Decent PGRE, awful everything else

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blighter
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Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby blighter » Fri Dec 14, 2012 3:48 am

I am sure you are all tired of such questions, but the profiles thread isn't all that helpful. I have a really low GPA. No, not 3.0, but close to 2.0 (probably even less depending on how you convert). My transcript is filled with too many F's (seven to be precise)! I have one more year to go before I graduate and would have by then done research for a year (my senior thesis). I will graduate with a master's degree. Obviously I am not hoping to get into a top 20 school, not even top 50. At this point I just want to get into some school. I am an international student (Indian, male), which makes it even harder. I haven't taken the GRE general test or the TOEFL yet. I got a *** on the Physics GRE, which is probably the only decent thing in my entire profile. Would any school risk taking me?
Last edited by blighter on Tue Apr 23, 2013 7:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

hjq1990
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby hjq1990 » Sun Dec 23, 2012 7:34 am

Hey man, we all tend to have bad time now and then, and knowing where we could do better matters more. As an international applicant too, my statue could hardly be better than you. But I still long for it, whatever other people might say. I think you might need to make a schedule about your courses: which ones to retake, and which ones to just let go. Most of the time, we fail just because we have not really focused. I am not meant to say silly words, but trying also to encourage myself. It's been nearly 10 days since you posted it, and I hope you are feeling better.

blighter
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby blighter » Sun Dec 23, 2012 8:36 am

Hey, thanks for your encouraging words. I don't have a choice but to retake every course. Indian system is quite rigid. We don't have a say on what we want to study. I'm not feeling all that low. I don't mind going for a job instead of grad school. But yeah, it sucks to give up on my academic dreams. :(

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quizivex
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby quizivex » Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:18 pm

Sorry to be pessimistic... I doubt any grad program would take someone with such a low GPA. But a possibly good idea was proposed to someone with a very low GPA on a similar thread ... start over as an undergrad again to wipe away the old GPA. I don't know if retarking all the courses you got low grades in would accomplish the same thing faster... check with your school's policies to see if the old grades will stay on your record somehow.

blighter
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby blighter » Mon Dec 24, 2012 4:25 pm

quizivex wrote:Sorry to be pessimistic... I doubt any grad program would take someone with such a low GPA. But a possibly good idea was proposed to someone with a very low GPA on a similar thread ... start over as an undergrad again to wipe away the old GPA. I don't know if retarking all the courses you got low grades in would accomplish the same thing faster... check with your school's policies to see if the old grades will stay on your record somehow.


Old grades do remain on the record. But they aren't used in the calculation of the GPA. Nevertheless even if I do my undergrad again, most schools ask for transcripts from all schools I attended. I can't get a clean slate. As for the schools that don't ask for all the transcripts, I'd still have an unexplained duration of five years. Guess I'm screwed.

Wouldn't my PGRE score help in any way?

TakeruK
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby TakeruK » Mon Dec 24, 2012 6:21 pm

I also think that the odds are pretty slim. But converting GPAs is sometimes hard between countries with different grading systems.

Where do you think you rank in your class? At Canadian universities, I would say that the top 1/3rd of each graduating class generally will go to graduate school if that's what they want to do. In Canadian physics programs, I think a 2.0 GPA would normally put you near the bottom of the graduating class. So what's your school like? If everyone else is scoring 3.0 or higher, then I don't think you have a good chance at all.

Maybe in the US, things are a little different, with more programs/places (but also more students/applicants so maybe not) but even at the lower ranked schools in Canada, not every undergrad student who is interested will be able to make it into graduate school. You don't have to be the best, but I'd say that very few graduate school will consider someone in the bottom half of their class, and many would probably aim to recruit the students at least in the top 1/3.

In fact, if a student in Canada came to me with a 2.0 GPA (e.g. a student that I am mentoring or TAing), and asked about physics graduate programs, I would strongly encourage them to have other plans as well. There's no real harm in applying (and probably still a good idea vs. giving up immediately IF this is important to you), but I would strongly question the student's ability to succeed in a graduate program. A 2.0 GPA in North America basically means you are just scraping by, barely passing your classes and not really excelling at anything.

A high PGRE score just really means that you are good at taking the PGRE. A strong PGRE will make a good profile into a great one, but a strong PGRE attached to a bad profile just looks really suspicious (i.e. whether it's true or not, it makes you look like a student who has "studied the test" instead of actually knowing the physics). Of course, all this is based on the assumption that you took your courses under normal conditions -- that is, no outside circumstances influenced your performance. And also assuming that your GPA is in a physics program.

