Admission selection process

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

woooster
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Admission selection process

Postby woooster » Thu Jan 10, 2008 2:33 pm

Hi, today on the way to the lab, I saw one of my recommenders, and he is in the admission committee for my school this year. He told me about how the admission works, so I would like to share. :P

I basically asked him how many committee members look at one's application, and how do they go over ~600 applications, so many applications. Here are his answers:

Even though there are ~600 applications, he told me that more than half of them are not competitive at all. They pretty much can put everyone into 3 different slot, most competitive, still have potential, no hope. In the end, they will extract about ~120 applications to look at seriously.

He told me about 3 out of 4 committee grade your application. In the end, the committee chair look at your grades. He mentioned pretty much the chair won't do anything other than following the advice of members, your grades. The only exception case happens when the grades vary. For example, 1 say you are bad, one say ok, and one say excellent...

He also notes that they have started looking at applications in the last week of December.

schandre
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Postby schandre » Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:26 pm

Thank you woooster. Most of us have been wondering how our applications are looked at and it is nice to know that.

vicente
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Postby vicente » Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:49 pm

What country are you in, woooster?

woooster
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Admission selection process

Postby woooster » Thu Jan 10, 2008 4:30 pm

I am in one of the top 5 physics program in the US (you have to guess) :)

In fact, I also remember my previous conservations with some admission committee members. GRE sub test is not that important relative to research and recommendation. They told me GRE sub is stupid, and tried not do too bad. One, in admission committee this year, told me anything above 700 is good if u apply to experimental.

GRE for Theory is another story, and of course it depends on one's background, international? from a small non known school? For later is because GRE is the only way to understand what your grade means, even the test is dumb. They don't know what 4.0 means from a small Liberal arts colleges, and there are so many of them.

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Thu Jan 10, 2008 4:53 pm

In fact, I also remember my previous conservations with some admission committee members. GRE sub test is not that important relative to research and recommendation. They told me GRE sub is stupid, and tried not do too bad. One, in admission committee this year, told me anything above 700 is good if u apply to experimental.


Some professors put so much more thought and effort into recommendations then others. Some make sure to address everything relevant to graduate school and how the student satisfies the expectation, while others write a halfassed "he's one of the best I've ever had" rec the day before the deadline. It's not always possible for students to pick out who will be best to ask for a rec.

So I don't see how they could put so much more emphasis on those than on grades and the GRE. 700? That's like 50th percentile. So the top schools are satisfied with someone who did as well as half the students in the world on the GRE as long as some special professor is willing to say "he is smart."? Furthermore, recommendations are written in less than an hour and grades are written over 4 years. I think when sifting through all the 4.0 students from unknown schools, they should turn to the GRE before recommendations.

woooster
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Postby woooster » Thu Jan 10, 2008 5:38 pm

to quizivex,

the whole point above GRE above 700 (to calarify above 60% not 50% of the people) is good "enought" is that Prof. doesnt believe in the GRE anymore. It has nothing to do with you are not the top %. Plus, GRE is on the whole world curve anyway, which means there are a lot of above 900 GRE international student (from china and india). So the true % should be higher, not to mention they don't like to accept theory student and they are required to have higher GRE.

In fact, you can confirm this if you want. The harvard admission lady told me that last year they didn't look at the GRE subject test before they made decision at all. One of my friend got in with a 740.

On the other hand, the recommendation is not written within an hour. Using your argument that GPA is written over 4 year, recommendation is written over the past year or summer full time research. A course recommendation is not really a big deal unless u are the top student in the class and the professor writes amazing thing about u, or u get A or A+ in graduate class like QFT :wink: ....Usually when they say recommendation letter, they really focus on the research letter which describes what you did in your research. I guess that's why most of the applicants are not considered to be competitive.

Most student who get into top program have ~ 2 research in their junior and senior year. So, the recommendation not written within an hour, it's 2 years hardwork. And if you start doing research, you would realize most undergrad courses do not really mean much to your work, other than some upper div. courses, which can be finished in 1 year really:)

About your comment on prof. saying "one is smart", I do know someone got a letter from David Griffiths, saying that he is one of the best in the past, and he published a paper with Griffiths. Reed is a small liberal college, but at least known to public.

