Do you think my list is reasonable?

cosmosis
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2016 2:20 pm

Do you think my list is reasonable?

Postby cosmosis » Fri Oct 21, 2016 2:31 pm

I recently received my GRE scores and here are my stats:

General GRE: Q: 160 (76%), V: 160 (85%), W: 5 (93%)
Physics GRE: 780 (67%)
GPA: 3.86 (R1 university)
Letters: From past experiences and what my recommenders told me, all the letters will be positive.
Research Experiences: 4 REUs. Two first-authored publications. Goldwater Scholar

I am applying to astrophysics PhD programs. Here is my list:

Harvard Astonomy
JHU
Columbia Astronomy
University of Arizona
Ohio State
MIT
UCSC
UCLA
NYU
Vanderbilt
UC Davis
U-Michigan Ann Arbor

Do you guys think that I have a good mix of schools? My top choice is Harvard Astronomy. Do you think my stats would make me a competitive applicant?

Edit: I am interested in cosmology and large-scale structure research. If you were to ask me right now what interests me in particular within cosmology and large-scale structure, I'd say role of dark matter in galaxy formation and evolution. But I am quite open to trying other sub-topics hence I would like to go somewhere where I will access to different type of projects and can try a couple of them out. As for theory/observational/simulation, truth be told that I am not too sure. I have done solely observational research but I am interested in the physics part (theory) equally. Probably that's why I have a mix of observational and theory mix.
Last edited by cosmosis on Tue Oct 25, 2016 3:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.

muonneutrino
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Aug 23, 2016 9:41 pm

Re: Do you think my list is reasonable?

Postby muonneutrino » Fri Oct 21, 2016 4:42 pm

It looks like you have a fairly strong profile. Your PGRE has room for improvement, but is still decent. In addition, I've heard astro programs care much less about the PGRE, with some going as far as not requiring/accepting it on applications. Your research experience and publications should also definitely help, so I would say you can afford to apply to a mix of top programs and second-tier (I don't know where the programs you listed would rank for astro).

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Do you think my list is reasonable?

Postby bfollinprm » Sun Oct 23, 2016 6:57 pm

The list is fine, as long as you're happy to go to anywhere on that list. I think it'd be a rare fluctuation if you got straight rejections, but I wouldn't be so surprised at only 1-2 acceptances. On the other hand, you can end up with 5-6. Grad school acceptance has a high variance.

I will mention the lack of traditional astro schools outside of UCSC (where I mean programs where the astronomy department or group is a clear outlier from physics in general). The two big examples are the University of Arizona and the University of Hawaii, which are generally less strong but very strong in observational astronomy. For theory the disparities are a little harder to suss out (since they don't necessarily correspond to schools with big telescopes), but Case Western comes to mind.

TakeruK
Posts: 813
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Do you think my list is reasonable?

Postby TakeruK » Sun Oct 23, 2016 11:42 pm

I think you have listed a lot of strong astro schools, which is good, because you sound like you have a strong profile. The mix of schools is a little interesting though, but I am not sure what type of astronomy/astrophysics you want to do. I'm seeing a wide mix of schools with different expertise. For example, I don't think of MIT as having a very strong observational program, but there is good theoretical work there. On the other hand, my opinion of U. of Arizona is that it is best known, to me, for its very good observational program! These are just two examples. I mean, maybe you are following a type of astro research I'm not familiar with, but if you say what you want to be studying, some of us can potentially suggest schools you may have overlooked.

cosmosis
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2016 2:20 pm

Re: Do you think my list is reasonable?

Postby cosmosis » Tue Oct 25, 2016 3:01 pm

TakeruK wrote:I think you have listed a lot of strong astro schools, which is good, because you sound like you have a strong profile. The mix of schools is a little interesting though, but I am not sure what type of astronomy/astrophysics you want to do. I'm seeing a wide mix of schools with different expertise. For example, I don't think of MIT as having a very strong observational program, but there is good theoretical work there. On the other hand, my opinion of U. of Arizona is that it is best known, to me, for its very good observational program! These are just two examples. I mean, maybe you are following a type of astro research I'm not familiar with, but if you say what you want to be studying, some of us can potentially suggest schools you may have overlooked.


I have updated my initial post: I am interested in cosmology and large-scale structure research. If you were to ask me right now what interests me in particular within cosmology and large-scale structure, I'd say role of dark matter in galaxy formation and evolution. But I am quite open to trying other sub-topics hence I would like to go somewhere where I will access to different type of projects and can try a couple of them out. As for theory/observational/simulation, truth be told that I am not too sure. I have done solely observational research but I am interested in the physics part (theory) equally. Probably that's why I have a mix of observational and theory mix.

Thank you and others for your comments!

TakeruK
Posts: 813
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Do you think my list is reasonable?

Postby TakeruK » Tue Oct 25, 2016 5:29 pm

Cool. I think interests at the level of "cosmology and large-scale structure" is good. No need to get more specific and pigeon-hole yourself yet. You also don't have to pick one of theory/observations/simulations right now either :)

You probably know this already, but you may want to get slightly more specific when writing the individual applications. It's okay to discuss different research topics/methods for each school (e.g. you might write about your theoretical/simulations interest to MIT and maybe discuss the use of the Keck Observatory at your UC schools).

I bring this up because I think your stats are good. That is, if I were to rank applicants by tiers, you would be in the top tier and there really isn't much difference between you and someone with a 3.95 GPA, for example. So, the best way to improve your chances of getting into the program you want is to show a strong fit between your goals and the school's resources (both facilities and people).

Cosmology is probably the type of astro research that is most different from mine (exoplanets) so I don't really know what are the best schools on these topics these days. If you do want to apply to observational things, I'd suggest Caltech as well. The amount of Keck time available to Caltech members is "astronomical"!




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