I need some help figuring out what kind of schools I should be looking at to apply to based on my grades and PGRE. I am well aware that I can kiss any hope of top ten but hopefully I can salvage some top 50 schools. I started out relatively strong but as is common, life happened and with full time work and a number of other problems my upper division coursework suffered. My grades are as follows
Calc I: A-
Calc II: A
Physics for Scientists and Engineers I: A-
Linear Algebra & Differential Equations: A-
Physics for Scientists and Engineers II: A-
Mathematical Methods for Physics: A-
Scientific Computing (Labeled as physics but I'm not sure how it will be viewed by grad committee): B
Discrete Math: A
Quantum Physics: A
Abstract Algebra: A
Physical Chemistry (Labeled in transcripts as Quantum Mechanics): B
Classical Mechanics: B
Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics: C+
My overall gpa is 3.498. My hope is that decent grades in most of my math classes, good letters of recommendation and good score on the PGRE can outweigh the 2 C grades keeping me out of some of my desired schools. The specific area of study I would like to go into is theoretical or experimental high energy particles and I'm not sure if the particular shortcomings in my grades (e.g. optics and thermo and stat mec) are especially damaging and, if so, is some way to fix this. Unfortunately the price of classes at my school would make it impossible for me to retake the classes, especially with my financial situation. I am curious if you think I will be able to get into any of my top five schools, those being: Columbia, UCLA, USC, Syracuse or Rutgers. Also, what schools would you recommend for particle physics that I would be capable of getting into?
I realize that there are a lot of questions here but I would really appreciate your help. Thanks in advance for anything you can contribute.