Astronomy: Grad School List Suggestions

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Astronomy: Grad School List Suggestions

Postby uhurulol » Thu Sep 25, 2014 7:27 pm

Hi everyone. So I'm a student a Southern CT State University right now, planning on graduating this year. I'm compiling a list of graduate schools to apply to for an Astro PhD, and I'd like some advice. I'm filling my list with a lot of safety schools, as I know my state university background and less-than-stellar grades may be large negatives on my application. I do, however, think I have decent qualifications, even if they aren't top 20 material by any means.

My profile:
Domestic Male
GPA: 3.2
PGRE: Taking this in the next month, I hope to be in the 700 range by what I've been doing on the practices
GRE: Taking this right after PGRE, not too concerned
Research: I've been doing some rather exciting research in Optical Interferometry with a great Astronomer at my school, he seems to have a lot of connections and is very well respected in the community. He likes me a lot and will write me a stellar letter. About 1.5 years experience doing it, and I'll have a publication about it coming soon, though not in time for my application =(
Recommenders: My research adviser (see above), a math PhD and another physics professor who doesn't really have many accolades to speak of.


My list (needs to be narrowed down, looking to weed out low-chance schools):

1. Yale University - Long shot, but local
2. University of Hawaii (#2 choice)
3. University of Colorado, Boulder (probably my #1 choice)
4. University of Michigan
5. University of Pennsylvania
6. University of Tennessee, Knoxville
7. Arizona State University
8. University of Missouri
9. University of California, L.A.
10. Clemson University, SC
11. Cornell, NY
12. Iowa state
13. University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
14. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
15. Boston University ---- research adviser has connections here
16. California Riverside
17. University of Delaware ---- research adviser has connections here
18. Georgia State - large interferometry program, credentials would look good here




Thanks in advance for everyone's help.
Last edited by uhurulol on Fri Sep 26, 2014 4:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Astronomy: Grad School List Suggestions

Postby uhurulol » Thu Sep 25, 2014 7:27 pm

I should also note that I'm looking to be extra safe in case I bomb the PGRE... I'm really not a great standardized test taker, and SCSU offers about half the material that's actually on the test.

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Astronomy: Grad School List Suggestions

Postby Catria » Thu Sep 25, 2014 8:24 pm

UCLA, ASU and Cornell are by no means safety schools...

You'll be fine for Alabama, Delaware, GSU and UNC with a 50th percentile PGRE (~700), though.

TakeruK
Posts: 816
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Astronomy: Grad School List Suggestions

Postby TakeruK » Thu Sep 25, 2014 10:48 pm

The PGRE is not incredibly important in astronomy programs. A 700 or so would put you in the median of accepted students at the top programs. (On the other hand, if you were applying to Physics programs, the median at top programs is more like 880).

I agree with Catria though that some of your safety schools are not really "safety". Or perhaps you have a different definition of "safety". Most people use "safety" to mean a school they are almost certain to get into, so there's no point applying to more than just a few safety schools. If you really feel like you are certain to get into most of your 13 safety schools, then it would be a good idea to trim this list!

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Astronomy: Grad School List Suggestions

Postby uhurulol » Fri Sep 26, 2014 4:06 am

I'm not sure how Cornell got labeled under safety, haha. I think I never fully sorted this list, and then I just copied it over here without really looking at it.

Anyways, thanks for the help. Glad to know PGRE scores aren't insanely important for Astro programs. The exam really has me worried.

How many schools would you suggest I apply to?

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Astronomy: Grad School List Suggestions

Postby Catria » Fri Sep 26, 2014 9:01 am

TakeruK wrote:The PGRE is not incredibly important in astronomy programs. A 700 or so would put you in the median of accepted students at the top programs. (On the other hand, if you were applying to Physics programs, the median at top programs is more like 880).

I agree with Catria though that some of your safety schools are not really "safety". Or perhaps you have a different definition of "safety". Most people use "safety" to mean a school they are almost certain to get into, so there's no point applying to more than just a few safety schools. If you really feel like you are certain to get into most of your 13 safety schools, then it would be a good idea to trim this list!


Do GPA matter more for astronomy than PGRE? 3.2 seems a little low... then again, not many actually apply to an astronomy PhD with a publication on file.

TakeruK
Posts: 816
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Astronomy: Grad School List Suggestions

Postby TakeruK » Fri Sep 26, 2014 12:20 pm

It's always hard to quantify single aspects of an applicant's profile because applications are evaluated as a whole. Ultimately, the admissions committee seeks the answer to the question, "Which applicants are the most likely to succeed in our program?" where most places would probably define succeed as "produce useful and relevant research and graduate in a timely manner".

I do think a 3.2 GPA would be a little low for the top programs, but publications also demonstrate research ability/potential. It might really depend on how the 3.2 GPA was earned (i.e. consistent B+ grades? started out with B/B- and now earning A-/A in upper level courses? etc)

At top programs, I think a 3.2 GPA would be well below median so for this case, it might be a good idea to try to "make up for it" with above-median results in PGRE and research and LORs etc. I can't quantify how much though because it depends on what the program is looking for and how that 3.2 GPA is distributed.

uhurulol
Posts: 79
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:38 am

Re: Astronomy: Grad School List Suggestions

Postby uhurulol » Fri Sep 26, 2014 12:49 pm

It's an average 3.2. Lots of B's and low A's. My Physics/Math GPA is very slightly higher than my overall.

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Astronomy: Grad School List Suggestions

Postby Catria » Fri Sep 26, 2014 4:40 pm

I hope you like microwave and/or far infrared astronomy (even if they still worked with interferometry in that band) or else no UPenn for you...




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