School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

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

School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby uhurulol » Mon Dec 15, 2014 2:03 pm

Hi everyone. I've posted here before, but upon receiving my abysmal PGRE score, I've decided to completely overhaul my school list in favor of some much easier schools to get into. Everything is for Astro research. I've found a lot of programs that don't require the PGRE, and I'll be applying to mostly those. If you can think of any other Physics, Astro or Planetary programs that won't require submission of the PGRE score, I'd be happy to hear about them. As of right now, here is my profile, with the school list below:

Undergrad Institution: State University, no rep for physics
Undergraduate Major(s): Physics
GPA in Major: 3.18
Overall GPA: 3.17
Type of Student: Domestic White Male

GRE Scores:
Q: 155 (60%)
V: 155 (67%)
W: 3.5 (38%)
P: 500 (9%) (obligatory :oops:)

Research Experience:

Two years on a significant astro instrumentation project funded by a huge NSF grant. Advisor of this project is my primary recommendor, and he will write me a stellar letter. The research itself is highly notable and should look really great on my application. Publication pending in a reputable journal.

I also just recently started some research with another notable Yale professor doing observational stellar astronomy -- the details of which she doesn't really want me to discuss, as we're fighting time on this project. If we're successful, this will provide significant evidence toward a recent theory about a specific Milky Way satellite, and that will lead to another publication on which I will be the second author. This advisor is my second recommendor.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs:

Tutored physics to the youngins' at my school, did generic lab work/repair work for the physics department. Presentations regarding my research for the Physics Club, and I've represented the Physics department at a number of university events.

Other Information:

Major coursework such as E&M, Classical and Quantum came way later in my studies than they should have. Also worked 30+ hours a week (plus research) for most of my college career.

Applying to Where:

Schools that will not require PGRE scores are noted by "NO PGRE." The schools that do require a score are mostly programs at which my advisors have colleagues (some of whom I've met) and thus I stand a better chance in spite of my poor score. These I've marked with a *.

Reach:
University of Delaware - Physics & Astronomy *
University of Hawaii - Astronomy
Caltech - Planetary Sciences NO PGRE

Optimistic:
Georgia State - Physics & Astronomy *
Stony Brook - Physics & Astronomy NO PGRE
University of Pittsburgh - Physics & Astronomy NO PGRE
Florida Institute of Technology - Space Sciences NO PGRE
University of New Hampshire - Physics & Astronomy NO PGRE
Clemson - Physics & Astronomy NO PGRE *
University of Iowa - Physics & Astronomy NO PGRE
University of Oklahoma - Physics & Astronomy NO PGRE



If you know of any other Space Science, Planetary Science or Astro programs that don't require a PGRE and that I'll stand a good chance at, please let me know. Likewise, if any of these look horribly out of my reach, let me know so I can avoid wasting the app fee. Obviously my research is my selling point -- as such, schools like Caltech, which prioritize research, are at the top of my list. I really don't care about getting into a "prestigious" university; I want to do astronomical research and that's all I care about. If my career is spent doing research like I have been the past two years, I will die a very happy man.

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RonaldoMcDonaldo
Posts: 35
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2014 12:20 am

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby RonaldoMcDonaldo » Tue Dec 16, 2014 1:34 am

uhurulol wrote:Hi everyone. I've posted here before, but upon receiving my abysmal PGRE score, I've decided to completely overhaul my school list in favor of some much easier schools to get into. Everything is for Astro research. I've found a lot of programs that don't require the PGRE, and I'll be applying to mostly those. If you can think of any other Physics, Astro or Planetary programs that won't require submission of the PGRE score, I'd be happy to hear about them. As of right now, here is my profile, with the school list below:

Undergrad Institution: State University, no rep for physics
Undergraduate Major(s): Physics
GPA in Major: 3.18
Overall GPA: 3.17
Type of Student: Domestic White Male

GRE Scores:
Q: 155 (60%)
V: 155 (67%)
W: 3.5 (38%)
P: 500 (9%) (obligatory :oops:)

Research Experience:

Two years on a significant astro instrumentation project funded by a huge NSF grant. Advisor of this project is my primary recommendor, and he will write me a stellar letter. The research itself is highly notable and should look really great on my application. Publication pending in a reputable journal.

