Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Catria
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Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Thu Mar 06, 2014 1:23 am

Here's my updated (and hopefully, strengthened) profile...

Undergrad (and Grad) Institution: Big public school, best known for astronomy
Major(s): Joint physics-mathematics
Minor(s): Not applicable
GPA in Major: 3.67
Overall undergraduate GPA: 3.67 (undergrad)
Overall graduate GPA: 3.80
Length of Degree: 3.5 years (but since Quebecer high schoolers go to two years of CEGEP after grade 11, I'm on an even playing field)
Position in Class: Above average (~25% rank)
Type of Student: International

GRE Scores: (revised)
Q:167
V:162
AW:4.0
P: 910


TOEFL Total: 110

Research Experience: 1 year HEP-TH/Cosmo theoretical (false vacuum decay mediated by domain walls), can be 2 years by PhD time

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: None, unless dean's list counts (all semesters, requires 3.65+ overall)

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Departmental assembly membership for two years

Considered HEP-TH and/or cosmo due in part to my research experience, since I realized quite early that particle physics and cosmology were highly intertwined... I know UPenn is my first choice but I am not pinning all my hopes on it. My recommenders advised me to apply broadly...

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Mon May 05, 2014 4:52 pm

Is it a good list or not?

UPenn
Tufts
William and Mary
University of Rochester
UMinn-Twin Cities
Ohio State
Tulane
Arizona State
Vanderbilt
Yale

tsymmetry
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby tsymmetry » Wed May 14, 2014 1:40 pm

I really think you should try applying some top ten schools. Your GRE score is definitely hard enough and if you have good research experience by the time you graduate I think you will be competitive. Penn is definitely a great choice for cosmology though. Mark Trodden and Justin Khoury are wonderful

I would think about adding UChicago, Berkeley, Harvard, Caltech, Princeton, Stanford, and/or MIT. The first ones are top five in cosmology and MIT has Alan Guth.

Maybe also consider Johns Hopkins, UT Austin, Penn State, and Maryland. They are a bit easier to get into than the other ones I listed.

I would eliminate 5-6 of the schools on your current list and add 3-5 of the ones of my first list and 2-4 on the second list.

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Wed May 14, 2014 4:01 pm

tsymmetry wrote:I really think you should try applying some top ten schools. Your GRE score is definitely hard enough and if you have good research experience by the time you graduate I think you will be competitive. Penn is definitely a great choice for cosmology though. Mark Trodden and Justin Khoury are wonderful

I would think about adding UChicago, Berkeley, Harvard, Caltech, Princeton, Stanford, and/or MIT. The first ones are top five in cosmology and MIT has Alan Guth.

Maybe also consider Johns Hopkins, UT Austin, Penn State, and Maryland. They are a bit easier to get into than the other ones I listed.

I would eliminate 5-6 of the schools on your current list and add 3-5 of the ones of my first list and 2-4 on the second list.


The very reason why I had UPenn as my current first choice, as well as the ones I want to work under... after a visit on the Center for Particle Cosmology's website.

I cut W&M (found it too questionable in cosmo for my liking), replaced by Dartmouth (another non-reach of similar difficulty; Gleiser and Caldwell are the ones I contacted), Rochester and Yale haven't convinced me about how their HEP-TH research fit in cosmology either, so I could cut them too. One on the first list and one on the second list for replacements.

Yet, somehow, I feel like getting into any school on the first list depends on whether or not I can get anything published before apps are due (however, if I managed to do so, I would get two strong recs from co-authors on that project), because many internationals applying for HEP-TH or cosmo at, say, Harvard or Princeton, will have 3.7+, 900+ on the PGRE, 1-2 years of research experience.

But how popular are topics related to "how beyond-the-standard-model particle physics fits in cosmology" anyway?

bfollinprm
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby bfollinprm » Wed May 14, 2014 6:43 pm

Will you get into any one school in the top 10? As with most people, the answer is probably not. If you apply to all of them, though, your chance goes up by a factor of roughly 10.

