General tips for people applying 2010

  • 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.

tensorwhat
Posts: 54
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:33 pm

General tips for people applying 2010

Postby tensorwhat » Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:41 pm

Hey everyone,

So, I have a few tips/pointers that I've gathered from various sources (which I trust fully) that could solidify a comfortable position come application time for 2010.


1.) Gather as many potential research contacts as you can (i.e., Google what you're interested in, search school websites, ask people for direct links or contact information if you have those connections) and create a list.

2.) Approximately 6 months before you submit applications, begin a dialogue with the people on your list, don't rush into it asking for a graduate position but make it clear that you're a prospective student.

(Ancillary to #2, I've heard of people on this forum sending and receiving single but promising emails to professor x.....don't allow them to only send you one email, besides those are probably canned responses. The point is to create a dialogue with these people, so ask them detailed questions about their research etc..)

3.) During the summer or thereabouts, you should have a pretty good idea of where you'd like to go, why not start writing a few different drafts of your statement of purpose to save yourself some time during the fall semester?

4.) Follow up with the professors you've created a positive rapport with from your list and tell them you'd like to apply to the department and see what kind of response you get (I know at least two people who were invited for a visit because of a connection similar to this, don't think its a waste to talk to potential advisers!)

5.) This should be obvious, but make sure you've locked in recommendation letter writers for your applications, it would be good to be sure of how positively they will speak of you =]

Anyways, this covers more of the things that are non-stress/academic related, but always good to be on top of.



----- On a side note, I heard a story of an interesting approach to the mechanics behind grad selections at a particular school......

Candidates are gathered and each application is broken into sub-categories: (4)PGRE, (6)GRE, (5)GPA, (2)Rec. Letters, (3)Statement, (1)Research Exp. These are all given a numerical value with a weight due to their importance to the committee as can be seen by their respective #'s (1 most important)

All the numbers are tallied, and each candidate has a numerical value attached to their application in which higher scores are obviously more important.....these applications are then reviewed by each member and the statement of purpose is used to make decisions

------

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Sat Mar 14, 2009 11:27 pm

I would add that one shouldnt underestimate the importance of the PGRE (Not just for Foreign Apps) despite what you may have heard because departments like to use it as a means to keep people out of the accepted pile. Even for female or liberal arts college applicants who some believe get more leeway with PGRE I would emphasize the importance of the PGRE even more than regular applicants due to the lower average for such groups, that only means that a great score will make you stand out like a sore thumb to admission committees.

activegalaxybuff
Posts: 32
Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:38 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby activegalaxybuff » Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:20 am

cato88 wrote:I would add that one shouldnt underestimate the importance of the PGRE (Not just for Foreign Apps) despite what you may have heard because departments like to use it as a means to keep people out of the accepted pile. Even for female or liberal arts college applicants who some believe get more leeway with PGRE I would emphasize the importance of the PGRE even more than regular applicants due to the lower average for such groups, that only means that a great score will make you stand out like a sore thumb to admission committees.


Advice for astronomers (as we tend to get blown out of the water by physics majors on the PGRE):

It's important to remember that one should not obsess over a bad score. While a good score can truly help you, a bad score won't necessarily hurt you. The PGRE isn't known for being the most accurate possible measure of physics knowledge a prospective student has and there can be many factors which lead to a bad score. Just make sure that your other qualifications make up for it!

However, it should be pointed out that there are several institutions which will judge you first on the PGRE and use it to make cuts of students they consider to not be acceptable, then go on to evaluate the rest of the remaining individuals' applications. Don't let the rejections get you down! I know it can be disheartening, but if they so harshly judged you solely on that one number, do you think you really would have had a positive learning experience in that kind of environment?

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:22 am

yeah Astro is a different ball game.

evilclaw2321
Posts: 118
Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2008 5:51 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby evilclaw2321 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:28 am

in addition to things already mentioned (with much emphasis placed on studying for gre)

-another thing to do is once you've written your sop and resume most schools have a career center, we had one specific for the sciences, take them to a professional there. They will review them and edit them for you and give you good feedback, also good people to get feedback from on those are your professors maybe letter writers.

activegalaxybuff
Posts: 32
Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:38 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby activegalaxybuff » Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:48 am

evilclaw2321 wrote:They will review them and edit them for you and give you good feedback, also good people to get feedback from on those are your professors maybe letter writers.


Yeah, actually, my letter writers asked me for copies of my statement of purpose (at least, a general, non-school specific version) so that they could relate their letters to it. Something to think about.

User avatar
quizivex
Posts: 1029
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 6:13 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby quizivex » Sun Mar 15, 2009 1:07 am

Some people here and some profs will insist that research experience and recs are more important than GPAs and GREs. It may be for a few particular schools or individual committee members, but overall it's WRONG. Just looking at the profile threads will show you how important GPAs and test scores are.

Telling students research and recs matter most could be a ploy profs use to get more students to give more of their time to them. Also, since so many students do terribly on the GRE, people say that to keep them motivated.