Finally, if you are currently doing a Physics program (don't remember if you ever said what your major was), then redoing a Physics undergrad isn't going to be very helpful, in my opinion. If you are going to be doing two degrees, I think it's actually better to have the first bad GPA degree in something not Physics, so that you can show that you are actually good at Physics and it's your true interest.

Lavabug
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby Lavabug » Mon Dec 24, 2012 6:58 pm

blighter wrote:
quizivex wrote:Sorry to be pessimistic... I doubt any grad program would take someone with such a low GPA. But a possibly good idea was proposed to someone with a very low GPA on a similar thread ... start over as an undergrad again to wipe away the old GPA. I don't know if retarking all the courses you got low grades in would accomplish the same thing faster... check with your school's policies to see if the old grades will stay on your record somehow.


Old grades do remain on the record. But they aren't used in the calculation of the GPA. Nevertheless even if I do my undergrad again, most schools ask for transcripts from all schools I attended. I can't get a clean slate. As for the schools that don't ask for all the transcripts, I'd still have an unexplained duration of five years. Guess I'm screwed.

Wouldn't my PGRE score help in any way?

Does your transcript specifically state your degree's duration? Even if you took longer to graduate it's not a dealbreaker, the grades though might be if everyone else in your school does substantially better in general.

It all depends on why you got the grades that you got, whether you can provide evidence for that, and whether those grades really correlate to your knowledge level. Do you feel like your grades are flukes? Is failing or retaking courses very common at your university?

At my uni (in Spain), graduating classes rarely exceed 5 per year and we usually have entering classes of 40-70. Most of the stragglers are really bright but get punished by my uni's harsh grading system(based solely on final exams lasting 4-5 hours), graduating in 5-7 years instead of 4. Failing grades are very common and grades higher than a 9/10 are only really awarded to 1-2 students per class, in most cases. I am hopefully graduating at the "bottom" of my 5-student cohort, but I'm one of the 5 that actually is graduating without having to retake any courses, so I'm still considered "good" by my peers and professors. How do your fellow students and profs rank you? Ask them for their honest opinion.

I commend you on your pgre score, if you got that score without any sort of coaching it shows a lot of self-discipline and the ability to perform well under pressure. It also shows your abilities in physics are pretty sharp, to the extent that the pgre tests for them. I don't think I could score that high unless I spent an unreasonable amount of time training for it (I can't handle the time limit).

It's very easy to get demoralized looking at amazing gpa's posted by fellow forumers at US universities but if your school is anything like mine, your preparation might actually be pretty good despite your grades. I see a lot of grad students asking for homework help at another forum (physicsforums) and honestly they're asking questions about things I've done at the sophomore and junior level. I've had some glances at quals/grad course exams and most of it is stuff I've had on my finals, only easier. One grad student even responded with incredulity when I described the type of problems I had on my exams, questioning how I could possibly not do well on the pgre.

TakeruK
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby TakeruK » Mon Dec 24, 2012 9:23 pm

After reading Lavabug's post, I feel like I should clarify when I say only the top half (or 1/3) of graduating students in Canada (maybe North America?) attend graduate school, this is based on much lower attrition rates! In our schools, students might not declare their major until the end of 2nd or beginning of their 3rd year (so there is already some pre-selection when talking about graduation rates). At this point, I think a large fraction of people who declare physics major will eventually graduate (in 4-6 years total). At my undergrad, I would guess that about 60% of students who intended on Physics in first year continued to graduate in a physics program and probably at least 80%-90% of students who officially declared a Physics major (halfway through their degree) will actually graduate.

So, if your situation is more like Lavabug's, then even graduating at the very bottom of your cohort still means that you are still in the top fraction of students from your school. This is why I asked how you thought you ranked compared to the rest of the students -- if your school is really tough, then a 2.0 GPA isn't so bad, but from North American standards, a 2.0 is barely scraping by. This is definitely something you should address in your application!

Etranger
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby Etranger » Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:42 pm

What is your CGPA out of ten? Is it around 6? One thing people didn't mention, which I think can be relevant, is what your grades have been like for the last 2-3 years? Were the F's scattered all over the place, or were they in the first 3 years mostly? If yes, then what does it matter if you got an F in intro classical mechanics, but got an A in graduate mechanics, and QFT, and whatever advanced courses? Well yeah, it would matter, but your excuse could have been "I was a total idiot, and didn't feel like doing the work because it felt too easy." But again, I don't know if that's such a good message to send, seeing as research *apparently* involves lots of boring work. BUT, your LoRs could highlight your research strengths.

