Which US schools can I hope to be admitted for a PhD?

Frod
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2016 2:05 pm

Which US schools can I hope to be admitted for a PhD?

Postby Frod » Sun Nov 27, 2016 12:47 pm

Hi. I'm an international student from a pretty good italian university and I'm applying for a PhD in the US. Here's my profile:
  • 930 (89%) PGRE
  • 159v, 164q, 3.5w GRE
  • Still waiting for the TOEFL, but should be good
  • 4.0 GPA
  • 3 letters, hopefully good but how can I know? One is a decently known HEP theorist, who even spent some time at MIT.
Also since I'm italian, I have a 3 years "basic" degree and I'm currently taking the 2 year "specialization" degree in Theoretical Physics where I've taken/I'm taking GR, QFT, Cosmology, Many Body Physics and an introduction to Standard Model classes. I should get this degree in July or early September.

I don't really have any real research experience, but I will start working on a project about Force Free Electrodynamics and Black Holes in a month or less that should take about 6 months and could also imply a small collaboration with the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenaghen.

What would I like to do? If I had to answer with what I'd really like to study I'd say theoretical HEP, but I know that this is a very competitive subject and there's plenty of people with a better profile then mine.

So far I'm applying to: MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and Stanford. Since before taking the test they ask you to select 4 free score recipients I've decided to go with the top names in the field.

Here's my questions:

  • Given my profile, which schools should I apply to? I'm interested in top-ish tier programs.
  • Should I change my research interest to give me a higher chance of admission?

stronglycoupled
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2016 5:37 am

Re: Which US schools can I hope to be admitted for a PhD?

Postby stronglycoupled » Sun Nov 27, 2016 3:05 pm

Hey,
Your profile is reasonably strong. A very important aspect of your application is the quality of your letters. You say you don't have any research experience in particular, so I'm not sure how strong your letters can be. Are they from profs with whom you've taken advanced classes and performed superbly? Given your GPA, I suppose the answer is yes. In that case, they could be reasonably helpful, assuming they got to know you, i.e. you partook in class discussion, went to office hours etc. Otherwise, your profile is pretty nice. In my opinion, you should apply to UMich, which has a pretty active research group, with Aaron Pierce in phenomenology, Henriette Elvang in gauge gravity scattering amplitudes and Finn Larson in Black Holes. You can also check out Brown U, who has Anastasia working in scattering amplitudes, and 2-3 people working on black holes and formal hep-th. Seattle is also pretty strong for hep-th. In my very honest opinion, I believe you're aiming a bit too high. You should certainly apply to the top schools but have a few back-ups because, without extensive research experience, one cannot take anything for granted.

With regard to your second question, don't do anything unless you're interested in it. You can check out CMT, which uses the same toolkit as hep-th to answer a different set of questions. But they're intimately connected, especially with the rise of holography. So, you might find that interesting. Also consider phenomenology. All right, best of luck, man!

Qwaps
Posts: 28
Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2016 9:21 am

Re: Which US schools can I hope to be admitted for a PhD?

Postby Qwaps » Sun Nov 27, 2016 11:49 pm

stronglycoupled wrote:Hey,
Your profile is reasonably strong. A very important aspect of your application is the quality of your letters. You say you don't have any research experience in particular, so I'm not sure how strong your letters can be. Are they from profs with whom you've taken advanced classes and performed superbly? Given your GPA, I suppose the answer is yes. In that case, they could be reasonably helpful, assuming they got to know you, i.e. you partook in class discussion, went to office hours etc. Otherwise, your profile is pretty nice. In my opinion, you should apply to UMich, which has a pretty active research group, with Aaron Pierce in phenomenology, Henriette Elvang in gauge gravity scattering amplitudes and Finn Larson in Black Holes. You can also check out Brown U, who has Anastasia working in scattering amplitudes, and 2-3 people working on black holes and formal hep-th. Seattle is also pretty strong for hep-th. In my very honest opinion, I believe you're aiming a bit too high. You should certainly apply to the top schools but have a few back-ups because, without extensive research experience, one cannot take anything for granted.

With regard to your second question, don't do anything unless you're interested in it. You can check out CMT, which uses the same toolkit as hep-th to answer a different set of questions. But they're intimately connected, especially with the rise of holography. So, you might find that interesting. Also consider phenomenology. All right, best of luck, man!

It seems you're quite interested in scattering amplitudes :) Thanks for mentioning those groups, I'll consider them for my PhD

Frod
Posts: 3
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2016 2:05 pm

Re: Which US schools can I hope to be admitted for a PhD?

