- 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.
- There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.
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My question is: how much does meeting with professors/scheduling an interview BEFORE a school requires it help your chances of getting into a school. I noticed a pretty large discrepancy between who gets into the top tier schools in the stickied post just based on the criteria outlined on the post (higher gpa/scores & higher research were rejected while top 10% level but not best got in). Is talking with professors, finding out about research, and proactively showing interest a BIG tipping point at this point in admissions? I feel like I have the same "stats" as some of the people who got accepted to the upper tier schools, but am getting discouraged by the large number of people with more experience, better undergrad schools... who got rejected from so many schools. Anybody have any experience with this??
It's a crap shoot to some extent no matter how you look at it. Admissions procedures vary at every institution so your question doesn't have a definite answer. You just have to do your best to stand out. Every little detail on its own might not turn any heads, but put everything together and eventually you assemble an impressive application. As for contacting professors, they probably get tons of emails from prospective students, and a lot of times I see on a professor's website that if you are interested in a lab, apply and get accepted and then come and talk to them. A good way to initiate something is to email them and just let them know that you are applying, are very interested in their work, and would like to know if they anticipate being able to support new graduate students in the coming academic year. It most likely won't be a big tipping point, but if they are on the admissions committee at least they might recognize your name and read your application with a bit of interest... maybe... but if you think it will make a *big* difference at a top school I think you're fooling yourself.
Well, I'm applying this year as well, so I can't speak with any specific authority. However, I visited a school during their graduate open house and the associate dean, who was also a physics professor, encouraged me to come back to visit the department at another time. He said that making a good impression with some professor whose research I might be interested in could help make my application stand out from the pile and increase my chances of being accepted.
I've send an email to one professor at every school I am applying; I think it is a good idea to initiate a contact, show them you are interested in their research, and most importantly I wanted to know if their research group was already full or not. Only one professor never wrote me back (he was indeed way out of my league...) but all the other (including quite a few big shots) wrote me back. Most professors wrote a very generic email in which they encourage me to apply at their school, they told me they will look for my name once the application process start and they ask me to recontact them once I'm in. Of course, I don't think that those professors will actually think my profile is any better because I contacted them. But, some professors actually showed much more interest and we've exchanged quite a few emails. The bottom line, I do think it helps quite a bit if you can actually initiate a discussion with a professor (but I'm not sure since I'm applying this season as well), but that's pretty hard. Especially near the application season when they are very busy. I think the best is to contact them in the summer, but then chances are they will forget about you.