Where should I be applying? (CMT)

physicsisphun
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:57 am

Where should I be applying? (CMT)

Postby physicsisphun » Mon Oct 27, 2014 1:10 am

So I just got by pgre scores back and they are a bit worse than I wanted. Thought I could get 850, got a 730. I've been waiting on these scores to determine what a reach and safety could be since I really have no idea how to compare myself to others. My physics department is really tiny. Only 10 people and only 5 of them are attempting to go to grad school. Can I get some feedback with where I should apply for CMT? My top choice is obviously Urbana, but that seems a little far off now.

Profile
domestic male

School: us news and world ranks 100+. small department
GPA:4.0
Also getting a master's in mathematics along with my physics degree.

GRE: pgre 730 Q 165 V 167 W 5.5

Reserach (2 summers related to Ultracold AMO theory)
3 summers plus a full year project. 1 REU at Rice
No publications
2 poster sessions

Tutor for 3 years
Grader for 3 years

Should have good letters of rec. 2 from research advisers, 1 from department head, 1 from professor I grade for.

Thanks for the help! Sorry if my formatting sucks.

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

Re: Where should I be applying? (CMT)

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Oct 27, 2014 1:21 am

Firstly, a 730 isn't bad, it's just not stellar. Depending on how stellar those recommendations are (and how well your summer research showed actual aptitude), you might be competitive at top 20 schools still. UIUC is probably out (I'd still apply if it's your top choice). Not to say you're going to get into any given top 20 school (or even any of them); I'm just saying the probability isn't zero just because of a bad PGRE score.

You might consider writing your application in such a way as to leave yourself open to both CMT and CME. Something like, "I love how in condensed matter it's possible to construct systems that constrain a wide variety of physical models, and how solid state systems can serve as a laboratory for studying quantum field theories." Considering experiment will mean your less-than-perfect PGRE score is more likely to be forgiven.

physicsisphun
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:57 am

Re: Where should I be applying? (CMT)

Postby physicsisphun » Mon Oct 27, 2014 1:33 am

Thanks for the quick response. I guess I'll try applying to the top 40, and see what happens. I took the test last Saturday so maybe I'll have done better then.

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

Re: Where should I be applying? (CMT)

Postby Catria » Mon Oct 27, 2014 8:33 am

If you're willing to go a little low maybe Georgetown can be a sensible choice for a safety... then again, I have seen a few people neglect to have any safety.

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

Re: Where should I be applying? (CMT)

Postby tsymmetry » Mon Oct 27, 2014 9:12 pm

A low PGRE can be overcome if the rest of your application is strong. I applied for CMT last year with a 760 and got into 5 top 10 schools including Illinois, Harvard, and Stanford. However I also had a first author publication in PRL.

A lot of top schools are really deemphasizing the PGRE. Of top ten schools, UChicago and Harvard don't care as much about it. They heavily emphasize letters and research experience which need to be top notch.
Some places you might consider in the top 20-30 that are strong for CMT are Rutgers, Penn State, Maryland, UCSD, and Minnesota

I wouldn't bother applying to MIT or Princeton with your PGRE. They are the schools that care the most about it since they have very hardcore quals

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

Re: Where should I be applying? (CMT)

Postby Catria » Mon Oct 27, 2014 10:07 pm

Pay attention to what you want out of CMT when looking for safeties... someone interested in non-equilibrium systems won't have the same application list vs. someone interested in photovoltaics.

tsymmetry wrote:A low PGRE can be overcome if the rest of your application is strong. I applied for CMT last year with a 760 and got into 5 top 10 schools including Illinois, Harvard, and Stanford. However I also had a first author publication in PRL.

