Key question, incase you don't want to read any further: How can I, from humble beginnings and a non-traditional path get into a top tier grad school in astrophysics? So, I don't know if people have read my previous post, but allow me to lay down the framework before asking my big question. Here are all the factors in the past that come into play. 1. Didn't do very well in High School, Bish student overall.(5 years ago) 2. Dropped out of first college with very low grades ~ 1.8 gpa 3. Going to school now at "fourth tier" public university for physics. Here's what I want: To go to a top grad school in astrophysics, I'm talking Harvard, Colombia, MIT, Berkley or similar. I have 2 and half years of mostly physics and math until I graduate so plenty of time to earn the grades, I plan on getting involved in research as soon as possible, probably by this time next year if not sooner. I already have a budding relationship with my physics professor, who happens to be the department chair. I will also apply for a bunch of REU's the next couple summers, how hard is it usually to get in? What else can I do to differentiate myself above the crowd, especially coming from such humble beginnings. Is there a chance I can pull this off? Or will I end up having to do my Ph.d. at University of North Dakota- Blutesburg if I even get accepted to a Ph.d. at all? This might look similar to my last post but I am asking a more specific question and specifically want advise on how to handle my next 2.5 years most effectively to accomplish my goal.