bfollinprm wrote:From UC irvine, you definitely have a shot at a top 30 (UC Irvine itself is probably top 30, or very close). Talk to your research advisers, they're the ones who will have the best read on where the best fit is. If you want an honest opinion, don't mention any tier as your goal (unless they ask). Just mention your intent to apply to grad school, and desire for help in making a reasonable list. Their responses should guide you to the upper tier of reasonable fits (professors in general overvalue their own students), so you should apply to the list they recommend (and similar) plus some schools lower in ranking (with maybe a shot at a top 10 just so you don't always wonder, and a safety so you know you'll get in somewhere).
As far as what PGRE score to shoot for to get into top 30's, it depends mostly on whether you want experiment or theory, and if experiment how well you can back up your aptitude with instruments. As a theorist you probably need (with that upper level GPA) at least > 850, as an untrained experimentalist > 800, and as a well-trained experimentalist > 750. It goes without saying for all physicists you should shoot for an 800 on the general GRE math (though no need to retake as long as you're over 750). Verbal and analytic should simply not be embarrassing. All this assumes 3 positive recs, with at least 1 extolling excellent research potential/ability and commitment, and another affirming your ability to handle graduate coursework--especially important given your upper level phys grades.
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