In conclusion, I don't think a letter saying one is smart is a strong letter, but something special is needed.

cancelled20080417
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Postby cancelled20080417 » Fri Jan 11, 2008 12:44 am

wooster, I can say where you are from- CORNELL UNIVERSITY!!! Am I correct?
I am pretty sure, I am correct, hahahahha

woooster
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Admission selection process

Postby woooster » Fri Jan 11, 2008 2:25 pm

Nahh, why do u think Cornell is top 5? To protect my identity, I won't confirm with your next guess...

cancelled20080417
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Postby cancelled20080417 » Fri Jan 11, 2008 6:01 pm

Cornell is top 5, no? I was under impression that Cornell is in top 5! Isn't that true?
Does any body here know the ranking of Physics program for this year? Grae posted 2006 ranking some where on this forum,,but does any body know the 2007 ranking of the physics program from US news and world report?
Thanks.

vicente
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Postby vicente » Fri Jan 11, 2008 6:16 pm

They did not make a new ranking for physics for this year.

physicsdude
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Postby physicsdude » Fri Jan 11, 2008 6:43 pm

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Last edited by physicsdude on Mon Feb 11, 2008 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

goodfromfar
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Postby goodfromfar » Sat Jan 12, 2008 4:34 am

Regarding the importance of GRE scores and grad stuff in general

My mother received her PhD from Stanford in Math Ed and has worked closely with professors in the physics department both at Stanford and UC Berkeley

She was told by professors at Stanford that they fully realize that the GRE has little indication of success in graduate school, but that Stanford likes to "brag" about how high their scores are and are thus inclined to admit students who have the high scores they like to advertise.
Since they do acknowledge the non correlation between GRE and grad success, they are also more willing to make exceptions for people with exemplary records and not so good GREs.

Also, I took a diving class a couple months ago with a woman who worked for admissions at Stanford and she mentioned that last year the physics program got a higher than expected number of students accepting their graduate admission (usually ~35% of students admitted choose to go there, last year it was 50%). As a result they might be a little bit stricter on admissions this year.


And lastly, yet another anecdote to illustrate my disdain for Berkeley!
(but hey, it means I'm not applying there!)

A friend of my mother's was getting his PhD in physics at UCSB and had started on a project with a group from UCB. A couple weeks after he joined, one of the Berkeley PhD students committed suicide. At the next group meeting, the only thing mentioned was "wow, I'm sure glad XXX kept his notes so well organized for us - we can pick right up on his research".
The UCSB student contacted the deceased Berkeley student's mother to express condolences, and the mother mentioned that she had not heard a single word from anyone at Berkeley.

I'm sorry, I know Berkeley is a top notch school and a fantastic place for physics research, and this is probably an isolated incident (also probably 10+ years old), but I cannot fathom going to a university where the grad students are expendable research monkeys whose value lies in their GRE score. (note - I have a friend PhD applied physics at UCB and he loves it)


That's all the physics university gossip I have for now.

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Postby physicsdude » Sat Jan 12, 2008 11:46 am

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Last edited by physicsdude on Mon Feb 11, 2008 7:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

goodfromfar
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Postby goodfromfar » Sat Jan 12, 2008 7:00 pm

Those are fantastic quotes!

I completely agree, but you also can't deny the appeal of saying "Hello, I'm a PhD physics student at Cornell, what do you do?"!

It really is a supply and demand problem..too bad we aren't economists =P
These days everyone and their mom goes to college. I've noted that in just the past few years, the physics classes have grown by a factor of 2-3 due to the apparently "cool/hip/emo geekiness" vibe physics now exudes. The graduate schools aren't growing nearly as fast and thus the top schools have an even better pool of students to select from. This only pushes their standards higher and makes them even more difficult to get into and as a result even more attractive to us.
I have several friends who would enthusiastically endure 6 years of depression and stress if it means they get a degree from a top 5 university, but would not do the same in order to get a degree from a lesser known school.

