Is my Astronomy school selection reasonable?

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Joined: Sat Oct 14, 2017 8:49 pm

Is my Astronomy school selection reasonable?

Post by drummeram » Sat Oct 14, 2017 9:10 pm

Hello all, I was wondering if someone could evaluate my chances at these programs given my profile.

Institution: Probably unknown for astronomy and physics
Astronomy and Astrophysics Major
3.5 GPA
GRE Scores: Q - 78th %
V - 83rd %
W - 82nd %
P - Let's just say, if a school doesn't require the PGRE, I won't send my score.
Research: 1 summer of research at my university trying to determine if a system had an exoplanet. Didn't have enough data only resulted in a paper submitted to the Council of Undergraduate Research. Now I'm working with a different professor on a new project involving stellar evolution that I hope to present on at AAS in January (assuming all goes well). I was also technically the 5th author on a paper out of 5 since all I did was help take images.

Letters: Should be strong, in theory.

Random stuff: Grader for Astro classes for 2 years, Astro lab TA, Sigma Pi Sigma Honor Society member

Reach Schools:
Not quite as reach schools maybe:
Texas A&M
Penn State
New Mexico State
Arizona State
Since I've lived in Florida all my life, my main goal is UF, but the more I look at the program I'm not sure if they offer what I want (stellar evolution focus) compared to other, more reputable locations.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

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Joined: Fri Oct 21, 2016 2:20 pm

Re: Is my Astronomy school selection reasonable?

Post by cosmosis » Wed Oct 25, 2017 12:07 am

I think that you have a decent profile for the schools you are applying to. To be honest, I think you could add one or two more reach schools to your list. Don't sell your research experiences short. A 5th authored paper is still a publication and that is one more than a lot of your peers. Prepare well for your AAS meeting and mention that in your applications. Many schools will use the AAS poster sessions as an excuse to do informal "interviews" to get to know their candidates a little bit more and gauge their interests. So use it to your advantage.

And there will be an undergraduate reception + graduate school fair during the first day of the AAS. Make sure you go to that and speak with at least one faculty (yes faculty, not graduate students) from each of the schools you are applying to. If you have time, you can even consider making business cards with your info and info about your poster (date, name, poster ID, etc.) and giving it to faculty members. Good luck with your application!

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Re: Is my Astronomy school selection reasonable?

Post by TakeruK » Wed Oct 25, 2017 2:59 am

Talk to the graduate students at the AAS undergrad reception too. Some schools (like the one I went to for my PhD) do not send any faculty members there, only senior grad students. Talking to grad students can give you valuable information about what that school is like. And at many places, grad students are part of the admissions committee too.

Of course, talk to faculty members when you get the chance since it's much harder to talk to them than a grad student. If you haven't been to a AAS before, grad students are usually Junior members of the AAS and have a green bar on their nametag that says "Jr. Member". Faculty and postdocs are full members and have a dark blue bar that says "Member".

Finally, don't stress too much about the undergrad reception. It's not like you can make or break your chances at this one event. Like I said, some schools purposely do not send faculty or they do not send faculty who are on the admissions committee because it causes an unfair advantage. Instead, this event is really more for recruiting and providing information to potential applicants. That is, I think it is best to go in your junior year so that you know more about where to apply in your senior year. As a senior attending, it is best used to get insight into how the departments you're most interested in work.

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Re: Is my Astronomy school selection reasonable?

Post by fznfire » Tue Oct 31, 2017 11:06 am

If I may suggest, you can also look at Wesleyan University. They only have a master's program, but it is a paid master's program, and they have a good planetary science concentration. And the deadline is March 1 I think. Well after you get results from many of the schools you are applying.

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