Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

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axiomofchoice
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Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby axiomofchoice » Sat Dec 11, 2010 8:13 pm

With my hope of getting 900+ on the GRE dashed, I'm growing more and more doubtful of my chance. I've been writing down HEP theory/phenomenology as my first interest (also mentioned in passing interest in hep-ex), and I don't know how hard my GRE score in the mid-800's would burn me. I scanned through past profiles for the (n+1)th time; it seems like people applying for hep-th (even CM theory) with GRE score slightly less than mine all got rejects over the board from top schools.

I've been hearing conflicting theories over PGRE scores, e.g. PGRE matters less for girls, PGRE is very important for theory applicants, etc.etc. One of my professors told me to the face that a PGRE score in the high 900 is expected of me...

My profile is over there in the profile thread. What do you think? You think it's time for me to drop some of my schools to save some application fees? Should I emphasize hep-ex more as my interest?

(Can't believe I'm putting out a thread like this. Maybe all I want is commiseration 8) PGRE is the bane of my existence.)

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sat Dec 11, 2010 9:24 pm

This is going to come off as very critical.

First of all, since when is 860 a mediocre GRE score? I can guarantee you there are plenty of people on this forum that would be enthralled with an 860. Even with that, you're also a female. Do a quick run through every application profile on this forum and I guarantee you that you are one of the top scoring females, if not THEE top scoring DOMESTIC female. You have a very good overall profile and to be honest, you look like you're sitting very pretty.

HOWEVER, it bothers me a little bit when people are completely focused about getting into a "top-school". I realize the prestige and stuff that comes along with going to a top school is nice and what not, but truly your success (especially in High-Energy Theory field where collaboration is quite common) is based on your own motivation, NOT the school you are attending. When I look at your list, it is compromised of nearly every school in the top 10. I think it is a little drastic to apply to all of these places, even though by statistics, if you have the money, it may be beneficial.

Personally, what do I think you should do? I would suggest cutting your top schools list down by a few and throw in some obvious safeties, preferably schools that have specific research that you are definitely interested in. This way, if for some reason your *mediocre* 860 does not cut it (which I'm sure it will) you'll have a place to attend graduate school next year. But please, get your head out of the clouds and start realizing that not getting accepted to a top 10 program doesn't mean it's the end of your life.

-Riley

axiomofchoice
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby axiomofchoice » Sat Dec 11, 2010 9:56 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:This is going to come off as very critical.
First of all, since when is 860 a mediocre GRE score? I can guarantee you there are plenty of people on this forum that would be enthralled with an 860. Even with that, you're also a female. Do a quick run through every application profile on this forum and I guarantee you that you are one of the top scoring females, if not THEE top scoring DOMESTIC female. You have a very good overall profile and to be honest, you look like you're sitting very pretty.


No I'm not boasting my score by any mean, but as I mention by looking at the profile threads, 860 is not a good score for hep theory / theory in general as far as I can see. What makes me nervous is some professors I talked to were hinting at that my PGRE score (well my previous one, which is only 30 lower) will limit my choices. And no, I'm not the top scoring domestic female in the profile - there are at least one who scored higher than me, and did not get into any schools that I want to get into (though her situation seems somewhat different).

HOWEVER, it bothers me a little bit when people are completely focused about getting into a "top-school". I realize the prestige and stuff that comes along with going to a top school is nice and what not, but truly your success (especially in High-Energy Theory field where collaboration is quite common) is based on your own motivation, NOT the school you are attending. When I look at your list, it is compromised of nearly every school in the top 10. I think it is a little drastic to apply to all of these places, even though by statistics, if you have the money, it may be beneficial.

Personally, what do I think you should do? I would suggest cutting your top schools list down by a few and throw in some obvious safeties, preferably schools that have specific research that you are definitely interested in. This way, if for some reason your *mediocre* 860 does not cut it (which I'm sure it will) you'll have a place to attend graduate school next year. But please, get your head out of the clouds and start realizing that not getting accepted to a top 10 program doesn't mean it's the end of your life.

-Riley


I'm not intended to get into just top schools, but top school that has potential advisors for what I'm interested at (hep-ph). I talked to professors in the field about which schools to apply to, and the top ones happen to coincide with the generally perceived top schools. I don't have, for example, UCSB or Caltech on my list because they don't fit my interest. If you think in hep-th that only motivation determines success, even without a good advisor to tell you to read the right book/article and pursue a topic that actually leads to somewhere rather than a dead-end, you would be naive...

