Applications! Am I doing this right?

  • 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.

achilleasatha
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:06 am

Applications! Am I doing this right?

Postby achilleasatha » Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:59 am

Sorry in advance for opening yet again such a topic. I have been freaking out lately and I would really appreciate your thoughts on my applications, are they completely out of place or are there actually any chances at all that I am doing this right? See my profile below and my thoughts on various things... Thanks a lot in advance for your time and interest...

Undergrad Institution: One of the Universities of London (ranked around top 30 nationally top 150 internationally for physics. I know it has the highest corporate research revenue amongst all UK physics departments, that can't be bad right?)
Major(s):Physics, Psychology (note that the two majors come from two different universities that I attend simultaneously)
Minor(s): No such thing here in the UK.
GPA in Major: First Class (3.7 - 4.0)
Overall GPA: First Class (3.7 - 4.0)
Length of Degree: 3 years
Position in Class: Top 10%.
Type of Student: International Male (Greek citizenship)

GRE Scores (revised):
Q:164 - 90%
V:155 - 65% - The verbal and writing section hardly reflect my ability, I just didn't have any time at all to prepare for these. My LoR are explicitly
W:4.5 - 73% - commenting on my English speaking and writing competency.
P:720 - 59% (this is what has been freaking me out... I took the PGRE after 2 years of formal tuition in physics and hence lacked a lot of subject specific knowledge. On top of that I had no time at all to study (studied something like 5 days in advance only afternoons), if I get a second shot at it and study a couple of months in advance I am pretty sure I can nail it...)

TOEFL Total: N/A (attended UK university, international high school, 12 years of English tuition...I mean **** this...)

Research Experience:
-Bachelor thesis on experimental particle physics project, working with data from ATLAS and HERA with a supervisor that is kind of well known in his field (I know for sure he personally works with and knows most of the experimental particle physicists in the universities I am applying). Perhaps I will get a publication out of this with my name amongst 2-3 authors but this ain't sure yet and if it happens it will be around next September.
-Summer internship in the UK's national synchrotron. Academic research out of my field of interest but within a leading group in the field. Should get a good LoR out of this presumably. It was good experience since I worked with an electron accelerator and did x-ray powder diffraction experiments. It's not particle physics but in a sense it's close...I got a small conference talk and poster session/presentation out of this but no publications or whatsoever.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: None.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: 3-4 months of TAing at a local school in London. Have excellent credentials and recommendations from there and a great assessment sheet for me, but I doubt these are going to be of any use...they are not academic credentials and I can't forward them anywhere...

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: Hopefully the fact that I have 2 bachelor degrees by the time I am 20 should be enough of an accomplishment? I mean it's not actually like having 2 Majors or something it's 2 different universities full credit for them, totally unrelated fields (and hence no credit transfers) and it's all at the same time...I feel like this is an overkill and it's going to really impress OR totally mess my application....

Special Bonus Points: Presumably all 3 recommendations should be great.

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: I am pretty confident on my SoP, which is creative succinct and certainly demonstrates clearly all of the qualities they are looking for in postgraduate students.

Applying to Where: (now here is the big deal...are my choices completely out of place or do they even make any sense at all for my credentials?)

I clearly state on my SoP that I am interested in particle physics Phenomenology, but none of the departments I am applying to is offering this as a choice. I am applying for HET & Theoretical Particle Physics with Experimental Particle Physics as a second option wherever I could put that in.

Masters:
ETHZ - Physics MSci & HEP MSci

PhDs: (I separated these into 3 tiers according to what I know about how good the physics department is in each uni and how desirable each uni is for me in terms of location, city and blah blah...)

First Tier:
MIT
Princeton
Harvard
Caltech
Stanford
UC Berkeley

Second Tier:
Cornell
UCSB
Yale - despite rankings and everything info from academics says that physics in Yale ain't actually that good...
U of Chicago - This is a bit of a long shot given that they directly state that 3 year of formal physics education ain't enough and they require 4....
U of Washington - not amongst my most desirable choices....
UCLA
UCSC
UCSD - I am a bit sceptical about the location...right on the US-Mexico border...

Third Tier:
Boston U - Even though I have applied, on second thoughts I don't think I will attend even if this is the only acceptance I get...
Brown U - This is ok, even though I found the video requirement for the application really strange (this should help me a lot though!!!).
Columbia U - Not really a safety, but I don't really wanna get stuck in NYC. After 3 years in London I am trying to avoid this kind of environment all over again...

