Need help in deciding whether to apply to US Ph.d program

raku87
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 8:54 am

Need help in deciding whether to apply to US Ph.d program

Postby raku87 » Sun May 30, 2010 10:17 am

Hello there,
I am pursuing M.Sc. in Physics from a good college in India. I screwed up my first few semesters (got two backlogs in chemistry and sociology :oops: ), and because of that my present grades avg. to a relatively low standard ( :( ) . Presently, my grades are 6.9/10, averaged over 8 semesters. Although my sophomore semesters were bad, I recovered later on, and performed well in physics courses. I got As in two of the three research level course I took.

I have been active in research and planning to apply in the related area. I have submitted a research paper in Euro. Phys. Let. as a first author. Presently, I am working on a Phy. Rev. Lett (1st author). I am also expecting good reco. letter from my co-author professors.

I am under a dilemma, I have heard that grades matter quite a lot in US PhD programs. Since, my grades are mediocre, should i apply to US Ph.d program, or will it be a waste of money (assuming that i get the papers)?
My decision of taking PGRE, GRE and TOEFL is also hinging on it.

TIA.
Last edited by raku87 on Tue Jul 19, 2011 6:24 am, edited 3 times in total.

twinb87
Posts: 35
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 12:11 am

Re: Need help in deciding whether to apply to US Ph.d program

Postby twinb87 » Sun May 30, 2010 5:13 pm

You should check the profile threads to see if and where someone with a similar profile as yours got in. If you can't find anyone with a similar profile, then the best advice I can give you is that your grades are only one part of your overall profile. Your research and recommendations seem pretty strong based on what you said. Also, especially since you are an international student, the PGRE will be very important.

Lastly, since you stated that you messed up only in your first few semesters, the fact you have improved and did well in your upper level classes will help as well.

So, I would say go for it and apply. If you do really well on the GRE's and TOEFL, I can't imagine your grades alone will keep you from getting in somewhere.

coffeecoffeecoffee
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:24 am

Re: Need help in deciding whether to apply to US Ph.d program

Postby coffeecoffeecoffee » Wed Aug 11, 2010 11:39 am

In addition to the good advice above, I would say to start working towards writing the PGRE this fall. A high score will really strengthen your application.

If your EPL is accepted, be sure to highlight this on your CV and SOP.

Maybe consider applying in Canada also.

--

How to Get Into Grad School, tips from a current Ph.D. student

raku87
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 8:54 am

Re: Need help in deciding whether to apply to US Ph.d program

Postby raku87 » Tue Jul 19, 2011 6:18 am

Thanks a lot "twinb87" and "coffeecoffeecoffee" for such encouraging advice!

I decided to drop a year and strengthen my application. So far its been decent. My EPL paper got accepted ( :) ) , and so did other two AIP conference proceedings (PRL got trashed ( :oops: )). I appeared for GRE and got 560/800 in English, 800/800 in maths, and 3/6 in writing ( :oops: ). TOEFL was also okay with 99/120. I am preparing for PGRE. Also, In the last semester, I got 9.6/10 (got As in two research level courses). I passed out with 7.4/10 (5 year avg.) but 8.5/10 in the last two years.

Any update on which schools I can hope for (computational astrophysics/geophysics)? Right now, I am thinking about Utexas (ICES), JHU (planetary), Ucolorado (astro), UCLA (planetary), UCSC (planetary), Uminnesota (planetary), Ohiostate (astro), and Utoronto (Physics, but with geophysics interest). Is this too high?

I have read other threads regarding this (above mentioned schools does seem rather lofty), but I just wanted some second opinion from the good folks on PGRE forum ( :) )

Cheers!

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

Re: Need help in deciding whether to apply to US Ph.d program

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Jul 19, 2011 1:22 pm

From India, you'll need a 900+ on the PGRE (for a multiplicity of reasons, some understandable and some just unfortunate). Assuming you get that, those schools are a good list of fits. Your physics grades are good, you showed overall improvement, and those are pretty good test scores that show a comfort with American English. I'd also apply to a scattering (4-5 total) of schools from rank 30 to 100, to make sure you get in somewhere, as well as potentially a top 10 with a strong planetary science program (though, from what I can gather from your choice of schools, JHU might be the best school anyway for what you're doing, and it's already on your list).

If you get less than a 900, then scrap these schools and focus on places in the second tier for your discipline (places like Pittsburgh come to mind).

raku87
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 8:54 am

Re: Need help in deciding whether to apply to US Ph.d program

Postby raku87 » Sun Oct 09, 2011 10:49 am

Hello guys! Strangely this forum has become my progress log-book :) .....

