Concerns regarding my admits

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jaybhambure
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun May 28, 2017 8:43 am

Concerns regarding my admits

Postby jaybhambure » Sun May 28, 2017 2:23 pm

Hello everyone, Iam new here and this is my first post. The following thing that iam going to write is not generic and hence no other post from the forum answers my questions. Hence kindly take some time to read my situation and help me if possible.

Iam from India and in 2004 I completed by high school (12th grade). I scored about 90% overall and I wasn't sure what I wanted to pursue. Thus my parents suggested me to take up engineering. Thus I started with by bachelors in electrical engineering but within 2 years I.e. When I reached the second year of engineering, I was super bored with my syllabus and the way engineering works. I wasn't enjoying it, but I had realised that I wanted the study physics. The problem was that my parents wanted me to continue and complete my engineering degree but I was fed up with it, so I dropped out of college against my parents will. So basically I was a dropout without any resources and jobless. Though I had learned good amount of computer programming, a few months down the line I managed to get a job in a small company where I was writing codes for some applications. I wanted to pursue physics but didn't have the resources to fund myself through the education period hence I first decided to collect money so that I could fund myself. So I continued working for another year. From there onwards I switched the company and worked for SQS (British multinational company in India) for another 2 years. Then I worked with Hewlett and Packard for another 2 years. So in total I worked for about 5 and a half years and finally collected the money to put myself through a physics degree. In 2012 I quit my job and enrolled myself for a bachelors in physics at the university of pune. I completed by bachelors in physics in 2015 and I stood 1st at the university (gold medalist, and other 4 scholarships and awards). Immediately after this I enrolled myself at the masters program for physics at the university of pune itself and completed my masters this year in 2017. This time I stood 2nd (silver medalist).

During this entire period i went through a lot of struggle. I had to stay away from my parents and relatives. At times I didn't have enough money for food. Hence I had to make choices between buying a book for skipping my lunches for a few days. All in all it was a very dire situation but somehow I managed to pull myself through all this, and study physics and understand it along with getting good grades. Now I have decided to apply for a PhD in high energy physics at a few universities in USA.

Now since u know a few things about my life I have a few questions
1. Should I write all this in my sop or should I completely avoid it?
2. Will all these lost years and gaps in education affect my admissions?
3. Iam 32 years old and hence I wanna know if my age affects my admissions.
4. I'll be giving my general Gre and physics Gre in a few months and i know that roughly I'll score 320/340 and 900/990 will that be enough?
5. The professors who are willing to write my recommendations and pretty well known in the Indian community. One of my profs had worked with Richard Feynman when he was doing his post doc. So his recommendation will help me.
6. Is there anything else that iam missing or something that I should work on to make sure that my admits go smooth.

Iam really eager to learn and pursue physics as a career and iam willing to go the distance against all odds. I just need to make sure that somehow I get through some good university in USA. Hence I need help from you guys with whatever inputs that u can provide.

Thanking you in anticipation
Jay

bfollinprm
Posts: 1203
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Concerns regarding my admits

Postby bfollinprm » Wed May 31, 2017 1:50 pm

1. Should I write all this in my sop or should I completely avoid it?


You should definitely, in your SoP, let the school know that to study physics you were forced to drop out, earn money, and re-enroll as a self-funded student, because that shows huge dedication to the field (that's the main point of an SoP). How deep into the rest you get is up to you--the above is the main point, and I wouldn't detract from it too much. Consider your goal--you aren't trying to evoke sympathy, but present yourself as someone who is highly motivated to study physics.

It's also important to focus on things that are quantifiable/concrete and nominally easy to follow up on: for instance, "My desire to study physics did not have the support of my family, which meant I needed to put my education on hiatus to earn enough money to self-fund the degree; I took up positions in software development for 5 years to earn enough to complete the degree I earned in 2016" is backed up by your CV/resumé and isn't open to interpretation, while "Studying physics caused me to be estranged from my family" sounds dramatic, isn't easily verifiable and is open to interpretation--did your parents disown you, or was coming home just uncomfortable because everyone was pressuring you to re-enroll as an engineering student? This is why the worst beginning to an SoP is "Ever since I was little I knew I wanted to study Physics." Really? What does that mean? Because when I was little I wanted to farm sea shells, grow a mustache, and become a civil war general.

2. Will all these lost years and gaps in education affect my admissions?


No. The only thing this does is make you older than the average student, and age discrimination is illegal in the US. These gaps happened before your bachelor's degree in Physics, so they are not relevant.

3. I am 32 years old and hence I wanna know if my age affects my admissions.


I think the oldest in my cohort was 55. It shouldn't matter (see above), though I imagine some backwards professors will rant about how research is a young man's game (ironic, since they're self-important old men). Hopefully these people are silenced in the committee.

4. I'll be giving my general Gre and physics Gre in a few months and i know that roughly I'll score 320/340 and 900/990 will that be enough?


Should be fine. Will it guarantee admissions to MIT and the like? No, but nothing short of a first author paper on a major discovery will. Admissions is a bit arbitrary--there are many more qualified applicants to stop schools than slots. You'll definitely get in somewhere, for sure, and the differences between schools 1-10 and 20 - 50 (as long as you pick the schools well) aren't worth fussing over.

5. The professors who are willing to write my recommendations and pretty well known in the Indian community. One of my profs had worked with Richard Feynman when he was doing his post doc. So his recommendation will help me.


It's good that they're writing your recommendations (that's required), but I wouldn't overestimate how much they'll help you. International applicants struggle here, because even the top professors at Indian universities aren't really known in the US. I'm sure that will change as the funding and salary gap lowers, but right now that's the case. It's fine though; really, these recommendations can sometimes be thought of as an alumni recommendation--if your professors went to grad school in the US, they can say they know what it takes, and know you have it.

6. Is there anything else that iam missing or something that I should work on to make sure that my admits go smooth.


  • Find someone to help you with your SoP: your writing here in this post was a little hard to follow. Writing a good essay is an art not everyone has mastered.
  • It's fine to come in to grad school in the US without a specific idea of what you want to study, but knowing this can help focus admissions. It also helps answer the inevitable question on the admissions form asking, "Why do you want to come to XX?" because you can point to the work of particular researchers in your field.
  • Definitely make your programming experience visible. Consider sharing projects on github; a lot of programs recognize the utility of good coding to research progress.

jaybhambure
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun May 28, 2017 8:43 am

Re: Concerns regarding my admits

Postby jaybhambure » Thu Jun 01, 2017 1:57 pm

@bfollinprm - Thankyou so much for your valuable inputs. Definitely, I'll make sure that I incorporate everything that you have cited above in my applications. One more thing, as you have pointed out that my post seemed a bit haphazard and thus my SOP would require refinements, would you be kind enough to help me structure my SOP. I am kinda bad at writing or explaining my point in a concise manner. If you decide to help me with this please do let me know. Thanking you in anticipation.




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