U Penn is an excellent and reasoned first choice school--I think Justin Khoury is a pretty awesome person, though his favored ekpyrosis isn't looking so hot at the moment...could be good for someone entering grad school though, since he's likely to be looking for new research directions.

Overall, you're being a little too conservative, I think. I wouldn't take all your safeties away, but I'd apply to more reaches/fits; and U Penn might be considered a fit (though being a fit by no means guarantees admission).

One school that comes to mind is Carnegie Mellon: their McWilliams Center for Cosmology sounds right up your alley, and the application is free (at least, it was when I was applying).

And, of course, I have to plug my own school, UC Davis, for HEP-TH/cosmology. Andy Albrecht, Nemanja Kaloper, Lloyd Knox, and Steve Carlip in theoretical cosmology/gravity, and Markus Luty, John Terning, and Joe Kiskis in HEP-TH. Not to mention excellent experimenters in both groups, which is worth looking out for.

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Mon May 19, 2014 5:12 pm

Where does Carnegie Mellon fit in my picture? As a match? As a reach? Probably not as a safety...

Looks like I found a school that can replace Rochester, though. And Tulane, Yale are crossed off my list; replaced by Harvard and Princeton. Cornell might be added onto that list, too... And Arizona State replaced by Penn State, as well.
Last edited by Catria on Tue May 20, 2014 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

bfollinprm
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby bfollinprm » Tue May 20, 2014 12:19 pm

Carnegie Mellon is a match.

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Fri Jun 13, 2014 8:52 am

Sorry but I left out a detail that could make a difference: all the GPAs listed are on the 4.3 scale... How much harder is the process going to be, if at all?

The only top-10 school left for me to consider is Chicago (and, even so, if I am to even apply to Chicago, I will likely do so through the astronomy/astrophysics department); plus I can add UNC-Chapel Hill as well (for Erickcek or Mersini).

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Sun Aug 03, 2014 11:18 pm

Maybe this assessment is inaccurate for a couple of the schools on my current list (unless some extraordinary circumstances happen, this should be my final list):

Reach:

Princeton
UChicago
UPenn (may be moved to match if that article under preparation is submitted before application deadlines, but I am, alas, not going to visit Trodden or Khoury in person as originally planned :()

Match:

Carnegie Mellon
Penn State
Ohio State
Minnesota-TC

Safety:

UNC-Chapel Hill (definitely on the easy side compared to Ohio State, Penn State or CMU, although I'd be wary because of the 18% rule in place there)
Tufts
Vanderbilt
Dartmouth
Last edited by Catria on Sat Aug 23, 2014 5:07 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Fri Aug 22, 2014 8:57 pm

Suppose for a moment that I was to add Princeton to my list, after both checking here on PhysicsGRE.com and an email from a cosmology prof at UNC-Chapel Hill (who somehow recommended Princeton while knowing only about my research experience and interests). I know that, as a top-10 school, Princeton is a reach. And the POI has a joint appointment with physics and astrophysical sciences; for this reason I feel like astrophysical sciences is the better cosmological fit of the two.

Should I keep both UNC and Princeton or only keep Princeton?

bfollinprm
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby bfollinprm » Sat Aug 23, 2014 4:44 pm

If UNC is a school you're excited about attending, keep it--$90 or so isn't a huge investment. Otherwise axe it.

tsymmetry
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby tsymmetry » Sun Aug 24, 2014 11:21 am

I don't know why your list is so heavy on safeties. If you want to stay in physics, it will be even harder to get a job coming from a lower tier school than it already is. I would eliminate Dartmouth and Tufts since they simply are not that strong overall. I would also replace OSU by UT Austin.

As for reaches, Berkeley is good in cosmology and is easier to get into than places like Harvard and Princeton since they have a much larger class size. However, they do weed a lot of students out which is something you may be concerned about. Cornell and Columbia may also be good to add. Harvard and Stanford are as competitive as Princeton so that's your choice.