There are probably many great programs out there that none of us find/consider because they aren't even close to being in the top 10, 20, or 30.
I found a few, but only after a laborious 5 hours search through the Graduate School in Physics tome. And randomly stalking people who go to that university..that works quite well too!
Besides, it is really your adviser and specific program that matter most, not the entire physics program as a whole.

It would be interesting for people here to continue updating with how well grad school is meeting their expectations.

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Sat Jan 12, 2008 10:40 pm

Here is an approach adopted in one program I know about: you take all the folders and then throw away randomly most of them: you didn't want unlucky people in your program anyway


That's really funny!

A friend of my mother's was getting his PhD in physics at UCSB and had started on a project with a group from UCB. A couple weeks after he joined, one of the Berkeley PhD students committed suicide. At the next group meeting, the only thing mentioned was "wow, I'm sure glad XXX kept his notes so well organized for us - we can pick right up on his research".
The UCSB student contacted the deceased Berkeley student's mother to express condolences, and the mother mentioned that she had not heard a single word from anyone at Berkeley.


Ok this is scary. This story and others I've heard definitely diminish the appeal of the top schools. Consider for instance, a story I heard from Cornell (undergrad not in physics) where a prof posted answers to a practice exam on a bulletin board outside the class the day before the exam and a student replaced the paper with fake answers to mess everyone up...

But still, the main reason the top schools appeal to me despite some of the issues we're discussing is who my peers will be. Again, I don't want to be at a place (such as where I am now) that has a handful of good students/quality people engulfed by a sea of utter trash.

She was told by professors at Stanford that they fully realize that the GRE has little indication of success in graduate school, but that Stanford likes to "brag" about how high their scores are and are thus inclined to admit students who have the high scores they like to advertise.


The fact that the GRE has imperfect correlation with success in grad school isn't necessarily the test's fault. The test measures mastery of the basics, our memorized knowledge of the concepts and our skill in applying them. Success in grad school relies on many other things, such as the ability to sit up all night working on one advanced problem or sit up all night in a lab running an experiment. Though they can't give us a full psychological cross examination as part of the application process, one of the things they can do is pick the students who seem to know the most physics. Not all of them will thrive in the grad school environment.

Also, I took a diving class a couple months ago with a woman who worked for admissions at Stanford and she mentioned that last year the physics program got a higher than expected number of students accepting their graduate admission (usually ~35% of students admitted choose to go there, last year it was 50%). As a result they might be a little bit stricter on admissions this year.


Does this imply that the other leading schools had fewer students accept offers then expected and maybe we'll have a better chance to get into those?

I completely agree, but you also can't deny the appeal of saying "Hello, I'm a PhD physics student at Cornell, what do you do?"!


Very true, neither can I. Considering how isolated we'll be from women as physics grad students, we'll be better off if we can say, "Hi, I'm a graduate student at Harvard working on quantum computing research," rather than "Hi, I'm a graduate student at XYZ state university working on..." as she walks away.

I'd rather my parents be able to say, "My son's a physics grad student at Harvard" then "My son is a professional student who could've graduated 5 years ago if he'd just gone into business like I thought he would and would own a nice house by now.... He's a grad student at XYZ state university working on something I don't know how to pronounce."

As perverse as that sounds, that's how I feel right now :roll: hahaha

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Sat Jan 12, 2008 11:55 pm

Slow up a bit, not ALL top schools are like this. Berkeley, for instance, has a very specific reputation for admitting more students than they expect to obtain a Ph.D. so they have people to teach their labs. However, I've heard from several people intimate with the Stanford physics Ph.D. program from both the student and professor perspectives that once you get in, Stanford is good to its students and wants them to succeed. I've also heard that about Cornell, and everyone I know who has gone there, including physics students, say Cornell is incredibly supportive and a wonderful place to learn. They say right in their webpage that if you are accepted it means they are committed to seeing you through. This is not so at UCB, and it is my hunch that this is not so at CalTech, MIT, and Harvard.

goodfromfar
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Postby goodfromfar » Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:34 am

I agree - almost all the bad things I have heard are actually aimed at UCB. I've heard nothing but good things about Stanford (position on GREs and use of tin foil in SLAC aside) and know nothing about the other top universities.
In general the private universities seem to put a little more effort into fostering their students, especially in the upper tiers. But any school paying you to get a PhD should want to insure you make it though!

