Last year I applied to various schools for Astronomy PhD programs, and did not get in. This year I am changing a few schools and reapplying to some schools from last year. A few brief stats:
GPA 3.6 (Physics 3.42)
Research Exp: 3 summers' worth, two doing observational astronomy and 1 doing nuclear experimental stuff, including work with the NSCL MoNA collaboration
Rec Letters: Presumably pretty good. I have continued to maintain great relationships with my professors and have subbed for them teaching their classes on a few occasions.
Other stuff: Physics research award, pres. scholarship, dean's list 5/8 semesters, BS cum laude in Physics
My application overall is a lot stronger than it was last year, so I was pretty confident. Then I called ETS on Monday to find out my PGRE score: 560. This is actually the same score I got last year with no prep. Not sure how the second one happened given how much more prep went into it, how much more confident I was afterward, etc. Who knows. Can't do anything about it at this point.
My questions then, are as follows:
-Does anyone think I need to edit the list of schools to which I'm applying. After searching the 2009 profiles, it seems that people get accepted to these schools based primarily on PGRE and GPA, my two weakest links.
USC (HEP Theory)
U. Washington Physics (Particle Theory)
U. Arizona Physics (Theoretical Astrophysics)
U. Colorado Boulder (Gravity/Nuclear/HEP)
MSU Physics (Nuclear Astrophysics)
UMD Physics (Gravity)
I could probably easily convince my profs to write one more letter to a lower-tier school to which acceptance would be guaranteed. I'm thinking I still have maybe a long shot at some of the schools and a decent shot at USC given my research experience and at MSU given that I worked there a bit over the summer.
-Should I bring up either my PGRE score or the fact that this is my second application to graduate study? I'm torn between sweeping the PGRE under the rug and just focusing on what I do have to offer or addressing it briefly as an outlier in an otherwise decent offering. And as far as second application goes, would mention of it hurt or help ("couldn't do it the first time" v. "very committed to going")?
Maybe this is rather long for a first post. Apologies if so and thanks in advance for any pending advice.