The plot has thickened for me. I recently got a PhD fellowship offer from the Max-Planck Institute for solar system research (MPS); they liked my research experience. If I join I will be working under a big guy in computational planetary magnetism (matches my interests exactly). Since I visited the institute, I also found the living conditions very nice. And, compared to the living cost, the fellowships carries a rather handsome amount of stipend. The offer caries no TA. I will be enrolled in the Dept. of Physics at the University of Gottingen.

Yes, now comes the bugger. Should I now bother to apply to US schools? Will I be loosing too much if I go for a European PhD? I have heard some bad things about European PhD program, and I have also heard about the reputation of the Max-Planck chain of institutes. :?

Please, help....
Last edited by raku87 on Sun Oct 09, 2011 1:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

twinb87
Posts: 35
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 12:11 am

Re: Need help in deciding whether to apply to US Ph.d program

Postby twinb87 » Sun Oct 09, 2011 11:35 am

Hello,

Glad to hear things went well for you and congratulations on your offer. I am afraid I have never heard anything about European PhD programs having a bad reputation. It seems there are plenty of professors at US Institutions who have PhD's from European programs so I can't really comment on your concern here. When do you have to give your decision to MPS by? Knowing this will help with any advice I could give you.

raku87
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 8:54 am

Re: Need help in deciding whether to apply to US Ph.d program

Postby raku87 » Sun Oct 09, 2011 1:02 pm

Thank you twinb87 ... :)

They have asked me to join somewhere near March, 2012.....Although, If I wish, I can join earlier also....

I have read on blogs that European PhDs are considered less rigorous as there are no courses....

twinb87
Posts: 35
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 12:11 am

Re: Need help in deciding whether to apply to US Ph.d program

Postby twinb87 » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:24 pm

I believe that the reason European PhD's don't have course requirements is that the system in Europe is set up differently than in the US. In the US, you usually enter a PhD program right after your bachelors degree. In Europe, and please anyone correct me if I am wrong, you usually do a masters degree (which I believe does have course requirements) in between your bachelors and PhD. Therefore, when you enter a PhD program, you are expected to have completed all the necessary courses and are in the program just to do research. Again, I may be misinformed about this but I think this is how it works in Europe. Therefore, I wouldn't make any decisions based off the notion that the program is less rigorous.

Are there schools in the US you feel you would rather go to than MPS? If so, since you seem to have some time before you have to make a decision...are you still planning to take the physics GRE soon? Why don't you wait and see how you do on that. If you score well and feel you have a good shot at getting into schools in the US that have research that lines up with your interests then go ahead and apply to them. I will admit...it is kind of a gamble here since you already have an offer and you should only do this if you are really passionate about going to particular schools in the US.

Overall, I would say go with your gut about what feels like the best decision for you. I hope this helped and best of luck.

michael
Posts: 50
Joined: Fri Sep 05, 2008 7:21 am

Re: Need help in deciding whether to apply to US Ph.d program

Postby michael » Sun Oct 09, 2011 2:34 pm

The Max Planck Institutes are very well regarded in Europe in Physics.

Do you have a fixed idea of where you want to be after your pHD?

If you want to end up in the US,
then I would say that it may still be a good idea to do your phd in the US, although you should try to find out if any previous members of the group you want to work with in Max Planck have done their phd in Max Planck and then moved into academic positions in the US. You could ask them how hard it is to make the transition.

If you want to end up in Europe,
then doing your phd in Max Planck with a well known group will be a good option. It would also be fine to go to the US for your phd and then go to Europe, but in Europe I think most people would consider Max Planck to be about the equivalent of a top 20 US university - so if you want to work in Europe after it would only make sense to do your phd in the US in a highly ranked US institution, or with a big name prof.

If you want to end up in India,
I think that you probably know how the different universities are considered and how going to Europe for your phd instead of the US would affect your possibilities for getting a faculty position in india.

raku87
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun May 30, 2010 8:54 am

Re: Need help in deciding whether to apply to US Ph.d program

Postby raku87 » Sun Oct 09, 2011 11:37 pm

The arguments and suggestions you presented sound very reasonable. Many people have told me not to drop MPS for some safe school in US, unless of course I get in to some top 10 school (which is highly unlikely even if I win a Nobel prize :P).

The problem is that the PGRE score will not be out till December, and by then most of the application deadlines will be over; there is no option of first waiting to check the PGRE score and then try accordingly. I don't trust my a priori estimates anyway as I have out/under performed at many occasions. There are very good groups in JHU, UCLA, and UCSC (although all of them collaborate with the MPS group). I wanted to have a go at them. But it seems MPS is the better option in my situation.

I have to tell the MPS committee by the end of this month about my final decision. And, it will not be a good thing to do, both professionally and morally, if I say yes to MPS now, and then say "no thanks, I got a better offer" when its time to join.

Looks like MPS it is .....




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