I've heard it said by one of the administrators at PPPL that seemingly everyone has extensive research experience and glowing letters. (If you can't find 3 people who will write positive things about you, you need to see a shrink.) So, coursework and GREs are often the deciding factor.

Rec letters are so subjective to begin with, and often depend more on the prof than the student. Some profs write better letters than others.

"Research experience" is ambigious because it's difficult to tell how much work was really produced by the student and it's often a matter of luck who ends up in a productive lab. And it's hard to compare one student's work over another. So these two guys worked in labs for a few semesters and have their names on two papers and presented some stuff. Who's better?... But the GPAs and GREs are numerical and much easier to evaluate.

GPAs represent 4 years of hard work and a mastery of undergrad physics and math material. Would you think a student who was co-author on a quantum info article but got a C+ in intro quantum really was a driving force in the research? Oh but his advisor wrote, "He's a wonderful student!" big whoop. OTOH, would you turn down a student who did great his undergrad courses but wasn't fortunate enough to get his name on a paper? Further, the GRE is the most objective of all the items.

So GPAs and GREs are at least equally as important as recs and research. Having the first two but missing the last two, or vice versa, puts you at a major disadvantage. You need to be well-rounded. Check the profile threads and see for yourself.

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 1:22 am

Research seems to make the difference between those with Fellowships and those with TA/RA's though.

Yea I agree with the PGRE and GPA comment. People like to be naive about grad admissions but really it is still very much a numbers game like undergrad the only difference are the that you replace HS GPA with UGPA and SAT I with PGRE.
Recommendations tend to be a given due to inflation. I suppose if you can get your recommender to call the admissions chair that might be useful but otherwise everyone probably looks the same.

yet again the obligatory astro seems to be slightly different warning.

activegalaxybuff
Posts: 32
Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:38 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby activegalaxybuff » Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:08 am

cato88 wrote:Recommendations tend to be a given due to inflation.


Don't always assume that. I've heard several stories (from the people this happened to) about students asking professors who they thought would give them excellent recommendations and, instead, the person warned every school not to accept that person. This seems rather unprofessional to me and ideally they should have kind declined to write the letter, but it's still a possibility. All letters are not necessarily equal!

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:25 am

activegalaxybuff wrote:Don't always assume that. I've heard several stories (from the people this happened to) about students asking professors who they thought would give them excellent recommendations and, instead, the person warned every school not to accept that person. This seems rather unprofessional to me and ideally they should have kind declined to write the letter, but it's still a possibility. All letters are not necessarily equal!

Yeah but thats the rare case and not worth mentioning because there is no way of preventing that case. If a professor is out to screw you and you ask him for a recommendation youre screwed and you cant do a thing about it. However why in the world are you that socially inept that you cant differentiate your friends from enemies. If you really need to be told not to asks professors who will screw you for recommendations I would assume you also need to be told not to let sexual offenders babysit your children.
Last edited by cato88 on Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

activegalaxybuff
Posts: 32
Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:38 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby activegalaxybuff » Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:33 am

cato88 wrote:
activegalaxybuff wrote:
cato88 wrote:Recommendations tend to be a given due to inflation.


Don't always assume that. I've heard several stories (from the people this happened to) about students asking professors who they thought would give them excellent recommendations and, instead, the person warned every school not to accept that person. This seems rather unprofessional to me and ideally they should have kind declined to write the letter, but it's still a possibility. All letters are not necessarily equal!

Yeah but thats the rare case and not worth mentioning because there is no way of preventing that case. If a professor is out to screw you and you ask him for a recommendation youre screwed and you cant do a thing about it. However why in the world are you that socially inept that you cant differentiate your friends from enemies. If you really need to be told not to asks professors who will screw you for recommendations I would assume you also need to be told not to let sexual offenders babysit your children.


Lmao. Actually, the most outstanding case of this I've heard of was a student who did an REU in astronomy, published a paper from it, and then asked the professor, who he got along with quite well, to write a letter. He had no idea that the professor wrote any of that until someone on an admissions committee broke the news to him that that was the ONLY reason why he was rejected, despite his near perfect GPA and outstanding PGRE score. He reapplied the following year and got at least three offers I know of, two from schools that rejected him the year before.

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:38 am

cato88 wrote:However why in the world are you that socially inept that you cant differentiate your friends from enemies.

activegalaxybuff
Posts: 32
Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:38 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby activegalaxybuff » Sun Mar 15, 2009 4:01 am

cato88 wrote:
cato88 wrote:However why in the world are you that socially inept that you cant differentiate your friends from enemies.

I don't know about you, but most physicists and astronomers I know are, in fact, socially inept. No need to rub it in!

sonikajohri
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 2:01 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby sonikajohri » Sun Mar 15, 2009 9:09 am

A case I know of:

"When I think of X, nothing comes to mind....."

The person for whom this was written suspected something fishy and opened the envelope and read this.