A lot of top schools are really deemphasizing the PGRE. Of top ten schools, UChicago and Harvard don't care as much about it. They heavily emphasize letters and research experience which need to be top notch.
Some places you might consider in the top 20-30 that are strong for CMT are Rutgers, Penn State, Maryland, UCSD, and Minnesota

I wouldn't bother applying to MIT or Princeton with your PGRE. They are the schools that care the most about it since they have very hardcore quals


So this is a radical transformation for UChicago with the current administration... first getting rid of the quals (and now students take a placement test two weeks before the coursework begins; quals were phased out in part due to concerns about students' health), and, concurrently, emphasizing research experience more than it did in the past. I think de-emphasizing the PGRE at UChicago is related to the abolition of the quals, which were every bit as hardcore as MIT or Princeton quals are. (I remember a story about some UChicago alum failing quals for almost a decade, and defended his/her thesis almost immediately after his/her passage)

Along with a HEP-TH postdoc at my undergrad that is an UChicago alum (graduated in 2011) and my standard model instructor also being a UChicago alum (unfortunately he couldn't write me the third letter, not even for UChicago) and PhysicsGRE.com of course, the major changes implemented by the current administration influenced my decision to apply to UChicago over Caltech or Stanford.

physicsisphun
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:57 am

Re: Where should I be applying? (CMT)

Postby physicsisphun » Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:23 am

I want to do some fundamental stuff with QFT and topology. That's about as specific an interest as I can give right now. Any ideas for good programs to look at? I'm lacking in guidance since my physics department is small and so doesn't have the breadth of research and knowledge I'd like.

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

Re: Where should I be applying? (CMT)

Postby tsymmetry » Tue Oct 28, 2014 9:03 am

Stanford got rid of their qual this year too. They actually mentioned it on the acceptance letter.

So it sounds like if you are interested in QFT and topology that you are likely interested in topological phases/FQHE/fractional statistics and maybe strongly correlated systems/quantum phase transitions. If that's the case, then pretty much all of the top ten schools have people and Penn State, Maryland, Boulder, and Boston University do as well from what I remember.

Arbitrary
Posts: 39
Joined: Wed Oct 23, 2013 7:05 am

Re: Where should I be applying? (CMT)

Postby Arbitrary » Tue Oct 28, 2014 10:28 am

Catria wrote:So this is a radical transformation for UChicago with the current administration... first getting rid of the quals (and now students take a placement test two weeks before the coursework begins; quals were phased out in part due to concerns about students' health), and, concurrently, emphasizing research experience more than it did in the past. I think de-emphasizing the PGRE at UChicago is related to the abolition of the quals, which were every bit as hardcore as MIT or Princeton quals are. (I remember a story about some UChicago alum failing quals for almost a decade, and defended his/her thesis almost immediately after his/her passage)

Along with a HEP-TH postdoc at my undergrad that is an UChicago alum (graduated in 2011) and my standard model instructor also being a UChicago alum (unfortunately he couldn't write me the third letter, not even for UChicago) and PhysicsGRE.com of course, the major changes implemented by the current administration influenced my decision to apply to UChicago over Caltech or Stanford.


Fortunately I am one of the first grad class in UChicago that does not have to take quals.
Although it's only about a month into my first year here, I can safely say that not having the menace of these exams in the future is a heavy load off my chest.
The placement exams (called Graduate Diagnostic Examinations) are really nice as well, and allowed many of my classmates to skip a lot of the first year courses. Due to unfortunate reasons, I was unable to take them and thus was left with the full course load, but ah well.

I really hope that the trend of disposing of the quals will continue at other strong places like Stanford and Chicago. These tests are probably not good indicators of how good a person is in research.

physicsisphun
Posts: 15
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:57 am

Re: Where should I be applying? (CMT)

Postby physicsisphun » Tue Dec 02, 2014 3:59 am

New Developments!

I got my PGRE scores back from October and got an 840 (77%).
Still applying for CMT. All other information in the original post is the same.
I'm also taking a special problems class in QFT with condensed matter applications next semester as part of my math masters (yay electives).

My list as it now stands is
Top 3 Choices,
UIUC
UCSB
Harvard

Irrelevant Order from here
UChicago
Columbia
UCSD
U Mich
Boston U
UC Boulder
Penn State
UMD
Rice

So basically I'm asking does this list give me a chance to get into a good program? Would you consider any of these safeties? Can I actually get into one of my top 3?

Thanks.




Return to “School Selection”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest