PathIntegrals92 wrote:You have a great gpa/pgre score! Are you graduating early because of financial constraints? If not, then why not stay and take more courses and get more research experience.
One of the most important parts of your application would be your research experience/rec letters! If you want to do CME, it would be important to develop more experimental skills etc. You will have stronger letter of recs then and you would make a very competitive applicant ( not saying that you are not already).
Have you applied for REUs in the past? You say that you are domestic, are you also U.S citizen? This would give you more research opportunities too.
slowdweller wrote:This is a tough choice only if staying a fourth year causes significant financial problems. While your profile may be good at the present moment (very good PGRE scores and GPA, graduate courses etc), what really gets you into the top places (if that's what you're aiming for) is excellent research and glowing recommendation letters. Think about what you could do in an extra year to improve your apps. You could take more graduate courses, particularly in the areas which are of interest to you. More importantly, you can get more research experience and build better relationships with your mentors. Staying an extra year will only improve your application. If finances are a problem, consider being a part-time student, taking only a couple of classes, while focusing on research.
bfollinprm wrote:More to the point, I don't think very many people applying straight from undergrad are really mature enough for grad school, so in general (of course, I don't know your specific situation) I'd worry that leaving school early would exacerbate that problem. If it's a money issue, I understand it, though. Maybe you could find a lab that'd take you on (for pay) for a year? Or get a job building/prototyping equipment, since that'll be really useful for a CME track.
astroprof wrote:The fact that you were able to complete a standard 4-year BS degree in only 3 years will not matter in your application, and likely will not even be noticed by the admissions committee. The important aspects of your transcript are that you have completed the expected coursework and done well in those classes. The added bonus of a strong performance on the Physics-GRE provides a consistent picture of your strengths in academic coursework. However, as the other respondents have noted, getting into (and succeeding at) Graduate School is not only about the coursework, but is also about your ability to do research. From what you have posted, it sounds like you have worked on at least two different research projects. I would not be concerned that neither project has yet turned into publications. Despite what you read here (where the posts are dominated by super over achievers), many applicants have not published their undergraduate research prior to (or even during) graduate school. Thus, I strongly encourage you to graduate this spring as planned and start graduate school in fall 2015. There is no reason to delay starting on the path that will lead to your dissertation research project and future career.
TakeruK wrote:My opinion is the same as astroprof's. It won't matter that you finished early. I would not even try to emphasize it or mention it in any way.
Normally, I would advise against students cramming extra courses at the expense of e.g. research in order to graduate a year early. However, it seems like you have done everything that many strong applicants do in 4 years (multiple research projects, completed coursework, strong PGRE, graduate courses), so it's not like you will be at any disadvantage at all. In fact, I think you have a very competitive application profile. Therefore, why not apply this year?
As with everyone else interested in grad school, I would say you should have a backup plan if you don't get into the schools you want. Since you are in your junior year, one potential backup plan could be to remain a student for a 4th year and do more research, especially since it's sometimes harder to get research projects at universities if you are not currently a student somewhere.
tsymmetry wrote:I know two people at Harvard who did this. One was from a lower ranked university and the other from MIT. If you have to for monetary reasons then I would do it, but if you can stay an extra year it's always beneficial to have more research experience and advanced coursework. However it does seem you are competitive right now. I would apply, see if you get into top ranked schools (I think you have the ability to) and if you are happy with your acceptances graduate this year.
Hmm, maturity? As in the ability to live independently and take care of oneself? Or the emotional development and stability from experiences? Sorry for asking, but could you please elaborate on what you mean? I'd like to further discuss this particular topic.
[Knowing] that the success of graduate studies hinges on outputting quality research, not maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
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