Should I apply next year ?

  • 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.

User avatar
Simknab
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 2:39 am

Should I apply next year ?

Postby Simknab » Tue May 27, 2008 3:26 am

Hi everybody,

since this is my first attempt to communicate here, let's introduce myself. I'm french (from Toulouse, Airbus headquarters) and I am 25 years old. I followed physics studies in my country and happened to get a Master degree in theoritical physics. Actually at the end of the master I didn't have the level to find an interesting Phd position here, since It's very difficult to find any of these when you're not from ENS (our best institution for research, you might have heard about it). So I gave up, and I had to find some job to survive. It was three years ago.

A couple of months ago, I found about the existence of the GRE physics test on the web, and just for fun I tried to take them by myself in "exams conditions". Surprisingly I got the highest score to the four sample tests, which I could explain by the fact that It's a Bachelor level test. So I wondered if I could apply to american universities, and I found this forum and read about graduate schools applications. But some questions remain.

First, about the GPA. Making a conversion from french system to GPA seems to be difficult, or even impossible. In France we have a 20 points grade system, and usually a 14 is a very good grade. Grading above 16 is quite rare, and is considered as an excellent grade. It's very rare to get a twenty. So I can not just make a simple calculation and say for example that 14 corresponds to 2.8 It doesn't make any sense. Plus the average grade for a student strongly depends on the university. The same student could get a 15 at university A, and a 12 at univerisity B for the same credits ...
Nevertheless I found some "conversion methods on the web", and with these the best GPA I could get is around 2.8 :shock: Which suprised me a lot since for example I ranked 78 among 1090 at my first year ...

So I'd like to know your opinion about that.

Some more informations : I have a small research experience :

- Three months at a leading fusion research centre in Germany (IPP), mainly doing numerical calculation. No paper, no talk.

- Four months in a AMO laboratory in France, doing numerical calculation about femtolasers. No paper, no talk.

So far as I know, I could hope a 990 at GRE physics test, a poor 2.8 GPA, a small research experience, and probably no recommandation letters since I didn't see my teachers for a long time. I have been a high school teacher during one year (physics, chemistry), and I could probably get a 990 at the mathematics GRE tests if it can help ...

So i'm aware it's not possible for me to get admitted to a prestigious university like MIT or Caltech, but I would like to know if you think I can get in somewhere, even an unknown university, and what I should do to succeed. My field of interest is Quantum Optics : femto lasers, atom/molecule cooling, quantum information ... And I'd like to do experiments. I have enough of numerical calucations.
Oh, and I should say I'm 25, and I would apply for September 2009, which might be a little too old ??

Thanks for reading and answering :)

PS : I apologize for my poor english. Maybe I should improve, 'cause I don't know how much I can score to the TOEFL :mrgreen:

fermiguy
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 2:29 pm

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby fermiguy » Tue May 27, 2008 9:01 am

Bonjour! Ne vous inquiétez pas, votre anglais est assez bon! Je regrette que je ne puisse pas vous parler dans le français mais mon français est devenu assez mauvais...

I hope that wasn't too bad.... Well, my french that is! In regards to your post... I actually work with quite a few people that did their masters in France and their PhD work in the USA and from what I am told, applying to a US school shouldn't be too much trouble from France. French degree's are very well respected and scoring high on the GRE physics is a testament of your physics preparation.

In regards to your post. You have nothing to lose by applying to schools like MIT, so by all means apply! If you check out the "profiles thread", in this forum you should have a good idea on what peoples stats are that get into X and Y schools. I don't think people lied too much on their profiles so it is a good resource. Also, your research experience and work experience are all big factors in your favor when you apply. It will really help distinguish you from your peers, and a few reference letters from people who work with you always help.

As for your gpa..You must find a better conversion.. 2.8 doesn't make too much sense. You could call the universities that you are applying to and ask if they have a GPA converter for a french university. I know that not all GPA's from all schools are the same, but admission committees do take that into consideration. Giving schools your class ranking is also very important.

If all of your research/work experience is theoretical it might be hard to do experimental work but you never know.

And being 25 is not too old. Age plays very little if no factor in an admission decision.

