Gap in Academic Career

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bunnysid
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2015 9:55 am

Gap in Academic Career

Postby bunnysid » Tue Apr 05, 2016 1:58 am

Hi,

I applied to Grad Schools in Theoretical High Energy Physics . I got rejected from everywhere. My PGRE score was good (900) but my undergrad was only 3 and Masters was 4 (as I was told by some US universities regarding my Indian degree). I have applied to schools ranked within 40-100. I had 2 years research experience too and my referees are also well known (Both of them did their PhD's from US, one at Caltech and another at Stonybrook). However I would like to know if having a gap in your academic career has negative impression on the Admissions Committee. I got my Masters in 2011 and after that worked as a Junior Research Fellow till 2014. Did this have an effect on my application. I have added this as a separate topic from my previous posts because I feel there are many in this forum who have gaps in their academic career. It would be nice if friends can discuss this issue here.

Thanks

Sid

godwin
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2015 6:38 am

Re: Gap in Academic Career

Postby godwin » Tue Apr 05, 2016 9:58 am

Conventional wisdom says 'no', but nobody can read the minds of the admissions professors and not all of them think alike.

Your year(s) off can help or harm you, it all depends on how you spent them and what you accomplished. Advice that is often given is that you address the gap in your Statement of Purpose and explain how it makes you an even BETTER candidate. You probably saw this, but it's a good example.

Most job interview advice asserts that actual gaps in your resume (aka time periods that aren't covered by anything in your CV) are a nuisance that interviewers love to pick at. In practical terms: Don't take a year off because you want a better PGRE score; it's not worth it.

TakeruK
Posts: 814
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Gap in Academic Career

Postby TakeruK » Tue Apr 05, 2016 1:23 pm

bunnysid wrote:my undergrad was only 3 and Masters was 4 (as I was told by some US universities regarding my Indian degree). I have applied to schools ranked within 40-100. I had 2 years research experience too and my referees are also well known (Both of them did their PhD's from US, one at Caltech and another at Stonybrook). However I would like to know if having a gap in your academic career has negative impression on the Admissions Committee. I got my Masters in 2011 and after that worked as a Junior Research Fellow till 2014. Did this have an effect on my application.


Overall, my general answer is "yes", the time for your degree and time since your degree does influence admission decision, however, not necessarily negatively like implied here. Here are some more thoughts/details:

Did you mean your Masters was a 4th year, or that your Masters took 4 years to complete? I think you did the right thing in taking the Masters because of the short undergrad degree length. However, taking 4 years to finish a Masters degree is abnormal, and I think it would have affected your application negatively if this was the case and if you did not address it in your application. Why did the Masters take so long? One thing the committee may be worried about is whether you will finish your PhD in a timely manner, because research/thesis based Masters are typically 1-2 years.

Working as a research fellow from 2011-2014 is a good thing and I don't think it would negatively impact you. As godwin said, what you do during years off matter and working as a researcher is great. I think this probably helps your application as it gives you additional experience. But it's important to know some details here: is it a full time position? What did you work on? What did you achieve? I think grad schools would be using these 3 years as a indicator of how productive you would be as a researcher in grad school (as you would have the same training/experience as their current PhD students during this time). So, this time could hurt you if you don't properly present your experience and accomplishments.

Finally, what have you done since 2014? Why did you stop being a research fellow? Have you still been doing research since then? If not, then why not? Have you done other academic things to keep current in your field?

I think that applying as an experienced student (i.e. with a Masters and research experience, like you) is different than applying as a student fresh out of undergrad/MSc. With a Masters degree in physics, you would be expected to act more like a junior scientist / young person in the field instead of a freshly graduated student. So, I think the committee would be looking for evidence that from 2011 until now, you are developing and producing work at a level that would demonstrate you would do well in their graduate program. If you have not focussed your application to demonstrate this, perhaps this would be a good way to restructure your applications for next year.

bunnysid
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2015 9:55 am

Re: Gap in Academic Career

Postby bunnysid » Tue Apr 05, 2016 10:53 pm

I am extremely sorry for the lack of clarity in my post. I meant that my GPA in Bachelors is 3 and Masters is 4. I took 2 years to complete my Masters. I finished my Masters in 2011. That is the prescribed time for completing your Masters in my country. I was a junior research fellow from 2012 to 2014. I left because the person I wanted to wasn't taking students as he suffered from ill health. During my time as a research fellow I completed the mandatory course work and exams. I also did a project in string theory. Among the referees who wrote my references two are from the institute where I was a junior research fellow. From 2014 I taught underprivileged kids with an NGO. At the end of 2015 I gave up my job and started applying to US universities. I wrote all this in my SOP. My referees clarified these in their references specially the two years as a research fellow. I also have the grade sheet for the course I attended in the research institute. The course work was for a year and it covered advanced quantum field theory, GR, cosmology, advanced Mathematical methods, statistical physics, particle physics etc. I have very good grades in this course work.

I am still baffled as to why I got rejected everywhere. I mentioned theoretical high energy and theoretical condensed matter as my interests. Mostly my courses and projects are in high energy physics though.

I have seen in this forum that mentioning hep-th is a red flag if you are not within top .5 percent of the students. I feel my PGRE score of 900 is pretty bad as well as my undergrad GPA. But at least I thought I will make into one of the universities as a I chose them very carefully compatible with my research experience and interests. I wrote to professors before applying too. Didn't get any replies.

I don't know if I will have enough money to apply next year. At the moment I will be working on a cosmology project with a professor. Let's see what turns up.

It seems very hard to get into universities with my profile this year. I don't blame this on my luck but I feel that the mid and low tier schools where I applied had better applicants than me :cry:

I am very sad and depressed :|




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