I went to university studying Immunology but university as a whole was rough for me because I was a poor international student (on scholarship) and my mental health was really bad in general. I graduated with 3.29/4 cGPA, 0.01 point away from minimum requirement of most grad schools in Canada but most of my bad grades actually came from my last two years of study, which definitely doesn't help. I also didn't have any research experience. I tried multiple times to get it during my second, third, and final year, only one professor ever got back to me and she just gave me pointers to improve my application. Funny enough, I actually put myself into one of the most difficult undergrad programs at my uni because they promised research opportunities for their students only to be rejected from that exact same opportunity because they told me that my cGPA was too low for their research work. At the end, I graduated with bad grades AND no research experience at all.

I have since been working odd jobs in admin and project management that have nothing to do with my interests. Just a job to pay the bills kind of thing and also a job to help secure my immigration. At least fortunately, I became a permanent resident of Canada few months back and I definitely have better grasps of my own mental health/time management/maturity. Anyway, even prior to becoming PR, I have always wondered if it's still possible for someone like me to transition back to science. It's been 3 years now and I thought with getting a PR (more doors open), I should probably start looking into ways for me to get back into science.

The thing is, with no research experience and mediocre grades, I feel like I'm stuck and unable to find my way in. I want to volunteer but labs will most likely prefer to take in undergrads/actual students. Sad thing is because I've never done research, I really don't know if I like it or if I'm just romanticizing it. If it's any indication, I really enjoy the planning phase of projects at my company and quite well known for my attention to detail (admin wizard here). Plus, there have been many incidents where my bosses, mental health counsellor commented on how I am logical minded and tend to be problem solving. On my own reflection, I specifically know that I need to go back to science because my small talk conversation with colleagues at work involves me explaining to them genetics and HIV pathogenesis! I remember HIV pathogenesis out of all only because my coursework at university heavily focused on that and I'm myself HIV-positive so HIV topics are very 'dear' to me. My YT channel subscriptions are full of science+geography channels that I binge-watch when I'm sad/depressed/after work.

I'm even looking at professional healthcare degrees but my grades are probably more heavily weighted there. All the schools I'm looking at seems to require 2-3 LOR and I don't think any of my professors remember me lol (large institution). I'm contemplating taking a non-degree year to improve my cGPA but I'm scared if it will just be a waste of money. I'm turning 27 this year and I just feel so stressed out.

Is it even feasible for someone like me to get my foot back in?

  • Related, but not Canada academia.stackexchange.com/questions/38237/… Sep 24, 2019 at 9:32
  • 2
    Graduate school is not a career. Ask yourself what career you want to have; then investigate how other people got there. Sep 24, 2019 at 9:37
  • I’m not familiar with Canada’s system, but would doing a Postgraduate Diploma or a Master’s Degree be a viable option as an on-route to a PhD? Often universities only care about your results from your highest level of qualification.
    – nick012000
    Sep 25, 2019 at 7:09
  • For the record, it's quite common to see PhD students who had a job during a few years and went back to university for the PhD. Professional experience is often seen positively (at least when applying for PhD), and it can sometimes compensate poor results as a student years before.
    – Erwan
    Sep 25, 2019 at 15:14


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