Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

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wolfman29
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Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby wolfman29 » Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:33 pm

So I am a Junior at Arizona State University at the moment, and I am beginning to start to panic about graduate school. I know it's early, but I am a type A personality, and I tend to get anxious about things that I shouldn't worry about yet! Anyway, my concern is that I won't get into some of the schools that I desperately want to get into. I know I have good scores, but statistics aren't always the most important thing, right? I've read several threads (notably, the Applicant Profiles and Admissions Results thread), but none of them seem to be similar enough to my profile that I am content seeing the results that others got.

Anyway, without further ado, my profile.

Undergrad Institution: Arizona State University. Something like #53.
Major(s): Physics, Mathematics (honors program)
Minor(s): N/A
GPA in Major: 4.0 (>4.0 if you count weighted.)
Overall GPA: 4.0 (>4.0 if you count weighted.)
Length of Degree: Should be graduating in 4 years.
Position in Class: If not top, then near top (see GPA).
Type of Student: White domestic male, but does Jewish help?

GRE Scores : Not taken as of yet.

Research Experience: As of now, I have done about two years of HEP-EX research with a university professor in conjunction with Fermilab (spent two summers there working on the same project). Co-authored (with another student) a Technical Manual that is (hopefully) going to be published in the Fermilab library soon regarding the work I am doing. My professor says it may become a publishable paper, but may not.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Deans list and all of those honors things that they automatically give to people with high GPAs.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Research, really.

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: I run a small business out of my dorm room? It relates to laser hobbyists and electronics, which I suppose may help.

Special Bonus Points: Besides the fact that Leonard Susskind's grandson went to my high school and I shook hands with him once? Not really!

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: Don't think so....

Anyway, what do you guys think? I am interested in HEP-TH, ideally, but I think I would be okay doing HEP-EX as well. My top schools would be Berkeley, Stanford, and Caltech. I may or may not apply to MIT/Harvard/Yale/Princeton because they are on the East Coast :\

I am not really all that worried about getting into ASU's physics program, if that is all I can muster, because the professor I have been working with has been on/may be on currently the admissions board and he loves me. I'm more just worried about getting into one of those California schools. I know that my GRE scores are obviously important and you can't give a good estimate without them, but I expect scores at least above average. Assuming average GRE scores though (I expect I will exceed these), I should expect to get into one of these schools, right?

Sorry for being so long-winded!

EDIT: I should specify that my main concern is that my undergrad school is not particularly impressive. That, and I don't really have all of the extracurriculars, like head of SPS, etc.

Sam
Last edited by wolfman29 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.

SSM
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby SSM » Tue Oct 15, 2013 3:01 pm

Seriously?

What do you want us to say? You have a 4.0 and some research experience. It looks like you just have some growing up to do if you need reassurance that badly from other students. You've provided no reason for wanting to get into these schools, and it seems like you just want a pat on the back for your good grades and your predicted "excellent" GRE score, so you can get into a good program like Stanford for some reason. Well, congrats buddy! You'll probably have your pick of these schools if you get a 990 and have a 4.0!

It's ok, we all do a lot of growing up in the first years of grad school. You're probably pretty disillusioned right now, as I certainly was.

wolfman29
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby wolfman29 » Tue Oct 15, 2013 3:54 pm

Well, the reason I ask this is because I saw plenty of students with >3.95 GPA applying to the top schools and getting rejected because they are from a large, not particularly high-ranking, state school. I've also seen plenty of people around here with publications, several years of research experience, etc. who did not make it into the theoretical divisions of these top schools. I recognize that if I wanted to get into HEP-EX, that would probably be significantly easier because they typically have more funding. But I've heard of many people here interested in HEP-TH and they are not accepted because the funding is low.

From one thread, I read that, for theory in particular, it is so competitive that even with good stats, you are not guaranteed (or even likely to get) a spot if you don't have connections, which I am certainly lacking. Yes, I am a good student, but I don't know anyone famous, my work is particularly front-line, and I come from a large state school that is lower than 50th in physics. I know that in high school, I performed similarly, but I ended up being rejected from all of the top universities I applied to in undergrad. I suppose I am worried about the same thing happening.

As for the reason for wanting to get into those schools: I've done some searching and those seem like they would be the best fit for me (I really don't want to go to the east coast for some reasons I'd rather not disclose). The programs there are top-notch, they have several theoreticians whose research I admire, and it will be easier for me in later years to get a position in academia if I do my Ph.D(s) at a reputable university.

I apologize for coming off smug or immature. At a huge school like the one I am at, there are plenty of people who are just as "impressive" as I am on paper and more. Further, the fact that one notable professor at my university addressed a lecture as saying, "Don't think you'll get into a theory program" didn't really help.

With regard to the GRE - I don't expect a 990. I've never been good at standardized testing, I just expect to do "better than average," whatever that means.

On top of all of this (and this may be completely unrelated), my girlfriend was looking at law schools based on LSAT/GPA, and even those who got top end scores with top GPAs were not guaranteed spots. Theoretical physics is (as far as I can tell) almost as competitive, so I am worried that it may just come down to that sort of thing as well.

SSM
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby SSM » Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:08 pm

OH!, you're worried about your undergrad school. I see. Yeah, that can be a valid concern if you want to go to a top 5 theory place I guess, although I would say ASU is probably fine. Sorry for taking out any frustration on you, I am, as you might have guessed, a bitter old grad student. :evil:

wolfman29
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby wolfman29 » Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:11 pm

Yeah, that was my concern. But no worries - I understand that it can probably seem ridiculous when this sort of thing gets asked a lot (apparently it has, according to some threads I've read).

I hate to say this, but probably doesn't ease my anxiety! Heh. Depending on my schedule next semester, I hope to seek out some theory research if I have the time for it. Maybe that will push me into the "sure thing" category?

And no worries - I've met more bitter graduate students than you!

TakeruK
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby TakeruK » Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:16 pm

The top grad schools are rarely a "sure thing", even for the best students. But this is not equivalent to "great students will not get into a top school". That is, while I wouldn't bet on you getting into a specific school (say, Stanford), I would probably bet that you will get into at least one of the top 10 schools if your overall application is as good as it sounds here.

Also, it's not true that only top school students get into top graduate school. I look at the backgrounds of the incoming class each year and see a good mix of top schools as well as large state schools. If you look at Caltech's Physics program (not my program) website, they publish a list of each year's incoming class and you can see that there are plenty of "large state school" (or international equivalents) that enroll. Just keep in mind that these lists are the ones who actually enter the program, not just those who are admitted -- there would be probably another factor of 2 or 3 unlisted!

wolfman29
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby wolfman29 » Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:20 pm

As expected. But that's good to know that undergrad school is not as important as I was lead to believe.

Thanks for putting my mind at ease, all. At this point, I guess all I need to do is start studying for the GREs. Do they care if you take them multiple times? I figured I would take them once come April just to see what my baseline score was and then take it "for real" once I am in the application process next fall.

blighter
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby blighter » Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:28 pm

wolfman29 wrote:As expected. But that's good to know that undergrad school is not as important as I was lead to believe.

Thanks for putting my mind at ease, all. At this point, I guess all I need to do is start studying for the GREs. Do they care if you take them multiple times? I figured I would take them once come April just to see what my baseline score was and then take it "for real" once I am in the application process next fall.


They won't know if you take multiple times anyway.

wolfman29
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby wolfman29 » Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:30 pm

Ah, great! Then that's my plan. It'll be more expensive, but I'm willing to pay for that, especially if it means I will get more funding at whatever school I decide to go to! Heh.

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midwestphysics
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby midwestphysics » Wed Oct 16, 2013 1:11 am

blighter wrote:
wolfman29 wrote:As expected. But that's good to know that undergrad school is not as important as I was lead to believe.

