Suggestions for schools to apply to... poor GRE scores

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TheHawkBat
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Suggestions for schools to apply to... poor GRE scores

Postby TheHawkBat » Fri Oct 26, 2007 2:07 am

So here is my background... I have a 3.9 GPA for my years at a small liberal arts college I transferred to after my sophomore year at another small liberal arts college. The transfer was due to family health issues. At the larger university I had a 3.75. My cumulative physics GPA from both the schools is a 3.9, and math is a 3.85. I am double majoring math and physics, although my math studies have been mostly in pure mathematics. I have 2 full years of research experience, including work that will be published in about 6 months. My general GRE scores, while not great, are 780 on math (90th percentile), and 570 on verbal (79th percentile).

Here is the kicker however. My physics GRE score was terrible. 33rd percentile. I don't have time to retake it before the application process, and am not sure if I even have a chance to get into a good graduate program. I wish to pursue a PhD, but will any schools consider me, and if so, which ones?

DarthTater
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Joined: Tue Oct 30, 2007 8:23 pm

Postby DarthTater » Tue Oct 30, 2007 8:44 pm

Hawk,
There are a few schools out there that do not require the subject test. I'm not sure where you want to focus your PhD, but for example, the University of Indiana at Bloomington doesn't require the physics gre. I'm looking there for particle physics. There is a strong recommendation, but I suppose if you think your scores would hurt your application you can choose not to submit them. You should look around at schools that have similar requirements.

Hope this helps...

03D3bb
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Postby 03D3bb » Thu Nov 01, 2007 1:57 pm

Don't be too distraught, I was in the 28 percentile with a lower gpa and I still got into some good schools (UIUC, Yale, Michigan, etc). You just have highlight your strengths and it sounds like you have good research experience as well. Good luck!

doom
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Postby doom » Thu Nov 01, 2007 3:19 pm

03D3bb, where did you go to undergrad? What kind of research experience did you have?

03D3bb
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Postby 03D3bb » Tue Nov 06, 2007 6:04 pm

@doom: I went to Berkeley for undergrad and had pretty awesome research experience (that's pretty much what got me in) one with a recent Nobelist and one with a recent Shaw prize winner. I also applied to those schools in the physics department, but with a planned concentration in astrophysics so it may be easier, I'm not sure though. Sorry about being so vague, I'm afraid of people I know reading this.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Tue Nov 06, 2007 6:38 pm

So, basically, if you have a nobel prize winner writing your letter of recommendation, you can get in with a low physics gre score :wink:

Great! Good luck!

schmit.paul
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Postby schmit.paul » Wed Nov 14, 2007 3:57 am

thinking outside the box a little, you've got scores and a background that could very possibly get you into some very good engineering or applied math/physics programs. Since you haven't stated your desired specialization in grad school, then this advice is very general, but I encourage you to investigate opportunities in these related fields along with pure physics. Some applied math/physics programs may require (or strongly recommend) taking the math/physics GREs, but not all of them, and engineering programs typically only require the general GRE (for which your scores are just fine). Along with the many plasma physics and particle physics programs I applied to last year, I also threw in MIT Nuclear Science and Engineering as a backup program for plasma physics (they offer a theoretical plasma physics Ph.D. within the department). Among the programs that accepted me, MIT NSE was one. So by making yourself a unique applicant that could offer a different perspective to a slightly different technical world (because I imagine there will not be an overwhelming number of physics students applying to most engineering or applied math departments) you could very well push yourself ahead of the pack.

FYI though, this is not a guarantee. An engineering program may see a physics/math student with no engineering background as someone with a deficiency, but from the talks I had with the department head at MIT, a physics/math student going into something like engineering is something very special, since you could have quite a bit of detailed insight into matters that some engineers may tend to overlook.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Wed Nov 14, 2007 8:47 pm

schmit.paul, how are you liking Princeton so far?

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Wed Nov 14, 2007 9:10 pm

Yeah I was about to ask the same thing. Hopefully I'll get to meet you there next fall.

schmit.paul
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Postby schmit.paul » Wed Nov 14, 2007 9:50 pm

Princeton's been great so far, except for having to adjust to the new england climate after living in the desert for 21 years. This is arguably the best plasma program in the country, and I'm currently doing theory with one of the top theorists in the field, so I'm content. I had a real difficulty last spring choosing between plasma theory and particle theory (for which my best offer was at Caltech, which is also a very beautiful campus, except for the major gender imbalance), and in the end it was a combination of being solicited heavily by the plasma department here and my philosophical motivations for considering plasma in the first place that made me decide to come here. And I think it was the right decision. As much as I love abstract mathematics, and as much as I believed the only place to truly dive into some hardcore theoretical problems was in particle physics, I've found that there are some seriously stimulating theoretical problems in many different fields, and plasma is no exception. We're basically pioneering the field of nonequilibrium stat mech with a full range of electromagnetic phenomena factored into the mix, so it's pretty intellectually demanding.

So for anyone else who is in a similar situation I was in, namely that you think the only place to get your hardcore math fix is in high energy theory, I encourage you to look into all of the different theoretical disciplines and talk to some professors. But if you really want to do high energy, then go for it, I still have designs to study QFT on the side and become somewhat of an informed bystander.

Good luck you guys, and feel free to ask any other questions about the application process. I'm sure a nontrivial fraction of Princeton's entering graduate class will be coming from the pool of people that frequent this forum.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:42 pm

That sounds absolutely amazing. Enjoy yourself!

MSU_fizz
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Postby MSU_fizz » Sun Nov 25, 2007 3:38 pm

Michigan State doesn't require GRE scores, although they are helpful. At one time, 25 percentile was average for American students so I wouldn't fret too much.




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