I need to know if I am wasting my time.

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

nicholasastjohn
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2018 9:28 pm

I need to know if I am wasting my time.

Postby nicholasastjohn » Wed Jan 24, 2018 4:03 am

I will be getting my BA from Western Governors University in Physics Education (for teaching HS ect).
I went to University of Texas at Dallas for 3 years, and have some research experience. (I was originally a Physics natural science major.)
I am taking my GRE and PGRE in March and April, but my practice scores were 320 (165 quant, 155 verbal) and 750 for PGRE.
I am shooting for real scores of 335 (170 quant, 165 verbal) with a PGRE of 900 or better. I started prepping Jan 1, so I think this is possible.
I am worried that my weak Bachelors degree will affect my chances of being accepted into one of these Physics Doctoral Programs.

U of Wisconsin Madison
U of Chicago
U of California LA
U of Nevada Reno
U of Arizona
Alabama A&MU
Western Michigan U
U of Colorado CS
U of Nevada Las Vegas
Texas State San Marcos
Northwestern

What are my chances, assuming, I have my goal scores, with decent recommendation letters and essays.
:?: :?:
Last edited by nicholasastjohn on Mon Jan 29, 2018 6:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

Byzantine
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2017 2:56 am

Re: I need to know if I am wasting my time.

Postby Byzantine » Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:41 am

GPA?

nicholasastjohn
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2018 9:28 pm

Re: I need to know if I am wasting my time.

Postby nicholasastjohn » Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:32 am

I do not actually have a GPA. because Western Governors University is a Competency-Based Program that is Pass/Fail. I haven't failed any.

astroprof
Posts: 108
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2008 4:47 pm

Re: I need to know if I am wasting my time.

Postby astroprof » Sun Jan 28, 2018 3:07 pm

As students are admitted to physics graduate school with degrees in Engineering, Mathematics, etc, the fact that your degree will not be in Physics is not necessarily a problem. However, the lack of recent research experience and your choice of undergraduate institution will make it more difficult for you to be competitive for a top graduate program. It may be that you will need to earn a Masters degree (in Physics) before you will be competitive for a reputable doctoral program. Further, based on the description of your circumstances that you have provided, it is also not clear that you will have strong letters of recommendation. Usually, students are able to request two letters from people they have worked with in a research environment and one letter that attests to their accomplishments in an academic setting. Can you identify three faculty members that can write a letter that addresses your ability to conduct independent research? In addition, your list of graduate schools is a very odd combination of super-competitive and not-so-much. Have you discussed your list of schools with a reputable faculty member? It is important to discuss your options with the faculty members that will write your letters of recommendation. They can help you focus on the level of school for which they can write a strong letter of recommendation. Good luck!

nicholasastjohn
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2018 9:28 pm

Re: I need to know if I am wasting my time.

Postby nicholasastjohn » Sun Jan 28, 2018 5:29 pm

The list is based off my three favorites the top three, and then the rest are back ups.
I have three people lined up for letters. One I did research under, one is a former Congressman that I worked with, and the third is a faculty member from UT Dallas that I worked under outside of physics.
I have worked on my own research at UT Austin, and I worked under a professor at UT Dallas. I plan this year, before I start applying to try to volunteer or work at one of these: Argonne National Lab, Sounds Physics Lab, Northwestern, or U of Chicago.


Finally, I have 5 schools picked out for masters physics programs, if I do not get into any of those Doctoral programs.

TakeruK
Posts: 935
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: I need to know if I am wasting my time.

Postby TakeruK » Mon Jan 29, 2018 2:08 pm

nicholasastjohn wrote:The list is based off my three favorites the top three, and then the rest are back ups.
I have three people lined up for letters. One I did research under, one is a former Congressman that I worked with, and the third is a faculty member from UT Dallas that I worked under outside of physics.
I have worked on my own research at UT Austin, and I worked under a professor at UT Dallas. I plan this year, before I start applying to try to volunteer or work at one of these: Argonne National Lab, Sounds Physics Lab, Northwestern, or U of Chicago.


Finally, I have 5 schools picked out for masters physics programs, if I do not get into any of those Doctoral programs.


I second astroprof's advice to talk to a reputable physics professor about your school choices. I think your chances will improve a lot if you can identify programs that are a good fit for your experience and interests due to your non-traditional background. It's hard for an applicant to know these things about the schools, so some things you can do in the next few months would be to talk to some faculty member mentors and maybe even contact some potential people you want to work with at these schools and find out more about their program and what they're looking for. I am not sure what you mean by your "favorites" in terms of school selection since generally, one does not select grad schools based on how much they like a school, but instead for the good fit between their interests/goals and research.

In addition, I would rethink your letter from the former Congressman, unless this work you did forms a key part of your application package. As astroprof said, the letters are meant to reflect your academic and research ability/potential. Usually, they are expected to come from faculty members or at least someone who holds a PhD and has experience training undergrads or graduate students so that they can comment on your ability to thrive in the programs you're applying to. So, I am not sure how this letter would address that. I don't know the details of your work with the former Congressman, so maybe this letter does meet these expectations. But I just want to address this point because I often notice applicants treating their grad school LORs in the same way they might request letters for a job or undergraduate education applications. Unlike these other types of LORs, grad school application LORs aren't really meant to speak to your character or work ethic (other than research). As such, people outside of academia may not know how to write an effective LOR for a grad school application.

nicholasastjohn
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2018 9:28 pm

Re: I need to know if I am wasting my time.

Postby nicholasastjohn » Mon Jan 29, 2018 6:06 pm

Thanks for that advice, the congressman's letter would not address those concerns.
I do need to do more research on each school's particular research.

I am mostly worried about how negative my degree will be in the process, and if I should even bother shooting for some of the higher schools like U o Chicago.




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