Thanks for putting my mind at ease, all. At this point, I guess all I need to do is start studying for the GREs. Do they care if you take them multiple times? I figured I would take them once come April just to see what my baseline score was and then take it "for real" once I am in the application process next fall.


They won't know if you take multiple times anyway.


No, that is a lie
. All of your scores within the past 5 years are reported, even retakes. The way department views multiple scores however is ambiguous. Some might look at just the latest, especially if the previous one is much older. My guess however as I'm just a grad student myself and can't really speak from experience is that if you take them in rapid succession, more than 1 within a year, they'll probably average your scores.

blighter
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby blighter » Wed Oct 16, 2013 1:18 am

midwestphysics wrote:
blighter wrote:
wolfman29 wrote:As expected. But that's good to know that undergrad school is not as important as I was lead to believe.

Thanks for putting my mind at ease, all. At this point, I guess all I need to do is start studying for the GREs. Do they care if you take them multiple times? I figured I would take them once come April just to see what my baseline score was and then take it "for real" once I am in the application process next fall.


They won't know if you take multiple times anyway.


No, that is a lie
. All of your scores within the past 5 years are reported, even retakes. The way department views multiple scores however is ambiguous. Some might look at just the latest, especially if the previous one is much older. My guess however as I'm just a grad student myself and can't really speak from experience is that if you take them in rapid succession, more than 1 within a year, they'll probably average your scores.


That was the case a couple of years ago. Now they only see the scores you choose to report.

TakeruK
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby TakeruK » Wed Oct 16, 2013 2:06 pm

To expand on what blighter said, ETS now offers the "ScoreSelect" service that allows you to only send scores for a specific test date when you order additional score reports (http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/ ... coreselect)

wolfman29
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby wolfman29 » Wed Oct 16, 2013 5:35 pm

So with regard to the entire GREs (standard ones as well as the PGREs), can you pick and choose your different scores from different dates? I.e. if you scored really well on the writing and quantitative but not so hot on verbal one day and then did really well on verbal another day but not as well on the other two, can you choose to send the three of the best from all of the tests you have taken?

quantum_fan
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby quantum_fan » Wed Oct 16, 2013 6:10 pm

Thanks for putting my mind at ease, all. At this point, I guess all I need to do is start studying for the GREs. Do they care if you take them multiple times? I figured I would take them once come April just to see what my baseline score was and then take it "for real" once I am in the application process next fall.


I don't think this is really worth it. First, it costs something like $150 to take each test, which is kindof a lot of money considering there are 5 (maybe more?) previous tests online that you can take to practice with. Once you've taken 5 practice tests in a test environment (correct amount of time, no distractions, bathroom breaks coming out of your time, etc), I don't think you're going to gain much by paying to take another one. Even if you only take 2 or 3 of them in a "real testing environment" and use the other for casual practice, I think the above applies. Moreover, while you should definitely try to do your best on the pgre since you're a theory student, keep in mind that in the end, it's just one piece of your application. The general feeling I got during applications was that certain scores were "good enough" for a certain school, such that scoring above that didn't help all that much. For instance, if applicant A to Stanford had a 900 and applicant B had a 990, I don't think the 990 student has a big advantage. I think that small differences elsewhere in their applications would be more important than those last 90 pgre points. If the contrast were 800 to 950, then the 950 student might enjoy a larger advantage.

TakeruK
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby TakeruK » Wed Oct 16, 2013 7:51 pm

wolfman29 wrote:So with regard to the entire GREs (standard ones as well as the PGREs), can you pick and choose your different scores from different dates? I.e. if you scored really well on the writing and quantitative but not so hot on verbal one day and then did really well on verbal another day but not as well on the other two, can you choose to send the three of the best from all of the tests you have taken?


