My application results were all but a disaster. I applied to eight Universities, and got rejected by seven of them. All seven were in the top ten for Hep-th, so I won't say I am surprised that I didn't get into any particular program, but to be rejected from all of them was an unpleasant shock.
The single program I got into was NYU, which I applied to because professors close to me suggested that I apply there. They are still very positive about NYU and highly suggest that I go there for my PhD, but I am skeptical about its potential impact on my career. NYU has a very good math program, which is a great boon to my mathematically inclined interests, but its physics program is not amazingly ranked. NYU's location is also very appealing to me, and I honestly feel that I would be happy there, disregarding the potential discomfort caused by regret over not trying again to get into a top program. There will be many opportunities to network and learn about potential nonacademic trajectories for my career, and they're funding me pretty well too. However, I am still leaning strongly towards pursuing an academic career, so should I forego this offer and try for a better program next year? I don't know what I would be able to do to bolster my application significantly enough to improve my chances of success for next year, but do you think a gap year is the more intelligent choice for me?
For some perspective, here are my stats:
mcg93 wrote:Undergrad Institution: Tufts University (School of Arts and Sciences, not very good reputation in physics)
Major(s): Math & Physics
GPA in Major: 4.00 (8 A+s and 10 As, but A+s aren't counted higher)
Overall GPA: 3.89
Length of Degree: 4
Position in Class: No idea. Probably very high up for my major. Not top throughout majors though.
Type of Student: International male from Nepal
GRE Scores : revised
Q: 170 (98%)
V: 166 (96%)
W: 6.0 (99%)
P: 950 (91%)
Independent research advised by a professor over the summer of 2015. Tested the effectiveness of two data classifiers (SVMs and BDTs) in classifying data of different numbers of features and different types of spreads. Also tested on Higgs data. Will be published as an ATLAS note, but not before applications are due.
Working on a thesis that studies the quantization of interaction fields in the formalism of principle fibre bundles. Involves differential geometry and gauge theory. This is what I really want to do in grad school, and it will span throughout this year. My thesis will be put in Tufts archives and might be published if we can find anything significant. Advised by one physics professor and two mathematics professors.
Working with a professor to look for experimental methods that will allow us to make data analysis as sensitive to new physics data as possible. Involves simulating data for new physics and finding ways to make cuts and take ratios in a way that new physics is significantly distinguishable from standard model results.
Howard Sample Prize Scholarship for performing well in intro level physics courses.
Summer Scholars Grant for conducting the aforementioned project that compared two different event classifiers.
Pertinent Activities or Jobs:
Have been a RA for three years, which hopefully shows some good traits. I will definitely put it in my resume. Also got an "academic role model"
award from my employer, so that was nice.
Special Bonus Points:
Have taken one grad level course, taking one right now, and will have taken two before graduating. Also minority status?
Applying to Where:
Harvard - Physics - Mathematical Physics/HEP-Th
MIT - Physics - Mathematical Physics/HEP-Th
Princeton - Physics - Mathematical Physics/HEP-Th
Stanford - Physics - Mathematical Physics/HEP-Th
CalTech - Physics - Mathematical Physics/HEP-Th
NYU - Physics - Mathematical Physics/HEP-Th
U Chicago - Physics - Mathematical Physics/HEP-Th
I will have the first two projects completed by the time I reapply next year, if I choose to do so. However, they won't be major publications in journals, so I am skeptical of their ability to make me more attractive as an applicant. I could also seek work in a research institute for the gap year, but I don't know how much better this will make me look on paper.
Anyway, please let me know what you think. Is a gap year worth the risk, or is NYU a good enough option?