Also, for international students: Please ignore the GPAs you see on this forum. Atleast in India, its not possible to get those kind of GPAs and neither is it necessary. In many of my classes, a B- or C is intentionally the average grade kept by the professor. The people in the admissions committee do know this.

pqortic
Posts: 398
Joined: Fri Aug 29, 2008 9:24 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby pqortic » Sun Mar 15, 2009 9:48 am

if you are International and economic crisis is continuing do not go through seriously.

tensorwhat
Posts: 54
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:33 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby tensorwhat » Sun Mar 15, 2009 10:49 am

Nice discussion, I see that some people would like to stress the importance of GPA, PGRE over everything else.

I guess in the end, no one will ever know quite what this or that school will do exactly in weighing the importance of each. However, at most top grad schools the overwhelming majority of applicants are people with at least 85th%ile GPA & PGRE, so if you have a pile of GPA's and PGRE scores that are all the same, how can you differentiate those candidates? Its very difficult to know what an A at one institution is vs. an A at another might be, the PGRE is a nice tool to 'filter' since it is an equal measure for each person taking it!

Also, whos to say that all those 85th%ile applicants don't also have incredible research, these people in theory should all be given positions, they seem like hardworking individuals with the motivation required for grad school......

There does exist a trend in the physics (albeit slowly fading away now, but some of it remains today) world of academia that the people who've come before us tend to gravitate toward, which is of the mindset that the people who havent worked equally as hard or suffered as much shouldnt be allowed the same opportunities, a 'good old boy' physics mentality.......I'm not being broad when I say this, but, this kind of attitude could determine one person getting a position over another (who failed to meet these kinds of standards for a committee member etc etc)

So anyways, the example of what I had heard at the end of my original post is true somewhere, but I'm doubtful its everywhere.


This is just to point out the importance of the things that may not seem as important, so make sure you've got stellar letters and statements! :mrgreen:

User avatar
elzoido238
Posts: 37
Joined: Sun Dec 14, 2008 2:51 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby elzoido238 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:38 pm

activegalaxybuff wrote:I've heard several stories (from the people this happened to) about students asking professors who they thought would give them excellent recommendations and, instead, the person warned every school not to accept that person.


I have also heard of this happening. In fact, I heard (from another professor) that one of the professors I asked to write a recommendation had done this to one of the students he had written a recommendation for. The professor in question had written a recommendation for several students, so I don't know I was the one to receive the poor recommendation (I don't think it was because I got accepted to one of the schools he wrote a recommendation to), but there's still that nagging doubt. The professor that told me about this said that having a bad recommendation can be the kiss of death for your application, and I would have to agree. If you were on a selection committee and you were looking at two very similar applications, but one application had a recommendation letter saying "don't accept this guy," you would pick the one with the positive recommendation. Most universities get so many more applications than the number of positions they have available that the selection committee is just looking for a reason to reject an application, and a poor recommendation is plenty of reason to do so. I'm glad this was brought up; it hasn't really been talked about on this site, and it's something you should be aware of if you are considering applying for graduate school in 2010.

tensorwhat
Posts: 54
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:33 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby tensorwhat » Sun Mar 15, 2009 1:05 pm

I should've added this at the top of my post, but....I would have to say all of what I'm writing is from an underdog's perspective. I am by no means a top student academically, I try to be my own devil's advocate along with others' advice but I like to at least show prospective students that some blemishes won't be your death, because people who are truly motivated to do science should be given the chance :wink:

So take it as read that while I don't have a bias against perfect students, I try to take everyone into account and mesh it with what experiences I've been privy to. I also don't weave a false impression of reality upon my situation, I try to understand what my limitations are due to my circumstances and I will keep within those bounds and accept it =]

My situation is different from most, which I guess you'll see eventually....so we'll see what happens to me :shock:

mhazelm
Posts: 193
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 3:33 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby mhazelm » Sun Mar 15, 2009 1:44 pm

My comment is:

Ace the GREs (at least do above average). Plan to get above 65 percentile on the PGRE if you're a domestic student. Plan to get 800 on the QGRE.

At my school, professors told us all the time "GREs are old and outdated, no one uses them anyway, so just have good grades and good research experience." By the time I figured out that scores actually were important it was too late. And I'm pretty confident that they were the only thing that kept me out of 2/3 the schools I applied to. Don't underestimate their importance.

And don't forget to study for the QGRE, as you may have forgotten basic polygon crap when you were working on covariant derivatives. As to being a math major as well, no one cares if you know Galois theory or analysis or found a solution to the Einstein equations, they just care about your numbers and your recommendation letters. It seems that admissions committees tend to be somewhat nearsighted in evaluating applicants (at some schools they must be because the volume of applicants is so large, I guess).

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:05 pm

mhazelm wrote:At my school, professors told us all the time "GREs are old and outdated, no one uses them anyway, so just have good grades and good research experience." By the time I figured out that scores actually were important it was too late. And I'm pretty confident that they were the only thing that kept me out of 2/3 the schools I applied to. Don't underestimate their importance.