But regardless, I think a lot of people are drawn to top schools for no other reason than that they are top schools. Kind of like buying a Mercedes because you know with certainty it will be a good car, even though Kia has completely overhauled their design and now has kick ass 10 year warranties on quality cars. But going back to quizivex's point.....Kia ain't going to impress a date!

For example, University of Washington (my Kia) has a huge physics department that is also quite close knit. I know many people who are there (all near the top of their class and incredibly intelligent) and absolutely love it. But I noticed that not many people applied there. which is good for me, I suppose!

Honestly, the application process has just made me bitter and cynical =)

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Postby physicsdude » Sun Jan 13, 2008 11:07 am

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Postby quizivex » Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:44 pm

@ physicsdude

No no I'm not trying to go to a top grad school just to impress women or my parents, I was just sharing the sentiment of goodfromfar that there are a few significant side benefits of going to a top school that are not available from other schools:
I completely agree, but you also can't deny the appeal of saying "Hello, I'm a PhD physics student at Cornell, what do you do?"!


My parents never pressured me to do anything specific... they just want me to get a job I enjoy and will afford me a comfortable living. While they're not paying a whole lot for my college, since my tuition's free and I just need the apartment on campus, I've hated the reality of them paying money to see me miserable where I'm at now.

I originally applied to colleges, including where I am now, thinking I'd be doing something else. When I decided instead to do physics, I had to choose from where I applied to. Only this school offered physics. If I could repeat the whole process again, then surely I would've done my homework and found one of the quality state schools that has a strong and lively physics program, such as U. of Washington, Ohio State or Penn State etc... I could've learned a lot more and been a lot happier. I still want to go a "top" grad program though. I don't know if the rest of you notice this or not, but it seems that absolutely every groundbreaking discovery and important invention that you learn about on news channels, popular (layman) science magazines or word of mouth comes from one of the top name programs... always. So yeah I really want to be there, even though I'm sure there's still great research being done elsewhere.

Berkeley, for instance, has a very specific reputation for admitting more students than they expect to obtain a Ph.D. so they have people to teach their labs. However, I've heard from several people intimate with the Stanford physics Ph.D. program from both the student and professor perspectives that once you get in, Stanford is good to its students and wants them to succeed. I've also heard that about Cornell...


If I have the fortunate problem of choosing between 2, 3 or 4 top graduate schools, I will, just like you, certainly do a lot of homework, discussion with grad students, etc... trying to figure out which one is the best place to learn and wants their students to be happy and finish the PhD!!

Honestly, the application process has just made me bitter and cynical =)


Not me, I already was that way... hehe.... :oops:

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:10 pm

I just realized I had forgotten to put the "not" in the first sentence of my last post, which probably made it very confusing, haha.

I should do a better job of re-reading things before I post them... I often make errors in wording...

cancelled20080417
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Postby cancelled20080417 » Sun Jan 13, 2008 3:53 pm

Hello all,
I am confused with the admission process in Physics. When we are called for an interview, do we already have the admission offer, or we are admitted only after we do well in the interview?
Does any body know how this works in the biology department?

Are we first admitted and then called for the interview or the interview will decide whether we get the admission or not?
Thanks
appreciate any info!

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Sun Jan 13, 2008 4:14 pm

RG, your confusion might be with the interview process and the visiting process. For a very small number a students, the admissions committees want to interview this student BEFORE they admit them. They will probably have you come out to visit them for an interview or maybe conduct it over the telephone or something. This is BEFORE you are admitted, and only for a certain few students. Once all the students have been admitted, at least all of the domestic students are flown out to the schools to visit them, and this is where people have been saying it is YOUR chance to interview THEM, to see if it's really the school you want to attend. This "interview" is AFTER you are accepted. Does that address you question?

woooster
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Admission selection process

Postby woooster » Sun Jan 13, 2008 4:21 pm

quizivex "I don't know if the rest of you notice this or not, but it seems that absolutely every groundbreaking discovery and important invention that you learn about on news channels, popular (layman) science magazines or word of mouth comes from one of the top name programs... always. So yeah I really want to be there, even though I'm sure there's still great research being done elsewhere. "

I notice this as well. First, I think the top schools tend to hire physicists once they get famous in the physics world. And a lot of time, they get recognized by the public for their work done at the other school.