No, you can only pick a single test date to send your scores -- you cannot "mix and match" different test sections. So, if you took the General GRE in e.g. June 2013 and August 2013, and then you purchase the additional score reports next month to send to schools and you choose to pick a single test date instead of sending all your scores, then you can either choose for the school to receive your V, Q, and AW scores from June 2013 or your V, Q, and AW scores from August 2013. You cannot send your V score from June 2013 but your Q and AW scores from August 2013.

I also agree with quantum_fan -- I don't think it's worth taking the test more than once unless you absolutely feel that your testing experience was not optimal. But I would say that if you have time to take the test in April, it might be a good idea since that will reduce the amount of work you have to do in the fall (for all the fellowship and grad school applications you might have to do!). Also, in case something does go very badly (e.g. you end up being very sick or late etc.) then you have time to reschedule another test for the fall. But I wouldn't go into your April test thinking that it's only a "practice run" -- aim to take it just once!

wolfman29
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby wolfman29 » Wed Oct 16, 2013 8:13 pm

Ah, I wasn't aware that that was the case! Well, I suppose I'll do that then. I'll try my best in April and see how things come out. If I do horribly, then I'll take it again, otherwise I'll stick with what I've got! I think that the normal GREs can probably wait - not to concerned about those.

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midwestphysics
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby midwestphysics » Wed Nov 06, 2013 9:04 pm

blighter wrote:
That was the case a couple of years ago. Now they only see the scores you choose to report.


Wow, if this is the case things have changed a lot since I applied. And, given what it is now, what little value I saw in this test is all but gone. That's like not having repeats or W's listed on a transcript, extremely misleading and a loss of value. Then again I've never thought much of the GRE tests to begin with.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby WhoaNonstop » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:23 pm

midwestphysics wrote:Wow, if this is the case things have changed a lot since I applied. And, given what it is now, what little value I saw in this test is all but gone. That's like not having repeats or W's listed on a transcript, extremely misleading and a loss of value. Then again I've never thought much of the GRE tests to begin with.


Oh man, I would have got accepted everywhere!

550
540
620
630
510

970

-Riley

bfollinprm
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:51 pm

I totally disagree that the PGRE should only be taken once. Take it as many times as you can; increase the variance and report the best score. Taking it early will force you to study over a longer period, which will also improve your score. As a bonus, each time you take it, you'll learn more about the test and grow more comfortable with it. You can also think of the extra exams as additional practice problems you'd otherwise not obtain.

As far as cost goes, the $150 you pay for a pop at taking the PGRE is a drop in the bucket compared to the costs of applying to schools, moving to wherever you end up, transcripts, score reporting, etc. That's really the only negative, and I think it's almost completely marginal.

quantum_fan
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby quantum_fan » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:25 pm

bfollinprm wrote:I totally disagree that the PGRE should only be taken once. Take it as many times as you can; increase the variance and report the best score. Taking it early will force you to study over a longer period, which will also improve your score. As a bonus, each time you take it, you'll learn more about the test and grow more comfortable with it. You can also think of the extra exams as additional practice problems you'd otherwise not obtain.

As far as cost goes, the $150 you pay for a pop at taking the PGRE is a drop in the bucket compared to the costs of applying to schools, moving to wherever you end up, transcripts, score reporting, etc. That's really the only negative, and I think it's almost completely marginal.


Disagree. There are already at least 5 full practice tests available online. From personal experience, after the 4th and 5th tests I felt like I knew the tests very well (question style, my test-taking strategy, time management, etc). And $150 is not really a drop in the bucket. I think I spent ~$2000 applying to 11 schools, including all standardized tests, score reporting, transcripts, application fees, and whatever else there was. Suppose someone takes the test 5 times - that's an extra cost of $450-$600 (assuming the average applicant takes it once or twice). How many points do you expect someone would improve their max score by taking it those extra three times? Personally, I doubt it would be even 100 points, unless they were really dedicated in studying from the first exam they took to the last one (which by the way, would span about 2 years of time since the test is only offered once in spring and twice in fall). But if someone was willing to study that thoroughly and consistently, I suspect they would already be scoring so highly (900+) that squeezing out extra points on retakes would be more or less irrelevant.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby WhoaNonstop » Thu Nov 07, 2013 10:51 am

bfollinprm wrote:I totally disagree that the PGRE should only be taken once


Yeah, I don't think there is anything wrong with taken the PGRE more than once. Also, some people may need to get use to the testing environment, so taking the test multiple times may not be such a bad idea.