I think most schools tell their students that and I believe they mean it in the same way it is meant for SAT's if youre in the 90+% percentile dont worry about having to retake the exams for only 50 scaled points more. Example if you have 940 PGRE dont worry about obtaining a 990 or for SAT if you have a 760 dont worry about having an 800. If youre professors dont mean that they are lying to you.
However it seems that there is a greater percentage that believes standardized test dont matter in grad school than undergrad so they take the advice as pretty much dont worry about it unless you bombed.

User avatar
Kaiser_Sose
Posts: 48
Joined: Sun Sep 28, 2008 11:20 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby Kaiser_Sose » Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:36 pm

So basically what I've gathered is this:

It's all about the easily quantifiable stuff, like the GRE, PGRE and GPA. Except when it's not.

It's really all about rec. letters and research experience and the above stuff isn't that important. Sometimes.

All the graduate schools are pretty much looking for the same thing. Mostly.

That about right?

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:52 pm

Kaiser_Sose wrote:So basically what I've gathered is this:

It's all about the easily quantifiable stuff, like the GRE, PGRE and GPA. Except when it's not.

It's really all about rec. letters and research experience and the above stuff isn't that important. Sometimes.

All the graduate schools are pretty much looking for the same thing. Mostly.

That about right?


Yeah pretty much , but as quizivex pointed the people who say that GPA/PGRE/GRE dont matter are full of crap if there talking about top programs and not just the top 20 and all you have to do to verify that their full of it is look at the results section or profiles.

tensorwhat
Posts: 54
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:33 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby tensorwhat » Sun Mar 15, 2009 3:00 pm

Kaiser_Sose wrote:So basically what I've gathered is this:

It's all about the easily quantifiable stuff, like the GRE, PGRE and GPA. Except when it's not.

It's really all about rec. letters and research experience and the above stuff isn't that important. Sometimes.

All the graduate schools are pretty much looking for the same thing. Mostly.

That about right?


I wouldn't make it that confusing, I don't think there is a recipe for any of this, but the people who stand by numbers will defend them, and people who stand by more than just the numbers defend their view. Then again, this is why I love our education system, too bad its not the 50's anymore :lol:

User avatar
WontonBurritoMeals
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:43 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby WontonBurritoMeals » Sun Mar 15, 2009 3:11 pm

It's pretty hard, quizivex, to use the information on this site to give evidence towards or against the importance of rec. letters because there's no way for students to post how good their rec letters are.

However, the statistics shows a very strong bias towards publications, especially first author publications. Last year, butsurigakusha had perfect PGRE, was domestic, and had a strong GPA but was still rejected from most of the places he applied to. So obviously the other factors like publications, and letters have some substantial impact.

May the wind be always at your back,
-WontonBurritoMeals

WakkaDojo
Posts: 41
Joined: Sat Dec 06, 2008 11:10 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby WakkaDojo » Sun Mar 15, 2009 3:25 pm

I think you have identified a correlation between those with publications and those that get into good schools. It seems to me like this is merely identifying that good students get publications, but that in no way implies that the publications are the reason behind admitting these students.

It's not the publication that sells the student, it's the other credentials of the type of student who can get published.

User avatar
WontonBurritoMeals
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:43 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby WontonBurritoMeals » Sun Mar 15, 2009 3:35 pm

Well if you can correlate people with a strong publication record, but without the associated good test scores or grades, then we can probably infer a causal relation, no?

But even with the many profiles, it's hard to find this.

Full disclosure: I'll probably be one of these students.

May the wind be always at your back,
-WontonBurritoMeals

User avatar
Kaiser_Sose
Posts: 48
Joined: Sun Sep 28, 2008 11:20 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby Kaiser_Sose » Sun Mar 15, 2009 3:50 pm

The first thing I learned in stats was that correlation does not imply causality.

Anecdotal corollaries:

http://xkcd.com/552/

http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/02/03/082237&from=rss

User avatar
WontonBurritoMeals
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:43 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby WontonBurritoMeals » Sun Mar 15, 2009 4:01 pm

Well, yes. It is possible that getting into grad. school can improve your GPA and PGRE scores.

May the wind be always at your back,
-WontonBurritoMeals

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 4:27 pm

WontonBurritoMeals wrote:It's pretty hard, quizivex, to use the information on this site to give evidence towards or against the importance of rec. letters because there's no way for students to post how good their rec letters are.

However, the statistics shows a very strong bias towards publications, especially first author publications. Last year, butsurigakusha had perfect PGRE, was domestic, and had a strong GPA but was still rejected from most of the places he applied to. So obviously the other factors like publications, and letters have some substantial impact.

May the wind be always at your back,
-WontonBurritoMeals

You cant use one sample to make a point. His results are still pretty good he did get into Berkeley. No matter how much emphasis is put on stats and how great your stats are your probably not going to have a clean sweep in admissions especially if your applying to primarily top schools. SAT's/GPA are obviously important for undergrad yet a 4.0 and 2400 isnt going to guarantee admission into all top 5 however your extremely likely to get into one or a few. The same could be said of stats for grad.

