Those who made it to a top 10 with an average GPA...

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james1998
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2018 6:19 pm

Those who made it to a top 10 with an average GPA...

Post by james1998 » Fri Nov 02, 2018 6:26 pm

What made your application successful?

I have an ok GPA, (3.69 right now) but I want to go to a top 10 in comp physics. I'm doing all the research I can. I'm a junior right now, will have hopefully 4 papers by the time I'm applying senior year, two of which will be first authors. Posters, talks you name it. But what else can I do? Is there something special I can add to my resume. Something I can work on that will give me another edge compensating for my lack of perfection in my coursework? I was considering taking up a 3rd research mentor, to work on some more computational stuff. What worked for you guys?

Example: I had the idea of taking grad classes to beef it up. (Not that it will help my GPA, but it I think it will look good. I'm planning to take 4 by the time I graduate. Two in physics, two in Comp AMS ( extremely applicable to research ).

Ideas like ^ would be amazing. Thanks guys

dudeguy
Posts: 8
Joined: Fri Oct 19, 2018 4:15 pm

Re: Those who made it to a top 10 with an average GPA...

Post by dudeguy » Fri Nov 02, 2018 7:40 pm

Well I'm no grad student in a top 10 but I can at least say this. Grad courses can help or hurt depending on how you do. If you take a grad course you really want to get an A. Grad profs usually curve their courses heavily and don't give anyone less than about a B/B- typically unless they really struggle, and schools know this. Gettin a B may make it look to grad schools like you are currently not prepared for grad courses, while undergrads who haven't taken any at all still have a clean record. On the flip side doing well in a grad course is a really good way to prove that you can handle graduate coursework. I'm currently taking a grad mechanics class and got the second highest grade on the midterm recently. It really impressed my professor as I'm an undergrad and he offered to write me a recommendation letter. I've also been told by a grad student that a strong letter from a grad prof whose course you did well in is "one of the strongest letters you can get". So keep in mind if you take a grad course it'd be closely looked at for better or for worse.

james1998
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2018 6:19 pm

Re: Those who made it to a top 10 with an average GPA...

Post by james1998 » Fri Nov 02, 2018 11:03 pm

Thanks! This is really good advice, I'll keep it in mind.

sphonino
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2018 3:21 pm

Re: Those who made it to a top 10 with an average GPA...

Post by sphonino » Mon Feb 18, 2019 5:57 pm

Hi there, I just got into Caltech and Yale for Physics with a 3.74 overall GPA, though in my physics degree it's a 3.89. However perhaps this can still be helpful.

What worked for me was figuring out specifically what kind of work I wanted to do in graduate school and doing well to fill that skill set. I personally am aiming to work on hardware electronics and detector development, and so I built a skillset around that. My personal philosophy (take with a big grain of salt - I got rejected from most of the universities I applied to) was to get a lot of practical lab experience: I worked in an electronics design lab, joined a university group that allowed me to do a lot of data acquisition development, did research at a national lab with detectors.

What happens though is that you become very specialized - this is not for everyone. I personally know I want to avoid analysis work if I can. If you have a strong idea of what you want to be researching in graduate school, my advice therefore would be to focus on developing skills that you know are useful in those fields. If it's comp physics, getting a lot of experience with root, 4tran, etc. is good. You're already doing an insane amount of research which will only help you. If your research is specifically in the field you want to work in, that is also important.

Graduate courses are not a bad idea - they show an effort that you're willing to take on more challenging subjects. I wouldn't place too much weight on them however. I don't think they affect admission decisions very much.

Strong recommendation letters is another big thing. Be sure you have at least 3 people to write you good letters - if you have more than 3 who might be able to write for you, try to tailor for each university you apply to. If one of those professors used to go to that university for example.

Good luck!



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