Junior in College--Inquiry about Graduate School Admissions

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Junior in College--Inquiry about Graduate School Admissions

Postby theoretical_phys » Sat Jun 09, 2007 4:29 am


I'm currently a Junior at a Jesuit, liberal arts university. Due to Hurricane Katrina, I have been forced to attend three different universities during my time in undergraduate school. However, I am finally back to the university that I had every intention to attend when I graduated high school. So far, I have completed two semesters at this university with a 3.85 GPA and a 4.0 GPA in Physics (I have a transfer transcript of a 3.5 GPA as well, but this does not factor into my overall GPA). I completed research as a freshman (in the area of astrophysics), but I have taken a larger interest in theoretical physics, including special and general relativity. For about a year, I have been working one on one with a well-known theoretical physicist in an attempt to better understand special and general relativity and (hopefully) complete research in these fields. I am currently studying for the GRE Physics and regular GRE, and I am planning to go ahead and take the GRE Physics in April 2008 and November 2008. At this point in time, I have my sights set on Ivy League schools and other universities, including UC Santa Barbara, Indiana University, Berkeley, Standford, U Washington, U Chicago, MIT, Cornell, etc. With my current qualifications, what GRE scores do you think I would need to keep these schools as options? Also, if I were to obtain these GRE scores, would I currently have a good chance of acceptance at these schools?


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Postby grae313 » Sun Jun 10, 2007 3:41 pm

As has been said many times here, if you go to http://www.gradschoolshopper.com you can view the average GRE scores of accepted students for most programs. As an example the average subject scores for some of the schools you mentioned are, Santa Barbara 770, Berkeley 880, Stanford 814, UW 848, Chicago 867, Cornell 80th percentile. These averages also include the scores of foreign students who typically score much higher, so the average scores for domestic applicants are somewhat lower than these numbers. You can expect that most or many of the students applying to top 10 schools also have 4.0's or close to it, as well as research experience and often publications. I would say if you can score at least an 800 you will have a chance at all the schools you listed, although a better one at some than others, of course. To quote an admissions guy from Berkeley *chemistry* ph.d program, "Kid, we've got 500 applicants, 250 of them have published, and we are accepting 25. You do the math."

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Postby schmit.paul » Mon Jun 11, 2007 7:29 pm

I would say you're at the front of the pack in terms of preparing for the grad school application process (you're on forums like this asking questions, you're taking the April GRE, which may or may not be a wise idea depending on the extent of your physics background and preparation, and you're currently involved in research). I can see you are careening toward a severe case of physics-major paranoia, so don't get yourself worked up too soon in the process or you'll be miserable for the rest of your undergrad. It sounds like your recent coursework is on track, so hold onto your 4.0 and don't sacrifice your standing if you're hoping to curry favor from the Ivy league admissions committees (also, don't forget that to keep that 4.0, I would hope you are developing your knowledge of the fundamentals at a quick and thorough pace). Don't fret over the GRE until 2008 is rounding the corner, and then attack the fundamentals all over again. Keep up with your research, and look into an REU for next summer to supplement the project you've got going on at your home institution right now...the more diverse research experience you get as an undergrad, the better, and working on one big long project for all of your undergrad isn't going to broaden your perspective of frontier physics research beyond a certain point. However, consistency and the ability to follow through and complete a project is certainly a big deal, so that's why summer REU's are a great thing--you can come right back to your primary project at your home institution once the summer's over.

GRE scores are not worth a year of worry, so now's not the time to be asking questions like "will a certain score give me a good shot at getting into these schools?" What you should be thinking about right now is the truly substantial attributes and experiences you will need to distinguish yourself amongst an international pool of hungry physics students. You're on the right track, so keep thinking big and do what you feel you should to be able to say that you truly have a unique mastery over the fundamentals and an invaluable background in cutting edge research. Good luck.

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