Nobody is going to debate the fact that a bad recommendation can sink you but outside of that case they all seem to pretty much the same.

tensorwhat
Posts: 54
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:33 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby tensorwhat » Sun Mar 15, 2009 4:39 pm

I think its safe to frankly state that, this seems to be an argument between extremely strong students who feel a sense of entitlement vs. seemingly lackluster students with strong motivations who want the same opportunities.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't need to jump through the educational hoops that are set up today, I find that the limits on what is and isnt important fairly disturbing. This is the point where entitled people feel the need to defend, and why wouldn't you defend the system that covets you so highly?

I think Isaac Asimov had one of the best views on this very subject.

1.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CwUuU6C4pk

2.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJAIERgWhZQ

3.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEHtt5sGbTw

activegalaxybuff
Posts: 32
Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:38 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby activegalaxybuff » Sun Mar 15, 2009 5:24 pm

I also wanted to stress the importance of the statement of purpose. It's not just a way to communicate what research you've done and who you want to work with! It's a way to tell the school what you're all about.

For example, right now in astronomy, a survey was just released detailing all of the major projects astronomers are planning for the next decade (i.e. the James Webb Space Telescope, etc.). The survey also indicates that there are not enough astronomers now, and given graduate school admission/matriculation rates, will not be enough astronomers in the future to accomplish all of these tasks. So, graduate programs have now started to closely look at the statement to see what the person's career objectives are and if they intend to really stay in astronomy (another problem as of late). Why give a Ph.D. to someone who just has an interest in astronomy and then plans to just work in corporate America?

Also, a certain head of an admissions committee told my school's undergrads once that while most schools tell you that your statement is a place where you can explain deficiencies and anomalies in your application, they really don't want to hear about it. So, be careful with how you write it! In my opinion, it's best to come off confident about your abilities but not cocky. Don't tell the school that you're going to be the best thing that has happened to them either. I simply wrote that I know I'm an excellent candidate for graduate studies and hope that, given my prior experience and skills, the admissions committee will agree.
Last edited by activegalaxybuff on Sun Mar 15, 2009 6:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 6:08 pm

tensorwhat wrote:I think its safe to frankly state that, this seems to be an argument between extremely strong students who feel a sense of entitlement vs. seemingly lackluster students with strong motivations who want the same opportunities.

Your oversimplifying and making assumptions about those defending stats.
Explain the results of students with great qualifications except for PGRE who are rejected from most schools.
A good example is mhazelm id be willing to bet with a 800+ PGRE you would see a big difference on her results.

tensorwhat
Posts: 54
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:33 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby tensorwhat » Sun Mar 15, 2009 7:08 pm

I think my generalization stands when you look at the people who defend the numbers vs. those that do not. Also, I don't think its fair or necessary to base a claim off of one or two people on this forum, it could've been their rec letters, or statements that made that decision final - I think its more important to at least just realize that no one can for certain tell you how important one thing or another is to a particular grad school until we have that information specifically.

So with that said........just keep on truckin' =]

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 7:56 pm

tensorwhat wrote:I think my generalization stands when you look at the people who defend the numbers vs. those that do not.

Ive known and seen people on this forum in math and physics who didnt do as well on the math and physics subject test respectively and didnt apply to as many safety and were straight out rejected only to raise their subject scores and reapply to the same set and be accepted. What is one supposed to think then ignore the obvious close their eyes, plug their ears and pretend like the subject scores dont matter and obviously all of these werent extremely strong students otherwise they probably wouldnt have been unanimously rejected. There are also all the people on this forum with little in terms of physics courses in their transcripts and high PGRE scores who get into pretty good programs and were supposed to pretend PGRE do not matter.

tensorwhat
Posts: 54
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:33 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby tensorwhat » Sun Mar 15, 2009 9:03 pm

I don't think my argument is staking a claim to the importance of the PGRE, just that it seems people may heedlessly come to the conclusion that its a deal breaker - which I'm sure it may be for some cases.....however I do not think it deserves such a compulsory degree of distress.

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 9:35 pm

tensorwhat wrote:I don't think my argument is staking a claim to the importance of the PGRE, just that it seems people may heedlessly come to the conclusion that its a deal breaker - which I'm sure it may be for some cases.....however I do not think it deserves such a compulsory degree of distress.

It is a deal breaker for the very top schools. I have never heard of someone being accepted into a top 5 program with a 500 range PGRE despite strong/perfect GPA research experience outside of some extenuating circumstance like your Allan Guth recommendation saying that you are the second coming of christ ie something so good you are having an agent of a large importance in contact with the admissions committee in contact for you on a regular basis during the progress.

tensorwhat
Posts: 54
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:33 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby tensorwhat » Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:06 pm

I agree with what you mentioned for top schools, but I'm speaking way more generally than 'the top'.......I think most people would (depending on how hung up on this whole charade they are) be happy to get into a solid program in a locale that they desire, with a satisfying selection of research to be involved with :mrgreen:

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:19 pm

The top schools provide the clearest case but even for the top 80 schools the PGRE matters. If you send an e-mail to professors and graduate program e-mails as a prospective applicant you occasionally get detailed responses and some of those I have received have included average PGRE and preferred PGRE minimum which is 650 for one and for other programs I have had responses that say the same only with the addition that their previous experience has shown that those that score below or around the minimum have trouble passing qualifiers hence the large amount of reservations to admitting those with low PGRE.

