Undergrad Institution: International, one of the top institutions in my country
Major(s): Physics double major with Industrial Engineering
Overall GPA: 3.54
Length of Degree: 4
Position in Class: top 3rd
Type of Student: International Female
GRE Scores : revised
Q: 170 (97%)
V: 157 (75%)
W: 3.5 (42%)
P: 830 (75%)
Research Experience: over 2 years in high energy astrophysics (observational but some theoretical and lots of computational work involved, also MSc thesis project), accepted for conference presentation (but conference was cancelled, I don't know if it still counts), 2 papers in preparation one as 1st author, 1 semester in observational astrophysics during exchange semester in US. Also 1 semester at undergrad institution and 1 summer at an institute in France in computational physics/ biophysics.
Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Scholarships for Bachelor's and Master's, project support for master's thesis project from scientific council, Special award from undergrad institution for high academic success, Dean's Honor List, graduation thesis project selected as best in graduating class
Pertinent Activities or Jobs: TA for 1.5 years
Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: 2+ years of volunteer work at school, international student mentor for 4 years, both in leadership positions
Special Bonus Points:
Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: I have a lot of experience with computation/simulations. I have been working on compact objects for 1.5 years now and I expressed interest in working on compact objects.
Applying to Where: Theoretical / Computational Astrophysics University of British Columbia - accepted by phone call (1/13) min $22.5k /year TA+ RA UC Irvine - accepted by e-mail (1/27) TAship (~6.5k./quarter) + Regents' Fellowship (5k/yr for 2 years) - will attend! University of Florida -Physics - accepted by e-mail (3/06) from department, 23 k/yr TA + Grinter Fellowship(4/09) (3k/yr for 3 years)(4/03)University of Florida -Astronomy - Waitlisted (3/16), withdrew applicationGeorge Washington University -Physics - Application withdrawnHarvard -Astronomy, Rejected 2/10 e-mail to check websiteUniversity of Washington - Astronomy Rejected 3/07 by e-mail UT Austin - Astronomy (around 3/01, e-mail came way after decision was posted on website) UC Berkeley -Astrophysics Rejected 02/16 by e-mail UC Santa Cruz -Physics , Rejected 2/14 by e-mailUC Santa Barbara -Physics - rejected by e-mail to check website 02/24Johns Hopkins -Physics & Astronomy- rejected by e-mail 3/09NYU - rejected by email 3/15Columbia - rejected on website (I didn't get an e-mail for some reason) 3/16
Notes on the process that I wish I had read 2-years-ago: I had applied for a PhD to a similar list of schools two years ago, when I finished my undergrad and got straight rejections (13 of them, to be exact). I wanted to write about my experience, because I know how tough and discouraging it is to have rejections. Luckily, I did not give up, got into an MSc in Physics in my home country, and got accepted to some pretty decent programs (Irvine had rejected me the first time around and I turned that into an acceptance now!
) Thinking back, I think the most important two things that I had done was increase my PGRE score from 660 to 830 (not amazing, I know, but it took a lot of work for me to get there and I'm proud of it
), and improve my research experience significantly. In fact, I applied with exactly the same GRE General Score as before and other than my age the only things that changed in my applications were the PGRE, research, and grad courses I took in my master's. I can't speak for all admissions committees, but it seems that to meta-secure chances of admission in an above 50-70 ranked school, a good PGRE score (above 70%) is really important. Research experience in the relevant field is most crucial as well. I had plenty of research experience in good institutions in biophysics (as well as some in astrophysics) on my first round of applications, and that got me nowhere. In my master's, I focused on my area of choice in astrophysics (compact objects) and made a poster presentation and had two papers in preparation (one as first author) when I applied, I think those really helped too. If you have the chance, I'd suggest taking graduate courses also. When I had asked a UC school why I wasn't admitted 2 years ago, they told me it was because the classes I have taken weren't enough (I was doing a double major in my bachelor's so I had not taken any additional grad courses.). Oh, and try to apply to as many places as you can, if you can afford it, and make sure to have some *safety* choices that suits you, you never know what's going to happen with this process, even people with perfect scores and perfect research get rejected sometimes.
This is not to say that a lower PGRE score or no publications will not get you anywhere. Unfortunately, there is no perfect recipe to get into a specific school. If you have the time before applications when you are reading this, I'd make the time to study for the PGRE seriously, I really regret underestimating the exam 2 years ago. And if you did not get accepted to your dream school, a master's is a great step between your dreams and you current self, so give that a chance. I was really sad to start my master's here, but I'm very appreciative of the opportunities it has given me and how much it helped me improve. Overall, this is a tough process, and it takes serious work. There will be bumps on the road (I almost could not take the PGRE this year because they decided not to offer it in my country and I had trouble paying for a visa and to travel abroad to take the exam, for example.) This is only to say that if you really want it, don't let it go, it will happen if you try hard enough!