Scoreset/advicebeg (nervous)

  • 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.

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Joined: Wed Dec 13, 2006 8:28 am

Scoreset/advicebeg (nervous)

Postby tj_wants_in » Wed Dec 13, 2006 8:48 am

So I'm at a medium sized public liberal arts college in the Southeast, best known for its football team - and not being a huge school, it's not even in the top division for that. It's got a smaaallll physics department that spends a large percentage of its time teaching intro classes to Ed. majors. It's been improving, but is going to be probably unheard of outside the Southeast.

There's no grade inflation here in math or physics, which really hurts. I watched about 80% of the students in one of my freshman math classes fail horribly, and a lot of people wash out of the physics department into something easier, like economics.

I'm a triple major - math (concentration in physics), physics (concentration mathematical physics), and philosophy - with the following specs:

GPA 3.4 overall, about the same in physics, about 3.6-7 for math.
GRE 800Q/710V
GRE Physics 770 from the november test (72nd percentile).
Graduating in five years overall.

Few honors - dean's list a couple times, math modeling contest participant, MAA member, a senior honors thesis in mathematics and maybe one in philosophy this spring, so I'm on track to graduate with honors in mathematics and philosophy. I took the Putnam and did very well (almost certainly 30-45), but I won't get scores back until March, so that's not much use...

I'm looking towards theory/mathematical physics. Could do computational. Faculty in my departments don't know me all that well because I've spent my time running around between three of them. Advice? What are my chances if I aim high? I'm kinda worried about the numbers here, and the lack of any undergraduate research in the field of physics :?

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Postby invidia » Wed Dec 13, 2006 6:35 pm

If I were in your shoes, I would drop one of the major and make time to know my professors. Just try to get a research experience with one of them. You don't have to absolute love it or plan on doing it for the rest of your life, do it just for the experience.

Grad schools look for an individual with great research abilities. You'll need it and your professor to back it up.

Remember, grad schools look for students with great overall abilities. Having triple major and high marks won't replace the point of having bad/zero recommendations and research experience. Especially if you're gonna aim for Ivy Leagues or top schools.

If you want to keep all 3 of your majors, then try re-organizing your schedule and make time for research and getting recommendations.

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Postby tj_wants_in » Thu Dec 14, 2006 8:58 am

Well, I'm basically done with the coursework needed for all my majors - and all the theoretical/conceptual physics courses my school offers, dangit - so there's no point in dropping any majors. I could've walked last week if I wanted and filed the paperwork, but I may as well keep taking classes. And the deadlines are almost all, well, now. Ish. Or the next month.

The opportunity to do physics research here is long past - limited to start with, and the profs that have had classes with me all know that I'm a lab klutz/theory person in any case. I told you it's a wee department.

I've actually had a "research experience" - senior honors thesis in his field - with one of my math professors. Of course... that field is voting theory, which is not applicable to physics itself.

So would that help any? :? Basically, I'm looking for two types of advice here: How should I try to "sell" myself, and where should I try to sell myself?

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Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 10:44 pm

Postby artschoolapplicant » Thu Dec 14, 2006 11:39 am

I'm certainly not an expert, and not very wise in these matters; but it seems like with your stats, experience in science, yet slightly unorthodox position (not totally immersed in physics exclusively, no research), that you'd have a decent shot at the top 35-10 range of graduate schools...for the very elite shcools you'll certainly be in a candidate pool with people who have research experience
However, I'd have to echo previous posters with the advice that you really get to know the physics professors next semester, just in case you're not satisfied with where you get in this time around
Oh, and if you do really well on the putnam, consider sending along an addendum to the schools you've applied to

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Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 10:44 pm

Postby artschoolapplicant » Thu Dec 14, 2006 2:41 pm

it just occurred to me that particular to your case, tj, you should consider applying to ohio state university
they're roughly top twenty, i think you'd have a good chance of getting in,
and there's no application fee if you apply online and directly through the department (just a little confusing to figure out)

the only downside, really, is living in columbus

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Postby tj_wants_in » Fri Dec 15, 2006 6:07 am

Nice. Thanks for the tip.

There are worse places than Columbus to live, and OSU doesn't look too bad. Added to the list in progress as I sort out my recommending professors... :D

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