Grad school selection advice

Probability of getting into a top 5 program

Forget it!
1
14%
Low chances
1
14%
Reasonable chances
5
71%
Good chances
0
No votes
Sure shot
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 7

phyz
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:23 pm

Grad school selection advice

Postby phyz » Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:32 pm

I'm planning to apply to grad schools in December 2015 and I thought I'd start thinking about it now. I'm quite unsure of my chances so I'd like your opinion.

Undergrad institution: Top university in SE Asia, probably not too well known in the US
Undergrad GPA: 3.75/4.00 (was Valedictorian of my class though!)
Graduated in August 2013
Undergrad research: Two semesters of undergrad research in junior year with different groups, honors year project in my senior year (Quantum optics).
LORs: Should be strong, especially those from my condensed matter and quantum optics research supervisors.
GRE: Not taken them yet, but I think I have enough time to prepare and do well.
Misc Stuff: TAed a couple of physics courses, Dean's List etc.

Now, the rather unique stuff. After my undergrad, I got a job in a condensed matter group within my university because I couldn't start my PhD right away due to a complicated situation (not in my control and not my fault either). On the bright side, I published two PRLs (third author and first author) and I hope to get one more first author publication out by December. My honors year project is also going to be published (J. Phys. B) after I put some more work into it (first author). That gives me three guaranteed publications and probably a fourth by the end of the year. I also expect to pick up a Masters degree (Masters by research) for my work so far.

I'm interested in Condensed Matter Theory schools in the US. With a profile like this, it's a little unusual so any idea on where I'd fit? Do I have a shot at a top 5 program or should I set my sights a little lower? Thanks!

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

Re: Grad school selection advice

Postby Arbitrary » Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:47 pm

Providing you'll have an exceptional PGRE score (>90%), I believe you have a reasonable change to find a CMT position in top 5 schools.
However, I would not rely on it. I was not admitted to top 5 programs, but I did get into a top 10 program for CMT.
If you think it is worthwhile studying for a PhD in the US outside of the top 5 schools, I'd advise that you also apply to schools ranked somewhat lower.
There are great programs for CMT (both hard and soft) ranked lower than 5. I can think of at least 5 other programs that I'd happily attend in that range (beside my current program at UChicago).

Good luck on your applications.

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

Re: Grad school selection advice

Postby tsymmetry » Sat Feb 21, 2015 2:07 pm

I think you have a pretty good shot of you apply to enough schools. I think the first author PRL will help a lot. I think my research was what made the different for me (got into 2 top ten schools, one with a fancy fellowship, and three other top ten schools with another offering a very fancy fellowship.

I would definitely recommend for apply to Illinois. They are top ten and have the top ranked condensed matter program and wonderful theory professors (Eduardo Fradkin is incredible). The program is a bit bigger so they can accept more people. I also know they accept a good number of applicants from Asia, several who have gone on to become professors at top universities.

On the other hand, even though UCSB is great, I wouldn't apply there since they have a history of accepting very few international students, if any.

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

Re: Grad school selection advice

Postby Catria » Sat Feb 21, 2015 6:01 pm

What is it that you want out of CMT? Soft condensed matter? Apply to UPenn. Hard condensed matter? Apply to Cornell (but with the caveat that you should contact profs beforehand).

phyz
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:23 pm

Re: Grad school selection advice

Postby phyz » Sun Feb 22, 2015 4:47 am

Thanks for the replies.

I do have a few target schools like UIUC (probably my top choice), Penn (strong department thanks to Kane and Mele even if I don't get to work directly with them), UC Berkeley (A. Vishwanath), Princeton (Sondhi, Huse plus they have several strong experimentalists which makes for easy collaboration), MIT (Levitov), Stanford (S.C. Zhang) and more.

I realize that this is fairly broad in terms of interests and I shall narrow it down a bit in the coming months but for now, the question is how much of a shot do I have at these places with my current profile (assume >90 percentile in PGRE). My slight worry was that my publications (which I think is my ace in the hole) may not be all that impressive since I had two years after my undergrad to work on them.

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

Re: Grad school selection advice

Postby tsymmetry » Sun Mar 01, 2015 12:50 pm

Kane and Mele are both fantastic but they take very few students and are really the only people in hard CMT at Penn. However there are very few students at Penn studying this which makes it easier. Also I think one or two of the students should be graduating within the next two years.
MIT is also a great option as well as UChicago (although the stuff the professors do is very exotic) and Stanford.




Return to “School Selection”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest