Do I have a shot at a UC?

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Posts: 15
Joined: Wed May 23, 2018 9:56 pm

Do I have a shot at a UC?

Post by hopefulastro » Wed May 23, 2018 10:16 pm

I'm currently a senior physics major at UCLA, and I'll be graduating in December 2018 with my B.S. I would really love to go to a UC for grad school, and I want to focus on theoretical astro/cosmology. But I recognize that my stats aren't that great, so as I form my list of schools to apply to, I'd like to include realistic ones in addition to "reach" ones. What sort of schools do you think I could have a shot at (specific examples)? Below are my stats.

First university: San Diego State (spent two years here, then transferred)
GPA here: 3.92 (major: 3.97, but all of this was lower-division classes)

Second university: UCLA
GPA here currently: 3.51 (upper-div major: 3.5 ish). But I have two more quarters for grades to be recorded, so this could realistically be improved to ~3.6 ish.

Research (all at UCLA; got a late start since I transferred):
1. Summer project (2017) in asteroid radar technology; heavy use of Python and MySQL. Can get a strong letter of rec from this professor.
2. Academic year 2017-18: theoretical astrophysics focusing on early galaxy formation, also wrote code in Python. Can get a good letter of rec from this professor.
3. I'll also be working for the first professor again this coming summer, and have discussed research beginning Fall 2018 and lasting through the rest of the academic year (after I graduate) with a different professor, who is in observational astrophysics. This would be a lot of computer work again.

Accomplishments related to research:
Presented at the UCLA undergrad poster fair
That's it so far (no conferences, publications, etc.)

Leadership/other responsibilities:
Founded (and was president of) a student organization at SDSU, and was involved in the astronomy and physics clubs here.
At UCLA: member of a sorority for women in STEM; Vice President of a student club; one of the VPs of the Society of Physics Students; officer for the Women in the Physics Sciences club; manager of a research group for undergrads (teaching Python to ~7 undergrads and supervising their projects).

I took the Physics GRE once recently but I got distracted with school and didn't study at all (not even for an hour), so I scored terribly (13th percentile). But I'm going to take it in the fall (or twice if I need to), and will hopefully do decently well after studying.


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Re: Do I have a shot at a UC?

Post by TakeruK » Thu May 24, 2018 11:15 am

Your stats are fine. I don't think they preclude you from any astro program at all. So, apply to any and all programs that really interest you and where you would be a good fit.

To be clear, I'm not saying that you are a shoe-in for all astro grad programs, but even the top top students are never shoe-ins because the process is so stochastic. What I am saying is that your profile is strong enough that it is worth your time to apply to places that would really fit well. Don't let rank/prestige scare you away from an excellent program.

Note that the Physics GRE isn't that important in astro. You should check out the discussion elsewhere here where there is a link to a spreadsheet summarizing various astro depts PGRE policies (many astro depts don't accept the scores anymore). If you can't find it, let me know and I'll try to find it to post here. My own PGRE score was 43rd and 51st percentile and I still got into top programs where the Physics dept list avg scores of 90+ percentile (I applied to astronomy and planetary science programs).

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