Prescreening of applications, secret cut-offs

cheers
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Prescreening of applications, secret cut-offs

Postby cheers » Mon Oct 22, 2012 2:15 pm

Hi there!

Does anyone know, if there are any pre-screening procedures for the applications to graduate school in physics?

You know, like a GRE cut-off and stuff like this. So far, on the web I have only seen the 'Applications are reviewed as a whole' statement, but to be honest, I don't see how the admission committee members could read through the application materials of several hundred applicants.

If someone knows something about this, it would be great: I'm still wondering which schools I should apply to. And if it is very likely that, say UC Berkely or UC Santa Barbara, never have a look at my file, then I'd better spend my $100 for another place, where they're willing to know about me.

Btw, does anyone have a statistics for the different schools over the last years according to the 'application profiles' topic? It seems to me they contain enough data to reveal some trends.

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midwestphysics
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Re: Prescreening of applications, secret cut-offs

Postby midwestphysics » Mon Oct 22, 2012 3:12 pm

The problem with trying to compile data in cutoffs is that you can only give general statements about schools, like avg pgre etc. In reality the cutoffs can vary wildly from school to school. And within schools they can vary wildly from member to member and year to year. You have to look around at profiles and ask yourself do I fit in with or above the average accepted applicant? If no, then your chances are probably not great, though not impossible. Common sense can save you a lot of money, besides they're really not interested in you. They're interested in how well you'll be able to perform their underpaid and often unpaid labor :D never forget that.

bfollinprm
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Re: Prescreening of applications, secret cut-offs

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Oct 22, 2012 8:45 pm

cheers wrote:Hi there!

Does anyone know, if there are any pre-screening procedures for the applications to graduate school in physics?


Not really. There may be applications that are only read by one person, once (and quickly), but the majority of schools will have at least one person make a complete read-through of the application. It's not that hard really (Order several hundred man hours for a typical school, or a little under a full time job), and there's a lot riding on making good decisions, both for the applicant and the school.

You know, like a GRE cut-off and stuff like this. So far, on the web I have only seen the 'Applications are reviewed as a whole' statement, but to be honest, I don't see how the admission committee members could read through the application materials of several hundred applicants.


There are some schools with an unofficial GRE cut-off, which is mostly opaque but not totally hard. They will make exceptions (remember my answer to number 1), but it has to be because there's something exceptional in the rest of the application. The PGRE is used as a tracer of a students capability to perform at least at a certain level; if you make that level having a higher PGRE doesn't matter that much, but if you don't make it some schools (or at least some members of application review committees) worry quite a bit.

If someone knows something about this, it would be great: I'm still wondering which schools I should apply to. And if it is very likely that, say UC Berkely or UC Santa Barbara, never have a look at my file, then I'd better spend my $100 for another place, where they're willing to know about me.

Quickly looking at your profile (which you should post in the Applications and Admissions thread for this year, by the way!) you are unlikely to get into UC Berkeley or UC Santa Barbara, but they will look at your full application before making their decision. Just stacking you up against other European candidates makes me wary of your chances at a top 10 school, but I don't know the whole story obviously.
Btw, does anyone have a statistics for the different schools over the last years according to the 'application profiles' topic? It seems to me they contain enough data to reveal some trends.


Happyquark has done some really nice correlation studies, and a few other devoted users have given some thought to this as well, but the truth of the matter is we probably shouldn't read too much into any trends. We have several biases, not limited to completeness problems, trends towards higher quality applications rather than lower, possible misrepresentation on the threads, and demographic tracing issues. It's probably possible to mitigate some of these, especially with complete information from a few schools to calibrate our biases, but making any real statistical inference would require a PhD thesis worth of work.

King Vitamin
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Re: Prescreening of applications, secret cut-offs

Postby King Vitamin » Tue Oct 23, 2012 2:46 am

This is ~3rd hand info, but someone I know said their advisor said somebody at University of Washington said that UW threw away every theory application with a PGRE under 780 last year. That info might be tenuous, but not necessarily unreasonable for a strong theory school like Washington (my main comment would be that "threw out" might be too strong a term).

Minovsky
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Re: Prescreening of applications, secret cut-offs

Postby Minovsky » Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:55 am

According to the AIP, Berkeley has a GRE cutoff of 730, though Berkeley themselves don't explicitly state this. Columbia Applid Physics has an official cutoff of 630. Those are the only schools I'm aware of that have a specific score stated as a cutoff. Some other schools say things like "it is highly unlikely that an applicant will be admitted with a score below 600, but a low GRE score will never be the only reason for a rejection." I've seen this sort of statement on multiple department FAQ pages, but I can't remember offhand which ones they were. The point is, this attitude seems to be much more common than a straight cutoff score.

TakeruK
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Re: Prescreening of applications, secret cut-offs

Postby TakeruK » Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:20 pm

University of Washington's (Seattle) Astronomy Program has an explicit minimum PGRE score of 500 listed. The General GRE score minimum was also 500 on both sections, under the old scale. This is obviously pretty low but they generally state this is the minimum score to be considered, NOT the minimum score to be "competitive". Just to add to what Minovsky was saying! (Note: in general, astronomy and other non "pure physics" programs tend to have lower requirements on PGRE score!)

Catria
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Re: Prescreening of applications, secret cut-offs

Postby Catria » Mon Oct 29, 2012 5:57 pm

For GRE-optional schools (Canadian schools, for instance) the GPA becomes a secret cut-off factor. I asked Tracy Webb (a McGill prof) about my chances at McGill and, while they claim students can be considered for admission starting at 3.0, the reality is that the last student to receive an acceptance had a 3.5 GPA from a good undergraduate school.

U Montreal has a somewhat lower cutoff but still, it seems to have one at 3.3.

cheers
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Re: Prescreening of applications, secret cut-offs

Postby cheers » Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:44 am

thanks a lot guys for the info below!

I just found one more school with official minimum score stated: Georgia Tech have put the requirements on their web page (PGRE: 640 required).

It's good to know they most of the committees actually make the efford to read their applicants' materials.




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