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Sun Aug 24, 2014 3:25 pm

tsymmetry wrote:I don't know why your list is so heavy on safeties. If you want to stay in physics, it will be even harder to get a job coming from a lower tier school than it already is. I would eliminate Dartmouth and Tufts since they simply are not that strong overall. I would also replace OSU by UT Austin.

As for reaches, Berkeley is good in cosmology and is easier to get into than places like Harvard and Princeton since they have a much larger class size. However, they do weed a lot of students out which is something you may be concerned about. Cornell and Columbia may also be good to add. Harvard and Stanford are as competitive as Princeton so that's your choice.


Perhaps I (and/or my recommenders) overestimated how difficult it was for me to get in somewhere in the US because of these three potential sources of error:

  • How much harder it is for internationals (that are neither Chinese nor Indian; I know that Vanderbilt, at a minimum, will sort internationals according to where they come from) to get into US physics/astronomy PhD programs vs. domestic students, given otherwise similar files
  • The competitiveness of theoretical particle cosmology (both me and my recommenders acted as though subfield made a difference)
  • The grades that are on a 4.3 scale vs. 4.0, if only because A+s are awarded

These three things are, together, hurting the confidence of both me and my recommenders. For them there are the reaches and there are the non-reaches (a.k.a. matches and safeties lumped together) I know that I have a strong application otherwise. But how are these three aforementionned factors really affecting my chances?

As for Tufts, Vanderbilt and Dartmouth: they are on my list, like OSU, because of recommender connections (for Dartmouth, it was confirmed when I visited and met with the cosmology profs there that they indeed knew one of my recommenders).

Finally, I knew from the onset that it wasn't a given at all that I would stay in physics afterward.

tsymmetry
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby tsymmetry » Tue Aug 26, 2014 11:49 am

I'm not saying it won't be difficult. High energy theory is the most competitive subfield and it is definitely harder for internationals. However, if you are in fact competitive for the top schools (which you may or may not be, based on you PGRE you are, but it's harder to tell based on your grades, research, and letters), you will have a better chance of getting into one if you apply to more of them. The way I viewed it was I would just apply to all the top schools I was interested in, would have two safer schools and one match that actually was a safety. It turned out I didn't need all those safeties though because I could have stayed at my home top 20 institution or gone to the match that was actually a safety (I did an REU and got a fee waiver and didn't realize they only offered it to some of us). Based on what you said, you probably will need more matches and safeties.

I would say you should knock off a safety or two (probably Tufts and/or Dartmouth since they are not very strong programs) and apply to 12-14 schools since that is actually a typical number, especially in HET. Then you could do one of Harvard/Princeton/Stanford, Cornell/Berkeley, and then Columbia/Michigan/Maryland/UT Austin, and one of Hopkins/UCLA/UCSD/Wisconsin.

TakeruK
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby TakeruK » Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:29 pm

To me, a "safety school" is a school that you are pretty much sure you will get in to (e.g. > 99% or whatever your favourite cutoff is). So, it is pointless to have more than one safety school because in theory, since you know you can get into all of them, you just need to keep the safety school that you are most interested in.

However, in reality, it's not always possible to make that decision this early in the process! Still, I would say two safety schools really should be an upper limit, unless you have some special circumstances. For example, if you are not decided on what country you want to go to, perhaps it would make sense to have a safety in each country. Or, if you are applying to a couple of different subfields, one safety in each would allow you to delay the decision of which field until later. Or, if you are trying to make sure you get into the same school as someone else, or within a certain area etc.

But otherwise, if you are listing 4 safety schools because you are not certain of getting into any specific school but instead are just certain you'll get into "at least one of these four", then I would agree with your recommenders that these are really "match" schools, not "safety".

