Do you think I need more safety schools?

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Joined: Wed Aug 26, 2015 12:53 am

Do you think I need more safety schools?

Post by MYOMAO » Tue Dec 22, 2015 11:08 pm

I am thinking about if I should apply more safety schools in case that I get rejected by all of these schools. Here is my profile.

Undergrad Institution: Best Public School in USA
Major(s): Physics
GPA in Major: 4.00
Overall GPA: 4.00
Length of Degree: 4 (Transfer from community college)
Position in Class: Very top
Type of Student: US Permanent Resident Asian Male, will become U.S. citizen before enrolling graduate school

GRE Scores :
Q: 170 98%
V: 157 74%
W: 3 15% (This sucks)
P: 990 94%

TOEFL Total: (if applicable, otherwise delete this)

Research Experience: 1 REU in nuclear theory, one publication in Physical Recview C. 1.5 year in experimental high energy nuclear physics. Exptect to submit another publication..

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Lots of scholarship and hopefully one fellowship

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Tutor and lab aide at my community college

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:

Special Bonus Points: Score 12 points in Putnam Competition

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter:

Applying to Where:

UC Berkeley - Physics - Hep-ex
UCLA - Physics - Hep-ex
MIT - Physics - Hep-ex
Caltech - Physics - Hep-ex
Princeton - Physics - Hep-ex
Yale - Physics - Hep-ex
Stanford - Physics - Hep-ex
UC Davis - Physics - Hep-ex
Notre Dame - Physics - Hep-ex
Rice - Physics - Hep-ex
Last edited by MYOMAO on Wed Dec 23, 2015 2:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Do you think I need more safety schools?

Post by cwr » Wed Dec 23, 2015 12:52 am

A couple questions for you:
  • How are your letters?

    Have you talked with any faculty at any of these schools?

    How closely related is your research to the things you want to do in grad school?
I ask because I have a similar profile and have received very positive responses from faculty in talking with people during November. Depending on whether you're viewed as an international student or a domestic student, I think you should have similarly positive responses (so long as your letters are strong). Depending on how close your experimental experience is to the HEP-ex work you want to do, I think you'll have good chances.

With that being said, being paranoid, I've applied to a few safety schools (Texas A&M, UC Davis, Michigan) where I've been told that I should be admitted and competitive for a fellowship.

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Re: Do you think I need more safety schools?

Post by MYOMAO » Wed Dec 23, 2015 2:26 pm

Hi cwr,

I think my letters are good. One from an REU advisor, one from a research advisor who was the spokesman in our collaboration, and one from a staff scientist who believe i am his favorite student.

UCLA, UC Davis, and Yale are my collaboration members

I talked to Professors at Stanford, Princeton (hep-th), Caltech and MIT. They said they welcomed me to join their group but not in the admission committee.

UCLA and UC Davis said they would recommend me in the admission committee.

Yale has no response.

Berkeley I think I should be hopefully able to get in because the department knows me quite well.

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Re: Do you think I need more safety schools?

Post by TakeruK » Wed Dec 23, 2015 2:29 pm

I'm curious, why do you say that it "sucks" to be a US permanent resident asian male? As a US permanent resident, you are treated as a domestic student as the department will only be charged extra for your tuition the way an international student would. Also, a large number of your schools listed do not charge a different rate for international student tuition.

In addition, Asian males already have an advantage in admissions (I am also an Asian male but a Canadian so I am an international student). We (Asian males) are generally over-represented in our field ( ... ce-07.html). Of course, it's much more complicated than this single plot. For example, Asian-Americans are still a minority group in both the field and the country and one thing I've noticed is that I can very often count all of the Asian scientists in my field giving talks at a conference with my two hands---e.g. at the recent big conference for my field, out of ~110 speakers, there were 7 Asian men and 1 Asian woman speaker (and this was an international conference where many of the Asian speakers came from outside of the US and also lumps all ethnicities within Asia together).

I don't want to get too far off topic here, but I just want to point out that I don't think your response to "Type of student" would put you at any disadvantage (so I don't think it "sucks"). I personally feel that this 'standard' profile form needs to be updated (it's almost 10 years old now) because it makes simplifications and distorts some factors about admissions, especially those related to diversity. For example, I feel it promotes the harmful and incorrect view that it's somehow "easier" to get into graduate school if you are an under-represented minority or a woman. Aside from being false, it also adds to the microaggressions that our women/minority colleagues experience in the community, and basically causes harm to academia, in my opinion. It would be similar to someone saying that your PGRE 990 is worth less because you are of Asian descent!


Anyways, back to your original question. My opinion is no, you do not need more safety schools. A safety school is supposed to be one where you are basically certain that you'll get in (>95%). I'm not in your subfield so I don't know which of the schools you list are safety schools. However, my answer to almost everyone who asks if they need "more" is generally no, because my philosophy is that you only need 1, maybe 2 safety schools. Since you know that you will get into a safety school (otherwise it's not a safety school), you can pick ahead of time which schools interest you the most. Don't apply to a safety school that you are not sure about just because you want to ensure you get accepted into it!

That is, I don't think the goal of an application season is to get as many acceptances as possible. In fact, unless you are already applying to the best schools for you (in terms of fit etc.), I think if you get into more than half of your schools, it may mean that you didn't aim high enough! It's worth much more, to get into 2 of your top choices and not much else, than to get into a large number of schools that you are less interested in.

So, unless you only have one safety school and you're not sure if you will really like that school once you visit, don't add any more. If you are not happy with your current safety school, maybe consider switching it with another safety school that you would prefer to attend instead. But don't apply to something like 3 or 4 safety schools---surely even at this stage you could identify which 1 or 2 safety school you would prefer to be at, assuming you get into all safety schools (which, again, is the definition of such a school).

This is my own opinion on applying to grad school which works for me. I'm not saying that everyone must follow this, just sharing my thoughts to help you find what you want to do :)

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Re: Do you think I need more safety schools?

Post by MYOMAO » Wed Dec 23, 2015 2:40 pm

Hi Takeruk,

Thank you very much! I think I will change my profile a little bit.

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