What is a reasonable school for me

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Joined: Fri Apr 03, 2015 12:27 pm

What is a reasonable school for me

Postby josephstalin » Fri Apr 03, 2015 1:10 pm

I just want an answer as to where I could conceivably be accepted and what schools I should even think about applying to
My adviser is a nice guy but he wont give me hard truths.

currently a junior
Undergrad Institution: Cornell
Major(s): Physics and mathematics
Minor(s): none
GPA in Major: ~3.5 physics, ~3.5 mathematics
Overall GPA: ~3.5
Type of Student: white male

first summer in Astrophysics lab at another institution (reu)
Most of next summer in condensed matter lab
since then working in high energy lab

Haven't taken GRE or PGRE yet
but I got a 1560 (math and reading) on the sat so I'm usually fine at gaming those kinds of tests

currently doing supervised reading in lie theory
planning on taking either grad quantum or grad qft or grad GR next semester

I'm interested in theory in general or high energy physics, but obviously those fields are incredibly competitive

like every official resource for grad school just asks "whats the best fit for you?" "where is the right place for you?"
as if exactly 50 graduating physics students think "you know what, Harvard is the best fit for me" and the absurd amount of competition plays no role

It feels like I'm falling out of a plane with some rope, a pocket knife, and a bed sheet
and in my survival manual under "falling out of an airplane" it just says "wheres the best place for you to fall?" "which place to fall is best fit for you?"
like I gotta *** figure out how to take this *** and turn it into a parachute
I can't think about what *** 'fits' me right now

so yea. Which schools can I apply to without metaphorically slamming into the ground?

Posts: 801
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: What is a reasonable school for me

Postby TakeruK » Fri Apr 03, 2015 9:49 pm

I really don't think you (or anyone) should approach grad school application as "What are the schools I am most likely to get into?". Instead, you really want to find "what are the schools that are both 1) good fits for you and 2) within reach" It sounds like you are already thinking about the second part but really, you should focus more on the first part.

To answer your question though, I think your profile is strong enough that you would be competitive at every single program in the US. Competitive in this sense does not mean "have a high chance of getting in", but rather it means "I think it's worth your time and money to apply to these programs". You might know that generally acceptance rates are very low -- between 5% and 10%. I'd say competitive candidates might have a 10% or so chance of acceptance at any one particular school, which is why people apply to on order of 10 schools.

Your profile is strong enough that you will be at least considered at the top programs. Therefore, my advice is to now focus on fit and determine what you want to get out of your PhD and what you want to do in grad school. Find the programs that allow you to do this. Once you've identified those programs, then (and only then) does it make sense to consider your chances of getting in so that you can determine how many schools in each "tier" you want to apply to (but only if you want some safety schools because you rather go to a less fitting grad school than no grad school at all, and not everyone wants this).

(Note: In general, I advise people to aim high when they apply. I think it's a much better use of your time to apply to, say, 10 great fitting schools that have a 10% chance of admission than 10 mediocre fitting schools that have a 20% or 30% chance of admission. The goal is not to have the most number of admissions, but to have at least one admission in a place you really want to be at! You only need one!)

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