What are my chances?

  • 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: Tue May 16, 2006 8:21 pm

What are my chances?

Post by lorenzbutterfly » Thu Nov 02, 2006 9:10 am

All right, the subject GRE is in 2 days, and I'm freaking out a little, so I'm appealing to you all for some help.

I'm an American student from a liberal arts college, with a 3.96 GPA (3.9ish in physics). I have a second major in math, and have taken a graduate course in it (there is no grad program for physics here). I did one REU at the University of Chicago, out of which I'm getting a recommendation. I already took the general GRE, and got V:580 (80th %ile), Q: 790 (90th %ile), A: 5 (70th %ile). I'm applying to U of Chicago, NYU, U of Maryland and Penn State with an interest in experimental soft condensed matter physics.

My worry is about this subject test. My practice exams are not all that encouraging, with my scores hovering around 600. Do you think I have a chance of getting into these schools with those numbers?

P.S.: I'm a female applicant, so I've been told that will help. Any opinions?

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Joined: Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:25 pm

Post by somebody » Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:46 pm

yeah I'm applying from a liberal arts school too. One of my professors did his phd at hopkins (a school with a good physics graduate program) and spent time there as a postdoc. He said that graduate schools recognize that students from liberal arts schools are at a disadvantage because they usually take less intense physics cirriculums. He said at hopkins he knew of people who scored between 30 and 40th percentiles who were accepted from liberal arts schools.

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Post by radicaltyro » Thu Nov 02, 2006 4:28 pm

I too am in the same boat. Although I am a top student at a liberal arts school, I am having a very difficult time getting my physics gre over 50%. My advisor assured me that grad schools understand that liberal arts students do not have the same preparation and encouraged me to apply to top schools. He said that our top students typically may get 30-50% but still get into good to great grad schools. Best of luck![/b]

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Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 10:44 pm

Post by artschoolapplicant » Mon Nov 06, 2006 11:08 pm


We mites from liber land don't possess the bookish wherewithal to score well on those silly tests (isn't Stern-Gerlach some sort of Latvian dessert?). I for one have more credits in post-tonal music than in all physics courses combined. I imagine this may be a problem.

Or maybe not.

Do you think the admissions committees would look favorably on a mixed-media collage in place of an essay?

I've got this great piece with Lagrange's nose perched atop a pile of photographs of Dan Flavin's "Monument."

Can one of you sciencey people tell me how Dan Flavin makes the lights so shiny? I think it's called something like "flower essence."

If I go to grad school, can I play with flowers?

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Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:53 am


Post by Quantum » Thu Nov 09, 2006 8:11 am

Yes, students from liberal arts schools are at a disadvantage because they usually take less intense undergrad physics curriculums. Grad schools may be more lenient on these students in terms of admission with regard to GRE scores and such. But also keep in mind that when such students get to grad school, they will be at a disadvantage with regard to prior physics knowledge. They will undoubtedly encounter courses that assume competence with material that they may have never even seen before. I just say this as a word of caution, not discouragement. You must realize that the physics grad classes are not going to give you time to "catch up" and they will assume you are well versed in all prerequisites no matter where your undergrad education was attained from.

Thus, it's probably in your best interest to prepare well for the GRE not only for the sake of the score itself, but as a means of stepping up to a level that is required for graduate level physics courses. That is not to say, of course, that everything you need to know for graduate classes is well represented by the GRE subject test in any way, but at least it would be a step in the right direction. ^_^

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