Less than great GRE score, but great recommendations?

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Joined: Wed May 04, 2016 2:19 pm

Less than great GRE score, but great recommendations?

Post by HannaGray » Sun Oct 16, 2016 4:50 pm

So I took the PGRE in September and I got a 650 (40th percentile).. I will likely do better on the next one, I know what mistakes I made and how to fix them but I am only expecting a score in the 700s. I would be surprised to get anything above 800. However, I think the other parts of my applications are pretty strong?

My GPA isn't great at face value (3.6 general, 3.3 or something like that in physics), but that's only because I wasn't trying much in my undergrad classes. I have gotten Bs in pretty much all of my lower level physics classes, and I have gotten an A in every single upper level physics course I have taken... and this will probably continue until I graduate. Last year I actually got straight As, receiving more A+s than As (sadly, A+s and As carry the same weight at my school -_- even thought we have a +/- grading system). I am also taking the first graduate level quantum mechanics course this semester.

Some other things that help are: I helped to teach a physics class for two semesters, I won an award for a poster on my research in condensed matter in my sophomore year, I was on a planning committee for a physics education conference, and I go to a top 20 physics school.

Out of everything, I am really banking on my letters of recommendation. I work in an AMO lab for a *pretty* big name... and I know that I will be getting a good recommendation from him, I am also getting a phys education faculty that I have worked closely with to write a recommendation that I know will also be very positive. Third recommendation will probably be less personal.

Anyway, I am just worried about my GRE score. But, I'm not trying to get into ivy leagues or the big names. My top choice is UC-Boulder. I am also applying to U Michigan, UW Madison, University of Maryland, UC-Berkeley, and University of Chicago. I know Boulder and Berkeley might be a reach for me, but I'd really like to go to Boulder. It's also worth noting that two of my letters of rec are coming from people who went to UC Boulder for graduate school. And the physics education conference was planned with many people from UC Boulder....

PS I am also a domestic white female

Okay! so what I am trying to ask is, what do you think the chances are I will get into UC-Boulder with this profile?

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Re: Less than great GRE score, but great recommendations?

Post by bfollinprm » Tue Oct 18, 2016 12:10 pm

The set of schools you're applying to is relatively top-heavy, assuming you're applying to traditional physics programs (I don't know much about the schools outside of that realm). I would add some more schools ranked 15-40 into your list (the only one that firmly fit this category in your list is Wisconsin-Madison, the rest are top 15 schools by at least some metrics), and if you're dead-set on going to grad school no matter what next year, 1-2 outside the top 50 if the bottom falls out for whatever reason (maybe someone you think will write you a good letter has private reservations).

Put another way, Chicago and Berkeley are firmly ensconced in the top 10 for physics graduate schools, and will be significantly harder to get accepted to than Yale or Brown (for example). I don't mean to discourage you from the schools on your list: you should apply, but it's not a guarantee on the face of it. Your GPA will hurt you the most, I think. I will note, because Boulder was singled out, that it's not nearly as hard to get into as Chicago or Berkeley.

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