nicholls wrote:Haha That's what my supervising professor told me today actually. But I am still skeptical, and I think he is always too optimistic. I like to err on the side of caution.
I had similar stats as you (my GPA wasn't as high though!) when I was applying for Canadian grad schools, 2 years ago. My profs told me that same thing, which was why I passed it on to you! I was skeptical too, and I've had experience with different profs being overly optimistic and ended up disappointed before. It's good to be cautious, but the main advice was to not go and apply to every school that does things you're interested in. It would waste your time, money, and energy! I decided to make my undergrad institution my "safety school" (my supervisor said they would take me if I wanted to stay, but encouraged me to go elsewhere) and just applied to a few places that I really wanted to go to.
Also, you would be quite competitive for NSERC funding, so make sure you apply to that this fall. If you get one of those, you are pretty much guaranteed admission to any Canadian school, maybe even if you apply after their deadlines (you won't find out NSERC results until April).
Finally, you should also be aware that your peers at U Toronto are probably not a representative sample of people applying to physics grad programs in Canada. Toronto has a ton more resources and research opportunities for its students than many other programs (not necessarily saying it's the best but it's definitely higher than average). So if you are unsure about your chances because you are comparing yourself to others at Toronto, remember this!
nicholls wrote:The only issue I have with Canadian schools is that none except UBC have anything really to offer in the realm of accelerator/beam physics. That is why I am heavily researching the states. I would prefer not applying to the states at all actually. Not having to write the GREs would save me a hell of a lot of time, and studying for them will most likely cut into both my working and researching time.
Again, this is very similar to my position 2 years ago! In Planetary Science, there are about 3 people in Canada that really do what I want to do -- I worked with one during undergrad and I am now finishing my MSc with one of the others. I also did not want to go to the States 2 years ago -- academically, my PGRE experience went really bad (44th percentile) and during application season I wasn't sure if I wanted to do cosmology-like stuff or planetary science and I wasn't even sure if I was interested in PhD since the US only has 5+ year PhD programs really, not like Canada where we do our Masters first and separately. Personally, I didn't want to go to the US because my wife and I weren't married yet so she wouldn't have been able to come to the US as a dependent on my visa. So staying in Canada for a MSc made sense for me -- it gave me time to find out what I want to research, confirm that I do want to do a PhD, improve my GRE scores, and get married! All of that worked out except for the improving GRE scores part -- I got 51st or 53rd percentile in 2011.
By the time I finished my undergrad, I knew I wanted to do planetary science (my honours thesis was on that and I loved it). At that point, I realised I really need to do a PhD in the US if I wanted to learn more in this field. Academically, I was kicking myself for not applying to US schools in the first place, but realistically, I wouldn't have been able to go to the US anyways (for reasons above!). So it was probably a good thing I didn't spend time on General GRE and redoing PGRE that year.
But it all worked out -- even with mediocre GRE scores, I still got into the program I would have wanted to go to right out of undergrad (disclaimer: planetary science programs give little weight to PGRE scores). The extra 2 years probably helped me because I was able to significantly increase my research record -- I probably would not have gotten into my new program right out of undergrad! I feel much more ready for grad school in the US with the extra 2 years doing a MSc in Canada. However, a MSc in Canada doesn't count for much in the US -- the most I got offered in terms of degree requirement waivers was about 1 semesters worth of courses (to fulfill a minor requirement) at one school and all the other schools did not waive anything. But things worked out for me since the program I am going to attend this fall is pretty "fast-tracked" and you kind of do 1.5-2 years of grad school in the first year, so I won't be far behind.
I shared my story since I thought we have some similarities and maybe it could help you decide what to do with US applications. I did follow the "go big or go home" advice (if I didn't make it, I would have tried to find a job with my MSc). Hope that was helpful, or at least not boring to read