Astronomy/Astrophysics: Are my colleges reasonable for my profile?

varunchaturmutha
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2016 2:54 am

Astronomy/Astrophysics: Are my colleges reasonable for my profile?

Postby varunchaturmutha » Wed Dec 07, 2016 11:07 am

Please evaluate.

Major: B.Tech in Engineering Physics (expected 2017)
College: India Institute of Technology, Guwahati
CPI: 7.27/10
Intended Post-Graduation: Astronomy/Astrophysics (Also fine with Physics integrated Astronomy Departments)

Experiences:
1) Astronomy and Astrophysics summer school, organised by IUCAA Pune at CCSU Guwahati (Summer '15)

Research Projects:
1) ISRO Bengaluru - QPOs in Cataclysmic Variables (Summer '16)
2) Bachelor Thesis Project - 1: Accretion flows around black holes (Fall '16)

Astronomy Extra-Curriculars:
1) Secretary of Astronomy Club, IIT Guwahati (Aug '15 - Mar '16)
2) Bronze in Messier Marathon, IIT Kharagpur, Inter-IIT Tech Meet (Jan '15)
3) Head of Predefined Module, Techniche '15 (Techno-Management Festival of IIT Guwahati)

Standardized Tests:
1) GRE General: 153(V) + 167(Q) 4(W)
2) GRE Physics: 760 (63%ile)
3) TOEFL: 110 (W:29 R:28 L:27 S:26)

LORs:
1) Guide at ISRO
2) Bachelor Thesis Guide at IIT Guwahati
3) Course Instructor: Taught us two courses (8/10 in one course and 9/10 in the other)
4) Course Instructor: Taught one course (probably 10/10)

Universities Shortlisted

Final (USA):
1) University of California, Santa Barbara
2) University of Maryland, College Park
3) University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
4) Cornell University
5) University of Washington, Seattle

Not Final (USA):
1) UC Santa Cruz
2) UC San Diego
3) University of Rochester
4) University of Chicago
5) University of Virginia
6) Pennsylvania State University

Not Final (Europe):
1) University of Exeter, UK
2) Leiden University, Netherlands
3) KU Leuven, Belgium
4) Bonn-Cologne, Germany
5) University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Please suggest any new universities suitable for my profile.
Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the above shortlisted universities.

TakeruK
Posts: 874
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Astronomy/Astrophysics: Are my colleges reasonable for my profile?

Postby TakeruK » Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:40 pm

It sounds like you would be an international student, based on your schooling, but please correct me if I'm wrong! For US schools, it is a lot harder for international students (I am one too!) to get into public schools because the difference between an international student's tuition and an American student's tuition is very large. However, at a private school, the cost is usually the same so it's a lot easier. For example, at a University of California school, usually only 10% of graduate students are from outside of the US. At my current private school in California, 45% of the graduate students are international.

In your first list, you have 4 public schools and 1 private school (Cornell). In the second US list, you have 2 private schools (Chicago and Rochester). If you apply to both lists, you will only have 3 out of 11 schools in the US that are private.

My recommendation would be to change the ratio so that at least half of your schools are private schools where you won't be as negatively affected by being an international student. It's also especially important to have good fit in the public schools so I would remove the ones that have the least best fit and add in some other private schools with strong Astronomy programs. For example, if your undergrad research are the topics you are interested in for graduate work, I would recommend: Caltech, Harvard, Yale, and Notre Dame. These are just a few suggestions though, you should also check out some other interesting schools that fit your interests.

Note: I'm not saying any of these schools will be "easy" to get in. But for international students, it is common for people to be rejected from lower ranked public schools but accepted into higher ranked private schools.

dankmemes
Posts: 10
Joined: Tue Dec 06, 2016 3:47 pm

Re: Astronomy/Astrophysics: Are my colleges reasonable for my profile?

Postby dankmemes » Wed Dec 07, 2016 5:07 pm

You are applying to generally top US Astronomy programs, however your profile is not as strong as it could be. Your GPA is on the low side for graduate school, and your physics GRE is below the ranges for many of the school your are applying to that are posted in this thread: viewtopic.php?t=3669 . As mentioned above it is particularly difficult for international students to get into US grad schools compared to domestic applicants. I would highly recommend looking into and putting more safety and (as mentioned above) private universities on your profile.

TakeruK
Posts: 874
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Astronomy/Astrophysics: Are my colleges reasonable for my profile?

Postby TakeruK » Thu Dec 08, 2016 12:32 pm

I'm not sure about the GPA conversion. I think the 7.27/10 corresponds to something like a B+ or low A- average, which is something between a 3.3 and 3.6 GPA in the US system. This would not put you in the top level of GPA scores but I don't think it's too low that you have no chance at all. Whether you are competitive for top schools depends a lot on the extent of your research experience (how much did you accomplish in those two projects?). Usually, I would advise anyone with a 3.5+ GPA to shoot for the top 10 programs if they have some research experience. You don't need to be the best student in your class to get into the best program---your chances are higher if you are a strong student with a really good fit.

I think your PGRE scores are fine. In the thread linked by dankmemes above, the scores are only for Physics programs. The poster of that thread specifically says they removed Astronomy (and other non "pure" Physics) applicants. I am in my program with PGRE scores of 640 and 690 and it's a top 10 program. Here's a blog post by an astronomy professor on physics GRE scores at a top astro school: http://mahalonottrash.blogspot.com/2014 ... fails.html. A score in the 700s is a very good score for Astronomy programs.