I also just recently started some research with another notable Yale professor doing observational stellar astronomy -- the details of which she doesn't really want me to discuss, as we're fighting time on this project. If we're successful, this will provide significant evidence toward a recent theory about a specific Milky Way satellite, and that will lead to another publication on which I will be the second author. This advisor is my second recommendor.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs:

Tutored physics to the youngins' at my school, did generic lab work/repair work for the physics department. Presentations regarding my research for the Physics Club, and I've represented the Physics department at a number of university events.

Other Information:

Major coursework such as E&M, Classical and Quantum came way later in my studies than they should have. Also worked 30+ hours a week (plus research) for most of my college career.

Applying to Where:

Schools that will not require PGRE scores are noted by "NO PGRE." The schools that do require a score are mostly programs at which my advisors have colleagues (some of whom I've met) and thus I stand a better chance in spite of my poor score. These I've marked with a *.

Reach:
University of Delaware - Physics & Astronomy *
University of Hawaii - Astronomy
Caltech - Planetary Sciences NO PGRE

Optimistic:
Georgia State - Physics & Astronomy *
Stony Brook - Physics & Astronomy NO PGRE
University of Pittsburgh - Physics & Astronomy NO PGRE
Florida Institute of Technology - Space Sciences NO PGRE
University of New Hampshire - Physics & Astronomy NO PGRE
Clemson - Physics & Astronomy NO PGRE *
University of Iowa - Physics & Astronomy NO PGRE
University of Oklahoma - Physics & Astronomy NO PGRE



If you know of any other Space Science, Planetary Science or Astro programs that don't require a PGRE and that I'll stand a good chance at, please let me know. Likewise, if any of these look horribly out of my reach, let me know so I can avoid wasting the app fee. Obviously my research is my selling point -- as such, schools like Caltech, which prioritize research, are at the top of my list. I really don't care about getting into a "prestigious" university; I want to do astronomical research and that's all I care about. If my career is spent doing research like I have been the past two years, I will die a very happy man.


Forget Stony Brook. Grades and no PGRE are a death sentence. University of Iowa, University of Pittsburgh are very unlikely. The rest are good choices.

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

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby TakeruK » Tue Dec 16, 2014 12:21 pm

The University of Arizona Planetary Sciences department (aka LPL, the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory) is another school that does not require the PGRE. They have a great program too, but I think I've mentioned them before to you and you felt it was too earth science based. However, I think it's worth your application and then you can decide after visiting and talking to the students/professors more, especially if you are interested in future planetary research. Also, LPL is right next door to the Astro department (Stewart Observatory) and there are tons of chances to collaborate with astronomers. In addition, Tucson is home to the Planetary Science Institute, a soft-money research organization, so that's another group of people to work with. Finally, Arizona has decent access to a lot of telescope time as well!

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

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby uhurulol » Tue Dec 16, 2014 7:22 pm

RonaldoMcDonaldo wrote:
Forget Stony Brook. Grades and no PGRE are a death sentence. University of Iowa, University of Pittsburgh are very unlikely. The rest are good choices.


Really? I spoke with some of the researchers at all three of these institutions and specifically asked if not having a PGRE score would hurt my application, and they said it wouldn't. Still, if this is the general consensus on these schools, I will reconsider applying to them. They are lower on my list of schools I'm interested in, anyway.

TakeruK -- I'll reconsider UA. I'm just not necessarily as interested in research within our solar system.

EDIT: Wow, I just looked at their webpage... I must have mixed them up with someone else, because they seem to have a huge focus on Exoplanets, which is one of my major research interests. Definitely adding to my list.

Thanks for your advice, both of you. Definitely helps.

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

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby uhurulol » Tue Dec 16, 2014 7:51 pm

Ugh, UA LPL had a deadline of December 8th... what's with these mid-final deadlines? I e-mailed the department to see if I can receive full consideration if I get my materials in asap, but I'm not gonna get my hopes up. Really really unfortunate, because this program seems to fit me quite well. Blasted early deadlines...

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

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby TakeruK » Tue Dec 16, 2014 8:20 pm

Dec 8?? Wow! I remember that LPL definitely had a January deadline back when I had originally applied. But they have also changed other parts of their admission process since 2011/2012, so I guess it's not surprising. That's too bad!!

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RonaldoMcDonaldo
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Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2014 12:20 am

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby RonaldoMcDonaldo » Tue Dec 16, 2014 9:37 pm

uhurulol wrote:Really? I spoke with some of the researchers at all three of these institutions and specifically asked if not having a PGRE score would hurt my application, and they said it wouldn't. Still, if this is the general consensus on these schools, I will reconsider applying to them. They are lower on my list of schools I'm interested in, anyway.