Is it possible to start a research project at an earlier date?

Also, it seems like you will begin your fifth year next year. One big mistake I did when applying to college is anticipate my poor performance, and focus all of my energies on ways to craft a solid application in spite of poor grades. Stupid strategy. I still had time in high school, and my final exams to do super well on! So, pull those As in, and maybe it might just work out.

You could always apply to applied physics programs as well. And those programs where "PGRE is recommended." If those physics departments are anything like colleges that are SAT-optional, then it's a "trick" to encourage people with higher scores to submit them, while allowing those with lower scores to still have a shot at getting in. Then, what happens is that their average PGRE score is increased. But research in physics is a different beast, so I don't know...

Check this out, and the other "elite-masters." You'll probably have to pay for living expenses on your own, but at least you could have a shot at getting in. Canadian MSc's don't seem to require the PGRE, but this one does! There's also the MSc's at Leipzig, Bonn-Cologne (they offer funding I believe), Hamburg, and Berlin, among other places. Use Hochschule Kompass to find more, and try to search with the "open admission" criteria. You're also gonna be what, 23 when you graduate? Another 2 years shouldn't be a problem.

http://www.theorie.physik.uni-muenchen. ... index.html

StewieVader
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby StewieVader » Tue Dec 25, 2012 2:24 am

You must be from IIT-K right? I'm sure people in the US would know about your school and how difficult the coursework is. That being said, try finding out from your seniors where low gpa students ended up and apply to similar places.

Also, now would be a good time to start working on a research project with your professor. Get involved, put a proper fight into it and impress your professor. At best, you could get out a solid publication out of it and at worst, you'll atleast get a strong reco. But these projects generally take a lot of time, so it's best you start off immediately (don't leave it till next sem) if you want to have something to show by the time you apply. If you impress your prof enough, he might also be able to get you into a school with his connections. After all, IIT-K has a lot of connections with universities in the US.

If you are not particular about going to the US for graduate school, try to get a summer internship in Europe. Applying for a Ph.D is a lot simpler in Europe (all you have to do is find someone to supervise you) and as long as you slog your ass off during your internship, you'll probably end up with an offer. I'm telling you this from my personal experience in Germany and France. They probably won't even care about your grades and all, but this is probably only true for experimental groups. Europe might not have the prestige of the Ivy league schools, but a LOT of top scientists are based in Europe heading some not-very-competitive graduate schools and universities.

Finally, chill out about the GPA cutoffs and all. I can't believe the 3.0 cutoff applies to internationals. I've seen many of my seniors with 6.5/10 make it to pretty good schools in the US based on their research exp and recos.

Lavabug
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby Lavabug » Tue Dec 25, 2012 6:02 am

Stewie on that note: How/where can you apply for summer interns in Europe? Because I've been keeping my eyes open for positions over the past 2 months and I haven't found anything in the EU for astrophysics/astronomy(or other physics fields for that matter), only 2-3 research institutions in the US which I'm already applying for (as I gave up a third of the way into the application process due to my poor gre's(all below 50th percentile)).

To the OP: UIUC's admissions page posts specific grade requirements for applicants from individual countries, might want to gauge yourself against their "minimums" as it's probably similar to other US universities. But take it with a grain of salt. For my country the requirement is a "7.0" which I have, but was no easy feat, and even a fellow countryman who is a tenured professor at a top 5 UK university celebrated that fact (he went to Cornell, for reference). I've heard of French applicants with a 12/20 (the lowest grade in the French system) getting into US schools, so some schools do use common sense when looking at foreign grades.

(Some Canadian schools also specify grade requirements by country, but they all wanted an 8.0 in my case which is unusually high, hence why I gave up on applying to Canadian schools).
Last edited by Lavabug on Tue Dec 25, 2012 6:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

Lavabug
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby Lavabug » Tue Dec 25, 2012 6:17 am

TakeruK wrote:This is why I asked how you thought you ranked compared to the rest of the students -- if your school is really tough, then a 2.0 GPA isn't so bad, but from North American standards, a 2.0 is barely scraping by. This is definitely something you should address in your application!