Postby Frod » Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:41 pm

stronglycoupled wrote:Hey,
Your profile is reasonably strong. A very important aspect of your application is the quality of your letters. You say you don't have any research experience in particular, so I'm not sure how strong your letters can be. Are they from profs with whom you've taken advanced classes and performed superbly? Given your GPA, I suppose the answer is yes. In that case, they could be reasonably helpful, assuming they got to know you, i.e. you partook in class discussion, went to office hours etc. Otherwise, your profile is pretty nice. In my opinion, you should apply to UMich, which has a pretty active research group, with Aaron Pierce in phenomenology, Henriette Elvang in gauge gravity scattering amplitudes and Finn Larson in Black Holes. You can also check out Brown U, who has Anastasia working in scattering amplitudes, and 2-3 people working on black holes and formal hep-th. Seattle is also pretty strong for hep-th. In my very honest opinion, I believe you're aiming a bit too high. You should certainly apply to the top schools but have a few back-ups because, without extensive research experience, one cannot take anything for granted.

With regard to your second question, don't do anything unless you're interested in it. You can check out CMT, which uses the same toolkit as hep-th to answer a different set of questions. But they're intimately connected, especially with the rise of holography. So, you might find that interesting. Also consider phenomenology. All right, best of luck, man!


Well I have backups where I'm ~90% certain to get in, but not in the US. I'm trying there because it is an opportunity to waste, since those schools are better than anything I can find in Europe. The thing is that moving from where I live to the US is way more complicated than moving to any other place in Europe because there are several hours of flight of a difference and that would mean I would have way less chances of coming back home often.

Thursday I'll meet with one of the letter writer to ask him if there are additional lower-tier school I can apply that are still better than my European choices. I'll see what happens then... Maybe I could add Santa Barbara, since by reading their FAQs it looks like my profile is competitive enough and it still is a really good university.

stronglycoupled
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Mar 27, 2016 5:37 am

Re: Which US schools can I hope to be admitted for a PhD?

Postby stronglycoupled » Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:51 pm

Frod wrote:
stronglycoupled wrote:Hey,
Your profile is reasonably strong. A very important aspect of your application is the quality of your letters. You say you don't have any research experience in particular, so I'm not sure how strong your letters can be. Are they from profs with whom you've taken advanced classes and performed superbly? Given your GPA, I suppose the answer is yes. In that case, they could be reasonably helpful, assuming they got to know you, i.e. you partook in class discussion, went to office hours etc. Otherwise, your profile is pretty nice. In my opinion, you should apply to UMich, which has a pretty active research group, with Aaron Pierce in phenomenology, Henriette Elvang in gauge gravity scattering amplitudes and Finn Larson in Black Holes. You can also check out Brown U, who has Anastasia working in scattering amplitudes, and 2-3 people working on black holes and formal hep-th. Seattle is also pretty strong for hep-th. In my very honest opinion, I believe you're aiming a bit too high. You should certainly apply to the top schools but have a few back-ups because, without extensive research experience, one cannot take anything for granted.

With regard to your second question, don't do anything unless you're interested in it. You can check out CMT, which uses the same toolkit as hep-th to answer a different set of questions. But they're intimately connected, especially with the rise of holography. So, you might find that interesting. Also consider phenomenology. All right, best of luck, man!


Well I have backups where I'm ~90% certain to get in, but not in the US. I'm trying there because it is an opportunity to waste, since those schools are better than anything I can find in Europe. The thing is that moving from where I live to the US is way more complicated than moving to any other place in Europe because there are several hours of flight of a difference and that would mean I would have way less chances of coming back home often.

Thursday I'll meet with one of the letter writer to ask him if there are additional lower-tier school I can apply that are still better than my European choices. I'll see what happens then... Maybe I could add Santa Barbara, since by reading their FAQs it looks like my profile is competitive enough and it still is a really good university.


Oh my God, no! Not Santa Barbara! They have the worst track record with internationals, as far as I know. If you go on thegradcafe, you would find they seldom take any internationals. Certainly, their hep-th department is among the most popular, as they house the KITP and host a myriad of brilliant professors and post-docs year-round, but it is extremely competitive for internationals. I've literally seen international kids on thegradcafe get into Harvard and Stanford but not UCSB. Anyways, go ahead and try, the worst you'll do is waste a hundred bucks or so. My point is to not hold your breath. But certainly, most groups in the States are stronger than in Europe. Although in Europe you guys have Amsterdam, Utrecht, and I think LMU that are pretty strong. There are lower-tier hep-th programs in the states are still very strong, like Rutgers, for example.




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