Low GPA, decent research and perfect PGRE?

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Joined: Sat Oct 28, 2017 7:52 pm

Low GPA, decent research and perfect PGRE?

Post by Tyronst » Sun Oct 29, 2017 7:25 pm

Hey, I'm a senior year physics major and I'm looking to apply to groups in theoretical/computational physics (my prime choice is the non linear dynamics group at U Maryland). That said, my GPA is not great (3.29) - I don't really have a good reason for it, I just got a lot of B's in my core classes - my senior year electives are generally better. I have decent research experience: I'm working with a computational plasma group and have added relativistic particle sampling modules to existing plasma codes - I don't have a publication yet, and probably won't till the end of Spring. I also have independent class projects that my adviser thinks might impress the graduate committee (basically parallelized simulations - one of them is a raytraced Schwarzchild BH that does exact geodesic computations on CUDA. They're not really industry or research standard though, just code I put together for different CS classes). I also work part time as a system administrator for the university's supercomputer (Does this matter?). I wrote the PGRE in September and got a 990. I was wondering if you have any advice on how I can optimize my chances for getting into a decent graduate school. (Read: How do I convince the graduate committee that my GPA does not reflect my true potential?)

Thanks! (And please be brutally honest with your feedback)

EDIT: I am a bit wary about highlighting my class projects or supercomputer work simply because I get the impression that the kind of research that universities seem to recognize is the formal honours thesisy kind (which I can't get into because the university I'm in has a hard cutoff of 3.3 to even attempt to defend a thesis). Am I wrong about this? Have personal projects helped any of you significantly with graduate admissions?

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Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2017 9:36 pm

Re: Low GPA, decent research and perfect PGRE?

Post by animephysics33 » Thu Nov 09, 2017 11:22 pm

A lot depends on your school I think. If it is known for harsh grading then maybe that will be considered by the schools where you apply. Incidentally I asked my program chair what matters more Physics GRE or the grades. He thought that Physics GRE matters more because it evens the playing field, because it gives a way to compare students in a neutral way. Someone who got A's in one university might actually have gotten a B+ for a similar performance in another etc. While that makes sense I still think grades are important personally because they reflect a continuous effort. My case is somewhat the opposite, great grades and an average Physics GRE.

What might help you is the research experience.

Short answer is I guess you never can tell what colleges think is the deciding factor for admission. Just hope that wherever you apply places Physics GRE high on that list.

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