U Mass, Amherst or gap year

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Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2020 5:36 pm

U Mass, Amherst or gap year

Post by cdphys » Wed Apr 14, 2021 12:30 pm

Currently, I am waitlisted for U Mich Astrophysics PhD program and have an offer from U mass, Amherst astronomy Phd program. I want to try my best to get a faculty position in Astronomy. Because getting a faculty position is extremely competitive, should I accept U Mass or take a gap year and try to get into a better program next year. Below I posted my bio. Things I did not put in my application but I would include if I took a gap year: recently co-authored a paper for research I did at my REU and I wrote a manuscript for a presentation I did at a conference. I would appreciate any help :D

Undergrad Institution: Small state school, HBCU, little reputation
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s): Math
GPA in Major: 4.0
Overall GPA: 4.0
Length of Degree: 4 years
Position in Class: IDK, near top?
Type of Student: DACA Hispanic Male

GRE Scores: N/A


Research Experience:
1 summer estimating the core masses of galaxy clusters at a big school with a good rep.
2ish years helping develop mid-IR laser-based sensors at my home institution.
***I was told to include this in my resume by the program's director despite the program being postponed to the summer of 2021 due to COVID.*** Summer research in galaxy formation and evolution at a big school with a decent rep (my exact research project might change and is not set)

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: got a full-ride scholarship to attend my university

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Supplemental instructor for a summer and was a math and physics tutor during my sophomore year.

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: I won my school's hackathon event last year (IDK if that means anything) and presidents list a few times. Also, I was the vice president of my school's chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) during my senior year.

Special Bonus Points: I have DACA so that might help but it also means I cannot receive federal funding :(

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: During my freshman year, I would travel to various nearby locations to share my story as a DACA recipient

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Joined: Thu Mar 04, 2021 12:52 am

Re: U Mass, Amherst or gap year

Post by neutrinos » Wed Apr 14, 2021 6:51 pm

I think it may depend on how well you think you'd do on the PGRE. I know a few people (myself included) who either only got into a few lower ranking schools or didn't get into any last year (possibly because of abysmal PGRE scores), took a gap year, and then ended up in top program for their subfield (my friend even got the GRFP). If you don't like the school you got into there are opportunities to build up a better application if you think that is a path you want to take. However, it is a riskier path and somewhat expensive to reapply everywhere. If you have something set up to do within your gap year (take a grad class or two, do research, get an engineering job, post bach, etc.) then It may be worth it. Keep in mind we don't know if schools will start requiring the GRE and PGRE again in the fall, so that is something to consider if you are a bad test taker like me.

I took a gap year after total rejection and ended up at my top choice school, so it is definitely a possibility. That being said UMass isn't a bad school by any means and I think it is more important what you do there than the school name itself. I know several professors who went to lower ranking schools and are now head of the department so it is what you make it. I don't think you can make a bad decision here. Either option is reasonable.

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Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2020 5:36 pm

Re: U Mass, Amherst or gap year

Post by cdphys » Wed Apr 14, 2021 9:17 pm

Thank you for the help neutrinos! I too am a bad test taker and would definitely not look forward to taking the PGRE, but my research advisor at my undergrad school said he would like for me to continue research for another year. So I agree 100% and I need to sit down and really consider my options.

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