Lower GPA, great recs, what school?

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
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Physics GRE percentile I need to attend UC Berkeley

95% or higher - Your pretty much never going to Berkeley.
No votes
70% range - Who knows, maybe your letters of rec. will win them over!
Total votes: 4

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Joined: Wed Aug 06, 2008 2:39 am

Lower GPA, great recs, what school?

Post by univox360 » Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:13 am

What kind of school could you see me getting my PhD at?

**I am about to graduate with my bachelors degree in physics from a school with little prestige.

**I have a GPA of 3.5, which is at the tail end of those realistically applying to graduate school.

**I don't have an REU, but I do have a lot of work experience in forensic engineering. My experience is with using and repairing scanning electron microscopes, finite elemental analysis, electronics, engineering, machining etc. (great for someone working in a lab). I have an incredible knowledge base gained from several years in the field.

**My boss and my professors like me a lot, and want to write me letters of recommendation.

**I haven't officially taken the physics GRE yet (I'll take it in October), but I took the 87' practice exam cold turkey and got a 43 percentile (compared to others that year). I figure with studying (and since the newer tests are easier) I could realistically raise my percentile to to somewhere in the 60's.

**I don't know what area in Physics I want to work in, so I want to apply to big schools with lots of different opportunities. I figure I need to apply in experimental given my background and likely GRE score.

So now what kind of schools should I apply to?

Should I even send UC Berkeley, or University of Chicago an application?

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Re: Lower GPA, great recs, what school?

Post by christopher3.14 » Wed Aug 06, 2008 5:01 am

univox360 wrote: So now what kind of schools should I apply to?

Should I even send UC Berkeley, or University of Chicago an application?
My personal view on this is, if money isn't an object when it comes to application fees (application, transcripts, GRE scores) then why not apply? Keep in mind you should apply to a broad range of programs (a few "top," "middle" and "little known" schools), but investigate all of them -- make sure you'd like to attend each.

Another way to think about it: Total fees for each school maybe comes out to $80-100. When you think about it, that's a small investment for whatever fraction of the possibility of getting into a top program.

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Re: Lower GPA, great recs, what school?

Post by twistor » Wed Aug 06, 2008 12:16 pm

I'll address your questions one by one:

1. Prestige doesn't matter much, if at all.

2. 3.5 is not an unrealistic GPA for getting into graduate schools. Of course, this depends
on the school and the applicant pool for any particular year. When applying to top
institutions you may be competing against students with perfect GPAs. Apply to a range
of schools and I'm confident you will do fine.

3. I don't know much about this field but it doesn't sound like having this experience will hurt
your application

4. Strong LORs go a long way.

5. 60th percentile is good enough for getting into many schools. Keep in mind that top
schools look at more than just test scores. Research experience goes a long way.

6. Figure out your areas of interest ASAP. Despite what many people will tell you,
statements of purpose are an important part of your application and you need to
be able to convince the admissions committee that you have well-defined research
interests. Of course, being too narrow can hurt you as well. Use discretion.

7. Apply to all the schools you really want to go to if you can afford it. Look over the
last years worth of posts on this site and you will see many people who believed that
they had tickets to some of the best schools in the nation only to be turned down
when those envelopes started arriving in the mail. You will also see people get into
schools they never thought they could. Don't assume you can read the minds of the
people on the admissions committee. Even if you think it's a longshot you still might
be pleasantly surprised.

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