I can see why you can be critical of some top-school-name-fame hunters, though I do have my reasons. I have connections to and am relatively sure of my chance at one school (say School A) at my list, although at that school I will be doing something not quite my top choice (i.e. hep-ex). Thus all other schools at my list, except for one, are schools that I would go to rather than School A. I have little incentive to apply and waste my money on schools that I would not go to instead of School A. Thus my questions are more focused on: should I drop a few schools on my list, or should I focus on hep-ex more, not on whether my school choices are appropriate :P

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sat Dec 11, 2010 10:04 pm

I suggest you drop at least one school and bet me the application fee of that school. I'll bet for you getting in at least half of the schools you have listed, and you can bet against me that you won't get into that many. ;) This way you can make your school list shorter and I can make some cash. =)

Honestly, I wouldn't change anything. I would sincerely not worry about anything. Express yourself in your applications the best you can and hope for the best. Don't think into it much more than that.

-Riley

kroner
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby kroner » Sat Dec 11, 2010 10:41 pm

I totally agree with WhoaNonstop, and would also like to get in on this wager please.

860 is perfectly fine for top schools. If you have the grades, research experience, recs, etc to back it up you should have a very good shot, and by all accounts it appears that you do. If you don't stop moping and go get into Berkeley or Princeton or something I am seriously going to get really pissed.

axiomofchoice
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby axiomofchoice » Sat Dec 11, 2010 11:30 pm

That's one bet I would love to lose :lol: How about me betting the highest application fee among the schools I apply to? Oh wait.... that Stanford at $125, my top choice. Never mind.

I was seriously depressed for half a day since I bribed ETS to know my score early, but then I got a cup of really delicious hot chocolate. Anyways, off to finish my applications for real now that I stopped calling ETS every day.

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zxcv
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby zxcv » Sun Dec 12, 2010 1:10 am

I think you have an excellent shot and 860 is nothing to be ashamed of. I'm at Berkeley doing theory with my 850 PGRE and your profile may be marginally better than mine. The key is excellent letters of recommendation from respected researchers but I expect you have that covered. And you've even taken the year of QFT before you show up that seems to be almost mandatory to get into a HEP theory group!

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quizivex
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby quizivex » Sun Dec 12, 2010 2:35 pm

axiomofchoice... you seem to be in very good shape. An 860 is not terrible... definitely not going to automatically get you rejected, and the rest of your profile is awesome. Then there's the whole female thing, which not only helps in general but (from what others have said) may specifically boost your GRE score. Your summer research is great... I was rejected by REU's at Wright State, UNLV and Lehigh, so if you got into CERN and an ivy REU you're on the right track.

If the money isn't a burden, I don't see a reason to start dropping schools. (Though if you have strong preferences within the schools you picked, perhaps drop the ones you're less interested in... it always annoyed me when people with perfect profiles would apply to all top 10 schools when they know they'll get into all of them (which they did), and could just have picked the ones they're most interested in... it's not like they're going to visit 8-10 schools anyway.)

vesperlynd
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby vesperlynd » Sun Dec 12, 2010 5:01 pm

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Last edited by vesperlynd on Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:06 pm

vesperlynd wrote:I, on the other hand, have more to worry about.


Poor Oompa Loompas.

-Riley

vesperlynd
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby vesperlynd » Sun Dec 12, 2010 7:08 pm

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Last edited by vesperlynd on Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

axiomofchoice
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby axiomofchoice » Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:45 am

Thanks all for the support. I'm keeping all the schools on my list (sorry kroner and WhoaNonstop :D), and hope that I don't break my bank account. Good luck to all and especially to you, vesperlynd!

