My Advice to International Students

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physico_guy
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2021 9:27 am

My Advice to International Students

Post by physico_guy » Tue Jan 05, 2021 11:37 am

As an international student involved in many applications, I want to share my experience to the future applicants. This may discourage you however so take it with a grain of salt!

If you studied in a US school although you are international then your chances are same as with a domestic student.

Otherwise, as an international student your chances are not that great. Statistics show that a domestic student who has about the same qualifications with you has %50 more chances. (Unless you are female).

If your major was not physics and if you are directly applying to PhD (especially to a theoretical position) then don't bother applying :) . (One exception is if you have an engineering background and you are applying for an applied physics/experimental position)

If you have master's degree in physics in US, then your chances are mehh. If you have master's degree in physics outside US, then your chances are less then mehh.

If you are from India or China then PGRE score less than 900 means rejection. (Unless you are female).

If you dont have a published paper or a research experience then dont bother applying even if your scores are great. One thing people do is to join a research group and have their names on a random paper, just do a similar thing.

Admission committee do not know and care how good your school is in your country. To them, it is just a low-quality non-US random school.

If you are from China then try to apply for a Chineese PI. Similar for other countries. I am sorry but this is the reality :( . If you want an evidence take a look the following page https://sites.brown.edu/xiaolab/people/

HubbleBubble
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Jul 07, 2020 7:06 am

Re: My Advice to International Students

Post by HubbleBubble » Tue Jan 05, 2021 2:54 pm

That’s great advice! Mind if I provide additional commentary? If this comes off rude/incorrect/unhelpful please let me know and I can edit out my reply.
If you studied in a US school although you are international then your chances are same as with a domestic student.
Better chances than other internationals, mainly because such students usually have excellent language skills and are more likely to have better known/connected advisors with American circles. But they do face similar barriers like funding, so still worse chances than domestic applicants.
Otherwise, as an international student your chances are not that great. Statistics show that a domestic student who has about the same qualifications with you has %50 more chances. (Unless you are female).
50% sounds spot on. I’d be curious to see such statistics - I swore UW had a table on this but I can’t find it in their posted reports.
If your major was not physics and if you are directly applying to PhD (especially to a theoretical position) then don't bother applying :) . (One exception is if you have an engineering background and you are applying for an applied physics/experimental position)
Yep. Also true for domestic students at top schools, but the less competitive options are still in reach (low ranked programs as well as chemistry and applied physics programs where you might do the same work). Everyone should consider applied physics if the research interests you.
If you have master's degree in physics in US, then your chances are mehh. If you have master's degree in physics outside US, then your chances are less then mehh.
“Mehh” is right but the comparison gets complicated/case dependent. Many international, 2 yr MSc programs give enough time for great research strides with little cost. Moreover, you are on the “natural” path, i.e. you didn’t fail to get in to a PhD as in the case of US terminal physics MS degrees. One the other hand, 1 yr British programs have similar international fees as the US degrees with less experience gained, only worth it if you want a British PhD.
If you are from India or China then PGRE score less than 900 means rejection. (Unless you are female).
Yep. EDIT: Well at least for competitive programs.
If you dont have a published paper or a research experience then dont bother applying even if your scores are great. One thing people do is to join a research group and have their names on a random paper, just do a similar thing.
Yep. EDIT: Well at least for competitive programs.
Admission committee do not know and care how good your school is in your country. To them, it is just a low-quality non-US random school.
Well, they aren’t impressed with general reputation, but they do know which schools are good in their field. They don’t care if the name Tsinghua is respected but if they have a successful colleague there they will care, even if he is at a low tier school. That is the same within the US - students working with nobel laureates at UT will fair better than average students at Columbia.
Last edited by HubbleBubble on Sun Jan 10, 2021 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

geekusprimus
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:10 pm

Re: My Advice to International Students

Post by geekusprimus » Tue Jan 05, 2021 7:29 pm

If you are from India or China then PGRE score less than 900 means rejection. (Unless you are female).

If you dont have a published paper or a research experience then dont bother applying even if your scores are great. One thing people do is to join a research group and have their names on a random paper, just do a similar thing.
Not to discount your experience, but that's not quite true. It is more difficult, but it's not impossible. I have a classmate from India (who did his undergraduate there, I might add) right now who had a sub-800 PGRE score, a mediocre GPA, and zero peer-reviewed publications when he was accepted at a top-25 university (top 10 in his subfield). After graduating, he took a gap year and got some internships with potential advisors in the US (presumably using them as letter writers, too), applied, and was accepted to several schools.

Knowing someone who is willing to work with you and having great letters of recommendation is a lot more important than having good test scores, even for international applicants. If you've got lousy test scores and no publications, you're probably not getting accepted right out of undergrad, but you're not out of options, either.

HubbleBubble
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Jul 07, 2020 7:06 am

Re: My Advice to International Students

Post by HubbleBubble » Tue Jan 05, 2021 8:58 pm

Agreed that rec letters are underrated, and it is easy to see how I would rather take a paperless student who 3 professors I respect said great things about over someone with a name on a paper but meh rec letters indicating they didn’t contribute so much.

I think it is impossible to give hard rules, these are only generalizations. But your friend’s case was not typical - looking at past profile threads, it is clear that international students with ‘good-but-not-great’ PGRE scores or no solid research results do poorly in admissions, especially compared to Domestic students. Research results hurts everyone more equally, but I think admissions rely on PGRE for international students where transcripts are not directly comparable. Seriously, go look at international profiles if you haven’t. Will be interesting to see how loosing the PGRE at a lot of schools this year will change admissions for internationals.

Also, just saw:
If you are from China then try to apply for a Chineese PI. Similar for other countries. I am sorry but this is the reality :( . If you want an evidence take a look the following page https://sites.brown.edu/xiaolab/people/
I don’t think this is necessarily a terrible thing - if some of the main barriers for internationals are language skills/advisor communication and advisors not knowing international professors/transcripts/strengths, it makes a professor from a particular nationality might hire more from that country. I guess that implies bias... Idk I think the real trouble would be how ANY group treats members from different nationalities. Anyways, I do suggest reaching out to alums of your undergrad, they have a better chance of knowing your rec letter writers and properly evaluating your transcript. And for internationals, I guess you can write emails to your countrymen in their native tongue, that might help you stick out. Maybe, idk.



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