Applying only to Masters

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Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2022 9:45 pm

Applying only to Masters

Post by hyang45 » Tue Aug 23, 2022 1:02 am


I am a fifth-year senior from a top 50(ranked by USNews) 4-year private University with non-existent physics reputation. I am also an international student from East Asia.

I have a bad gpa(~3.3 overall, ~ same for degree) and still want to go to a top 5 PhD program for particle physics.

My plan goes like this:

1. Get the best Physics GRE(>970) and GRE(>330) scores.
2. Finish publishing the research that I have been working on as the first author by the time of Masters application.
3. Enroll in the best Masters program I can and graduate with a great GPA. (It is costly, but my parents are willing to pay).
4. Find some way somehow to publish at least one paper every Summer as the first author.
5. Apply to a top 5 PhD program with a great Master GPA and at least 4 research published as the first author.

My questions are:

1. Would these things be sufficient to give me a good chance to get into a top 5 PhD program? If not, what else should I do?
2. Is the Master's program less competitive than the PhD program? If so, by how much?

Thank you for reading and spending your time.

Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Aug 23, 2022 10:23 pm

Re: Applying only to Masters

Post by blackhole343 » Tue Aug 23, 2022 10:40 pm

Which aspect of particle physics are you interested in? Theory? Experiment?
That would have a great impact on which schools you would love to apply to.
Having a poor GPA is definitely a big red flag. I also assumed you have no prior research experience.
That would imply that you would have no good recommendation letters (professors are not able to tell how good your research ability is!)
Getting a good PGRE score might help, but nowadays many schools are not accepting GRE scores.
What you are lacking: Research experience, good grades, publications, and 3 great recommendation letters
Getting a Master's will then be a very good strategy.
However, you should plan on how would you get 3 great letters during your 2 years of Master's study.
It is not very likely that you can work with 3 different professors in 2 years.
If I were you, I would immediately look for research opportunities in your department to secure one letter
When you are doing your master's, try to look for a co-supervisor, that would give you two more letters.
Look for quality Master's programs. For example, Stony Brook has a very good particle theory research group
Getting your Master's research done there definitely helps (if you intended to do particle theory)!
One more thing I should mention is that, do not just apply to the top 5 programs
Yes getting admitted to the top 5 programs helps a lot, but getting into the top 10/20 is also great
After all, Ph.D. is about what you did not where you did it.
And do not confuse top programs with top schools.
Top schools have top programs, but not all top programs are in top schools. And your top programs depend so much on your specific sub-field
For example, in Astronomy, there are top programs like UC Santa Cruz and Steward Observatory in Arizona, both of them are not even considered top public schools, but are extremely prestigious in terms of Astronomy.
I am not so familiar with particle physics, but if you are interested in particle theory, then Stony Brook is a great and top choice.
So, be aware of where you choose to apply.

P.S. By inspecting your username, I guess you are from a Chinese-speaking country. If yes, feel free to PM me.

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