quantum_fan wrote: From personal experience, after the 4th and 5th tests I felt like I knew the tests very well (question style, my test-taking strategy, time management, etc).


Well, unfortunately one data point isn't a good set of statistical data. =)

quantum_fan wrote:And $150 is not really a drop in the bucket.


It really isn't that much money. Surely I could make the argument that this test is more important than any one class you took as an undergraduate. Did any of those cost less than $1000? Even with taking this test 3 times, $450 is still much cheaper than one college course.

quantum_fan wrote:Personally, I doubt it would be even 100 points


I improved my score by 230 points from the first time I took it to the second time and I'm sure you'd find many other people have had jumps like this as well.

-Riley

bfollinprm
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby bfollinprm » Thu Nov 07, 2013 12:16 pm

Yeah, I'm still with Riley. Anything cheaper than a TV that can potentially forward your life goals is ridiculously cheap.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby WhoaNonstop » Thu Nov 07, 2013 1:38 pm

bfollinprm wrote:Yeah, I'm still with Riley. Anything cheaper than a TV that can potentially forward your life goals is ridiculously cheap.


Unless it's one of those CRT TV's. Nobody wants those.

-Riley

TakeruK
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby TakeruK » Thu Nov 07, 2013 2:57 pm

I think whether or not it's worth it to take the PGRE multiple times is totally dependent on each person! I took it twice, my first score was 640 and my second (taken 2 years later) was 690. Taking it more times would have meant less time spent on my MSc research and/or my time spent on doing things I enjoy (sleep, vacation, time with family, etc.). I still made it in several top research universities as an international student (Canadian is a little bit different than other countries but it's still an increased cost to the school). My philosophy was that I decided how much time I was willing to spend on graduate school applications and if that wasn't good enough, then I would do something else.

The point of me going to grad school is so I can have a job where I am able to spend my time the way I want. So, if I am spending all of my time and money and energy in grad school or getting into grad school, then what's the point of grad school in the first place?

For me, the cost is more than just $150. It costs about $300-$400 per test for me to get to the testing center the night before, stay overnight in a budget motel (but still comfortable/safe), and then travel back home the next afternoon. Then, you have to pay $25 per score report if you want to self-select the score to send (selecting the best score is not an option for the 4 free score reports). In my opinion, this new test format gives an even greater advantage to those who have the time and money to do the test multiple times. If you a student who lives far from a testing center (but not far enough to create your own center), and/or if you have a job so that you can't just take time off to study/write tests, and/or if you have limited money, then these new changes reduce your chances of having an equal outcome to those without these difficulties.

And also, my undergraduate courses were not $1000 each. Back then, we paid $132 per credit, and each 13-week course is 3 credits. The cost of tuition has risen over time, at 2% per year (~indexed to inflation), so I'd be surprised if I'd have to pay much more than $500 per course now!

Overall, I probably spent $1500 to apply to 8 schools, but this number includes all testing (2 PGREs, 1 GRE), all transcripts (3 schools), and all application fees. If I had taken the PGRE like 5 times, it would have almost doubled the cost!

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby WhoaNonstop » Thu Nov 07, 2013 3:06 pm

TakeruK wrote:And also, my undergraduate courses were not $1000 each. Back then, we paid $132 per credit, and each 13-week course is 3 credits. The cost of tuition has risen over time, at 2% per year (~indexed to inflation), so I'd be surprised if I'd have to pay much more than $500 per course now!


