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I am an undergraduate chemical engineering student who has been participating in research for a little less than a year now. I was able to get a paper published on one of my previous projects. Since I do not feel that the automotive industry is for me, and since I really like doing research, I have realized that the biomedical engineering path is more suitable for me.

I started looking for summer research programs at different universities throughout the US, and also found one in Switzerland, but some of them require a very high GPA. The reason why I want to participate in these types of programs, is because I truly want to make my research skills more versatile - I also believe that being exposed to different research projects, will help me on my own, current, research project.

I do not have the high GPA, but I have the stamina, ambition, and research experience that I believe it takes to complete such an intensive summer program. Should I still bother applying to them, is there any chance they will consider me?

I do not want to ask my research professor for letter of recommendation, when I know there is no possibility of me being accepted. For anyone who has participated in said summer research programs, what was your experience like? Do they really place such a strong emphasis on GPA, or do they take into consideration the work you did/have been doing in your lab? I was thinking of emailing the department head of these programs, introducing myself, "bothering" them, but I am not sure whether starting off with "my GPA is not high enough" is the best idea.

  • It's hard to be 100% certain, but usually if a program lists a minimum GPA they mean it. If your GPA is lower than that number, you will not be considered. – Nate Eldredge Sep 24 '16 at 17:43
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I think you should. If you don't meet the requirement which you get the same result with "not applying". It wouldn't hurt to try, so I think you should totally give it a try. Good luck.

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This is exactly the kind of question you should ask your research professor. Because 1. Asking this question is a lot less time-consuming for your professor than you asking for a recommendation letter straight out (if he thinks that you have no chance, he'll just say so, and you don't apply). 2. If he thinks that you really deserve to be in a research program, he may be able to contact his friends (who might have connections in the research programs) and get you in, regardless of the GPA requirement. However, this is assuming that you are amazingly brilliant; in general, when they post the GPA requirement, they do mean it.

Also, as an advice, if you have the stamina and ambition, I suggest that you get your GPA up first. If you want to stay in an academic path, your undergraduate GPA will help you a lot more than you realize (graduating from a big-name school with a PhD has amazing advantages later on, when you're applying to be a postdoc or a professor).

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The rule of thumb in applying to September to May programs is to apply to a "safe" school (one you are certain of getting into), a medium-competitive school (in which you feel acceptance is likely), and a dream school (which is a bit of a long shot).

You can apply this general principle when selecting summer programs to apply to.

There should be a trusted professor in your department who is functioning as a mentor to you. If no one has settled into that role for you in a natural way, then you should reach out to someone you feel would be an appropriate choice. In your situation right now, a natural way to reach out would be to ask the person for guidance in choosing summer programs to apply to.

I do not want to ask my research professor for letter of recommendation, when I know there is no possibility of me being accepted.

Your reticence is understandable but you should take a deep breath and ask anyway. There is no one to be your manager and promoter -- other than you yourself.

Here's a trick that could help you perform that function more easily: imagine yourself ten years in the future mentoring, managing, promoting and recommending a student with your academic record and interests.

When you look at things that way, I think you will realize that it is part of being a professor to write letters of recommendation for some long-shot applications, and that professors (who are worthy of the name) find it rewarding to do so.

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