I always wondered how one should address this in one's application. I fired off three apps with a decent SOP but I just couldn't find any way of stating this without sounding braggy or overconfident. I just mentioned that I used grad texts for my core courses (Goldstein, Landau, Cohen..) and got a full scholarship throughout my degree which I'm guessing drove the point home a little bit, but said nothing about the attrition rates or my scores.

I've heard someone on another forum suggesting getting a letter from the faculty registrar stating "This student's grades are very good, we grade really tough here" but I'm not sure how one works around that when uni's want only 3 rec letters and a scanned transcript. I guess one could "force" it into the application somehow (just as I forced in my CV by attaching it to the SOP in some apps that didn't allow space for a CV, as recommended by one of my advisers).

StewieVader
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby StewieVader » Tue Dec 25, 2012 6:37 am

@Lavabug:
Don't rely on advertised opportunities alone. Try mailing professors in your field directly for internship opportunities. It might take a while (you might have to mail around 10-50 professors) but I believe it pays off in the long run. Try mailing places which have good connections with your professors at your home institution. Make use of your contacts with your seniors in your department to get information. From what I've seen many experimental groups have a lot of money to spend on summer interns + they also get a fresh pair of hands to work on their projects. Also, the more prestigious the place, the more money they have. If you have already done a research project at a pretty reputed institution, then go ahead and mail everywhere. It would certainly get you into a lot of really good places.

Alternatively, there are also some international internship programs offered by some institutes such as Ecole Polytechnique in France, EPFL/ETH in Switzerland, and the DAAD WISE/RISE for Germany, which pay a decent stipend plus airfare. Of course, if you stay in Europe, money probably wouldn't be such an issue.

blighter
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby blighter » Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:08 am

@TakeruK
I am definitely among the bottom third. But like lavabug said, failing a course is pretty common. We are graded on a curve and about 40% of the class in each course gets either an F or a D. Also people have been terminated from the programme, so the likelihood of flunking a course keeps increasing. The class average stands at 2.5!

Being at the bottom of the class doesn't say much since the entire batch consists of the top 0.5% of the students on a nationwide science intensive test. So I'm pretty sure almost everybody, if not everybody, can easily score 900+ on the PGRE in my class of 15 students without any preparation. It's not about studying for the test. People simply do well. Of course it's my word against theirs. At any rate, I don't understand how GPA is any better an indicator of competence over PGRE. At least the way exams are conducted at my school, you can "study the exam" and do well. And yes, I am majoring in physics.

Of course I shall be applying. But I am prepared to be disappointed.

@Lavabug
Failing is quite common. But nevertheless it's not as bad as what you say about your school. About a quarter of the class is usually terminated from the programme. This statistic holds for physics especially. People in other programmes are relatively better off.

I'm hardly considered good by any professors. At least, that's what I believe. My grades have left me with a low self-confidence. Good luck with your applications, by the way!

@Etranger
My GPA is slightly less than 6.0 out of 10. 6 corresponds to a C which corresponds to 2.0. So that's how I scaled it. F's are scattered everywhere. So no luck there. I'm definitely going to apply to the German programmes. Hopefully the open admissions shouldn't be harsh on me.

@Stewie
Yes, I am from IITK. I will surely try and find out from my seniors.

Unfortunately I can't leave campus for the summer. I'll probably have to stay back and do a couple of courses. Anyway if what you say about the cut-offs is true, that is very encouraging.

blighter
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby blighter » Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:16 am

Anyway thank you everyone. I've come to the conclusion that there is no point in worry over my grades now. I am going to apply anyway, include a lot of safeties. But I'm also going to make backup plans in case I don't make it.

@Lavabug
I really hope you get in somewhere. If your LoR's are strong enough, I hardly think you should give up on applying. You should apply to Canadian programmes too since they do not require GRE or PGRE scores. I'm sure they can make relaxations on the GPA. Good luck.
Last edited by blighter on Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

StewieVader
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby StewieVader » Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:17 am

"About a quarter of the class is usually terminated from the programme. This statistic holds for physics especially. People in other programmes are relatively better off."

- That is seriously messed up considering it's the most prestigious undergraduate physics program in the country :shock:
But then again the same unfortunately hold true for my department as well :(

blighter
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby blighter » Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:21 am

StewieVader wrote:"About a quarter of the class is usually terminated from the programme. This statistic holds for physics especially. People in other programmes are relatively better off."

