I've been working as a research assistant at a fairly reputable lab for about 1.5 years now (it will be two full years come November.) My field of study is Cognitive Neuroscience.
I plan on taking the GRE in November, and I'm confident I will score highly on it.
(Aiming for at least the 95th percentile.)
My undergrad GPA was quite low.
I completely bombed my first year and a half of undergrad, and ended up with a 1.33 GPA the second semester of my Sophomore year.
(I'll add that I also chose my courses terribly, instead of getting my general education requirements out of the way I took Psychology courses that were not even relevant to what I want to do, and usually skipped them).
I almost got kicked out, but I appealed and committed to getting my life together. By graduation I managed to raise my GPA to a 2.85.
I excelled in the advanced courses within my major, and developed great relationships with the faculty. My GPA within my major is probably closer to a 3.2, I haven't calculated it yet from my transcript. I really can't understate how badly my first two years went.
My issue is I'm having difficulty narrowing down a list of PhD programs to apply to. I'm uncertain how much my work experience offsets my low undergrad GPA. Obviously I want to apply to the best possible programs, but I also don't want to waste potentially hundreds of dollars applying to schools I have no shot of being accepted to.
One of my top-choice schools, as of now, is the University of Washington.
Am I deluding myself hoping that I could be accepted there? I plan on meeting with some of my former professors/undergraduate advisor soon, as they know my history and can most likely offer the best advice, but I figured asking on here was also worth a shot.