My credentials are below. I thought I had a strong application, but apparently not strong enough to get into top-10 US places (including UCLA), Oxford, Heidelberg or the Max Planck Institute. Curiously, I contacted Professors during the application process, only if I was honestly interested in their research or their research overlapped with mine. I did so everywhere except in the places I was rejected (with the exception of Heidelberg and UCLA, where the professors did not reply), i.e. wherever I contacted Professors I got in. I hear there are mixed opinions about contacting faculty members while applying, but that certainly looks like a very funny coincidence to me.
I would appreciate some feedback as to where were the weak parts in my application. I actually applied for hep-ph, but I assume that would fall under hep-th in our classifications. I was really hoping to get into a top-10 place, and was very disappointed at getting all these rejections, but I got over it and am now extremely happy of where I'm heading to.
vagnox92 wrote:Undergrad Institution: University of Trento. Very small public University in Italy, building a good reputation for physics
GPA in Major: 29.6/30
Length of Degree: 3
Position in Class: Top 3
Master's: University of Melbourne. Big foreign public University, strong reputation for physics
Major(s): Theoretical Particle Physics
GPA in Major: 91.4/100
Length of Degree: 2
Position in Class: Top
Type of Student: International Male
GRE Scores: revised
Q: 169 (97%)
V: 159 (81%)
W: 4.5 (80%)
P: 960 (91%)
TOEFL Total: 118
Research Experience: at my Master's institution, 2 years of research experience. 2 papers, one accepted by PRD and chosen for an Editors' Suggestion (yay! they said it was really interesting and well written) and one submitted for publication. Two poster presentations at a workshop and a Winter School. Since I finished my Master's in December I am spending the period of time until Fall 2015 as a visiting student at a very important research institute in Europe, the Niels Bohr Institute, doing research with a visiting Professor from Oxford.
Awards/Honors/Recognitions: various within my school and college (such as "you have good marks" stuff), plus a recognition the ministry of public education in Italy and a prestigious scholarship from the government of Australia. Graduated with 110/110 from my Undergraduate institution and with First Class Honours from my Master's one.
Pertinent Activities or Jobs: tutor in College and at the University, laboratory demonstrator, Postgraduate Physics Students' Society Secretary, engaged in a lot of outreach, good programming skills.
Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: Master's thesis was awarded a very high mark, hold a violin diploma, speak 3 languages, lived in several different countries (hopefully can help on diversity statement), attended various workshops, attended two Winter Schools recently.
Special Bonus Points: three very famous recommenders with very good connections in most of the places where I applied to.
Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: spent some time on exchange at Imperial College and now working at the Niels Bohr Institute with a visiting Professor from Oxford. I think my recommendations are very strong and people have told me my SoP was very well written. Mentioned 3-4 Professors I wanted to work with in my SoP, and was very specific about parts of their research I'm interested in, I read their papers very carefully. Also kept an open mind mentioning other opportunities should these Professors not be available. Took graduate courses and obtained high marks.
Applying to Where: all for particle phenomenology, cosmology and mixtures of the two.
MIT - Physics - Rejected 2/18 via email
Caltech - Physics - Rejected 2/23 via email
Harvard - Physics - Rejected 3/2 via website
University of Chicago - Physics - Rejected 3/3 via email to check website
UCLA - Physics & Astronomy - Rejected 2/27 via email to check website
University of Pennsylvania - Physics & Astronomy
Johns Hopkins - Physics & Astronomy - Accepted 2/3 via email - Declined
Carnegie Mellon - Physics - Accepted 2/20 via email - Declined
Ohio State University - Physics - Accepted 2/12 via email - Declined
University of Minnesota - Physics & Astronomy - Accepted 1/29 via email - Declined
UC Santa Cruz - Physics - Accepted 2/20 via email - Declined
UC Irvine - Physics & Astronomy - Invited to Open House 2/23 via email - Unofficially accepted 2/24 upon email enquiry - Declined
University of Utah - Physics & Astronomy - Accepted 2/5 via email - Declined
Temple University - Physics - Withdrawn
McGill - Physics
University of Melbourne - Physics - Accepted 1/20 via email - Declined
University of Heidelberg - Institute for Theoretical Physics - Rejected 1/17 upon email enquiry
IMPRS - Elementary Particle Physics - Rejected 11/05 via email
Royal Holloway - Physics - Invited for interview 2/15 via email - Interview 2/16 via Skype - Accepted 2/20 via email - Declined
University of Oxford - Physics - Rejected 3/4 upon email enquiry
University of Southampton - Physics - Invited for interview 2/26 via email - Withdrawn
University of Sussex - Physics - Invited for interview 3/9 via email - Withdrawn
University of Edinburgh - Physics & Astronomy - Invited for interview 2/16 via email - Interview 2/25 via Skype - Unofficially accepted 3/11 upon email enquiry - Declined
Durham University - Physics - Invited for interview 2/26 via email - Interview 3/3 via Skype - Accepted 3/12 via email - Declined
Stockholm University - Oskar Klein Centre - Accepted 12/14 via email - WILL ATTEND!!!! Joint position between the Oskar Klein Centre for Cosmoparticle Physics at Stockholm University, and the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics (NORDITA). Primary advisor will be Katherine Freese, director of NORDITA and a very big name in hep-th, hep-ph and astro-ph. Salary starting at 23700 SEK/month (~2800 US$/month), increasing to ~28000 SEK/month (~3300 US$/month), eventually with extras from TA
Utrecht University - Institute for Theoretical Physics - Selected to write a research proposal 1/23 via email - Withdrawn
University of Amsterdam - GRAPPA - Invited for interview 12/22 via email - Interview 2/12 and 2/13 in person, 2/16 via Skype - Accepted 2/17 via email - Declined
Leiden University - Leiden de Sitter Cosmology Programme - Invited for interview 12/18 via email - Accepted 1/19 upon receiving Leiden/Huygens fellowship - Declined
Leiden University - Leiden/Huygens Fellowship - Accepted 1/19 via email - Declined
Leiden University - Instituut-Lorentz - Withdrawn