I hate to be the person who registers here and, without any preliminaries, announces himself with a "where can i get in"-type thread, it seems a rather self-centered introduction, but I've looked at the profiles thread, and I didn't see many profiles comparable to mine and I'm a little worried, so here is my introduction:
So, I'm in my fourth year of college and of course am involved in the whole grad school application process now. And of course, I have no clue what I am doing and am pretty stressed.
Due to some poor decisions, the only research experience I have is from this summer, where I didn't really do anything impressive, just helped out around the lab.
Clearly, this is a bad in a few ways, most obviously because grad schools look for people with success in research and research experience is probably a major factor when applying anywhere.
But also, it means that I really have little idea what I want to study, which makes it hard for me to know where to think about applying or to argue to any school that I belong there specifically. Moreover, I can't really be entirely sure that physics grad school is right for me; I do like studying physics, but actually doing physics seems a bit different and I have less experience with that (even less so since I'm thinking about doing theory. btw, does thinking about doing theory give me even a small excuse for little lab experience?).
Also it means that at least one of my letters of recommendation will come from someone who doesn't know me beyond class and office hours.
My tests and grades, I think, are decent enough. I go to a good state school, I have taken a pretty standard undergrad physics course load, gotten A's in most of my advanced physics classes, and based on the practice tests, I hope to get in the mid-800s on the PGRE in October.
Basically, what type of schools should I be looking at? How terrible is it to lack significant research? How should I decide where to apply? I really started freaking out about this a few days ago, when I saw how few students were accepted to these grad schools, even those outside the top tier (which I'm not really considering at this point).
Any advice would be tremendously appreciated.