Research/Publications and top ten schools

tsymmetry
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:59 pm

Research/Publications and top ten schools

Postby tsymmetry » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:59 pm

I'm posting this since I about to submit my applications and am starting to get very nervous.
I currently attend a top ten university and am applying to twelve schools for condensed matter theory, nine which are top ten. I also have one which is top fifteen (I did an REU there), one top twenty, and one top thirty (which should be a safety since my research advisor is very well connected there).
There are several very strong components to my application. I have a lot of research experience in my field at my home school and just had a first author paper accepted to PRL. I also will be publishing a paper (we are a bit behind) from an REU I did last summer where I worked on a theory project. My letters of recommendation should all be very strong. I know my recommenders very well and they all suggested I apply to top programs. I have also received a few awards, one being very significant.

The two negative components of my applications are my grades and PGRE score. My GPA is ~3.6, which is not horrible, but I feel it is low for top schools. The biggest reason is my performance on exams, which in the beginning was very inconsistent due to difficulty timing myself/nerves. However, as this got somewhat better later on, my grades improved by a lot, and for the last 3 semesters my GPA has been closer to a 3.8. I also excelled in several graduate courses (two of which gave a take home test which I do very well on without the time constraint).

For similar reasons, my PGRE score is 760, which is not great. I'm not sure how much this will negatively affect my application. I am female, which may give more leniency to my PGRE score, but I don't really think this affects the rest of my application since from what I have observed, the female physics applicants are a very selective bunch given the very high attrition rate.

I was wondering if anyone knew of any profiles similar to mine (it was hard to find any in the past acceptance threads since my combination of qualities seems to be uncommon) and how they did in admissions.

skpgre
Posts: 8
Joined: Sat Nov 30, 2013 2:59 am

Re: Research/Publications and top ten schools

Postby skpgre » Fri Dec 13, 2013 12:16 am

tsymmetry wrote:I'm posting this since I about to submit my applications and am starting to get very nervous.
I currently attend a top ten university and am applying to twelve schools for condensed matter theory, nine which are top ten. I also have one which is top fifteen (I did an REU there), one top twenty, and one top thirty (which should be a safety since my research advisor is very well connected there).
There are several very strong components to my application. I have a lot of research experience in my field at my home school and just had a first author paper accepted to PRL. I also will be publishing a paper (we are a bit behind) from an REU I did last summer where I worked on a theory project. My letters of recommendation should all be very strong. I know my recommenders very well and they all suggested I apply to top programs. I have also received a few awards, one being very significant.

The two negative components of my applications are my grades and PGRE score. My GPA is ~3.6, which is not horrible, but I feel it is low for top schools. The biggest reason is my performance on exams, which in the beginning was very inconsistent due to difficulty timing myself/nerves. However, as this got somewhat better later on, my grades improved by a lot, and for the last 3 semesters my GPA has been closer to a 3.8. I also excelled in several graduate courses (two of which gave a take home test which I do very well on without the time constraint).

For similar reasons, my PGRE score is 760, which is not great. I'm not sure how much this will negatively affect my application. I am female, which may give more leniency to my PGRE score, but I don't really think this affects the rest of my application since from what I have observed, the female physics applicants are a very selective bunch given the very high attrition rate.

I was wondering if anyone knew of any profiles similar to mine (it was hard to find any in the past acceptance threads since my combination of qualities seems to be uncommon) and how they did in admissions.



Your profile is surprisingly similar to mine! Problems timing myself -> average grades, low PGRE ( lower than yours. :( ). I too was acing my take home exams, while my in-class exams were consistently mediocre. And I was also going to apply to CMT programs...

In my case, I had mostly 20-40 ranked programs in my list, but my recommenders told me flat out not to apply there, and, instead, take (another) year off, take the PGRE again, and, THEN, apply to top programs. I'm an international, so getting into schools with a very mediocre PGRE score would really be quite difficult anyway.

As it stands, I am sending in some nominal apps to a couple of programs with Jan deadlines - but I do not expect to get in. I will probably be retaking the PGRE next April ( then September AND October if necessary), and reapplying next year.

In your case, I would recommend that you apply to the schools you want to, and maybe add a few lower ranked schools to your list ( but only if you think you'd want to work with someone there). Even if, somehow, you do not get in anywhere, you can always retake the PGRE, and also do some more research over the next year.

The nerves are natural, but, really, there just isn't time to change anything about your profile. Try to focus on the things under your control, and try to not wreck yourself worrying about anything else.

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

Re: Research/Publications and top ten schools

Postby bfollinprm » Fri Dec 13, 2013 3:09 pm

Sounds a lot like my application. I was waitlisted at the top schools I applied to, and rejected to a few that in retrospect I wasnt a good fit for. I think my 'fit' range was probably somewhere around 13 - 20. If you've done your research in figuring out where to apply, you should be fine...if you're worried search for schools with free applications or with application fees that can be waived, and apply there. Many schools (I know UC Davis is one) have later admissions deadlines, and so they tend to be good choices for filling out the breadth of applications as well.

tsymmetry
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:59 pm

Re: Research/Publications and top ten schools

Postby tsymmetry » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:18 pm

A recent update: My paper (first author) is in the end of the proofs stage and should be in next weeks Physical Review Letters. One of the Professors I worked with also sent the paper to someone at Berkeley who recently wrote a review article on the topic. I will also be presenting my work at APS and one of the coauthors of my paper will be mentioning the work in an invited talk given in a special seminar about the topic which has seen a lot of publicity in the condensed matter community of late. Do you think this should significantly help my application?

tsymmetry
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:59 pm

Re: Research/Publications and top ten schools

Postby tsymmetry » Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:41 pm

Now that the admissions cycle is winding down, it looks like I will be choosing between Harvard (James Mills Peirce fellowship), Stanford, or Chicago (Nambu fellowship). My conclusion from this is that the most important parts of the application are letters and research experience by quite a large measure at a lot of places.




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