)))) Before my application was kicked out of Yale's pool, I was thinking: They have admitted even G.W. Bush, why not to admit me then?
@braindrain Thanks for the words of support. Right at the beginning of the application process, I got the following from a professor at Columbia. "An international student with 730 GRE has to have something truly outstanding in all other parts of the application to get to top tier program." Well, I had not.... It is really painful to see the word "regret" starting the letters from elite schools and it really brakes my confidence.
But here is the main point of what I gained from the whole application process. F*ck rankings, all of them!!! I think myself to be a victim of those. We go mad about that U.S. News stuff and start to hunt for a "top" name in our "Ph.D. Whatever University". Probably, I'm thinking this way, because I did not get in in top10, but ranking programs in just "physics" is absolutely stupid in my opinion. Subfield ranking makes better sense, but still. Take condensed matter, for example. There are at least 4-5 subfields in cond mat, which are almost independent, besides some schools are good in theory, some in experiment... I doubt that people who apply for a PhD apply for "physics research as a whole", mostly, they have some specific interests. Those, who write "I'm interested in high energy theory" have some idea on what topic in this very vast field is good for them.
But, this "ranking stuff" really works, it made me apply to schools, where there are no people (or not really good people, compared to those in some lower ranked schools) working on those problems of cond mat theory, which are interesting to me. I was thinking, "I can deviate a little" - and this was a lie, I have enough experience (for this step, of course) to tell for sure, what I want to do now.
So my advise to all people, who plan to apply. F*ck rankings. Find people doing interesting stuff, and apply to their school. Be honest to yourselves. Being always honest is the only way to true knowledge.