Steps to take after total rejections (CME), Material Science as Alternative?

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Joined: Thu Sep 05, 2013 8:59 pm

Steps to take after total rejections (CME), Material Science as Alternative?

Postby gigadan » Fri May 22, 2015 12:16 am

Hello all, I was rejected from all the Condensed Matter Experiment programs I applied for. Well obviously it's a hard pill to swallow but apparently it was a good lesson after all. I applied to the most competitive programs and that could explain it. Those programs are on the list of ranked Condensed Matter programs on US News Ranking. (Well my undergrad institution is on that list so I thought it makes sense to apply to that list...At first I thought I could at least get in somewhere, but nope...)

After a shot period of emotional devastation, I picked myself up because I am very determined to pursue physics education.
I have talked to many people, including people from physicsforum, my professors, admission committee, my lab PI, grad students and friends.
So far I have the following options:

1.) Find opportunities at my undergrad institution and work hard toward publication, then apply again for CM programs (Fall, 2016) (advice from one of my PI.) - This route requires me to work full time or part time to support my living while volunteering in a lab.

2.) Re-apply again but don't go for top 20, basically apply anywhere between 20~50th ranking school this Fall, 2015. (advice from another one of my PI.) That PI is basically saying, just apply to less competitive school, I will get in and save myself trouble.

3.) Don't go into Condensed Matter, switch field to Material Science. Get more research experience in the engineering and applied physics field and then apply Fall, 2016. This sounds attractive to me, similar to option 1, but I am not sure if Material Science programs are a better fit to me.

My GPA is 3.60 upper div and 3.55 cumulative. 50/50 A's and B's evenly distributed, with A's in solid state/CM courses, E&M, and Quantum.
My Quant GRE is 90th percentile at 165/170, and Physics GRE at 83th percentile at 880/990
2 academic research experience and 1 internship in material characterization industry. (I have to admit, although the first academic research experience inspired me to pursue solid state physics, i didn't produce any meaningful result. I wish there's a 2nd chance for me to do some real work in solid state physics.)

Also, although I love the solid state theories, I want to apply the body of knowledge to something practical in the future. My ultimate career goal is to work in private sector. So some people advised me to pursue material science instead of traditional physics.

So I want to know, how are admission process different, CM vs MS&E? CM belongs to Physics department while MS&E is usually on the engineering side. I want to avoid another total failure for my next application cycle.

Is material science more difficult for physics major to get into or is it easier? What are the major factors that contribute to the successful admission to good programs? Can I submit my physics GRE to Engineering department?

Then finally, which advice should I take? (I know this is supposed to be a personal question but I simply wish to hear more input from you all.)

Your opinions and input are greatly appreciated.

Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 12:55 pm

Re: Steps to take after total rejections (CME), Material Science as Alternative?

Postby Donavan » Mon Aug 10, 2015 2:07 am


Apologies for wanting to ride on your thread as well because I am wondering about what-ifs in this case.

Where might you be thinking of applying? I would like to share resources. :)

Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2014 6:52 pm

Re: Steps to take after total rejections (CME), Material Science as Alternative?

Postby moon » Thu Sep 10, 2015 1:51 am

The advice from your PI sounds like the best plan. Don't take my word for it, since I think I'm in a similar position; I applied to top 20 schools last year for HET and (no surprise) got rejected. I don't want to settle for less, so I'm coming back strong this year with much more GRE prep, a thesis paper in my field of interest and some experience in industry. Since it's already september, really write the crap out of your personal statements and try to get good letters.

I don't know about the differences between CM and materials science.

Like your PI has suggested, I am applying to a wider range of graduate programs. I have about a 30:40:30 balance of safety:mid:top schools that I'm applying to, and I made sure that all my safety schools have programs that I would actually be happy in. Again, your strategy is as good as mine but at least I can corroborate some of the suggestions you've been given.

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