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Where do I rank?

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2013 1:29 pm
by toast
Hello, I am a student at a top 50 physics school. I have honestly no idea where I rank and what kinds of schools I should think about applying to because I can't seem to find any concrete facts online.

I am a rising senior with these stats:
3.41 GPA - General
3.56 GPA - Physics, but from mid sophomore year->now it has always been 3.8+
Research Experience
I have worked at CERN for 8 months and can get excellent recommendations from there as well as from professors at my university. I also have worked for 6 months for a professor at my university, although I didn't get anything out of it.
one publication as lead author from CERN. might get another by the end of my time here, but probably not lead author
Extra Curriculars
I am scholarship chair for my fraternity and was president of a small club.

I was looking at big shot schools like Harvard/MIT etc, but have no idea what kind stats they seem to take.

My question for you guys is how highly ranked schools do you think I have a chance of getting into, and what GRE score would I need to get to do this.

Thanks in advance

Re: Where do I rank?

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2013 2:38 pm
by friedrice
Here's what I think about your profile:
I think your GPA is a little too low for the top schools—but not all hope is lost. If you can prove yourself by doing well in the physics GRE, maybe you'd get a good shot. Scorewise... of course you want it to be as high as possible. I want to say PGRE of 900+ and good general GRE scores (5.0+ on writing, 160+ on verbal, close to perfect on math) would give you a really good shot at the top 20 schools. I don't really know how the top 10 schools choose their students.

I like the fact that you have a publication. I am guessing this publication is out in a respected journal for the world to see. 1 publication as an undergraduate should be enough to put you ahead of many people. Are you doing HEP theory or experiments? At least from what I hear, HEP theory seems really competitive.

I don't think extra-curricular activities matter that much in grad school applications. Anybody thinks otherwise?

Re: Where do I rank?

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2013 3:21 pm
by toast
Thanks for the reply, and I am doing HEP, but not theory, I was working on building/calibrating a prototype detector. From what I have heard experimental physics is much less competitive than theory?

Re: Where do I rank?

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2013 4:34 pm
by TakeruK
I think you have a relatively strong profile. Your overall GPA might be lower than the top students (e.g. the best profiles published in this forum) but it is still a good GPA. Especially when you say that the physics relevant courses in the later years have a 3.8+ GPA.

As others said, your research experience is also above average and having a publication is excellent.

For the test scores, I think for top tier schools, the average PGRE of accepted students hover around the high 800s (e.g. So, I would agree with the above person that you would want to get at least the average PGRE score (so 900 is a good goal). Remember that average score means that a good chunk of people (half, if it's the median) got in with lower scores. So, to offset your lower GPA, a stronger PGRE could be useful. But even if you can't score this high, it's not the end of the world.

I also agree that extra-curriculars do not count for much for grad school applications. However, I would still include them because they can make you memorable to the people reading your applications. It might be easier for the committee to remember you as "the applicant that is a varsity footballer" etc.

Overall, you are good enough to be seriously considered at the top schools, so it is well worth the effort to apply to any school that interests you. I would not recommend exclusively applying to top schools though, but I think at the best schools, it's a very stochastic method anyways (so it would be foolish for even the best students to exclusively apply to top tier schools).

Re: Where do I rank?

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:14 pm
by toast
Hello again,

Where do you think the "cutoffs" in terms of GRE, PGRE and GPA are for most highly ranked school, I am aware that they don't necessarily rely heavily on one, and in fact you can have one quite low be offset with another high, but what I am asking is what do you think the minimum combined total score of GRE,PGRE and GPA are to get in a top 20's school, given that you have publications and very strong letters?


Re: Where do I rank?

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:52 pm
by TakeruK
toast wrote:what do you think the minimum combined total score of GRE,PGRE and GPA are to get in a top 20's school, given that you have publications and very strong letters?

I don't think this question is well-defined enough to have an answer. For example, how would you even add up the combined scores? Unless you scale them to some value, since the GRE now scores out of 170, the PGRE scores out of 990, and GPA usually out of some number less than 10, if you just add up the numbers, the PGRE score will just dominate. I guess you can scale them all out of 100 or something (or use the percentile rank for each score) but then this becomes arbitrary so there's no unique number.

Ultimately, there is no magic number, well defined metric, or anything quantitative really, to determine whether or not you should apply to top 20s school. The admission evaluation process is not this quantitative either. While there may be some merit to use each one of the metrics (e.g. PGRE, GPA etc) individually, it does not make sense to combine these numbers into one!

Instead, I think it's more useful to post complete profiles, like you did here, and solicit opinions (as you did here) and compare your profile to the previous profiles/results from 2008 to 2013 to gauge whether or not it's worth it to apply to the top programs. I already stated my opinion above -- it's worth the effort and money for you to apply to any program that interest you. Your profile is strong enough to not let rank or prestige scare you away from applying.

Re: Where do I rank?

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2013 8:23 pm
by actrask

This thread indicates that if you are a domestic male applicant with a GPA of at least 3.7 and PGRE of 800 or above, you are extremely likely to get into a top 20 program.

Re: Where do I rank?

Posted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 6:30 am
by toast
Thanks for the replies. I am getting the note published on CDS (Cern Document Service), is this good?/ what are good places to get papers published on? Thanks