So I am currently a rising junior at an Ivy League school double majoring in physics and computer science. I have decided that I want to go to grad school to do research in quantum information / quantum computing. My dream schools for this are MIT, Berkeley, and Caltech. However, I am concerned about my GPA and research experience.
As a rising junior, my GPA is currently sitting at around a 3.5 for both my physics/math classes as well as my overall GPA. My school is known for its difficulty, particularly in my major, but I also know that there are others here who have a GPA higher than mine. However, I have spent some time this summer studying ahead for my upper level physics classes next semester. I am extremely confident that I can manage to pull my GPA up to at least a 3.7 by the time I apply. If I can manage enough A+'s, I might just be able to pull off a 3.8, as those are weighted at 4.3.
However, I am fully aware that GPA is not the most important factor. But at the same time, after looking at the acceptance threads, it seems that nearly every person who has gotten into the schools I mentioned above has had a GPA above 3.9.
If I can manage a 3.7 by the time I apply and get 900+ on the PGRE, would I at least meet the initial cut of applicants and have my research experience considered at the schools I mentioned above? If I do manage this, it would be a pretty significant upward trend. How much does that count for?
Additionally, I am concerned about my research experience. So far, I have the following experience:
-Summer after freshman year: Did lab work in a physics lab unrelated to quantum computing. I mostly just helped take some measurements and prepare samples. I did help with some calculations though and gained some good technical skills.
-Summer after sophomore year: Worked in a research and development engineering lab on campus. I did a lot of coding. I don't want to get too detailed on what I did here, as I don't want to dox myself. It's not really physics related, but I did work on some technology that is going to be used commercially soon. I think it was a good experience.
Over that last summer, I reached out to a professor about his research in quantum computing and attended a few of his lab's meetings. His work immensely interests me, and he is going to let me work in his lab over the next year. I will do work combining my two majors. Although I haven't worked in his lab yet, I know I'm going to love it. He sent me some papers to read, and I keep finding myself looking for more. Additionally, I have found that there is some very minor overlap in the research I did this summer and quantum computing.
Over the next year and next summer, I plan on staying involved in the lab I worked in this past summer, as well as the quantum computing lab. I also plan on completing a senior thesis-like project to graduate with honors, but I'll only be halfway done with that by the time I apply.
My concern is that I found my true passion for research a little too late. So many other applicants here have had 3+ years of research under their belt in addition to their 3.9+ GPA and near-perfect GRE scores. I'll only have 3 summers and about 1.5 years.
Given my GPA and research situation, assuming I do extremely well on my GREs and everything else goes according to plan, would I at least stand a chance or be a competitive applicant at my dream schools?
Thank you all so much!