I know this is just a semantics but sometimes the way we frame our thoughts can affect our attitude and thus our actions and outcomes. If you no longer think your safeties are actually safeties, maybe a 1:2 ratio of reach to match schools is a little too low? (That is, perhaps add more reach schools if you think you are competitive?) I don't think it's always necessary for an applicant to have safety schools at all, because if they are not interested in any of the schools that they are sure to get in, then there's no point having them as safeties. I'd say that for most people, the goal of applications is not just to get in any school, but to get into a school that would be a good match! In my opinion, it's better to get rejected everywhere (and reapply later or do something completely different) than to attend a school that would not be good for you and waste years of your life.

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:20 pm

Realized that UNC and Penn State were inadequate for my own cosmological needs (somewhat weak program and too heavy on quantum gravity respectively); started looking at Michigan and Columbia. However the bottom 3 that remain are frozen.

Yet I see people making this mistake far too often of having a top-heavy list, while I would now consider this list balanced, perhaps more top-heavy than before but still realistic. Here's my, hopefully, final list, in ascending order of reachability:

Reaches:

Princeton
UChicago
Columbia
Michigan
UPenn

Non-reaches (a.k.a. matches and safeties lumped together):

Carnegie Mellon
Minnesota
Ohio State
Tufts
Vanderbilt
Dartmouth

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Fri Oct 10, 2014 10:19 am

I know, from the get-go, that WUSTL and Notre Dame are non-reaches. I heard about Notre Dame through the GRE Search Service; they seem really enthusiastic when I contacted them (Grant Mathews and Adam Martin) later.

But my research-based recommenders would say that, if I was to axe Ohio State, they'd recommend me to apply to WUSTL instead (they know Mark Alford and Carl Bender respectively). I am not sure whether expanding my list is worthwhile or if I should just axe Ohio State for someone else. Perhaps I should wait a week before I decide for whom to axe Ohio State and, at the same time, whether to expand my list or not.

PathIntegrals92
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby PathIntegrals92 » Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:31 pm

I agree with TakeruK!
It's definitely better to apply to places where you feel you will be happy and love the environment ( research and academics ) etc.

Your physics gre is competitive for HEP-Th, so the list you have under reaches is great! Princeton has some great theoretical cosmologists! Justin Khoury at UPenn is a awesome! Michigan has a lot of great profs in HEP-TH and the department overall is very friendly!

I think you should remove Dartmouth and Tufts as well. Why not UMD-College park and UT-Austin? UC-Davis is good too.

bfollinprm
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby bfollinprm » Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:40 pm

Case Western is my default recommendation for a safety school in theoretical cosmology. Being in Cleveland, they have a graduate student recruitment disadvantage, but some really good faculty. No HEP-TH group, though; though they do have string theory.

I second Davis, obviously. You'd probably get in if you applied, though it wouldn't be a guarantee. Luty, Terning, Kaloper, Albrecht, Knox, and Carlip are all people whose work seems to fit your interests at some level, and we're (along with the math department) hiring 4 new faculty in mathematical physics in the next year, which means string theory/QFT/quantum gravity/cosmology.

Dartmouth doesn't make sense to me, so I agree on axing that, more so than Ohio State. Don't make your list larger than 10 schools, unless you have a good reason.* It puts too much of a load on your letter writers, who might start putting less effort in.

*I applied to more than 10 schools, my reasoning being trying to navigate the 2-body problem.

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Fri Oct 10, 2014 2:56 pm

Really, the reason why I put HEP-TH and cosmology together in my SOP is because the problems I'm interested in can be viewed from two (or perhaps even three, if particle astrophysics count) different vantage points.

PathIntegrals92 wrote:I agree with TakeruK!
It's definitely better to apply to places where you feel you will be happy and love the environment ( research and academics ) etc.

Your physics gre is competitive for HEP-Th, so the list you have under reaches is great! Princeton has some great theoretical cosmologists! Justin Khoury at UPenn is a awesome! Michigan has a lot of great profs in HEP-TH and the department overall is very friendly!


For me, attending Princeton is going to mean Steinhardt as my primary interest...

Let's not forget Rocky Kolb at UChicago or Mark Trodden at UPenn. In fact, Trodden and Khoury are the two I mentioned in my application.

