Astronomy Prospects for Mediocre PGRE score

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Joined: Mon Dec 07, 2009 7:10 pm

Astronomy Prospects for Mediocre PGRE score

Post by emtilt » Mon Dec 07, 2009 7:26 pm

I realize similar topics have been discussed a lot, but they rarely address astronomy grad school, just physics, so if you can provide any insight I'd appreciate it. I understand PGRE standards are slightly lower for astronomy than physics, but I don't know how much.

I got my PGRE score back, and it is almost a hundred points lower than I was getting on practice tests. I'm wondering what kind of schools I have a decent shot at. Yes, I realize that you always have a shot if other things sufficiently compensate, but based on normal acceptance trends, what is my shot realistically? What kinds of schools can I be optimistic about? Before the test score I was shooting for top schools, but now I'm just hoping to go somewhere.

My scores are:
PGRE - 690 (53rd percentile)
General GRE, first attempt: 750V, 690Q, 5.0W
General GRE, second attempt: 710V, 770Q, ??W

I am a double major in Physics and Astronomy (double BSs) at the University of Florida, and I have about a year of research experience with a leading researcher in stellar populations. I am working on a paper on which I am first author, but it won't be submitted until spring. I am presenting the work at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington in January as first author; that abstract and program is already available. My GPA is a 3.90.

I'm applying to a fair number of schools, and I'd like to know if I need to change them. Currently, I'm applying to Harvard, UVA, University of Washington, Hawaii, Caltech, OSU, University of Wisconsin, Santa Cruz, Texas at Austin, Arizona, Colorado at Boulder, Maryland, Florida, and NMSU . It's a wide spread of schools, from top schools to lower tier ones (I wanted to ensure I get in somewhere). Should I just give up on the top schools now, or do I have any shot? Realistically. Santa Cruz was my first choice but it now seems out of reach. (Though all of my letter writers are well known there, worked there, and are fairly prestigious researchers who know me well.) I want to do observational work in extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.

Thanks for any help.

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Re: Astronomy Prospects for Mediocre PGRE score

Post by nathan12343 » Mon Dec 07, 2009 7:42 pm

Speaking as a grad student at UCSC, I wouldn't be too incredibly worried, especially if you have good letters of recommendation.

Also, you don't mention your sex, which, unfortunately, does bear on the decision. If you are female, it will definitely help. On the other hand, your GRE is great, which will certainly offset your PGRE score. Please see my profile from last year for comparison with yours.

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Re: Astronomy Prospects for Mediocre PGRE score

Post by grae313 » Mon Dec 07, 2009 8:02 pm

I think you'll be fine, you should get in somewhere on that list. I always advise people to keep the top schools on their list. You spend $80, you probably get rejected, but at least you give yourself the chance to get accepted and you won't be left wondering "what if"... Twenty years from now you won't care about the money, it's nothing in the long run, but you might be caring about the "what if."

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