Yes for some schools you dont even need the PGRE but the majority do require it.

tokamak
Posts: 25
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2007 4:40 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby tokamak » Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:17 am

activegalaxybuff wrote:I also wanted to stress the importance of the statement of purpose. It's not just a way to communicate what research you've done and who you want to work with! It's a way to tell the school what you're all about.

For example, right now in astronomy, a survey was just released detailing all of the major projects astronomers are planning for the next decade (i.e. the James Webb Space Telescope, etc.). The survey also indicates that there are not enough astronomers now, and given graduate school admission/matriculation rates, will not be enough astronomers in the future to accomplish all of these tasks. So, graduate programs have now started to closely look at the statement to see what the person's career objectives are and if they intend to really stay in astronomy (another problem as of late). Why give a Ph.D. to someone who just has an interest in astronomy and then plans to just work in corporate America?

Also, a certain head of an admissions committee told my school's undergrads once that while most schools tell you that your statement is a place where you can explain deficiencies and anomalies in your application, they really don't want to hear about it. So, be careful with how you write it! In my opinion, it's best to come off confident about your abilities but not cocky. Don't tell the school that you're going to be the best thing that has happened to them either. I simply wrote that I know I'm an excellent candidate for graduate studies and hope that, given my prior experience and skills, the admissions committee will agree.


...you simply wrote that you are an excellent candidate graduate student...and that wouldn't be cocky???...I don't know man, may be I come from different culture or I may have a confidence issue but I would never say that.....

sonikajohri
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 2:01 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby sonikajohri » Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:37 am

mhazelm wrote:My comment is:

Ace the GREs (at least do above average). Plan to get above 65 percentile on the PGRE if you're a domestic student. Plan to get 800 on the QGRE.

At my school, professors told us all the time "GREs are old and outdated, no one uses them anyway, so just have good grades and good research experience." By the time I figured out that scores actually were important it was too late. And I'm pretty confident that they were the only thing that kept me out of 2/3 the schools I applied to. Don't underestimate their importance.

And don't forget to study for the QGRE, as you may have forgotten basic polygon crap when you were working on covariant derivatives. As to being a math major as well, no one cares if you know Galois theory or analysis or found a solution to the Einstein equations, they just care about your numbers and your recommendation letters. It seems that admissions committees tend to be somewhat nearsighted in evaluating applicants (at some schools they must be because the volume of applicants is so large, I guess).



If there was no PGRE, how would you compare applicants from different schools? Its not perfect but its better than nothing. Its a fairly simple exam which tests all basic areas of physics that you are supposed to know as an undergrad. Becoming too specialised as an undergrad itself and knowing a lot about one area of physics and forgetting about others may not be too good for your future career as a physicist because ultimately everything is inter-related. The exam gives you a good excuse to revise the areas in which you might have have gotten musty.

And whats there to "forget about polygon crap"? As far as I remember, the questions on the QGRE are simple enough to get the answers on the spot from first principles.

YF17A
Posts: 94
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 4:42 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby YF17A » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:07 am

WakkaDojo wrote:I think you have identified a correlation between those with publications and those that get into good schools. It seems to me like this is merely identifying that good students get publications, but that in no way implies that the publications are the reason behind admitting these students.


I might as well add my two cents...I was told explicitly from the director of graduate studies at a top-5 school that the reason my application was so strong was that I had several publications (theory, not experiment). Now, I'm not going to deny that my decent PGRE score helped, but I think the often-repeated maxim "GRE's and GPA's will keep you out, but research and letters will get you in" is as true as it gets.

activegalaxybuff
Posts: 32
Joined: Fri Mar 06, 2009 5:38 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby activegalaxybuff » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:56 am

tokamak wrote:...you simply wrote that you are an excellent candidate graduate student...and that wouldn't be cocky???...I don't know man, may be I come from different culture or I may have a confidence issue but I would never say that.....


Well, I'm paraphrasing there. I don't think that's verbatim what I said, but it's pretty much the gist. And every professor I had look over my statement said that they thought that was a nice touch which showed that I'm confident in myself, but not telling them that I'm too good for them. After all, meekness is not something, at least in astronomy, the graduate programs like.

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 5:10 am

tokamak wrote:...you simply wrote that you are an excellent candidate graduate student...and that wouldn't be cocky???...I don't know man, may be I come from different culture or I may have a confidence issue but I would never say that.....

