Apply to grad school or not

  • 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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Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:16 pm

Apply to grad school or not

Post by Nfranklin » Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:26 pm

I've been browsing around this forum and it seems like a pretty good place to ask about graduate schools.

I'm currently a senior at a public University in the US. I recently took the standard GRE and don't know my scores yet due to the new scoring system but my ranges seemed good. My GPA is currently 3.8 and I'll be taking the Physics GRE this coming weekend. I worked with a professor on a research project this previous summer, although no publication was produced from the work.

I'm really wondering whether or not I should apply to graduate school. It's always been a plan of mine to go, but I'm not sure I have the experience or direction (field of research) that I feel is necessary for attending.

So, what I'm wondering is, If I wait to go to grad school, where should I be looking. I know I need more research and hands on experience in the field, but most programs are only for students (undergraduate or graduate).

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Re: Apply to grad school or not

Post by midwestphysics » Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:37 pm

If you can afford the app fees I'd apply anyway, the worst that can happen is they say no. If you decide to wait though, your options can be different depending on your location. In general however, you can try becoming a volunteer researcher, or if you're lucky a paid researcher, with one of the profs at your school or one near by. Enroll as a non-degree seeking student and take some grad classes, nothing too demanding if you're doing extensive amounts of research, but something to add to your experience. If you're near a national lab, or a university partnered with one that offers on-site jobs, you could give that a shot too. Basically, I'd apply none the less but I understand if finances restrict you. Then I'd wait and see, and if it's rejections across the board which shouldn't happen if you pick your schools wisely, then exploit any resources and connections you have in your own physics department to get more experience between now and the next admissions cycle. Personally, I'd start with my favorite prof and the one who knows me the best, explain the situation which they should be semi-aware of as they're likely to be one of your recommending profs. Just say that you're going to work on your app strength to give it another go, and that you'd like to get involved with some more research, paid preferably, unpaid if need be (again if you can afford to be unpaid) do they know anything or can they help in any way.

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Re: Apply to grad school or not

Post by bfollinprm » Thu Oct 13, 2011 6:45 pm

I agree, if you know you want to go to grad school, then go and figure out your research interests later. Plenty of people will make a grad school decision without knowing what part of physics they're interested in.

If you aren't SURE, though, try for a job in industry. Grad school, especially the first year with passing the prelims and working through the first year coursework, is pretty daunting. And the short and long term economic rewards seem really low and far away respectively. Go to work and convince yourself that you'd rather be in class than working--and in the meantime explore some opportunities wherever you end up (as a volunteer researcher, summer student, etc).

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