: French public university, with a rather good reputation in physics.Major(s)
: Bs. in Physics, Ms. in Physics and MaterialsGPA in Major
: ca. 85% in bachelor, 80% in masterOverall GPA
: 90% in bachelor, 80% in masterLength of Degree
: 3 yr Bsc. + 2 yr Msc.Position in Class
: TopType of Student
: International male, not minority.GRE Scores
: 166 (91%)V
: 161 (87%)W
: 3.5 (40%) (was tempted to retake but well). P
: 810 (72%)TOEFL Total
: 110 (but only 22 in speaking, which is sometimes below requirements. I contacted the programs and made sure this would not be a problem before applying, turns out those minima aren't that strict in general ...
: 3 summer internships including one abroad. The two most recent are in my field of research.
I mentionned in SOP that my 5 months long master thesis will take place during next spring, and is traditionally when European students sign their first publication(s).Awards/Honors/Recognitions
Got various scolarships to study abroad, once each from French Embassies in USA and Belgium and twice from EU.
Graduated with high honors from my bachelor and high school.Pertinent Activities or Jobs
Animated a workshop about physics in a primary school;
Taught personal lessons in mathematics to high school students (I mention my interest in teaching in my SOP);Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help
Got involved in the creation of a FabLab at my home institution ;Special Bonus Points
One of my recommender had me for three different classes at a graduate level and knows me very well. Another was the internship supervisor I got along best with. The last one has known me for 2 years. I expect very positive recommendations from all of them.
Very specific research interests that I have been consistent with through my education, such that my elective courses and internships are quite adapted to the kind of research I am applying to.Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter
1 semester abroad during bachelor at UCONN and 1 year abroad during master at UAntwerpen.
Research interest is really at the boundary between physics, chemistry, MSE and EE, and I happened to have worked with people from each of those background, so I mention this in my SOP hoping that counts.
I specifically mention the professors I want to work with in my statements.Applying to Where
:Requires or recommends PGREBoston University
- Physics - Computational physics applied to solar cells 04/10 - Rejected by e-mail
- Chemistry- Solar cells understanding - 01/30 - Rejected by e-mail to check website.
. Retrospectively, I could have expected it and spare me the trouble of applying.MIT
- Physics- Photonics - Rejected by e-mail to check website
. Can't find the e-mail of rejection now.Northwestern University
- Applied Physics - Solar cells understanding - 01/26 Invited to send a video of introduction as part of the next stage of application.
then waitlisted for several months 04/17 Rejected by e-mail, asking not to ask for details given the number of applicants
. This was the most difficult to receive, because I feel like I was really standing a chance, also the incertitude of being waitlisted for several months is unbearable! No subject test askedCMU
- MSE - Computational physics applied to solar cells - 03/9 Rejected by e-mail to check website
they replied very kindly to my e-mail asking for what were the main flaws of my application, which softened the blow. MIT
- MSE - Solar cells fabrication - 12/02 IELTS waiver request rejected
One has to pay the application fee just to know weither the IELTS waiver will be granted or not. They gave me a new deadline to send scores, but it was impossible to meet since all upcoming test taking dates were already booked. Well, I tried.UMich Ann Arbor
- MSE - Solar cells fabrication - 04/11 Rejected by e-mail
.Reflexion a posteriori on my application
I was aware that I was applying to strong programs with many applicants, but I know that I still have my chances in Europe therefore I am not worried. If I had to do it again, perhaps I would not consider MIT and Harvard: they were essentially out of reach and made me loose a lot of time in perfecting my letters. Particularly disappointing was the way some programs kept me waiting without any indication: I had to ask about my status to know that I was waitlisted and the number of waitlisted students or positions remaining was never communicated.
Overall, I really disliked this experience full of stress. The principle of applying to a phd program rather than a phd project was very confusing and gives the impression of being very small in a gigantic crowd of applicants. All the places I am applying to in Europe were civil enough to let me know how many applicants are being considered, what my status is and to invite me for interviews less than a month after the first contact.
The unexpected positive experince was the PGRE: sure it's a pain, but once I read "Conquering the PGRE " and made myself sheets of formulas, it became so much easier to work on it (I had taken it two years before) and also quite valuable to have all the electromagnetism formulas refreshed in mind. So, to all international applicants out there: do embrace this test. In spite of its many flaws it is a very effective recap of everything you know.