My prospects for a phd?

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Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:05 am

My prospects for a phd?

Post by gakxz » Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:25 am

Hello all, planning to apply to gschool next semester for the following year. Was hoping to get a bit of advice before starting up the whole process of contacting professors and applying to schools; any help would be much appreciated. Ultimately I want a Phd in high energy theory (possible even cross over into math a bit, but I haven’t done the research on that). My resume up to now has been mediocre at best, however.

Good news (relatively)? I’ve taken the general GREs, got 630 on the English, 750 math, and a 5 on the essay (of course listing the English first sounds more impressive than math). I’ve also done a year of research for a professor at Rutgers (where I went for ugrad) and am published in a paper on topological insulators (one of the like 10 authors, but anyway). I’ve not taken the physics GRE yet, but don’t actually feel that bad about it, so let’s say I can get over an 800.

Bad news? My GPA is 2.95, though I’m planning on taking 1-2 high level physics courses next year that will hopefully get it past the 3.0 threshold required for most schools. I’ve not looked up my physics/math gpa yet, but I can’t imagine it’s any different than my overall (though my math scores are better than physics).

My plan is, tentatively, to apply to about 10 schools; maybe 5-7 phds and the rest masters, so that if the phds fall through I can spend a year (hopefully) doing well in a master’s program and then re-apply. My question is, should I even bother with the phds right now? I was thinking Rutgers, Penn state, Brown, Carnegie Mellon, U Pittsburgh, Brandeis, Dartmouth, and U Delaware. As far as I’m aware aside from Rutgers the rest don’t have minimum GPA requirements. Am I being overly optimistic, or would a potential higher than 800 GRE score give me a chance at going straight for a phd in one of these?

Another question; I hear masters students don’t generally get funding. Is it possible to get into a low tier school for a phd program and then transfer over before completing it (like a school ranked higher than 100 on the us news and world report survey)? The thought has crossed my mind…

Thanks again for any replies; the help is greatly appreciated.

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Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: My prospects for a phd?

Post by bfollinprm » Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:41 am

To be honest, you're probably shooting a little high with some of these (Penn State and Carnegie Mellon in particular seem like reaches). Theory students need a higher GPA than those interested in experiment (since most classes are theory-oriented, they'd expect you to have done well). Even the schools without hard minimum GPA's will need a good reason to accept less than a 3.0. That doesn't mean there isn't a school for you, though. I would put your reaches in the top 30, with a fit somewhere between 40 and 60, and some safeties in the top 80 schools.

As far as a masters, you really should aim for a first authorship to show aptitude. Getting good grades in a masters program wont totally solve your problem (it'll help). The best way to do that is in grad school, so a M.S. isn't a terrible idea, but realize it'll cost money. Make sure wherever you end up you have to do a Master's thesis, since that's a natural path to a publication. And be flexible, a lot of people say HET when they enter grad school and migrate later when they realize lots of other physics is phun too.

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