Second, I think these usually applies to the fundamental physics discovery the most. Particle and cosmology experiments contain a big collaboration. A new particle discovery will no doubt happens in LHC in the future. Who in the end should get credit, other than the spokesperson anyway. And the spokesperson are usually chosen based on their reputation in physics. Experiment like LHC has like thousands of scientists, every one is only making small contribution, no single person is making any discovery, if you have done particle experiment, u will understand what I mean. For sure, the spokesperson did not do any of the data analysis slave work. He is more like the conductor in an orchestra. The postdoc and grad students really play the music. But the conductor gets all the credit in the end.


But I do think going to top school is not the only hope. Top school are usually strong in most of the fields. But, there are still a lot of good school you can choose depending on your field. i.e. particle experiment at u michigan. Consider one wants to do high energy theory. There is Rutgers, which is considered one of the best place for string theory, probably better than chicago and mit. So, you don't really need to go to mit at all, well mit does sound better. :P[/quote]

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Postby physicsdude » Sun Jan 13, 2008 4:27 pm

<edited>
Last edited by physicsdude on Mon Feb 11, 2008 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Sun Jan 13, 2008 5:05 pm

nah I didn't apply to any safety schools because I don't want to be in a state school environment regardless of the quality of the physics pgm. Too much mediocrity and alcohol...

But I'm not just trying to go to any top school for the sake of going to a top school or impressing people. If that were the case, I would've applied to Yale for its overall status and I would've had a very good chance to get in... but nope, I was not interested in their research and don't like the location. I also didn't apply to Columbia, Cornell or Berkeley... just wasn't interested.

I'm satisfied with the fact that if I become a professor, I'll probably be at a state school... I'm fine with that, since my peers will be other professors. But as a student, I'm tired of putting up with the Joe Shmow students who get smashed 7 days a week, skip 90% of their classes, still keep a C average and nonetheless will pass and get a degree. I do'nt even want to see them on the street.

cancelled20080417
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Postby cancelled20080417 » Sun Jan 13, 2008 5:20 pm

quizivex, dont even think of reaching 200 mark before me! Dude, your posts are coming at a very high rate, whats the matter! hehe

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Sun Jan 13, 2008 5:34 pm

Hah this weekend I've just been sitting in my chair watching the NFL playoff games with my computer sitting on my lap... I can't help but make lots of posts...

You're not eligible for the 200 club because you've made too many posts that consist of just a smiley face or just one sentence. Sorry, but you're disqulified :wink:

cancelled20080417
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Postby cancelled20080417 » Sun Jan 13, 2008 5:51 pm

No way!!!! one sentence is a sentence after all! Also those one sentences have been consise, clear and easy to read. So I shud be givn extra credit for that! :wink:

cancelled20080417
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Postby cancelled20080417 » Sun Jan 13, 2008 6:36 pm

Grae, thanks for your post. I understand now! In Biology, they dont get admissions offer until they go through an interview and such. Thats why I was little confused.
Thanks.

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will
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Postby will » Sun Jan 13, 2008 6:37 pm

"But as a student, I'm tired of putting up with the Joe Shmow students who get smashed 7 days a week, skip 90% of their classes, still keep a C average and nonetheless will pass and get a degree. I do'nt even want to see them on the street."

Y'know, I generally respect what you have to say, but this elitism streak is humorous. You must be a hit at parties.

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Sun Jan 13, 2008 8:29 pm

<deleted>
Last edited by quizivex on Mon Jan 14, 2008 6:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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will
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Postby will » Sun Jan 13, 2008 9:29 pm

How often in your daily life, if you weren't a physics major, do you think you would be taking square roots? Maybe he's not a mediocre person in other areas. Maybe he knows how to build cars, or writes stage plays, or is a stellar pianist and you will never know because you assume that he's somehow inferior to you because he can't do something, which if you were honest with yourself you'd realize that to everyone who doesn't work with complicated mathematics daily, is a pointless abstract task.

