Where should I apply? Please help!

  • 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.

Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Nov 20, 2006 6:16 pm

Where should I apply? Please help!

Postby alba27 » Mon Nov 20, 2006 8:39 pm

Hi all,

Well I'm kind of in limbo waiting for the November 4th GRE results, but reading most of the posts on this site, I'm a little nervous that my application won't be competitive.

I am an astrophysics and mathematics major from a big 10 university. I have a pretty high GPA of 3.95 and I think my GPA in my major is actually a little higher. I've had one REU experience and I've worked for one of my professors here. I plan on getting great recommendations, and I've had one minor publication.

My dilemma is test scores. I am not a very good test taker. In fact I think test taking nerves should be a legitimate disability. I did alright on my regular GRE's 760 on my math and 640 on my verbal. My major concern is the physics subject test:

The night before the november 4th test I couldn't fall asleep, so I ended up taking the test on 1.5 hours of sleep, though I wasn't at all tired during the test (nerves and all). I finished about 70 questions, but I know a made a lot of
educated guesses. I'm guessing I could have gotten anything from a 50% to a 75%.

If I score on the lower end of around 50%, can I still apply to the top programs (Berkelely, Chicago,Santa Cruz, etc)? Do I even stand a chance? Where should I apply?

I also noticed a lot of the people applying for astrophysics grad programs are physics majors? Am I at a supreme disadvantage applying as an astro major? If I do around 50% on the GRE and I want to go to a competitive program, would anyone suggest staying another year at college to complete a physics major and retake the subject GRE?

I'm signed up for the physics GRE in december as well. I don't know if I need to take it or not, and unfortunately I wont get my november scores back in time to decide. Naturally, due to my bad test taking nerves and the trauma of the last GRE I really REALLY don't want to go through that again. I only have two weeks anyway to study, and I'm not sure any drastic improvement will follow. Plus I don't want to do even worse. Do people generally do better on the december test?

I started as a bio major so the last 2.5 years I've been taking 20 credit math and physics semesters to catch up, I really don't want all my hard work to be worth nothing because of these stupid tests! Does anyone have any advise on where I can apply? Do top schools ignore poor physics gre scores if the rest of the application is good? Plus, I'm a girl, as much as I am ashamed to ask this, does that fact lower the standards?

Sorry for the onslaught of questions. I just really need some advice. I thought I was doing well, but based on the posts on this site I feel so inadequate. Help desperately needed.....



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Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 7:48 pm

Postby schmit.paul » Mon Nov 20, 2006 9:05 pm

There's nothing wrong with applying to schools to see if you can get in with your current resume. I had considered signing up for both the november and december exams, but wound up settling for the november one (also waiting for my scores) and decided to let the cards fall where they may. I know at my school (not top 10, but I feel that I've managed to get a physics background comparable with the curriculum from any of the top schools) they tell anyone planning on going the astrophysics route to major in physics, even though an astronomy major is offered through the physics department. However, this is why many grad school applications ask you to list all of your upper division courses and include your transcripts...the classes that compose your astrophysics major may be extensive enough to make you competitive with physics majors from other institutions. My suggestion for you is to go forward with your plans to apply to the schools you'd really like to get into. Worst case scenario is you don't get accepted. However, if that's the case and you have the ability to stay in college and finish up a physics major the following year as a triple major, I can't imagine why you wouldn't be one of the most competitive candidates going into the next round of graduate admissions. Don't worry yourself to death (it will devastate your performance in these final critical weeks), just go forward with your plans as if you were the strongest candidate out there and don't say uncle until you don't have a choice.

Posts: 22
Joined: Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:25 am

Postby invidia » Mon Nov 20, 2006 11:38 pm

It doesn't hurt to apply to the schools you want to go. Hell, I have a horrible 2.7 GPA and that won't stop me from applying to schools I want. Despite the fact that most of them have a min requirement for 3.0-3.3. I just hope they take other considerations such as my hight test scores and research experience. Your other stuff can help cover your test scores.

I'm not sure how the GRE works when you re-take it. I know that the SATs take your highest scores from each attempt and combine them into one. They won't completely ignore your test scores. It will hurt you but that doesn't rule you out completely.

The only thing you have to lose is application money.

Also, I have MANY peope telling me (including professors) that it's not where you go that makes you a good physicist, it's how you do the research. Granted, that the higher tier schools get more funding but you get my point.

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