I'm applying this round to physics graduate programs in the US. Here is a quick background:
I graduate college in 2006 with a BA economics from a highly ranked liberal arts school (top 10). While in school, I developed a love of physics and have a strong gpa (~3.8 physics) and a variety of classes outside of intro (E&M, classical mechanics, astrophysics, lasers and optics, quantum, thermo) all with strong grades, one summer of research with no publications but I will have a rec from the professor that oversaw it. But I have spent the last 8 years working in finance (derivatives trading, along with some model development which is similar to research though the math we use is much much simpler imo).
I've decided to go back simply because finance isn't something I love but I still really enjoy physics. I left my job to get back into shape and ere are my scores:
Writing: TBD (still waiting)
I'm looking at theoretical cosmology/astro/HEP. From the outside right now, there are many research topics I find interesting, and frankly I don't really know how to classify across the 3 fields because there is so much overlap now.
So on to my questions:
First, do I have a reasonable chance at the good schools (even if you say no, I'm still gonna go for it, I was never one to back down because others say it isn't possible)? And more importantly, is there a good way for me to present my time in finance as an asset? Or should I leave it aside?
And with letters of rec, most places request 3 and I am trying to find the right balance. the prof who oversaw my research will write me one, as will my manager at work for the last 5 years (where I did several model build outs, new business lines, etc). For the third should I get another professor's letter or should I Get another colleague's letter?
Any ideas about this would be very much appreciated.