The PGRE and your transcripts/GPA both meant to demonstrate that you understand the undergraduate physics curriculum. That's why schools ask for it. There are some schools, as you pointed out, which don't necessarily require the PGRE. It seems that, in general, if a school doesn't require it that is mainly because they don't want to discourage people who are good candidates but did poorly on the exam.

What this means, for you, is that if you are applying without a subject GRE the only thing the schools have to go on in terms of your undergraduate preparedness is your transcripts. Based on your GPA, I'm betting your grades are well below average.

As for the schools, I've always been surprised that Stony Brook leaves their PGRE as optional. You should keep in mind that they are a top 20 school and if you check their FAQ they point out that their average subject GRE scores and GPA for applicants is 800 and 3.5, respectively. This means they get a lot of very well qualified applicants. So even though leaving out your PGRE may not hurt your application, your low GPA and lack of PGRE score will probably be too poor an undergraduate record to get you in to Stony Brook.

With that said, I don't want to discourage you. If they are an exceptionally good fit it might still be worth giving it a shot. I just wanted to make sure you are aware of how unlikely it is because you may want to substitute, in its place, a different school that you have a better shot at.

As for U Pitt, they say in their FAQ that it is "rare exception" that they've accepted someone without a PGRE. Also, they point out that their Average PGRE score for applicants is a 775 so they also get a lot of strong applicants. Basically, I would interpret their "rare exception" as them saying they only accept people without a PGRE if they had exceptional grades and research experience but missed the test for some reason or had an issue on test day that fucked up their score.

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

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby uhurulol » Tue Dec 16, 2014 10:05 pm

Fortunately UPITT has a free application, and I've spoken with some researchers about applying and they seem to be interested in my research. So it won't hurt to apply.

Perhaps I'll drop Stony Brook -- do you have any suggestions on some very safe schools to replace it with? Planetary Science programs are fine. I know those are typically easier.

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RonaldoMcDonaldo
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Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby RonaldoMcDonaldo » Tue Dec 16, 2014 10:28 pm

uhurulol wrote:Fortunately UPITT has a free application, and I've spoken with some researchers about applying and they seem to be interested in my research. So it won't hurt to apply.


In that case U Pitt sounds like a good choice for you.

uhurulol wrote:Perhaps I'll drop Stony Brook -- do you have any suggestions on some very safe schools to replace it with? Planetary Science programs are fine. I know those are typically easier.


Maybe take a look at U Nebraska - Lincoln. They have a high acceptance rate and their Subject GRE isn't required. Their deadline is Jan 31st.

http://www.unl.edu/physics/graduate-adm ... guidelines

uhurulol
Posts: 79
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Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby uhurulol » Thu Dec 18, 2014 8:48 pm

UA LPL accepted my application late with full consideration! Hoorah! Think I've got a decent chance at this one? I have no idea what their admissions rates are...

Manheim
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2014 3:06 pm

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby Manheim » Sat Dec 20, 2014 3:24 pm

Hi everybody,

I am an International applicant. My MSc was in Gravitation. Is there somebody help me with these scores which universities best fit me? I want to apply for Experimental Physics.

GRE Physics: 860 (80%)

Verbal: 140 (10%)
Quantitative: 159 (74%)
AW: 3.

Verbal: 136 (3%)
Quantitative: 161 (81%)
AW: 3.

MSc GPA: 3.3 out of 4.
BSc GPA: 2.8 out of 4.
Paper: 1 in Classical and Quantum Gravity (in MSc period)

and three good recommendations!
Is there anyone who knows which school will accept such a weak applicant?

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

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby uhurulol » Sat Dec 20, 2014 3:45 pm

You should probably create your own thread. Just saying.

Manheim
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Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2014 3:06 pm

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby Manheim » Sat Dec 20, 2014 4:59 pm

Yes, You are right uhurulol. I made a new topic for my own. Sorry for that

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

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby TakeruK » Sat Dec 20, 2014 10:59 pm

RonaldoMcDonaldo wrote:The PGRE and your transcripts/GPA both meant to demonstrate that you understand the undergraduate physics curriculum. That's why schools ask for it. There are some schools, as you pointed out, which don't necessarily require the PGRE. It seems that, in general, if a school doesn't require it that is mainly because they don't want to discourage people who are good candidates but did poorly on the exam.

What this means, for you, is that if you are applying without a subject GRE the only thing the schools have to go on in terms of your undergraduate preparedness is your transcripts. Based on your GPA, I'm betting your grades are well below average.