I think you should remove Tufts as well. Why not UMD-College park and UT-Austin? UC-Davis is good too.


Axing Tufts? Are you somehow implying that Vilenkin and, to a lesser extent, Ford (plus the prospect of collaborating with Guth), isn't worth it?

Vanderbilt could be axed; I put Vanderbilt on my list because of recommender connections. Maybe Alford and Ferrer (@ WUSTL) is better than Scherrer for what I want.

And I have the impression that the entire UC system is gradually clamping down on internationals (UCSB is obviously the first to clamp down, and internationals cost way more than even out-of-state domestics at UCD over the course of a PhD) so a domestic with a similar file and similar HEP-TH/cosmology interests to me will likely be admitted over me.
Last edited by Catria on Fri Oct 10, 2014 6:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

PathIntegrals92
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby PathIntegrals92 » Fri Oct 10, 2014 4:57 pm

I was not implying that about Tufts. I also thought Guth was at MIT, but it's great that you would have the opportunity to work with him if you went to Tufts.

What about UMD-College park? Not considering there at all? I guess they have mostly GR people...

I have a friend ,who is international, that told me the same about the UC systems... I understand your concern.


Well if you are happy with your list, then that's the most important thing. If you really want to cross a place out then get rid of the place where you are interested in working with only one person. You could email that person and get on his or her radar, but otherwise what's the point?

Anyways, I don't even have a list so I should just get on that.

bfollinprm
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby bfollinprm » Sat Oct 11, 2014 3:02 am

just FYI, Rocky is now Dean of Sciences. That usually means very little time for research; it could be different for him, but he'll certainly be a busy man. That doesn't mean don't apply to Chicago, there's still Dodelson, Hu, Turner, etc. I just wouldn't put Rocky down as a person of interest, unless you've talked to him and he seemed interested in having you.

And if you only want to work with Steinhardt at Princeton, it seems to me that you should at least* be applying to Stanford as well (which has Linde, Silverstein, Senatore, and probably whoever they hire as KIPAC director, a position recently vacated by Roger Blandford). Princeton has just Paul, if you discount gravity and the string theorists over at IAS (and Zaldarriaga, I suppose). And of course there's Cal Tech, which seems odd to leave off, since they have Preskill, Thorne, and Carroll, among others.

EDIT: This last paragraph assumed you have no desire to stay in one part of the country. It just occured to me that your list is very East-coast heavy, which might have been on purpose. If you have a good reason for that, so be it.

*The more drastic course of action, of course, is to take Princeton off the list.

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Sat Oct 11, 2014 9:57 am

bfollinprm wrote:just FYI, Rocky is now Dean of Sciences. That usually means very little time for research; it could be different for him, but he'll certainly be a busy man. That doesn't mean don't apply to Chicago, there's still Dodelson, Hu, Turner, etc. I just wouldn't put Rocky down as a person of interest, unless you've talked to him and he seemed interested in having you.

And if you only want to work with Steinhardt at Princeton, it seems to me that you should at least* be applying to Stanford as well (which has Linde, Silverstein, Senatore, and probably whoever they hire as KIPAC director, a position recently vacated by Roger Blandford). Princeton has just Paul, if you discount gravity and the string theorists over at IAS (and Zaldarriaga, I suppose).


Thank you for advice pertaining to Chicago and Princeton...

tsymmetry
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby tsymmetry » Sun Oct 12, 2014 1:00 pm

If you are interested in collaborating with Guth, why aren't you applying to Harvard or MIT? Most of the collaboration happening is between those two schools. You students from Harvard or MIT can have advisors at the other school. Not to mention that Harvard has the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

I don't get your obsession with Tufts. If you are indeed competitive for schools like Princeton, I don't know why you would want to go there. It isn't all about the advisor. Prestige does matter quite a bit in theoretical physics and the better schools have a lot more funding and resources. I also observed that there is a difference in quality of students at top ten schools. You can learn a ton from your peers so this is definitely something to consider.