There's more to life.

cancelled20080417
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Postby cancelled20080417 » Sun Jan 13, 2008 10:48 pm

Will,
are you a sociology prof at Harvard? I prefer calling you Prof. Will. Do you mind?
Coz after reading your post, I always feel like you are a very matured, proper, and always combing hair properly, type of guy!

Read your last post, you will feel that too.

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Postby physicsdude » Sun Jan 13, 2008 11:35 pm

<.>
Last edited by physicsdude on Sun Nov 16, 2008 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Sun Jan 13, 2008 11:59 pm

@ will

Ok, I don't think I worded my last post carefully enough. I would not not judge a person by his ability to take square roots or anything similar. But the specific example I gave was not a situation of an artist simply forgetting what a square root is for lack of use and relevance in his life, but instead a college science major who just spent a whole semester learning middle school math and could not apply it to one of the simplest cases.

I know there is much more to life then math. I suck at cars. If I got a flat tire in the desert, my car would become my grave. Well actually no, if someone showed me how to change a tire, I'm confident I could repeat the procedure... even if there were a slight perturbation, such as a different tire on a different car. I am content with a lack of knowledge in cars knowing if an emergency arises, I have a cell phone, and furthermore I can afford to pay someone else to fix the one or two or five car problems I'll have in my lifetime.

I'll be careful not to give the air of conceit anymore. But I really do think there is a limit to how low a standard should be acceptable in college and in life. Some people really are crummy, mean, dumb, period. Some, thankfully, are the opposite.

Perhaps a more appropriate account would've been the guy at my school who was taking a calc 1 final in a lecture hall, slithered out of the room, rewrote the exam problems on a separate page, came to the tutoring center pretending they were homework, made a tutor solve the problems, went back and handed them in... The only reason this student was caught was because he didn't fill in the intermediate steps the tutor left out, the prof got suspicious, and contacted the tutor center who had a computerized record that the student signed in there during the exam session.

I believe if you spent a semester at my school, you would partly appreciate where I'm coming from. Whether the atmosphere here would be something you could brush off and ignore, or whether it would severely detract from your life and academic performance, I cannot predict.

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Mon Jan 14, 2008 12:15 am

oops. i missed physicsdude's post... he managed to slip it in before I finished my last comment...

i have nothing additional to say... i'm just unhappy for a variety of reasons and i don't think I deserve to be... I'm a good person whether I sound like it on this forum or not.

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Postby Real » Mon Jan 14, 2008 1:10 am

:roll:
Last edited by Real on Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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will
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Postby will » Mon Jan 14, 2008 2:59 am

Comb my hair? Why, I'd never...

tnoviell
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Postby tnoviell » Mon Jan 14, 2008 7:21 am

Real, I just want to let you know that at a lot of Biophysics program, you are not admitted until after your interview. Unless the letter has an offer with a dollar amount, it is not a letter of acceptance yet, it is a letter confirming an interview.

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Postby agonizomai » Wed Jan 16, 2008 1:33 am

Has anyone heard from professors, especially those on the grad app committees (i.e., woooster) about the extent of the effect of a letter writer's reputation on an application? [/b]

goodfromfar
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Postby goodfromfar » Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:08 am

I had one professor who specifically told me NOT to get a letter from one person (with whom I had worked closely with) because she was completely unknown in the US. Instead he told me to get a letter from a well known theorist at our department who had taught a class I had taken quite a while ago. I went to the theorist and asked about a letter, but he basically told me that all he could write was that I worked hard, was a good student, and got an A. A letter like that won't hurt, but it won't really help...just fulfills the requirement to get 3.