Hope this helps!

marten
Posts: 134
Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:21 am

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby marten » Tue May 27, 2008 12:38 pm

I wish I "happened to get a Master degree in theoritical physics."

Welcome to the forum, sounds like some good advice from fermiguy. I think if schools see your class rank and are familiar with French schools, the GPA shouldn't be an issue.

By the way, I'm returning to school at the age of 28, and don't even have a masters, so no, you're definitely not too old! Age really doesn't matter, maybe they'll expect more maturity and discipline from an older student.

Marten

User avatar
fermiboy
Posts: 437
Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2007 7:41 pm

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby fermiboy » Tue May 27, 2008 2:35 pm

I started my bachelors at age 25 and now I'm going to grad school at age 29. Youth is a state of mind!

vicente
Posts: 195
Joined: Sun Oct 07, 2007 12:24 am

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby vicente » Tue May 27, 2008 7:23 pm

Perhaps you could get one of your recommenders to write an explanation about France's grading system. I've studied in France at a lycée and I can attest that a French 10/20 is equivalent to a B-, and 16/20 is basically an A+. Also mention it in your statement of purpose.

BTW there are plenty of older graduate students, many of whom have taken years off to work or travel. So your age is not going to be a problem for admissions, but definitely get in contact with your recommenders, remind them who you are.

User avatar
Simknab
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 2:39 am

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby Simknab » Wed May 28, 2008 2:14 am

Thanks for your opinions guys :)

Considering what you said, I think I'll try.

Bonjour! Ne vous inquiétez pas, votre anglais est assez bon! Je regrette que je ne puisse pas vous parler dans le français mais mon français est devenu assez mauvais...


Héhé, non ce n'est pas si mal !! Juste une chose, on préfère dire : parler en français. Sinon, pas fautes de grammaire ou d'orthographe :)

If all of your research/work experience is theoretical it might be hard to do experimental work but you never know.


Actually the french system doesn't allow us to do a lot of experiment before PhD. For example, I never heard of an Experimental Master in the field of physics. I guess this is the main difference between our system and yours. We do more theory I guess, but we are just so bad for practice :oops: Basically you could start with experiment in France only during the PhD which lasts only three years after the master.

As far as I know reading on this forum you seem to start working in labs very early, comparing to french standards.

And being 25 is not too old. Age plays very little if no factor in an admission decision.


This is so much better than in France :!: Here if you're older than 25, it's nearly impossible to get a PhD position. If you're more than 30 and have not yet completed two post-doc, you can just say goodbye to academic research ...
And it's also nearly impossible for people who left the system for a while to come back ...

By the way, I'm returning to school at the age of 28


I started my bachelors at age 25 and now I'm going to grad school at age 29. Youth is a state of mind!


Wow, that's amazing :) I could never imagine such a thing at home. This is encouraging.
Good luck to you too :mrgreen:

Perhaps you could get one of your recommenders to write an explanation about France's grading system. I've studied in France at a lycée and I can attest that a French 10/20 is equivalent to a B-, and 16/20 is basically an A+. Also mention it in your statement of purpose.


You've been in France ? For an exchange ?
By the way the conversion you give is close to what I found on the web. It would give me a 3.1 GPA, and I think it's quite fair.

BTW there are plenty of older graduate students, many of whom have taken years off to work or travel. So your age is not going to be a problem for admissions, but definitely get in contact with your recommenders, remind them who you are.


Yeah, this is the worst part, but I think you're right. I should contact my former teachers to get some recommandation letters. It may be fun since I did not talk with them for three years ... Hope they did not forget me :mrgreen:

By the way I think it's worth to try. Nothing to lose except a few money. But this is the good part with the euro/dollar ratio 8) I just have to determine at which school I'm going to apply. Not an easy job, since except the most prestigious ones I know nothing about a lot of institutions ...

fermiguy
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri Mar 07, 2008 2:29 pm

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby fermiguy » Wed May 28, 2008 9:34 am

Simknab wrote:Thanks for your opinions guys :)
Héhé, non ce n'est pas si mal !! Juste une chose, on préfère dire : parler en français. Sinon, pas fautes de grammaire ou d'orthographe :)


haha, ya I thought my grammar was off.... I told myself, if one day I continue to work for my present company I will get my French to a more respectable level... The last time I took a French course was 12 years ago :oops:

Simknab wrote:this is so much better than in France :!: Here if you're older than 25, it's nearly impossible to get a PhD position. If you're more than 30 and have not yet completed two post-doc, you can just say goodbye to academic research ...
And it's also nearly impossible for people who left the system for a while to come back ...