If youre going to write anything about yourself it better be that youre outstanding otherwise what do you expect to write

Dear Harvard Physics,
I am an ok student but I like physics can I have a PhD

or

Dear Average Physics PhD Program,
Im an average student youre an average school how about we get together
and make a PhD out of it.

blackcat007
Posts: 378
Joined: Wed Mar 26, 2008 9:14 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby blackcat007 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:02 am

quizivex wrote:Some people here and some profs will insist that research experience and recs are more important than GPAs and GREs. It may be for a few particular schools or individual committee members, but overall it's WRONG. Just looking at the profile threads will show you how important GPAs and test scores are.

Telling students research and recs matter most could be a ploy profs use to get more students to give more of their time to them. Also, since so many students do terribly on the GRE, people say that to keep them motivated.

I've heard it said by one of the administrators at PPPL that seemingly everyone has extensive research experience and glowing letters. (If you can't find 3 people who will write positive things about you, you need to see a shrink.) So, coursework and GREs are often the deciding factor.

Rec letters are so subjective to begin with, and often depend more on the prof than the student. Some profs write better letters than others.

"Research experience" is ambigious because it's difficult to tell how much work was really produced by the student and it's often a matter of luck who ends up in a productive lab. And it's hard to compare one student's work over another. So these two guys worked in labs for a few semesters and have their names on two papers and presented some stuff. Who's better?... But the GPAs and GREs are numerical and much easier to evaluate.

GPAs represent 4 years of hard work and a mastery of undergrad physics and math material. Would you think a student who was co-author on a quantum info article but got a C+ in intro quantum really was a driving force in the research? Oh but his advisor wrote, "He's a wonderful student!" big whoop. OTOH, would you turn down a student who did great his undergrad courses but wasn't fortunate enough to get his name on a paper? Further, the GRE is the most objective of all the items.

So GPAs and GREs are at least equally as important as recs and research. Having the first two but missing the last two, or vice versa, puts you at a major disadvantage. You need to be well-rounded. Check the profile threads and see for yourself.

what about people with GPA whose major is not physics.. like mine engineering. and that too.. here we have absolute grading.. so although my OGPA is 7.45/10 , our highest ogpa is around 8.2 .. can anyone edify me in this regard?

mhazelm
Posts: 193
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 3:33 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby mhazelm » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:22 am

sonikajohri wrote:
mhazelm wrote:My comment is:

Ace the GREs (at least do above average). Plan to get above 65 percentile on the PGRE if you're a domestic student. Plan to get 800 on the QGRE.

At my school, professors told us all the time "GREs are old and outdated, no one uses them anyway, so just have good grades and good research experience." By the time I figured out that scores actually were important it was too late. And I'm pretty confident that they were the only thing that kept me out of 2/3 the schools I applied to. Don't underestimate their importance.

And don't forget to study for the QGRE, as you may have forgotten basic polygon crap when you were working on covariant derivatives. As to being a math major as well, no one cares if you know Galois theory or analysis or found a solution to the Einstein equations, they just care about your numbers and your recommendation letters. It seems that admissions committees tend to be somewhat nearsighted in evaluating applicants (at some schools they must be because the volume of applicants is so large, I guess).



If there was no PGRE, how would you compare applicants from different schools? Its not perfect but its better than nothing. Its a fairly simple exam which tests all basic areas of physics that you are supposed to know as an undergrad. Becoming too specialised as an undergrad itself and knowing a lot about one area of physics and forgetting about others may not be too good for your future career as a physicist because ultimately everything is inter-related. The exam gives you a good excuse to revise the areas in which you might have have gotten musty.

And whats there to "forget about polygon crap"? As far as I remember, the questions on the QGRE are simple enough to get the answers on the spot from first principles.


yeah yeah yeah, it's just an example. It IS a simple test. What I meant was that if you don't do practice tests, and you panic because your brain is f***ed up, then you might screw up something trivially simple. Apparently this never happens to you; I guess I just have bad karma or something. All I know is 1) I panicked big time in the general GRE, and 2) my scores suck, so apparently my anxiety and lack of taking a practice tests before the real thing did not help me. Who knows, maybe I am a savant and can only do higher level abstract math, but am a total moron when it comes to the basics. I don't know or care. I do pretty damned well in my courses, so clearly I have mastered the essential basics. The whole thing just pisses me off.

sonikajohri
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 2:01 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby sonikajohri » Mon Mar 16, 2009 12:43 pm

mhazelm wrote:
sonikajohri wrote:
mhazelm wrote:My comment is:

Ace the GREs (at least do above average). Plan to get above 65 percentile on the PGRE if you're a domestic student. Plan to get 800 on the QGRE.

At my school, professors told us all the time "GREs are old and outdated, no one uses them anyway, so just have good grades and good research experience." By the time I figured out that scores actually were important it was too late. And I'm pretty confident that they were the only thing that kept me out of 2/3 the schools I applied to. Don't underestimate their importance.

And don't forget to study for the QGRE, as you may have forgotten basic polygon crap when you were working on covariant derivatives. As to being a math major as well, no one cares if you know Galois theory or analysis or found a solution to the Einstein equations, they just care about your numbers and your recommendation letters. It seems that admissions committees tend to be somewhat nearsighted in evaluating applicants (at some schools they must be because the volume of applicants is so large, I guess).



