Addressing test score for top schools in astrophysics

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ascendants
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2018 9:39 pm

Addressing test score for top schools in astrophysics

Post by ascendants » Wed Dec 26, 2018 10:01 pm

I am applying for 10+ schools for astrophysics/cosmology, and was wondering how/if I should address my low physics GRE score in my essays when I'm applying to top 5 programs. Mental health issues prevented me from studying for the pGRE, and heavily impacted the test day for me, though I'm now around these issues.

My pGRE score is lowish (30-50th percentile), even for astrophysics programs. Compared to physics, these programs are generally much less stringent and expectant of good scores, and many are no longer requiring the pGRE for their program. However, most of the top schools still do, and place varying amounts of emphasis on the score. Given this, and given that my score isn't representative of my physics background, how should I address this in my essays (if I mention it at all)?

The rest of my application is very good (3.9/4.0 GPA, with physics and astrophysics degrees; GRE: 169 V, 164 Q, 4.5 W; three or four very strong letters; 7 semesters + 3 summers of research - one summer for an astronomy REU; excellent essays; various college & national scholarships/awards; a few grad courses; many extracurricular academic activities; etc.)

As I apply for top cosmology programs that require the pGRE (e.g., Princeton, Chicago, Berkeley) and use it to assess my physics preparation, should I mention the situation of my pGRE and mental health?

jabennett2194
Posts: 67
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:54 pm

Re: Addressing test score for top schools in astrophysics

Post by jabennett2194 » Wed Dec 26, 2018 10:34 pm

I'm in the application process as well, so don't take my words as law. Just an opinion :)

My profile is similar to yours (not cosmo and/or astro though, HEP-Th and/or CMT). I ended up with a 59th percentile pGRE.

I would personally recommend not addressing it — let your other incredible credentials speak for you.

I fear that bringing up mental health as an (I don't mean to be offensive, I just want to play the role of an admission committee who is literally paying your tuition, paying you a stipend, and investing 3-5 years of one of their researhcer's time into you) excuse for not doing well on the pGRE could lead them to fear that mental health will be an issue for you in the future. It is not a kind way to judge someone, but I think you should present the best version of yourself :) You are not your mental illness! <3

ascendants
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2018 9:39 pm

Re: Addressing test score for top schools in astrophysics

Post by ascendants » Thu Dec 27, 2018 12:43 am

jabennett2194 wrote:I'm in the application process as well, so don't take my words as law. Just an opinion :)
I fear that bringing up mental health as an (I don't mean to be offensive, I just want to play the role of an admission committee who is literally paying your tuition, paying you a stipend, and investing 3-5 years of one of their researhcer's time into you) excuse for not doing well on the pGRE could lead them to fear that mental health will be an issue for you in the future. It is not a kind way to judge someone, but I think you should present the best version of yourself :) You are not your mental illness! <3
No offense at all - my main reluctance was exactly what you said. Mentioning it would be useful to explain the score, but it comes with the possibility of a negative interpretation like you said.

And it seems that generally, mental health things can be pretty dicey to bring up with academics - you don't know what others may rightly/wrongly assume about you. I may go with what you said -- especially since it's in the past, it may be best to lead with the good and the present :)

Glad to hear another perspective - thanks for the response!



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