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Sun Oct 12, 2014 4:34 pm

tsymmetry wrote:I'm not saying it won't be difficult. High energy theory is the most competitive subfield and it is definitely harder for internationals. However, if you are in fact competitive for the top schools (which you may or may not be, based on you PGRE you are, but it's harder to tell based on your grades, research, and letters), you will have a better chance of getting into one if you apply to more of them.


You are no more sure as to whether I am indeed competitive for the top schools than I am. You said so yourself that the only component that is known for certain about whether or not I am Princeton material was my PGRE.

I would say you should knock off a safety or two (probably Tufts and/or Dartmouth since they are not very strong programs) and apply to 12-14 schools since that is actually a typical number, especially in HET. Then you could do one of Harvard/Princeton/Stanford, Cornell/Berkeley, and then Columbia/Michigan/Maryland/UT Austin, and one of Hopkins/UCLA/UCSD/Wisconsin.


You gave four levels from which to pick schools; from there, I replaced Penn State and UNC (with Columbia and Michigan respectively)

H/P/S-level: Princeton
Cornell/Berkeley-level: UChicago (perhaps I'm wrong to place UChicago at that level)
Columbia/Michigan/UMD/Texas-level: Columbia, Michigan (not sure about UPenn)
JHU/UCLA/UCSD/Wisconsin-level (highest non-reach level): Carnegie Mellon (not sure about UPenn, Minnesota; I'm 100% certain Minnesota is not a reach though)

I have 6-7 programs at a respectable level, from which I can reasonably expect 1-3 acceptances.

However, if you consider top ten programs, each of them will allow 1 or maximum 2 spots for internationals in HEP theory. You will therefore have to compete for about 15 spots with (likely) upwards of 300 people from around the world.


I also observed that there is a difference in quality of students at top ten schools. You can learn a ton from your peers so this is definitely something to consider.


If ~15-20 internationals make it at top-10 schools for HEP-TH (and add ~5-15 for cosmo; in fact, there are some people who are drawn to both because the problems that interest them involve both subfields), and many among the 300 international applicants to top-10 schools for these two subfields are students strong enough to sustain the rigors of top-10 schools, then the advantage of better peers comes, in part, from outside HEP-TH. HEP-TH is intensely competitive, and so is theoretical cosmology; many international HEP-TH/cosmo hopefuls that are top-10 material end up shut out of top-10s but are admitted somewhere nonetheless.

But, if the peers are also part of the challenges of a program, then it could give some low-tier programs reason to "tuft" students, e.g. rejecting a student that is well above the admits. Yet, somehow, I don't think I aimed so wide that I would be tufted at the low end (depts that could tuft me would mean the likes of Tulane, W&M, Kentucky, worse even than Tufts or Dartmouth) of my list.

tsymmetry
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby tsymmetry » Mon Oct 13, 2014 12:42 am

Yes, but what I am saying is that if you are competitive for schools like Princeton, you will have a higher chance of getting into one of these schools if you apply to more of them. If you however are not competitive, then it won't matter how many top schools you apply to since you wouldn't be in the range to be accepted anyway.

I'm surprised your professors don't have a better idea of where you stand. Does your university not send many students to grad school? Because most professors I talked to would give very clear answers regarding applications. I don't thibk grad school applications are that unpredictable for the most part. Sure, it's hard to tell where you will get accepted, but if someone is a strong candidate for top ten schools, usually they will get into a few from what I have observed. This is definitely less true for internationals, but that just means you need to apply to more places.

The only times I have heard of students being shut out is if they apply to only four to seven top ten schools.

International students usually apply to more schools, sometimes over 15. It's expensive but the best way to maximize your chances.

Catria
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Mon Oct 13, 2014 12:36 pm

tsymmetry wrote:Yes, but what I am saying is that if you are competitive for schools like Princeton, you will have a higher chance of getting into one of these schools if you apply to more of them. If you however are not competitive, then it won't matter how many top schools you apply to since you wouldn't be in the range to be accepted anyway.