If there was no PGRE, how would you compare applicants from different schools? Its not perfect but its better than nothing. Its a fairly simple exam which tests all basic areas of physics that you are supposed to know as an undergrad. Becoming too specialised as an undergrad itself and knowing a lot about one area of physics and forgetting about others may not be too good for your future career as a physicist because ultimately everything is inter-related. The exam gives you a good excuse to revise the areas in which you might have have gotten musty.

And whats there to "forget about polygon crap"? As far as I remember, the questions on the QGRE are simple enough to get the answers on the spot from first principles.


yeah yeah yeah, it's just an example. It IS a simple test. What I meant was that if you don't do practice tests, and you panic because your brain is f***ed up, then you might screw up something trivially simple. Apparently this never happens to you; I guess I just have bad karma or something. All I know is 1) I panicked big time in the general GRE, and 2) my scores suck, so apparently my anxiety and lack of taking a practice tests before the real thing did not help me. Who knows, maybe I am a savant and can only do higher level abstract math, but am a total moron when it comes to the basics. I don't know or care. I do pretty damned well in my courses, so clearly I have mastered the essential basics. The whole thing just pisses me off.


1. Don't Panic: You're right. I haven't ever been in a situation important enough to cause mind-numbing panic so I'm no one to pass judgement.
2. Practice: It makes perfect.

astrofan
Posts: 140
Joined: Mon Feb 11, 2008 12:55 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby astrofan » Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:32 pm

Just to add my advice, as you can see from my profile, I struggle with standardized exams. Both my QGRE and PGRE scores were terrible. It started with the AP Calculus exam I took in high school, and continued through SATs and SAT IIs I had to take multiple times to get a decent enough score. Time is really my enemy and always has been; my brain just takes a hell of a lot longer to process even simple problems than normal people (which showed through in classes as well).

Anyway, there are ways around it. The more specific you can be in what you want to study, the easier it is to find a good program for you. The person you work for is much more important than the school you go too. There are great professors who are at smaller schools as well.

For example, one of my interests is studying supernovae. Working with Adam Reiss (he is at JHU, and was first author on the 1998 paper that reported the expansion rate of the universe was increasing) would be great, but working with Nicholas Suntzeff (he is at Texas A&M, and was a coauthor on that 1998 paper) is basically the same. The only real difference is at JHU, there is HST and plenty of other astronomers I could work with if I change my mind, where as at Texas A&M I would not have as much flexibility. I am sure it is the same for many other fields of physics, so it is something to consider.

tokamak
Posts: 25
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2007 4:40 pm

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby tokamak » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:13 pm

cato88 wrote:
tokamak wrote:...you simply wrote that you are an excellent candidate graduate student...and that wouldn't be cocky???...I don't know man, may be I come from different culture or I may have a confidence issue but I would never say that.....

If youre going to write anything about yourself it better be that youre outstanding otherwise what do you expect to write

Dear Harvard Physics,
I am an ok student but I like physics can I have a PhD

or

Dear Average Physics PhD Program,
Im an average student youre an average school how about we get together
and make a PhD out of it.



what if you have a couple of first author PRL , 4 GPA, 990 Pgre and 800 Qgre and decent recommendations....no need to get cocky....Harvard will definetly let you in with that sort of letter...otherwise they are not worth attending....my point is that you just present evidence not be a fuc.king judge....

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby cato88 » Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:39 am

tokamak wrote:what if you have a couple of first author PRL , 4 GPA, 990 Pgre and 800 Qgre and decent recommendations....no need to get cocky....Harvard will definetly let you in with that sort of letter...otherwise they are not worth attending....my point is that you just present evidence not be a fuc.king judge....

Well if you have those qualifications you could try sending in a blank statement and you could still possibly be let in otherwise
tokamak wrote:Harvard will definetly let you in with that sort of letter...otherwise they are not worth attending

valkyrie
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 11:50 am

Re: General tips for people applying 2010

Postby valkyrie » Thu Mar 19, 2009 10:11 am

quizivex wrote:Some people here and some profs will insist that research experience and recs are more important than GPAs and GREs. It may be for a few particular schools or individual committee members, but overall it's WRONG. Just looking at the profile threads will show you how important GPAs and test scores are.

Telling students research and recs matter most could be a ploy profs use to get more students to give more of their time to them. Also, since so many students do terribly on the GRE, people say that to keep them motivated.


The advice I was given from most professors is that for the top programs, research experience and letters are what gets you in while GPA and test scores are things that might keep you out. (In particular, I was told to aim for 80th percentile or higher on the PGRE, but that beyond that, test scores didn't really matter.) I would argue that research experience and letters are perhaps "more important" in that sense, but I think it's obvious from the profile threads that grades and scores definitely hurt a lot of people.




Return to “Prospective Physics Graduate Student Topics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 2 guests