Likelihood of acceptance in top-tier schools

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Likelihood of acceptance in top-tier schools

Post by squark123 » Fri Sep 13, 2019 10:29 am

I have no B.Sc degree in physics. I would like to apply to physics PhD schools this year. I'm interested in high energy theory or condensed matter theory.
My B.Sc degree is in medicine. I got high grades in all these medical school courses. I studied physics independently. Then I joined a M.Sc program in my country and I studied courses on QM, QFT, supersymmetry, grad electrodynamics and so on. I got mostly A and Bs. ``3 Bs and the rest are As". I got these grades basically because I was studying physics on my own during medical school. My physics GRE score is 920. My TOEFL score is low in the speaking section ``20" I got ``108" overall in TOEFL.

Given that PhD applications take a lot of money, does it make sense to apply to top schools ``e.g. MIT, stanford, UCSB and so on" or should I focus on other schools?

Thanks in advance

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Re: Likelihood of acceptance in top-tier schools

Post by Nishikata » Fri Sep 13, 2019 12:01 pm

If it’s money-related concern, I suggest you just apply for the schools you really want to go to. There might be application fee waiver but I don’t think you can count on that with your medicine background. (There are still stereotypes that medicine students are filthy rich).

That means to apply for the top schools that you dream to go, but don’t hope too much. There are many candidates with better profiles. Be ready for rejection and also apply to 2-3 match/safety schools.

I suggest to browse the profile section in this forum, to learn about what matters.

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Re: Likelihood of acceptance in top-tier schools

Post by Westling » Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:12 am

I guess a lot of the medical students do come from money. But yeah, that's not always the case.

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Re: Likelihood of acceptance in top-tier schools

Post by geekusprimus » Sat Sep 21, 2019 8:19 pm

Some things you should know:
  • Theory is much more competitive due to less available funding.
  • HEP anything is competitive because everyone wants to be in it.
  • Condensed matter is a huge field and fairly easy to find funding for.
  • Your GRE score and probably your GPA are fairly good, but there's a lot more to the application than your GRE score or your GPA.
  • A low speaking score as an international student is going to hurt your application. Communication is usually not strongly emphasized in science programs (i.e., you aren't usually required to take courses on public speaking or something of that nature), but it's a part of life as a scientist at any level. You'll be expected to give presentations, work with other people, and TA classes.
Some things you should consider:
  • What is your research experience like? Physics is preferable, particularly in HEP or CM since that's where your interests are, but don't discount anything else you might have done (e.g., medicine, chemistry, etc.).
  • Do you have a few faculty who can write you strong letters of recommendation?
  • Do you know anyone or have connections to the faculty at any of these schools you're interested in?
One additional thing you should be aware of: International applicants, generally speaking, need much stronger applications to get into US schools than US applicants. Some schools don't really care, but quite a few, especially those that receive a large number of international applications, do. It's a combination of immigration rules (getting visas for some countries is a royal pain in the neck), political relationships with the applicant's home country, and other difficulties inherent in adjusting a foreign student to an American school.

Furthermore, some schools employ "affirmative action," or giving preferential treatment to historically underrepresented populations in the admissions process. Depending on how strongly the admissions committee honors this policy, it can make it substantially more difficult for certain populations to get admitted (the most common in physics being domestic/international white males and domestic/international Asian males). Not every school cares about affirmative action (the UC schools, for example), but it's a really big deal at some of them (particularly elite institutions in the northeast). Depending on where you're from, this could help you or hurt you.

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