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Do I have a shot?

Posted: Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:09 pm
by Sam_Hawkins
I am new to the board so let me first just say hello - Hello! :)

To my question - you guys have more experience so your judgement is way more accurate when it comes to graduate physics studies, so I wanted to ask if I have a shot at any of the better (say top 50) physics institutions.

My vague profile -
- Studying general physics, dunno about any particular recognition of my school in physics, even though it is one of the best in my country ( )
- GPA - 3.8
- Among 6% percent of best students of Physics
- Class top
- Every year getting academic scholarship
- I think I could get the GRE's at high 800s

About the research - I did not do any serious research as of yet, since I am really rather theoretically/mathematically inclined and even though I wass really looking for opportunities at my faculty since second semester, everybody kept telling me to rather focus on my studies since theoretical research demands a lot of knowledge.
So I am going to my last year of Bc. studies (in my country the degree is only for 3 years). Until now I had all the physical core subjects, will have some QM next semester. As for the maths I took some advanced courses for grad students - Differential geometry, lie groups, calculus of complex functions, advanced calculus of variations... The study will be ended with thesis, so I am currently studying another maths on my own (symplectic geometry etc) because I will do my thesis on some theoretical topic (haven't chosen particular topic yet) supervised by one of the leading theoretical physicists here (some past topics of his students were "Wentzel - Kramers - Brillouin Approximation and Maslov Indices in Quantum Mechanics" and "Non-Commutative Quantum Mechanics" ). The thesis will be in english and I suppose it could be counted as a research, since I will be heading for some more difficult graduate subject (something like the past works I wrote out).

Other things that could help:
I have been tutoring for several years now and I have also had regular paid classes. I will start my own classes for future physics students in their final year of high school (for free - as a community service)
I have won a prestigeous GE Scholar-Leaders scholarship this year (among 8 in my country) as a reckognition of my good study results and academic/leadership potential to the future ( ). Part of it is 3000 euros of stipend, also I will be doing the community service mentioned above as a part of the whole thing.

(Dunno if that helps but my one year older brother studies neuroscience at Columbia)
P.S.: I have applied for undergrad studies at several institutions when I was finishing my high school and got admitted to some (NYU, Drexel, IIT) but wasn't able to go there cos I got only like 1/2 scholarships everywhere and did not get to any need-blind schools and I am from rather poor family.

I may have forgotten something, but that's all for now. My question is, what are my chances at some of the top50ish universities? Where should I be aiming and what particularly should I build up?


Re: Do I have a shot?

Posted: Mon Jul 01, 2013 4:34 pm
by deathinacan
You are going to want some research experience before you apply, even if it isn't in the area you want to pursue in grad school. Schools look for research experience, and your research profs will write you more useful recommendations.

Re: Do I have a shot?

Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 2:56 pm
by Sam_Hawkins
deathinacan wrote:You are going to want some research experience before you apply, even if it isn't in the area you want to pursue in grad school. Schools look for research experience, and your research profs will write you more useful recommendations.

So you think I should wait another year and do a research in the meantime? Cos it really is not possible at my school for an undergrad to do any research, as I already wrote - I tried hard to find something for me since second semester, but no luck. Plus now in the last year I will be working on my thesis + I will teach a class of high schoolers on my own + I will be helping to some profs with making/correcting exams (since only grad students are alowed to actually teach a subject at my school).

Anyway, I think I can already get some REALLY good recommendation letters, when I applied for the international scholarship, my letters were great, just totally glorifying myself all the way.

Do you think that even without any research experience under my belt I will still have a chance if I work on my GREs and get for example something around 990 (cos I think it's possible with a little bit of hard work)?

Thanks for the response, anyway! :)

(btw this summer I will attend summer school of statistical physics in Prague and I already have arranged an appointment with some professors from princeton and UCLA that will give lectures there)

P.S.: another question - I heard tht it is really important that you have some professor "prearranged" at institution where you apply, who will be willing to push your application and take you under his that true? How do you make such contact? Is it appropriate to send an email to a professor of my desired field straight away?