I'm surprised your professors don't have a better idea of where you stand. Does your university not send many students to grad school? Because most professors I talked to would give very clear answers regarding applications. I don't thibk grad school applications are that unpredictable for the most part. Sure, it's hard to tell where you will get accepted, but if someone is a strong candidate for top ten schools, usually they will get into a few from what I have observed. This is definitely less true for internationals, but that just means you need to apply to more places.

The only times I have heard of students being shut out is if they apply to only four to seven top ten schools.

International students usually apply to more schools, sometimes over 15. It's expensive but the best way to maximize your chances.


I think I know where their (relative?) cluelessness comes from. There is usually either zero or one student that applies to schools in the US in any given year from my undergrad dept; while it is true that about half the class makes it to graduate school, most, in fact, stay home.

Most of the students that I know that tried their hands in the US in the past 10 years from my dept had a better record than me in at least one of these two areas: grades and research (because my professors would claim that, once one gets 900 and higher, PGRE is not a game-changer anymore) however many top-10 admits, even international, did not publish either (here, a better research record simply means they actually submitted, or better still, published anything). My professors always say that it's easy for a student to fall in love with the research at a top-10 school and that most students that tried their hands in the US had a backup at home.

And the US components of past US matriculants' application lists were heavy-laden with top-10s; some tried their hands at HEP, whether experimental or theoretical, others at mathematical physics, but the last one that wanted to do anything other than these was an astronomy girl (got into Yale, Maryland, UCSC, all top-20 for astro). The lowest-ranked US school I know about that had a matriculant from my undergrad department was Brown, so most everyone that actually expressed a desire to go to grad school in the US were unwilling to aim as wide as I am.

My professors always say that one should start with the non-reaches. While they conceded that UPenn was reachable (and, by extension, other top-20s that weren't top-10s; this means Columbia and Michigan here), and that the top-10 schools I chose to apply to did fit with my research interests, I shouldn't fill my list with only top-20 schools.

That said, I certainly am a *strong* candidate in absolute terms.
Last edited by Catria on Mon Dec 22, 2014 7:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Oct 13, 2014 2:48 pm

Though I actually applaud you for some considered choices (Tufts probably is a diamond in the rough, and U Penn would be my first choice school for the kind of thing you want to do), I also agree with others posting that it's kind of weird to be talking about wanting to work with, say, Guth, and not applying to MIT. If you want to work with him the best place to do that is obviously MIT, even if he takes Tuft students on occasion (I would imagine this is not very common in practice, since he has tons of motivated, capable, and interested students sitting on campus).

Now, I'm not saying Guth SHOULD be at the top of your list; I don't know him well enough to comment (certainly, he'd be at the top of your list 10-20 years ago), but you seem excited at the prospect of working with him; if so, apply to MIT.

Catria
Posts: 353
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Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby Catria » Mon Oct 13, 2014 3:38 pm

bfollinprm wrote:Though I actually applaud you for some considered choices (Tufts probably is a diamond in the rough, and U Penn would be my first choice school for the kind of thing you want to do), I also agree with others posting that it's kind of weird to be talking about wanting to work with, say, Guth, and not applying to MIT. If you want to work with him the best place to do that is obviously MIT, even if he takes Tuft students on occasion (I would imagine this is not very common in practice, since he has tons of motivated, capable, and interested students sitting on campus).

Now, I'm not saying Guth SHOULD be at the top of your list; I don't know him well enough to comment (certainly, he'd be at the top of your list 10-20 years ago), but you seem excited at the prospect of working with him; if so, apply to MIT.


To be honest, Guth is an afterthought with respect to Tufts. The real reason why Tufts is on that list is Vilenkin and, to a lesser extent, Ford and Olum.

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

Re: Is my list broad enough? HEP-TH/Cosmo

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Oct 14, 2014 2:13 am

Cool. That makes sense then (assuming he's still taking students).




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