AlexisPrel
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:26 pm

Re: Astronomy/Astrophysics: Are my colleges reasonable for my profile?

Postby AlexisPrel » Thu Dec 08, 2016 6:11 pm

TakeruK wrote: Here's a blog post by an astronomy professor on physics GRE scores at a top astro school: http://mahalonottrash.blogspot.com/2014 ... fails.html


This is a quite fascinating article. But I think it has a bias when showing the absence of correlation between PGRE scores and academic results in a simple (x,y) graph.
We are considering a sample of students that were ultimately admitted to Harvard Physics. So you can imagine that the datapoints corresponding to low PGRE scores also correspond to students with other strengths that got them admitted and also explain their academic achievements.

TakeruK
Posts: 874
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Astronomy/Astrophysics: Are my colleges reasonable for my profile?

Postby TakeruK » Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:55 pm

AlexisPrel wrote:
TakeruK wrote: Here's a blog post by an astronomy professor on physics GRE scores at a top astro school: http://mahalonottrash.blogspot.com/2014 ... fails.html


This is a quite fascinating article. But I think it has a bias when showing the absence of correlation between PGRE scores and academic results in a simple (x,y) graph.
We are considering a sample of students that were ultimately admitted to Harvard Physics. So you can imagine that the datapoints corresponding to low PGRE scores also correspond to students with other strengths that got them admitted and also explain their academic achievements.


You're right to point that out, and since the writing of this blog post, there has been other works that show no correlation between achievement post-graduate school and the Physics GRE score. The one that is most relevant to my field (Astronomy/Planetary Science) is a study that shows there isn't a correlation between Physics GRE scores and the winners of our field's major postdoc fellowships (Sagan, Hubble, etc.). (One counterpoint: winning such a fellowship is not the only indicator of success of course!). That paper is here: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1512.03709v1.pdf

The part I bolded in your post is indeed part of my point here: If you are a strong applicant in other ways, a Physics GRE score in the 700s is not going to hold you back.

However, I'm sorry that I was not more clear because the intention of linking that blog post was *not* the x-y scatter plot you're referring to. Instead, my intention was to highlight the 2nd plot (the histogram) that shows the distribution of PGRE scores of applicants to the Caltech Astronomy PhD program. My point was that the median scores of Astronomy applicants (740 and 660, for men and women, respectively) are not the same as the scores for top tier Physics programs. I wanted to point this out because the post that you linked to (the list of PGRE scores for a bunch of schools) only listed Physics applicants, and my point was that a "good" Astronomy score is much lower than a "good" Physics score. Thus, a score around 700 on the Physics GRE means you are around the median score of other people applying to the best Astronomy programs in the US (i.e. I wouldn't think a score in the 700s would hold an Astronomy PhD applicant back).

AlexisPrel
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:26 pm

Re: Astronomy/Astrophysics: Are my colleges reasonable for my profile?

Postby AlexisPrel » Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:55 am

No no I understood your point, and I totally agree. By the way I think you assumed dankmemes and I are the same person.
I was just making a side comment about another point in the article.

varunchaturmutha
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2016 2:54 am

Re: Astronomy/Astrophysics: Are my colleges reasonable for my profile?

Postby varunchaturmutha » Sun Dec 11, 2016 7:05 am

TakeruK wrote:It sounds like you would be an international student, based on your schooling, but please correct me if I'm wrong! For US schools, it is a lot harder for international students (I am one too!) to get into public schools because the difference between an international student's tuition and an American student's tuition is very large. However, at a private school, the cost is usually the same so it's a lot easier. For example, at a University of California school, usually only 10% of graduate students are from outside of the US. At my current private school in California, 45% of the graduate students are international.

In your first list, you have 4 public schools and 1 private school (Cornell). In the second US list, you have 2 private schools (Chicago and Rochester). If you apply to both lists, you will only have 3 out of 11 schools in the US that are private.

My recommendation would be to change the ratio so that at least half of your schools are private schools where you won't be as negatively affected by being an international student. It's also especially important to have good fit in the public schools so I would remove the ones that have the least best fit and add in some other private schools with strong Astronomy programs. For example, if your undergrad research are the topics you are interested in for graduate work, I would recommend: Caltech, Harvard, Yale, and Notre Dame. These are just a few suggestions though, you should also check out some other interesting schools that fit your interests.

Note: I'm not saying any of these schools will be "easy" to get in. But for international students, it is common for people to be rejected from lower ranked public schools but accepted into higher ranked private schools.


I can make amendments to my second list of universities where I can put 4 private and 1 public. Could you suggest me some private universities with good astronomy programs?

TakeruK
Posts: 874
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Astronomy/Astrophysics: Are my colleges reasonable for my profile?

Postby TakeruK » Sun Dec 11, 2016 10:23 am

AlexisPrel wrote:No no I understood your point, and I totally agree. By the way I think you assumed dankmemes and I are the same person.
I was just making a side comment about another point in the article.


Oops! Reading too fast I guess, sorry!!

TakeruK
Posts: 874
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Astronomy/Astrophysics: Are my colleges reasonable for my profile?

Postby TakeruK » Sun Dec 11, 2016 10:27 am

varunchaturmutha wrote:I can make amendments to my second list of universities where I can put 4 private and 1 public. Could you suggest me some private universities with good astronomy programs?


I suggested some of the ones I knew about in the last post, but I don't know enough about your specific subfield to recommend some really good fits, unfortunately!




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