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good enough?

Posted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:15 am
by sirius
So, I don't know if my scores are good enough. I'm applying to schools like berkeley, yale, cornell, washington state, wiconsin-madison, and others (about 10). Here are my scores:

Q: 760
V: 450
W: 5
P: awaiting score, prob 600-800. I answered 85 of the questions and dont think i could've got more than 30 wrong. I guess 900 is possible.

This forum does a good job of stressing me out on the fact that it almost seems like everyone does awesome and gets in everywhere. Does anyone with experience think i have a shot? I come from a small school in ohio, with a 3.8 gpa, good recommendations, one summer of research resulting in a paper that i was 2nd author of, tons of extracurriculars(clubs and fraternity),... I feel that I'm a good student with a future, but my scores dont show it. I feel like my accomplishments on paper dont look like much. Along with a physics major, I almost have a math and chemistry minor. My problem is that both those minors have some formalism i cant complete to officially receive those minors (the chem dept doesnt recognize credit from other institutions and i refuse to take discrete math). Not to mention my personal statement probably wont be very impressive either.

Please help me. Should I set my sights at lower schools? Am i needlessly worrying about test scores? Should I give up and look into high school teaching or some other path?

Re: good enough?

Posted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 4:59 am
by secander2!
Well, the 760 hurts a wee bit for top schools, but it could easily be made up for by a 800-900 PGRE. Also, the paper is great and would probably make up for the fact that one summer of research is a bit below average these days. If you do well on the PGRE, I would continue applying to all the places you have mentioned, I think Berkeley is usually a reach school for most of us, but it can't hurt to apply. The others should be a bit more realistic. On the other hand, if you get <700 PGRE, I might seriously consider putting in some solid back-up schools. I don't think you're worrying needlessly about test scores, I too am from a small (unknown in physics) school and I've heard that our test scores matter more because they can't really gauge what our GPA means. So yea, as always, whenever anybody says anything, this is all just my personal opinion and I'm not an admissions person or anything. And lastly, I would recommend that you don't focus too much on your extracurriculars in the SOP: perhaps mention them to show that you are a multi-faceted person, but don't give the impression that they have conflicted with your study of physics, and it would probably be best to not even mention the fraternities unless they are specifically service-oriented.

Re: good enough?

Posted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:31 am
by G01
I seem to be in a similar boat as the original poster. I am a little worried about my General GRE. Here are my stats and schools I am going to apply to. Someone tell me if I need a reality check:

I go to a small liberal arts school in the Northeast. Physics Major GPA and Overall GPA: 3.96

Quant: 730 (I'm embarassed about this. I think I was sick...)

Verbal: 560 (Somewhat better than average)

Physics: I answered 87 questions and can't see myself getting more than 20 wrong at most. I'm hoping for mid 800's, though a 900 could be possible.

Research Experience:

Two years of research at my own school, resulting in a conference presentation, third author.

2 REUs with the same professor at a school other than my own. I am getting a letter from him. I see no reason why it won't be good.

Unfortunately, I have no publications yet.


My other letters come from professors at my own school, one of which is dean of my college. I expect both of these to be great letters.

Grad Schools:

Univ. of Pittsburgh
Penn State
Univ. of Penn
Boston U
Boston College

I know I'm applying to some tough schools, but I think my list is balanced. Do I have any shot at the top schools on my list assuming I get a >800 on my PGRE?

Re: good enough?

Posted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:34 am
by zxcv
The people who get in to and attend top physics grad schools come from all sorts of institutions. Don't rule yourself out because you don't come from a big name school. Also, everyone's research experience sounds less impressive in retrospect. Finally, it's extremely hard to accurately access your own application, not the least because you don't know what they're looking for and you can't see your letters of recommendation.

So here's my advice: go for it, but play safe. If you're certain you want to attend grad school, include safety schools that you would be willing to attend (duh!). But there are people who get in to top ranked institutions whose qualifications on paper seem roughly equivalent to yours (both of you). It's pretty damn near impossible for someone out here to judge, especially since we haven't served on admissions committees.

Re: good enough?

Posted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 1:35 pm
by secander2!
zxcv is right, there's a lot of magic which goes into the selection process and as none of us are on admission's committees, we can't really be good judges. For the record though (so people don't think that I'm completely making up stuff), my opinions are based on where I've seen my friends get accepted and rejected, where I've been accepted and rejected (from when I applied last year), and where the people on this forum have been accepted and rejected.

@G01, from what you've said, it seems that you have a very good range of schools. Judging from your profile, some of them look like sure safeties and others might be a little more of a reach, but with that sort of diversity, I'd be pretty confident of getting into some good places.

Re: good enough?

Posted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:38 pm
by G01
Thanks for the reply secander1. It makes me feel better about my choice of grad schools.

My biggest worry is that an admissions committee is going to see me and say, "All right, he knows his way around a lab. He has some good research experience." Then they're going to see someone else with 3 first author publications and he'll trump me.

My point is that I never had the opportunities to do enough research to get a publication, let alone one as first author, at my physics department. There is only one professor doing active research at the moment. I started working with him as soon as I could. But, he teaches four classes and doesn't have enough time to even consider a publication of our project until the spring, if then.

Hopefully, the admissions committee will take the opportunity for research into account. I hope they will realize that the research I have done is ALOT for a student in my department.

Re: good enough?

Posted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:13 pm
by secander2!
I wouldn't worry too much about that. Publications might help bolster an application, and they seem to be becoming more and more common especially among the top 10, but they're definitely not [yet?] a requirement to get into grad school. If it makes you feel any better, I got into almost all the schools (places like Michigan, Johns Hopkins, and Rochester) I applied to last year without having any publications. To be fair, I really can't say anything from personal experience about your chances at the very top schools like Harvard or MIT (hey, it's always good to have a few reach schools :D ), but the other ones seem to be quite feasible.

Re: good enough?

Posted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 6:39 pm
by grae313
you have a shot. make sure you have some backup schools on your list, though.

Re: good enough?

Posted: Fri Nov 14, 2008 12:51 am
by gliese876d
G0 1, I go to Pitt as an undergrad, but know many grad students who got in here with lower GRE scores and no research experience, so I can tell you for sure you're definitely Pitt-worthy. And I can tell you from speaking to profs here the minimum PGRE cutoff is around the 50th percentile for first round... PM me if you have any questions about the program here...

Re: good enough?

Posted: Fri Nov 14, 2008 4:50 am
by rohit
a Riverside grad student advisor told me that "expectations" for PGRE scores of selected international candidates vary by country. Is this true? I'm sure India would be stuck with the highest expectations. :(

Re: good enough?

Posted: Fri Nov 14, 2008 5:10 am
by secander2!
@rohit... I've never heard anything for sure in physics, but an admission's person for engineering told me that the GRE expectations go like this: Chinese > Indian > domestic. I would guess that it would be similar for the PGRE expectations in Physics.

Re: good enough?

Posted: Sun Nov 16, 2008 8:30 pm
by G01
gliese876d wrote:G0 1, I go to Pitt as an undergrad, but know many grad students who got in here with lower GRE scores and no research experience, so I can tell you for sure you're definitely Pitt-worthy. And I can tell you from speaking to profs here the minimum PGRE cutoff is around the 50th percentile for first round... PM me if you have any questions about the program here...

Hey thanks alot for the advice! It makes me feel a little better about my chances. Anyway, its probably best not to dwell on this. I want to get the whole application process over with. It's just too stressful!