Wow.... The French system always struck me as being pretty brutal but gee.... That is an almost polar opposite to the US system where it is quite normal for people to work after a bachelors or masters degree and then seek a PhD

Simknab wrote:You've been in France ? For an exchange ?
By the way the conversion you give is close to what I found on the web. It would give me a 3.1 GPA, and I think it's quite fair.


I'm pretty sure you deserve a higher GPA than that.. if your ranking is in the top 10 percent your GPA should easily be over a 3.7-3.8. I know for a Canadian school that is very much the case. Regardless scoring a 900+ on the GRE physics and getting a few strong reference letters can forgive any shortcomings from your GPA but again seek a better conversion. You should have a pretty competitive application so apply to lots of good schools.

In terms of other schools that are not 'known' but are still very good... you may want to check out the following link.

http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/grad

USA news and world report get a lot of criticism from people (including me) but it is still not that bad a resource when trying to get an idea on graduate schools in the USA.

Good Luck!

christopher3.14
Posts: 65
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2008 2:19 am

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby christopher3.14 » Thu May 29, 2008 12:16 am

Hello Simknab,

I found this website below that gives this chart for French-to-US grade conversion:

http://www.wes.org/gradeconversionguide/index.asp (select France from the dropdown)

(This conversion was adopted and approved by the "The Franco-American Commission for Educational Exchange.")

According to the conversion your 14 roughly translates to an A-, which is very good.

Hope this helps.

User avatar
will
Posts: 399
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2007 3:26 pm

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby will » Thu May 29, 2008 1:07 am

Also, at the school where I did my undergraduate, an A- mark corresponds to 3.7 grade points. A 3.7 is plenty for a great U.S. school, and I can't imagine it being a weak spot for a top 10 school, if that's what you're looking for.

User avatar
grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby grae313 » Thu May 29, 2008 9:39 pm

I second the recommendation that you call up a few schools here in the US and ask how your GPA should be converted. I've found people to be extremely helpful and friendly in these circumstances, and I'm sure they'll tell you everything you need to know. Don't sell yourself short--you have a great profile.

User avatar
Simknab
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue May 27, 2008 2:39 am

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby Simknab » Fri May 30, 2008 3:39 am

Done.

I've sent emails to a couple of admission offices, asking for their conversion rule between french grading system and GPA. It was obviously the best idea :idea:

Thanks to you guys :mrgreen:

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby doom » Wed Jun 18, 2008 4:05 pm

I know I'm getting into this discussion late, but let me point out that your age will have NO bearing in the US, because it's illegal for schools or most employers to discriminate on basis of age. I know this is different from many European countries, but here, they can't even ask for your age, and if you don't want to give it, you don't have to.

Best of luck!

User avatar
twistor
Posts: 1531
Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:47 pm

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby twistor » Wed Jun 18, 2008 8:41 pm

While they can't discriminate based on age they certainly can ask you about it. Every application I put in asked for my DoB. In any case it would be incredibly difficult to prove that any discrimination took place.

doom
Posts: 171
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 6:42 pm

Re: Should I apply next year ?

Postby doom » Thu Jun 19, 2008 9:56 am

From what I understand, asking for your DoB is a sort of confirmation of identity. If you didn't want to provide it, I'm pretty sure there would be ways to get around providing it. Not sure.

In addition, I think that, in many cases, the banning of age discrimination has helped it become less common. Nobody thinks that a 29-year-old is too old for grad school, or things like that. Of course, you'll still find bias, but I think it's better than in other countries where you're specifically allowed to make distinctions based on age.




Return to “Prospective Physics Graduate Student Topics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests