Catria wrote:Did you check against what astrophysics research you would like to do? Perhaps some of the 15 don't have what astrophysics you want.
Or perhaps you could narrow down once you took the PGRE.
TakeruK wrote:I was an astronomer and now I am in a planetary science field but I work very closely with astronomy (my work is on exoplanets and planet formation). In 2012, I applied to many of these schools--most in astronomy but a couple of their planetary science programs too.
Given your description of your profile, I think these 15 schools are in the right range!
I agree that you can probably narrow it down a bit more though. I think this is a good start for the summer and over the next few months, perhaps you can look into the actual research currently going on at these places. I did this by emailing the profs I would want to work with and going to conferences to talk to current profs and students at these schools. It's helpful to look up the websites of the students and profs as well and see what kind of work they do. Two schools might both have 3 profs each in your research field, but some profs have their students do novel research while others do not. It's helpful to see what the students publish as a guide for what you might end up doing if you work for said prof.
Your PGRE score isn't as big of a deal when it comes to astronomy programs, unless you are doing something very very astrophysics related. Unless you score below say, 600 on the PGRE, I wouldn't cut any of the schools out. Here is an article about the PGRE scores of astronomy applicants to Caltech by a prof who was chair of astro admissions there: http://mahalonottrash.blogspot.com/2014 ... fails.html
blackmass wrote:Thanks for this! This is incredibly helpful. You're right -- I ought to look more closely at specific projects that students and professors are working on.
And your comment about the PGRE is really a relief. I've already started studying, but I'm a terrible test taker in general, so we'll see how that goes.
In terms of contacting professors I'd be interested in working for, when is a good time to get in touch with them? I'm guessing now is way too early...?
I took the PGRE twice (640 and 690) so I just barely made it above the median score! Granted, the PGRE score isn't even required for some Planetary Science programs, but I still made it into many good astronomy programs (some on your list!) even with these scores. I'm also a terrible test taker!
I think it's too early to start contacting profs right now. In my application year, I sent a few emails in September but only because there was a conference in my field in October and I was reaching out to see if I could meet any of the profs at that conference. For everyone else, I emailed them in October and that helped me make a list of schools and profs. My main time constraint for this was because I wanted to send my list of schools/profs to my LOR writers by early November so that they have over a month to write even the earliest deadline.
TakeruK wrote:Finally, I would actually recommend a list that is heavy on reach schools / match schools instead of "safety" schools. You should probably identify one or two programs that you feel that you would both be happy in and feel confident about your admission. These are your "safety"s and there's no point having a ton of them. But you'll have to be able to identify these schools as such! My advice is to talk to your advisors/supervisors. Mine gave me a lot of advice of where they thought I would get in and they were very accurate.
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