- That is seriously messed up considering it's the most prestigious undergraduate physics program in the country :shock:
But then again the same unfortunately hold true for my department as well :(


Are you from IITB?

StewieVader
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby StewieVader » Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:23 am

Nopes. I'm from a lower ranked IIT, but still within the top 5. (I don't want to reveal it in the interest of internet anonymity)

blighter
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby blighter » Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:25 am

Fair enough. But shouldn't be hard to figure that out. Not everyone has a publication in PRL. :D

Anyway good luck!

shokan
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby shokan » Tue Dec 25, 2012 8:16 am

blighter wrote:Anyway thank you everyone. I've come to the conclusion that there is no point in worry over my grades now. I am going to apply anyway, include a lot of safeties. But I'm also going to make backup plans in case I don't make it.

@Lavabug
I really hope you get in somewhere. If your LoR's are strong enough, I hardly think you should give up on applying. You should apply to Canadian programmes too since they do not require GRE or PGRE scores. I'm sure they can make relaxations on the GPA. Good luck.


What Canadian School does not require the PGRE? Toronto and Guelph certainly do.

blighter
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby blighter » Tue Dec 25, 2012 9:17 am

shokan wrote:
blighter wrote:Anyway thank you everyone. I've come to the conclusion that there is no point in worry over my grades now. I am going to apply anyway, include a lot of safeties. But I'm also going to make backup plans in case I don't make it.

@Lavabug
I really hope you get in somewhere. If your LoR's are strong enough, I hardly think you should give up on applying. You should apply to Canadian programmes too since they do not require GRE or PGRE scores. I'm sure they can make relaxations on the GPA. Good luck.


What Canadian School does not require the PGRE? Toronto and Guelph certainly do.


Toronto doesn't. They don't even mention GRE till you get to the FAQ's page. http://www.physics.utoronto.ca/students ... s/FAQ.html

I'm pretty sure there are more Canadian schools which don't require PGRE. Off the top of my head, I can recall UWO, UBC, MUN, QueensU. UVic highly recommends GRE and PGRE.

shokan
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby shokan » Tue Dec 25, 2012 9:32 am

blighter wrote:
shokan wrote:
blighter wrote:Anyway thank you everyone. I've come to the conclusion that there is no point in worry over my grades now. I am going to apply anyway, include a lot of safeties. But I'm also going to make backup plans in case I don't make it.

@Lavabug
I really hope you get in somewhere. If your LoR's are strong enough, I hardly think you should give up on applying. You should apply to Canadian programmes too since they do not require GRE or PGRE scores. I'm sure they can make relaxations on the GPA. Good luck.


What Canadian School does not require the PGRE? Toronto and Guelph certainly do.


Toronto doesn't. They don't even mention GRE till you get to the FAQ's page. http://www.physics.utoronto.ca/students ... s/FAQ.html

I'm pretty sure there are more Canadian schools which don't require PGRE. Off the top of my head, I can recall UWO, UBC, MUN, QueensU. UVic highly recommends GRE and PGRE.



Read point 5 here: http://www.astro.utoronto.ca/graduate/a ... -procedure

blighter
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby blighter » Tue Dec 25, 2012 9:43 am

Apparently only the astro department needs it. The physics one doesn't.

shokan
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby shokan » Tue Dec 25, 2012 9:54 am

blighter wrote:Apparently only the astro department needs it. The physics one doesn't.


Ahh yes, my bad. So wht r u going for? Particle or condensed matter?

blighter
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby blighter » Tue Dec 25, 2012 10:01 am

Don't really know. I'll be applying next year, so still undecided. I'll probably apply for Quantum Information or Biophysics. Particle Theory is also a choice. What about you?

shokan
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby shokan » Tue Dec 25, 2012 11:05 am

blighter wrote:Don't really know. I'll be applying next year, so still undecided. I'll probably apply for Quantum Information or Biophysics. Particle Theory is also a choice. What about you?



Astro mainly observational.

rahulsd91
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Re: Decent PGRE, awful everything else

Postby rahulsd91 » Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:40 am

I don't think 6/10 corresponds to 2/4....the minimum GPA required to graduate is 5/10 (atleast for my insti), and the corresponding requirement in the US is mostly 2, sometimes higher...Fs might matter, but i think research experience and good LORs can strengthen your application. The easiest way for you to find out is to email the schools you are interested in and ask what their minimum GPA requirement for applying (on the 10-point scale) is. It will give you a rough idea about how they convert, seeing that most schools demand 3/4.




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