Keep in mind that we are specifically talking about Astronomy and Planetary Science programs, which does not put as much weight on the PGRE as Physics programs. Specifically, two of the best planetary science programs on uhurulol's list (Caltech and U. Arizona LPL) explicitly say they do not need the PGRE and I know many students in these programs without any PGRE scores. In addition, Caltech Astronomy data shows they have admitted students with PGRE from 500 to 990 (http://mahalonottrash.blogspot.com/2014 ... fails.html). Also, not everyone that enters these programs holds a Physics undergrad degree.

In uhurulol's case, I think it won't make a big difference whether they report their PGRE score or not. I agree that the GPA is below average, but I think with the listed experience, it is still a good idea to put top Planetary Science programs as "reach schools".

To uhurulol: Yay! Glad you are getting considered for LPL :). After my application year, they changed the format to holding visit weekends prior to their final admission decision but I think getting invited to visit is a pretty good sign. I found out around early February, if I recall correctly. Good luck :)

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RonaldoMcDonaldo
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Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby RonaldoMcDonaldo » Sun Dec 21, 2014 2:39 am

TakeruK wrote:Keep in mind that we are specifically talking about Astronomy and Planetary Science programs, which does not put as much weight on the PGRE as Physics programs. Specifically, two of the best planetary science programs on uhurulol's list (Caltech and U. Arizona LPL) explicitly say they do not need the PGRE and I know many students in these programs without any PGRE scores. In addition, Caltech Astronomy data shows they have admitted students with PGRE from 500 to 990 (http://mahalonottrash.blogspot.com/2014 ... fails.html). Also, not everyone that enters these programs holds a Physics undergrad degree.

In uhurulol's case, I think it won't make a big difference whether they report their PGRE score or not. I agree that the GPA is below average, but I think with the listed experience, it is still a good idea to put top Planetary Science programs as "reach schools".

To uhurulol: Yay! Glad you are getting considered for LPL :). After my application year, they changed the format to holding visit weekends prior to their final admission decision but I think getting invited to visit is a pretty good sign. I found out around early February, if I recall correctly. Good luck :)


To be clear, the comment of mine you are replying to was a discussion specifically about the physics & astronomy programs at Stony Brook, U Iowa and U Pitt. I had mentioned that those programs would be hard for him to get into and he pointed out those specific programs list the PGRE as optional. My response (i.e. the one you are quoting) was pointing out that at those 3 programs, they don't require the PGRE but because most physics programs use the PGRE along with transcripts/GPA to gauge undergraduate preparedness, opting to not submit his PGRE will mean he will be more heavily judged based on his grades which were lacking.

I agree with you on the planetary sciences programs, for what it's worth.

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

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby uhurulol » Tue Dec 23, 2014 4:48 am

Alright, well I think Stony Brook will be out. Iowa and UPitt are free, so I may as well.

Still scouring for planetary schools or safe astronomy programs that do exoplanet research. If anyone thinks of any, please let me know!

Sportsfan77777
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Joined: Wed Dec 24, 2014 12:30 am

Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby Sportsfan77777 » Wed Dec 24, 2014 6:08 am

Washington Earth & Space Sciences states their graduate students have an average undergraduate GPA of 3.2 (I find that hard to believe considering their astro program is a lot more competitive, but that's what they say)
http://www.ess.washington.edu/ess/educa ... html#tests

Georgia Tech EAS lists their average GPA of enrolled students as 3.4.
http://www.eas.gatech.edu/academics/app-requirements/

If you are already working with a professor at Yale, it would not hurt to apply there as a reach (Their astro graduate program is not nearly as competitive as their undergraduate program).

I would also ask the professor(s) you are working with for suggestions on where to apply. He/she/they can probably provide much better advice than us, especially if you want to work on similar research in graduate school.

I would also consider applying to a Masters program (Wesleyan maybe?) as a backup.
It's not uncommon for students with weaker undergrad records to do a masters program for a year, prove they can take upper level courses and do research, and then apply for a Ph.D. program.
I don't know much about this. But I would ask your professor(s) for advice about this as well.

Good luck!

uhurulol
Posts: 79
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Re: School choice overhaul, need a bit of advice

Postby uhurulol » Wed Dec 24, 2014 2:33 pm

Thanks Sports! Hadn't seen Washington's program yet.

I actually am applying to Wesleyan as a backup, but their due date is March 1st, so I am able to see if I get responses from my better schools first before bothering with an application there =D




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