chances at a top-20 or 30 school?

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Joined: Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:10 pm

chances at a top-20 or 30 school?

Post by frontglass » Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:35 pm

I'm applying to grad school this fall but am worried about the strength of my application. I have no desire/expectation of attending a top-10 school, but there are several I really like in the top 20-30ish range. I'm a domestic non-minority female at a top-20 undergraduate.

My GPA is a 3.6 overall with a 3.4 in physics (I have a minor that brings my GPA up). I have no grades below a B in any course. 4 of my lowest grades in my major are in math classes, all of which were in this stupid honors program meant for math majors that I did my freshman/sophomore year because I liked the idea of smaller class sizes– kicking myself for choosing that now, as I'm sure I could have gotten better grades in standard calc/linear algebra/ODE classes (not sure if that's something admissions committees will realize).

I have 2 years/summers of research experience– 1 at my home university, 1 REU. I liked both projects, but I'm definitely going into grad school undecided on subfield because I'm not sure if either were exactly what I want to focus on permanently. I do know that I'm more interested in experiment than theory. I'll have recommendation letters from both, which should be good (though I guess there's no way to tell for certain).

I'm taking the pGRE in Semptember and aiming for something in the 800 range, though who knows how things will actually shake out. My standard GRE should be fine (I think?) as I did well on ACT/SAT.

Is my GPA going to be a serious limiting factor? I'm looking at UTAustin, UCLA, UWash, UCSD, UCSC, and others.

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Re: chances at a top-20 or 30 school?

Post by TakeruK » Wed Sep 07, 2016 4:05 pm

Your GPA will not seriously affect your chances, in my opinion. Grades in later courses matter more than early course grades. This is why they want to see your transcript, not just your overall GPA. So, your first/second year math courses won't matter as much. The admissions committee will see that you did better in your upper level Physics classes, which clearly requires a good knowledge of math, so that B in Calc II won't really mean as much!

I also think most candidates underestimate themselves when they worry about rank. That is, many candidates worry about applying to "high ranking" schools. But, honestly, if there is a good fit there for you, you should apply to it. I wouldn't say that people should apply to top 10 schools just because they are top 10 schools. But, if there is something that interests you at a top 10 school, don't let its rank intimidate you. Let the school decide that you won't get in.

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Re: chances at a top-20 or 30 school?

Post by McLovin » Wed Sep 07, 2016 5:21 pm

Your GPA and PGRE (if it's 800+) are OK for the schools that you mentioned for experimental student.
For UT, do you know what field you are interested in?

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