Okay, so a three credit course, costs the same as taking the PGRE again. If you had the choice to retake a class that you got a C in or get a better PGRE score, which do you think is the better investment?

Yes, it does vary from person to person. If there has not been a decent attempt to improve the score, there is no reason to retake it. But assuming that most people do want to increase their score, retaking it is a minimal cost.

-Riley

TakeruK
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby TakeruK » Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:19 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:Okay, so a three credit course, costs the same as taking the PGRE again. If you had the choice to retake a class that you got a C in or get a better PGRE score, which do you think is the better investment?

Yes, it does vary from person to person. If there has not been a decent attempt to improve the score, there is no reason to retake it. But assuming that most people do want to increase their score, retaking it is a minimal cost.

-Riley


Actually, my college did not allow anyone to retake any courses, unless you failed the first attempt. But I agree with you that if you are going to spend $500 and the time equivalent to a 3-credit course, redoing the PGRE would help you much more in grad school applications than retaking a course (if that's allowed, or if you could take another version of the course to demonstrate your ability/improve your GPA etc).

I definitely agree that if you spend the time and money on the PGRE, it will improve your score and help you in grad admits. That is universally true. What's not universally true is how much it would help and whether it would be worth it to each person. For me, I took the PGRE twice and that was the maximum amount of time, effort, and money I was willing to put into improving that aspect of my grad application.

I also realise that not everyone is equal in terms of how much time and money is available to them, so those with more resources will have a greater opportunity to do better on the PGRE. My main complaint was that with the new ScoreSelect, ETS is putting students without as much time or money at an even greater disadvantage because they will be unable to take full advantage of submitting only their best score.

ETS claims that this will allow all applicants be able to show grad schools their full ability and negate the possible effects of a bad test day or other factors. However, if this was true, there really should be more chances to take the subject test (3 times a year isn't very much!) and you should be allowed to rewrite the test without paying additional fees. Also, you should be allowed to use the four free score reports after you write the test, so that you can still use it to submit your best score. To cover the extra costs, it would even make sense for ETS to raise the test registration fee for everyone by a small amount, so that everyone pays the same amount and have the same opportunity to pick their best score. However, since none of this is happening and the only way to take advantage of these new benefits is to pay more money to ETS, I feel like this is just a way for ETS to increase their revenue at the expense of grad school applicants.

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midwestphysics
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby midwestphysics » Sat Nov 09, 2013 4:55 am

I don't have any problems with retaking the test, repeats, etc. What I have a problem with is not reporting all the attempts. Failing a class or doing bad on the test in the first attempt doesn't even bother me that much, it shows you can get hit and get back up and kick butt. Still, if you did I want to see that you had to overcome it and did. The other way is just misleading. In fact, showing an increase is actually good if you ask me. I'd rather work with someone who has been kicked in the face a few times and got back up to kick back than someone who has sailed through it all with relative ease. Eventually everybody meets the edge of their ability if they're doing it right, those with experience know how to handle the situation. Hiding repeat attempts also hides that experience.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Unsure If My Profile is Sufficient

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sat Nov 09, 2013 9:00 am

midwestphysics wrote:I don't have any problems with retaking the test, repeats, etc. What I have a problem with is not reporting all the attempts. Failing a class or doing bad on the test in the first attempt doesn't even bother me that much, it shows you can get hit and get back up and kick butt. Still, if you did I want to see that you had to overcome it and did. The other way is just misleading. In fact, showing an increase is actually good if you ask me. I'd rather work with someone who has been kicked in the face a few times and got back up to kick back than someone who has sailed through it all with relative ease. Eventually everybody meets the edge of their ability if they're doing it right, those with experience know how to handle the situation. Hiding repeat attempts also hides that experience.


I'd probably report all my scores still, even if we had the choice.

-Riley




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