important thing is having strong research experience with supporting letter(s) of recommendation, and being able to write about it clearly in your application.

Hi, Thank you for this helpful blog. I am planing to apply to the GCB PhD program. I have BS degree in chemical engineering with lots of research experience in bioinformatics field. Are my chances still high with chemical engineering background? Thanks.

Thanks for your question!

Some students do join us without a strong background in the life sciences. This can be a slight disadvantage, but BGS is equipped to help students with this.

If you are able to pursue some basic biology courses before applying, that might be helpful as well.

Another option is to look into our Post-Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PennPREP), which is for students who have completed college and are interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in the basic biomedical sciences. Find more here: http://www.med.upenn.edu/prep/

What if you are interested in the immunology program but your research experience is outside the field of immunology? What is the typical correlation between candidates research experience and the program they wish to join. Thank you.

That’s a very good question. The majority of our successful applicants do have research experience that is directly relevant—or at least closely related—to the program they would like to join.

If you have questions about your research background and how it might help or hinder your chances with a specific BGS program, you are welcome to contact the relevant graduate group coordinator(s). You can find contact information here: http://www.med.upenn.edu/bgs/contacts.shtml

Can you elaborate on professional degree holders being responsible for all funding throughout the PhD program? Will a yearly stipend still be provided? Will a PharmD fall under this category?

In general, professional degree holders are ineligible for BGS funding. Such students are responsible for their own funding for the duration of the PhD program—BGS does not offer a stipend or other financial support (see our FAQ page).

PharmD degrees do technically fall within this category, but we have been able to make exceptions in the past on a case-by-case basis. If you have a PharmD degree and are interested in pursuing your PhD here, we would recommend that you submit your application as usual and should the graduate group wish to accept you, we will then be able to determine if you would be eligible for funding.

As a foreign student, I just want to know whether you will accept IELTS as English performance demonstration.

Yes, we do accept IELTS exams. 

I have submitted the application but due to some mistaken understanding, I have sent a wrong email of my recommendation provider. What should I do now?

You should contact the admissions office directly: http://www.med.upenn.edu/bgs/contacts.shtml

I have applied to the GCB PhD program for fall 2014 but have not heard anything from the admission committee. Since the website says that all the students who have been invited for interview are notified in December/January does it imply that my application has been rejected?

We provide final decisions as soon as they are available from the graduate groups. If you have not received a notice it means that your application is still under review.

One of my main research projects as an undergraduate was not successful and did not produce conclusive data. How important is research productivity in PhD and MD/PhD admission in the BGS program at Penn?

Probably the two most important factors for admission are (1) having a strong research background and (2) having strong letters of recommendation from research supervisors. While research productivity is looked upon favorably by admissions committees (particularly when coupled with publications), it is not essential that all previous research projects produce conclusive data. In fact, having some experience with unsuccessful research projects (and being able to write about and discuss them articulately and thoughtfully) may make you a more compelling applicant. All scientists need grit. 

If we get denied admission, is there someone we may contact to ask why or where we fell short, so that we may consider applying again?

If you would like an analysis of your application, you may request one from the coordinator of the graduate group to which you applied (you can find the contact info here:http://www.med.upenn.edu/bgs/contacts.shtml).

Please be aware, however, that admissions season is ongoing, and therefore a reply may be delayed.