Any thoughts are welcome!!! And I do mean anything at all!!!

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Applications! Am I doing this right?

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:50 am

achilleasatha wrote:Sorry in advance for opening yet again such a topic. I have been freaking out lately and I would really appreciate your thoughts on my applications, are they completely out of place or are there actually any chances at all that I am doing this right? See my profile below and my thoughts on various things... Thanks a lot in advance for your time and interest...

Undergrad Institution: One of the Universities of London (ranked around top 30 nationally top 150 internationally for physics. I know it has the highest corporate research revenue amongst all UK physics departments, that can't be bad right?)
Major(s):Physics, Psychology (note that the two majors come from two different universities that I attend simultaneously)
Minor(s): No such thing here in the UK.
GPA in Major: First Class (3.7 - 4.0)
Overall GPA: First Class (3.7 - 4.0)
Length of Degree: 3 years
Position in Class: Top 10%.
Type of Student: International Male (Greek citizenship)

GRE Scores (revised):
Q:164 - 90%
V:155 - 65% - The verbal and writing section hardly reflect my ability, I just didn't have any time at all to prepare for these. My LoR are explicitly
W:4.5 - 73% - commenting on my English speaking and writing competency.
P:720 - 59% (this is what has been freaking me out... I took the PGRE after 2 years of formal tuition in physics and hence lacked a lot of subject specific knowledge. On top of that I had no time at all to study (studied something like 5 days in advance only afternoons), if I get a second shot at it and study a couple of months in advance I am pretty sure I can nail it...)

TOEFL Total: N/A (attended UK university, international high school, 12 years of English tuition...I mean **** this...)

Research Experience:
-Bachelor thesis on experimental particle physics project, working with data from ATLAS and HERA with a supervisor that is kind of well known in his field (I know for sure he personally works with and knows most of the experimental particle physicists in the universities I am applying). Perhaps I will get a publication out of this with my name amongst 2-3 authors but this ain't sure yet and if it happens it will be around next September.
-Summer internship in the UK's national synchrotron. Academic research out of my field of interest but within a leading group in the field. Should get a good LoR out of this presumably. It was good experience since I worked with an electron accelerator and did x-ray powder diffraction experiments. It's not particle physics but in a sense it's close...I got a small conference talk and poster session/presentation out of this but no publications or whatsoever.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: None.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: 3-4 months of TAing at a local school in London. Have excellent credentials and recommendations from there and a great assessment sheet for me, but I doubt these are going to be of any use...they are not academic credentials and I can't forward them anywhere...

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: Hopefully the fact that I have 2 bachelor degrees by the time I am 20 should be enough of an accomplishment? I mean it's not actually like having 2 Majors or something it's 2 different universities full credit for them, totally unrelated fields (and hence no credit transfers) and it's all at the same time...I feel like this is an overkill and it's going to really impress OR totally mess my application....

Special Bonus Points: Presumably all 3 recommendations should be great.

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: I am pretty confident on my SoP, which is creative succinct and certainly demonstrates clearly all of the qualities they are looking for in postgraduate students.

Applying to Where: (now here is the big deal...are my choices completely out of place or do they even make any sense at all for my credentials?)

I clearly state on my SoP that I am interested in particle physics Phenomenology, but none of the departments I am applying to is offering this as a choice. I am applying for HET & Theoretical Particle Physics with Experimental Particle Physics as a second option wherever I could put that in.

Masters:
ETHZ - Physics MSci & HEP MSci

PhDs: (I separated these into 3 tiers according to what I know about how good the physics department is in each uni and how desirable each uni is for me in terms of location, city and blah blah...)

First Tier:
MIT
Princeton
Harvard
Caltech
Stanford
UC Berkeley

Second Tier:
Cornell
UCSB
Yale - despite rankings and everything info from academics says that physics in Yale ain't actually that good...
U of Chicago - This is a bit of a long shot given that they directly state that 3 year of formal physics education ain't enough and they require 4....
U of Washington - not amongst my most desirable choices....
UCLA
UCSC
UCSD - I am a bit sceptical about the location...right on the US-Mexico border...

Third Tier:
Boston U - Even though I have applied, on second thoughts I don't think I will attend even if this is the only acceptance I get...
Brown U - This is ok, even though I found the video requirement for the application really strange (this should help me a lot though!!!).
Columbia U - Not really a safety, but I don't really wanna get stuck in NYC. After 3 years in London I am trying to avoid this kind of environment all over again...

Any thoughts are welcome!!! And I do mean anything at all!!!


