negru wrote:I find your reasoning regarding top 20 schools perfectly understandable (there are many drawbacks to doing string theory, moving from your country etc), however I do not find your reluctance to study for the PGRE understandable. If you have an otherwise good application, getting 990 on the PGRE can really make the difference. If you want to attend a top school so badly, aren't you willing to compromise a little to get there? Studying like a retard for the PGRE can be very difficult (I still miss all my neurons that were destroyed in the process), but it's quite manageable, and it shouldn't take more than a few months. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and play by the rules. And this will be true pretty much until you get tenure and/or your nobel prize somewhere in your 40's I assume. If you don't like these things, fine, but you're not doing anyone any good by boycotting the PGRE. You'll be free to attempt to make changes once you establish yourself in the field and people start listening to you. I know that if I'll ever serve on an admissions committee and have any say in things I'll push for disregarding the PGRE (or at least making the score bracket about 100-200 points wide)
You probably didn't have advisors "in the know" like many domestic applicants have, and *** happens, but there's no reason to apply like a dumb-ass again next year. You didn't have the app schools were looking for, tough luck, it happens. You might have some valid excuses. But you're not going to have any excuses next year if you don't work on improving what you know failed you. I was lucky enough to have research advisors who all told me to just drop research and tough courses and focus exclusively on the PGRE. Getting a 990 counts more than doing research or actually knowing your field, sorry, that's just the way it goes. You probably didn't know this, but know you do, so get to work and stop complaining.
You got to listen when negru speaks
As for me, I can rest easy tonight in the knowledge that there is actually one post by negru which I agree with more than 95%.
To reiterate what I said before, a theory professor takes on average 2-3 students at any time. Yes you can find some who have 4 (but most of the time they are eager to cut down that number by not accepting new students after one or two students graduate), but that's exceptions. Also, you probably will want to avoid any theory professor who has more than 5 advisees at the same time. So go ahead and count the number of string theory professors in the schools you are interested, who are active and taking students (warning: a fair number of them don't take on students on a regular basis), multiply that by 2 or 3 then divide by 5, the typical degree length. The final result is the number of string theory students the school will take every year. Do you homework, and I doubt you will find that the average is significantly higher than 2.
Let's do some examples. If a school have only one string theory professor (not uncommon!), that's 3 students / 5 years = 0.6 students / year. This school likely will only want one perspective string theorist every 2 years
. If a school have 5 active string theory professors (that's a HUGE! group and to my knowledge, there isn't a school out there that has that many active string theorists), that's 5 * 3 / 5 = 3 students / year. Even most top places don't have 5 active string theory professors - probably not even close to that.
As I said before, yes, the school may accept more than 2 perspective string theorists per year to account for people declining the offer, but there is also a number of people who got into multiple places, and I suspect these effects cancel more or less. A school may also admit extra perspective string theorists in hope that they change their mind about doing string theory, but it's unlikely that you will be perceived as one of those people since you already have a Master degree on string theory.
Don't be delusional as to your chances to be accepted as a perspective string theorist at a top place. The chance is very low, and you are competing against some best of the brightest people (all of them have higher PGRE than yours, btw), and you got to demonstrate
to the adcoms that you are better than everyone except for maybe 22 of those bright people. If you don't have a competitive PGRE score, you are doomed from the beginning. It ain't a lottery - you are not qualified to even buy the lottery ticket yet! I hope you realize soon how silly you are to expect
an acceptance or two from the schools in your list with your current profile.