Alice
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby Alice » Mon Dec 13, 2010 4:53 pm

I certainly hope you aren't doomed, axiomofchoice, because my profile is rather similar to yours, and we're applying to the same schools in the same subfield, but my PGRE score is 780... :cry:

vesperlynd
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby vesperlynd » Mon Dec 13, 2010 5:30 pm

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Last edited by vesperlynd on Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

CarlBrannen
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby CarlBrannen » Mon Dec 13, 2010 6:29 pm

Regarding going to school in experiment when you want to do theory. It's not a disaster. Consider the case of John Stewart Bell. He got his PhD in experimental high energy but is rather famous for theory:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Stewart_Bell

wmwolf
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby wmwolf » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:42 am

While HEP Theory can have some intense students, your profile is indeed stellar. I was in the 700 club and still got in to a "top-ten" school on a theory ticket. I wouldn't be concerned at all if I were you.

SSM
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby SSM » Thu Dec 30, 2010 1:11 am

WhoaNonstop wrote:HOWEVER, it bothers me a little bit when people are completely focused about getting into a "top-school". I realize the prestige and stuff that comes along with going to a top school is nice and what not, but truly your success (especially in High-Energy Theory field where collaboration is quite common) is based on your own motivation, NOT the school you are attending. When I look at your list, it is compromised of nearly every school in the top 10. I think it is a little drastic to apply to all of these places, even though by statistics, if you have the money, it may be beneficial.


I've been talking to people in my research group about this topic lately, in specific for physics graduate students who are interested in pursuing a career in academia (which would probably apply to a high energy theory student). Although it's true that you can do really well in graduate school at a non top 15 university that is still tier 1 (if you're really motivated, because of lots of collaboration, etc.), but unfortunately the name of the school on your Ph.D does often matter. This is especially true if you're trying to market yourself for the first time as a postdoc or starting out professor, so I've heard. So in some sense getting into a top university does matter for this and I was told to be careful myself since I share your opinion and don't particularly care so much about the prestige factor of my future grad school.

vesperlynd
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby vesperlynd » Thu Dec 30, 2010 5:50 pm

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Last edited by vesperlynd on Wed Mar 02, 2011 1:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

signminus
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby signminus » Fri Dec 31, 2010 5:36 am

vesperlynd wrote:I was told that faculty jobs at the top 50 schools usually go to graduates of top 15 schools, so this supports what you are saying.

It's easy to verify for yourself that this is an accurate statement: try picking your favorite top 50 school, looking them up on Gradschoolshopper, and seeing where the current faculty got their PhDs. It's certainly not impossible to "rank up," but you can't claim that it won't be an uphill battle.

kroner
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby kroner » Fri Dec 31, 2010 12:59 pm

There is a strong correlation between being from a top school and getting a top physics post, but that doesn't necessarily imply that the name of the school you went to is as important as it seems for getting a job (although I'm sure it helps). People who do good work tend to be the ones who get into top programs in the first place (give admissions committees some credit), so there's a correlation between being awesome and being at a top school. Assuming you have some confidence in your abilities you might just come out alright even if your awesomeness doesn't come through on your application or you get "overlooked" by admissions, since presumably being at a higher ranked school probably won't make you a significantly better physicist 5 years down the road. Conversely, if you were awful to begin with and you somehow sucker a top school into taking you, you might still be screwed. Of course it's very hard to actually know how much hiring departments weight where you're coming from, but one would hope the school matters less than the applicant's accomplishments.

kroner
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby kroner » Fri Dec 31, 2010 1:10 pm

Although if you have no idea if you're any good or not, the admissions process is actually a decent way to get some honest feedback from a big panel of supposed experts on what your potential as a physicist looks like. In that case maybe getting into a top school does considerably improve your chances of getting a top job since it increases the prior probability that you were awesome to begin with. This all depends on how much faith you put in the system to accurately evaluate something so amorphous as potential, compared to how you judge it yourself.

signminus
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby signminus » Fri Dec 31, 2010 4:32 pm

kroner wrote:Although if you have no idea if you're any good or not, the admissions process is actually a decent way to get some honest feedback from a big panel of supposed experts on what your potential as a physicist looks like. In that case maybe getting into a top school does considerably improve your chances of getting a top job since it increases the prior probability that you were awesome to begin with.

Yes, I think that's the most reasonable conclusion to draw from the trends I reference above. Your other arguments are also good to point out: one would hope that actual accomplishments weigh more than pedigree in the end. But, who knows how these things actually work...

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Mediocre GRE score and HEP theory. Am I doomed?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Fri Dec 31, 2010 5:24 pm

I agree fully with kroner's statements.

-Riley




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