I think this might be a bit unique, but above all I think whoever writes your letters should be familiar with you and your work. An exceptional letter from a relatively unknown professor is going to be better than a generic one from a well known one. Also keep in mind that sometimes admission committees can contact your recommenders. It'd be better if they really have something good to say rather than "well...he got an A"
One of the professors on the grad admissions committee at our school said that most students have one fluffy letter, but two starts to look suspicious.
So if the letters will both be of the same caliber, you might want to go with the professor that is more well known. Otherwise stick with whoever will write you the best letter.
Another thing that might help is if any of your potential recommenders did their PhD or postdoc work at schools you are thinking of applying to.

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will
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Postby will » Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:20 am

"An exceptional letter from a relatively unknown professor is going to be better than a generic one from a well known one."

replace 'is' with 'should' and i'll agree. as it stands though, there are many professors that will admit they value fluff from someone they know over a good letter from someone they don't. it's an expectation thing.

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will
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Postby will » Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:25 am

i'd also like to supplement that with this: when i say know, i mean personally. fluff from a nobel laureate is good, but if you can get fluff from someone who personally knows the people you're interested in working with, it's like golden fluff.

goodfromfar
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Postby goodfromfar » Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:37 am

hahaha......gold fluff

You can spot a fluffy letter from 10 miles away! I'd hate to think that any admissions committee would give more value to a vague, one paragraph composition than to a two page detailed and glowing letter. They are smarter than that. If the letter is from someone they know, they can always pick up the phone and investigate. If it's a Nobel Laureate...well, guess you can't argue with that

ok...it probably does happen *on occasion*

woooster
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Admission selection process

Postby woooster » Wed Jan 16, 2008 3:17 am

About who to ask for letter. I think it really depends on what field you are applying kinda, and how famous the person is.

My advisor told me to get a letter form a famous string theorist whom I took a grad class with. If I am applying to theory, he said the prof has a big name in the string theory community, and a one paragraph from him saying that I got an A+ is in his grad class is good enough. On the other hand, working hard in a lab doesn't really help on a theory application. I chose not to ask the theorist in the end, because I decided applying to experiment is so much easier and I really didn't know him.

I think if one applies to experiment, they just want to see if you can do independent work in a lab. My advisor told me they don't really care if one has taken many grad classes for experiment application.

A letter from someone who knows more about you is definitely better, assuming the work you did with that person has something to do with the field u are applying. But, I notice some professors tend to be the nice writer (ok student=good student, good student=great student), and some (especially the theorists) are more direct and hard to impress. This also means that if your writer is not known to others, it's also difficult for the school to know if his letter really means...On the other hand, if you get a letter from a known person, people pay more attention.

I think I will never know what the truth is. I chosen to bet for my luck, I got 5 letters. One is my academic advisor and past research advisor, one is my current research advisor, one is my course professor and who happens to be my research group spokesperson, one is another course Professors who is a super nice writer (he helped me do the final in class!), last is a theorist who I took QFT with. In the end, I mixed it up so that I have 2 research related letter and 1 or 2 course letter for different schools.

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Wed Jan 16, 2008 2:22 pm

quizivex, I didn't happen to see what you posted before you deleted it so I'm not sure what you said, maybe it was really bad, but coming from an unknown state school I can really feel your pain on a lot of these issues. Sometimes the bar is set so low it's disgusting, and then you hear some student next to you say, "man, I really hope I can get a C in this class." D'OH!! I don't think anyone going to a school that actually expects something of you can really understand how bad it is. It's really bad. The physics program at my school is like a little bubble of sanity, but everywhere else.... :roll:

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Wed Jan 16, 2008 7:18 pm

grae13:

I can honestly say that I feel your pain. My school is populated by people who do not show up to class and are too stupid to realize they are actually paying to have the privelege of showing up. Only in America...

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grae313
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Postby grae313 » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:29 pm

ugh, exactly! So many are just there to party and get a little piece of paper with their name on it after four years. They don't care if they actually learn anything or not, or if that paper actually represents anything or not, or if they are a better person because of it or not.

grinjones
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Postby grinjones » Wed Jan 16, 2008 11:01 pm

Anyone have any idea what a telephone interview with Oxford Physics entails?

tnoviell
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Postby tnoviell » Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:59 am

I think it's pretty much the standard interview questions. I had a friend interview with Oxford by telephone before, didn't seem much different than any other interview...




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