Do I have a snowball's chance in a CAT scan?

  • 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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dustdevil
Posts: 67
Joined: Mon Dec 01, 2008 8:36 pm

Do I have a snowball's chance in a CAT scan?

Postby dustdevil » Mon Dec 01, 2008 8:55 pm

Hello!
I got my physics GRE back today and got about what I expected after starting to study at noon on the Friday before...
So I don't know if I've completely shot my chances at grad school in astronomy. Here are my specs:

PGRE: 610 (36%).. Abysmal
Gen. GRE: Math: 730 (79%), Verbal 600 (85%)
^^^ so annoying, I got all 800s on the three practice tests I took for math.
GPA: 3.52 overall and 3.49 in science/math courses from a prestigious university.
Three great letters of recommendation, two from well-known scientists in their respective fields.
Tons of research, and I've used many different telescopes (12m Radio, 4m Mayall and others) and worked with the two well-known scientists above, and had an REU this summer.
I'm a Caucasian girl from the south? Capricorn anyone? I feel like this is some twisted dating service for nerds.

I took the GRE again in november after studying a bit more and did presumably better but I don't expect earth shattering results...

I'm am applying to the following schools:
u wisc-madison
u of arizona
u of texas
ohio state
u of michigan
uc santa cruz


Any help (consolation?) would be appreciated.
Thanks!

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gliese876d
Posts: 57
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2008 12:51 pm

Re: Do I have a snowball's chance in a CAT scan?

Postby gliese876d » Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:08 pm

Yes you do. I was really depressed when I got my physics GRE score on Saturday, and suffice it to say it was lower than yours... I have similar general GRE scores to yours and a little lower GPA. I have research experience, too, but not very much, and I'm applying to some of the same schools as you.... And I was talking to some of my professors and they said that all is not lost, and encouraged me that I will get in somewhere. I think, though, it's a good idea to talk to your recommendors and be honest with them about your PGRE score--mine told me they would explain in the letter that the score is not indicative of my aptitude or potential. Long story short, I know where you're coming from but if I stand a chance, so do you, so hang in there!

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dustdevil
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Joined: Mon Dec 01, 2008 8:36 pm

Re: Do I have a snowball's chance in a CAT scan?

Postby dustdevil » Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:25 pm

So Columbia is probably a stretch then? I'd like to save the $90 application fee anyway...

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gliese876d
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Re: Do I have a snowball's chance in a CAT scan?

Postby gliese876d » Tue Dec 02, 2008 12:42 am

Personally I took Columbia off my list, but then again, you have a little better PGRE score and GPA and a little more in-depth research experience, so it's hard to say for sure. I'm guessing it might be a stretch but if it's a school that's a really good fit for you, you might want to keep it on your list. If you're not sure it's a good fit for you anyway, no harm in saving the app fee; the other schools on your list are certainly reputable and probably more doable.

I did also send a couple emails to profs at other schools explaining my situation and asking if they thought there was anyway their admissions could see past my PGRE score based on other strengths I had to offer, and I did receive some responses. One of them was from a prof at one of the schools on your list and it was not very encouraging since they apparently got more new students last year than what they were looking to add and as a result are now looking to add fewer than in the past, and they apparently place some emphasis on the PGRE. Send me a private message if you want more details on that particular school and what the lowest PGRE score was of any student admitted there in the past two years according to this professor.

*BUT* there's not necessarily a rhyme or reason as to which schools place more or less emphasis on the PGRE from what I can tell. One of my professors today told me that at my school which is ranked 48th, he is sometimes on the admissions committee. He told me a story of an applicant whose PGRE score was in the 10th percentile (!) but the rest application was good and they were willing to extend the applicant an offer, only to find to their surprise a few weeks later that the applicant declined, having taken an offer from Cornell (!). So it's not as if it's impossible to get into pretty prestigious schools with a low PGRE score; it just might make it more difficult and less likely. But the more you can spin your application to emphasize the strong points, the better your chances are.

Also, I should say that if your undergraduate institution has a good reputation, that would certainly help you, as would being of a traditionally underrepresented group... Just things to keep in mind if they apply to you...

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dustdevil
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Re: Do I have a snowball's chance in a CAT scan?

Postby dustdevil » Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:25 am

I mentioned this in the other thread, but since UCSC doesn't require PGRE does it look questionable if I consciously don't include it? Will withholding it hurt my overall application?

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secander2!
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Re: Do I have a snowball's chance in a CAT scan?

Postby secander2! » Tue Dec 02, 2008 5:02 am

The PGRE is actually pretty respectable for a domestic looking at an astronomy program, and the fact that women tend to do a little worse on this sort of standardized test just means that the PGRE probably won't be much of a liability at all (for instance, Arizona has a average of 643, you're clearly already in that range!). The GPA is offset by the fact it comes from a prestigious school. Your research and recommendations will be great! I would guess you've got a very nice shot!

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dustdevil
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Re: Do I have a snowball's chance in a CAT scan?

Postby dustdevil » Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:57 pm

That makes me feel better. I didn't expect so many particle physics questions! We have a particle physics class but it overlaps with the plasma physics class required for my major, and I didn't think that it would comprise a significant portion of the test. I wish I'd taken the time to review it at least! They weren't hard questions, but I just couldn't remember and I don't like to guess unless I can narrow it down to two or so answers.




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