Go ahead and apply, and also include some programs in the UK. If you don't get in where you want to go, take the UK program, get your masters (a fourth year is common in the UK, right?) and reapply next year after upping your PGRE score. The top tier is probably out of the quesiton.

kangaroo
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:31 am

Re: Applications! Am I doing this right?

Postby kangaroo » Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:06 pm

bfollinprm wrote:Go ahead and apply, and also include some programs in the UK. If you don't get in where you want to go, take the UK program, get your masters (a fourth year is common in the UK, right?) and reapply next year after upping your PGRE score. The top tier is probably out of the quesiton.


Agreed. And you have the right to make your excuses, but the top schools have the luxury of choosing the best of the best. There will be enough people who have stellar credentials without having the need to make excuses, and you need to bear that in mind and not get your hopes up too high. You may strike it lucky, but please in no way feel self-entitled to any of the schools in the top tier. If you really want a place there, you need to stop putting your app together at such a last minute.

achilleasatha
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:06 am

Re: Applications! Am I doing this right?

Postby achilleasatha » Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:36 pm

My application wasn't put together at the last minute... I have already submitted all of them and it's been a while... I just freaked out after I got my PGRE results today.... :)
Anyway my hopes weren't up high straight from the beginning I knew I didn't have time to make up for all the studying I had to do to get perfect credentials. I am strongly relying on my recommendations and general academic profile to demonstrate a high ability to learn quickly and efficiently; as much as I am relying on applying heavily all around to improve my chances of getting into grad school.
I don't really mind not getting into top tier schools, as long as it is a good university with appropriate funding for interesting stuff to be going on. From then on I put way more emphasis on quality of life and funding of my studies....

Are interviews a common practice for grad school applications in the US? I think if I manage to earn myself a few of those, my chances will get much better of getting admitted into some of those schools...

kangaroo
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:31 am

Re: Applications! Am I doing this right?

Postby kangaroo » Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:49 pm

achilleasatha wrote:My application wasn't put together at the last minute... I have already submitted all of them and it's been a while... I just freaked out after I got my PGRE results today.... :)
Anyway my hopes weren't up high straight from the beginning I knew I didn't have time to make up for all the studying I had to do to get perfect credentials. I am strongly relying on my recommendations and general academic profile to demonstrate a high ability to learn quickly and efficiently; as much as I am relying on applying heavily all around to improve my chances of getting into grad school.
I don't really mind not getting into top tier schools, as long as it is a good university with appropriate funding for interesting stuff to be going on. From then on I put way more emphasis on quality of life and funding of my studies....

Are interviews a common practice for grad school applications in the US? I think if I manage to earn myself a few of those, my chances will get much better of getting admitted into some of those schools...


Putting together your app includes studying for your GRE and PGRE...and your excuses for those scores in your profile were pretty elaborate there.

Interviews are generally not the norm for physics departments, definitely not so at the top schools. It is what it is, so you'll have to play the game and present yourself in the best way possible in a paper application. And while you claim that the school reputation is not really that high up on your list, your list of schools suggest otherwise. With the exception of Boston U and Brown they are pretty much all top 20 schools. You need to give yourself more safeties. Places like Stony Brook have great theoretical physics departments, so think a bit more about places you can realistically get into.

achilleasatha
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:06 am

Re: Applications! Am I doing this right?

Postby achilleasatha » Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:55 am

Random thought that occurred to me...If interviews are not common practice why the heck do they ask for your skype name on most of the applications...?

User avatar
Tom Joad
Posts: 120
Joined: Fri Aug 24, 2012 9:35 pm

Re: Applications! Am I doing this right?

Postby Tom Joad » Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:23 pm

achilleasatha wrote:Random thought that occurred to me...If interviews are not common practice why the heck do they ask for your skype name on most of the applications...?

Really? I haven't encountered that question....which schools have asked for that?

kangaroo
Posts: 130
Joined: Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:31 am

Re: Applications! Am I doing this right?

Postby kangaroo » Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:13 pm

achilleasatha wrote:Random thought that occurred to me...If interviews are not common practice why the heck do they ask for your skype name on most of the applications...?


To make sure an international applicant can converse in English.

TakeruK
Posts: 816
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Applications! Am I doing this right?

Postby TakeruK » Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:37 am

I did not get asked for my Skype name on any of the applications and only 1 school interviewed via Skype. They interviewed everyone, not just international students. It seems like it would make more sense to ask for Skype name / set up interviews only for the candidates selected for interviews!




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