Grades, GRE and application...

  • 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.

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Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 9:15 pm

Grades, GRE and application...

Postby sciencexgirl » Mon Nov 07, 2005 10:06 pm

Hi, this is my first post on this oh-so-very helpful website :)

I am a senior in physics at a well-regarded public university. I was wondering if people had some thoughts on my particular situation... At the moment, I have no clue how to use my grades, probable GRE score, and the likely components of my applications to graduate schools to extrapolate how ambitious I should be in choosing what schools to apply to.

I have a decent GPA in my department (~3.65), but my record got a little marred last term by a C in quantum mechanics. I managed to surround it by two A+ grades in upper division labs, and I could blame my poor performance throughout last year on a (then) undiagnosed chronic medical problem. I have a professor and a research scientist who have supervised me on research projects ready to write two very good recommendations (the "very" may depend on how expressive they are in their writing styles, but let's just say they're extremely impressed...). I'm also taking my university's graduate course in quantum mechanics on a pass/fail basis, in an attempt to rectify my understanding of the subject.

But that's where the good news sort of ends... I'm going to get a middle score on the physics GRE (probably between 550-650, at best :( ), and although I have a bunch of professors who seem to like me pretty well, I dont know who else to ask for recommendations.

-What universities should I shoot for?
-How important is my statement of purpose, and should I approach the illness thing?
-I have done so very well in labs and in research situations, and I'm obviously going for experimental. But the physics GRE has me freaked out, and suddenly wondering if I'm not so smart after all...

thanks :)

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Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2005 5:50 am

Postby yosofun » Tue Nov 08, 2005 12:57 am

getting a C in qm just means you need to spend some good quality time with undergrad math. both grad/undergrad qm classes can be aced if you have a **good** grasp of lin alg/hilbert space and pde's.

my situation is the exact opposite of yours. i do well in theory courses, but i tend to fail lab courses. but, then again, i tend to fail lab courses because of dumb requirements, such as, "no erasing allowed in lab-notebooks"... consequently, the graders complain that they can't read my handwriting and consistently give me incredibly low scores. nevertheless, the double-standard has added to my lab phobia.

as for grad school ... hmm.... i'd say you should consider going into industry as a possible alternative since you have a rather low GPA and score.

(that's basically my plan, too. my gpa isn't that high, either. so, i am considering industry or perhaps a web career as a backup.)

Posts: 14
Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 9:15 pm


Postby sciencexgirl » Tue Nov 08, 2005 4:58 pm

Well look... I am GOING to get a PhD, there's no question about that. Maybe not from an Ivy League college, but not everyone with a PhD in Physics got their degree from CaltechMITBerkleyPrincetonCornell etc. People will not take a person with just a B.S. in physics seriously when considering them for a job. The whole point was, I dont know where I stand in the grand scheme of graduate admissions.

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Joined: Sat Nov 05, 2005 8:28 pm

Postby eanzenberg » Tue Nov 08, 2005 5:44 pm

your gpa isn't low by ANY standard. Understand that a grad school isn't going to accept you based on grades and scores. They don't care if you can ace all the material, they care if you can create new, unique research if you want to go into experimental physics. If you're a theorist than they care about it more, but having strong backgrounds in both is best.

My older sister got into MIT with a 3.2 gpa, so don't let anything discourage you. Just apply and hope for the best.

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