Seeking suggestions for school

Dege
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2011 12:32 pm

Seeking suggestions for school

Postby Dege » Sat Oct 08, 2011 1:17 pm

Hi,

I have recently finished my Masters in Physics (70%) and I will be giving my GREs in
November. I think I can manage a 800+ score in the subject test and I am confident about the general test. I have no research experience but I have done a project work under one of my professors for a semester (and i hope to get a decent letter from him). I am from India and most schools I have heard of are quite understandably the well known ones. Can you please give me a list of schools where I have a realistic chance of getting into? ( i am looking at 6 schools: 2 long shots, 2 decent ones, 2 safe).

Thanks.

phenomenon
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2011 1:42 pm

Re: Seeking suggestions for school

Postby phenomenon » Sat Oct 08, 2011 1:48 pm

@Dege,
Schools you will have a realistic chance of getting into:

Long shots- Havard, Princeton
Decent ones- MIT, Stanford
Safe - UCBerkeley, CALTECH


Thanks,
Phenomenon.

ali8
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Aug 29, 2009 8:20 am

Re: Seeking suggestions for school

Postby ali8 » Sat Oct 08, 2011 4:25 pm

I think phenomenon is mocking (?).

First of all, could you tell us your GPA converted to the 4.0 system ?

Dege
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2011 12:32 pm

Re: Seeking suggestions for school

Postby Dege » Sun Oct 09, 2011 5:17 am

@ali, i dont think there's a standard conversion formula. lets say most of my grades are B+'s.

@phenomenon, i have jettisoned my humour till my GREs are over but i appreciate the effort all the same. cheers.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Seeking suggestions for school

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Oct 10, 2011 1:03 am

A good metric for trying to turn your class rank to American undergraduate GPA is this:

top 5%-4.0
top 10%-3.5
top 20%-3.0
and so forth.

Going by B+'s (3.3ish) I'd say you aren't very competitive coming from India -- there are a lot of top applicants, with 990 PGREs and perfect records. Take a look at the NRC physics graduate school rankings as a guide to selectivity, and choose ones that match your interests well (for the scores you state, and where you're coming from, I would hope that it's experiment with some engineering background).

For reaches, choose schools in the top 25, but below the top 10.

For fits, schools in the top 25-50 are good choices. I'd pick more than 2 though, since for internationals, admission is a crap shoot even when you match their expectations really well (there are just so many of you....)

Schools ranked below 50 can possibly be considered safeties, though that word doesn't have the same meaning when talking about an international student. There really isn't a safe school, for the reason mentioned above, and also because the further you go down the list, in general the less money the department can throw at international students, whom tend to (1) be more expensive, and (2) look less impressive to the Dean/state government/taxpayer funding the program.
Last edited by bfollinprm on Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

Dege
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2011 12:32 pm

Re: Seeking suggestions for school

Postby Dege » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:26 am

Thanks for the reply. I have checked out the rankings and sites. My list so far is :

1. UPenn
2. Northwestern
3. Carnegie Mellon
4. Penn State
5. Notre Dame

I am not from an engineering background. The courses that i took for my MSc were your standard grad school physics. Mostly theoretical, no research- as is usually the case in India.

pythy
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2011 9:51 pm

Re: Seeking suggestions for school

Postby pythy » Tue Nov 08, 2011 10:59 pm

bfollinprm wrote:A good metric is this:

top 5%-4.0
top 10%-3.5
top 20%-3.0
and so forth.



I'm curious about your metric. I assume you mean if you have a 4.0 gpa the top 5% of schools would be a good fit, likewise with a 3.5 gpa the top 10% of schools would be a good fit, etc. Since there are a few less than 200 PhD physics programs in the U.S., top 5% is roughly a top 10 school, and top 10% is a top 20 school. While I'm pretty much driving blind here, the 4.0 makes sense on a gut level, but I wonder if the 3.5 isn't more like the top 25% (or a top 40 school). Since the AIP numbers indicate that only about the top 30% of domestic physics grads get into a PhD program I'd think a 3.0 may just (or may not) put you in the top half of physics grads nationwide, and I wonder if that is even enough to get you into a PhD program. I realize that many factors go into the admission decision, but the numbers game suggests to me that a 3.0 gpa getting into a top 20% program is the exception. Maybe my assumptions are way off, or maybe you have some data, which I'd love to see. I've appreciated many of the suggestions and insights contained in your posts, but I am a bit curious about this one, especially since trying to figure out where to apply is the number 1 topic on all senior's minds right now.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Seeking suggestions for school

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Nov 08, 2011 11:07 pm

pythy wrote:
bfollinprm wrote:A good metric is this:

top 5%-4.0
top 10%-3.5
top 20%-3.0
and so forth.



I'm curious about your metric. I assume you mean if you have a 4.0 gpa the top 5% of schools would be a good fit, likewise with a 3.5 gpa the top 10% of schools would be a good fit, etc.....


No, I meant 4.0 --> top 5% in your (undergraduate) class.* The post was meant to provide a heuristic formula to transform grades from non-American institutions to match GPA's posted in the admissions profiles.


EDIT: I should mention that I think the mean GPA of physics undergrad students is actually far below 3.0 (more like 2.4-2.5). There's self selection in every step of the progression towards a PhD, and so the further back you go in the process the worse the average student is. GPA is calculated on the widest possible set of students**, so it includes lots of people who don't belong in a physics program to begin with (they populate the bottom of the bell curve, freely allowing the top 20% to populate the top). Since a capable, motivated student should in general (assuming no extenuating circumstances) manage to land in the top 20% as an undergraduate, a 3.0 is a semi-hard cutoff to even be considered for graduate school.

*I should also mention this means in your overall graduate class, not in the physics department. In general, those differ, with the overall % likely being higher than the % for physics (again, a wider set).

**On the other hand, the PGRE is (mostly) only taken by the students motivated enough to apply to grad school. Thus the percentiles of good students are lower (700->~60% is an ok score, at least for domestic students).

pythy
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2011 9:51 pm

Re: Seeking suggestions for school

Postby pythy » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:14 am

Thanks bfollinprm, I misunderstood, but I appreciated your EDITs. So to narrow rather than broaden the set of students, what is the gpa for graduating physics students in their upper division physics classes? I assume 3.0. Higher? Lower? Actual data anywhere? If there was it would help people plan.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Seeking suggestions for school

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:24 am

pythy wrote:Thanks bfollinprm, I misunderstood, but I appreciated your EDITs. So to narrow rather than broaden the set of students, what is the gpa for graduating physics students in their upper division physics classes? I assume 3.0. Higher? Lower? Actual data anywhere? If there was it would help people plan.



I only know data for my alma mater and my current graduate program (and of course I don't know every data point, so there's probably biases, and I don't know how to sort for graduating rather than flunking out). Both sample sizes are too small for an exact number or even (in the case of my alma mater) meaningful error bars; but that sounds about right. I bet you could find semi-rigorous data in physics education journals.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Seeking suggestions for school

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Nov 09, 2011 12:31 am

Dege wrote:Thanks for the reply. I have checked out the rankings and sites. My list so far is :

1. UPenn
2. Northwestern
3. Carnegie Mellon
4. Penn State
5. Notre Dame

I am not from an engineering background. The courses that i took for my MSc were your standard grad school physics. Mostly theoretical, no research- as is usually the case in India.



Those sound good, the first 3 are probably reaches, but the last 2 are certainly reasonable. You need to pick more, obviously. You seem like you're looking in the Northeast/midwest. Any reason? In the same region, and with similar admissions, also take a look at Boston University, U Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Case Western, and Purdue.




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