Low score; where should I apply?

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Joined: Wed Nov 15, 2006 5:09 pm

Low score; where should I apply?

Post by lesseor » Wed Nov 15, 2006 5:16 pm

My profile is fairly different than most of those I see posted here.

I am definitely a lower-end student when it comes to physics. I am working on a double major in physics and math with a minor in adolescent education at a 4-year private liberal arts university, nowhere fancy. My GPA is around a 3.5; slightly lower in physics/math. I haven't yet seen my physics GRE score, but, from the practice tests I took, I imagine to have scored around the 20th-25th percentile. I haven't yet taken the general GRE, but I am confident that I can score extremely well on it because of my performance on the SAT (1510) back in high school. I have no research experience.

Where, if anywhere, can I apply for a graduate physics (Ph.D. preferred) program and expect to get in?

(demographic stuff: white, male, American)

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Joined: Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:25 am

Post by invidia » Wed Nov 15, 2006 7:27 pm

What year are you?

And if you are planning to apply to physics grad school, it's pretty much mandatory to get some research experience. Expecially recommendations from professors you have done research with. They could really tell the reviewers that you are research material type of student, since that's all you do in physics grad school.

Your GPA is pretty good (far better than mine and hopefully, great GRE scores and research experience will cover it). And you mention you have a slightly lower GPA in math/physics. Are you just taking easy classes and getting easy As just to have a higher overall GPA? It won't help you much when applying to grad school. Most schools rather see a C+ in advanced mathematics of quantum fields than an A in basketball 101,

IF, you get a low score on your physics GRE, it won't look good when applying to a physics school. I would suggest you look for low tier schools and apply for them as "safe schools" Then you can take a shot at the middle tier and see if any will take you in. I'm sorry if I can't specifically point out some middle/low tier schools.

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Post by lesseor » Wed Nov 15, 2006 9:16 pm

I'm a senior. I applied for a few REUs this past summer, but didn't get accepted for any.

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Post by Quantum » Wed Nov 15, 2006 10:17 pm

It's difficult to say because schools weigh various credentials somewhat differently. Though, most schools will probably filter out potential students on the basis of their GPA and GRE subject test scores more than anything else.

A GPA of 3.5 is solid, though you should try to boost your GRE physics subject score if possible. A GRE physics score in the 20-25th percentile isn't very competitive, even for average schools. Though that's not to say you won't get into some of them.

I wouldn't be overly concerned with your GRE general score unless you're planning to apply to top-tier schools (in which case, you'd also have to do much better on the subject test). Otherwise, I'd say a verbal score of 500+ and a math score of 600+ would do for most average grad schools. It is still worth studying somewhat for the GRE general test because I know some people who did tremendously well on the SAT, but bombed the GRE general.

Also, I would agree with invidia that undergrad research is very important to grad school admission committees. Perhaps it's a bit late now, but if you can still find time to schedule some research, it will certainly help quite a bit. It will also give you an opportunity to get letters of recommendation that outline your research potential.

In addition, most students underestimate the power of a very convincing and well-written personal statement. I know some people with sub par credentials who were accepted into some pretty competitive schools on the basis of the determination they expressed in their personal statement. You want to be specific and sound excited, aggressive, challenged, and very motivated in your statement.

Overall, you have a decent GPA. If possible, try to boost your GRE subject test to at least the 50th percentile and be well-prepared for the GRE general. Getting some undergrad or post-undergrad research, if possible, will also definitely be to your advantage.

Hope this helps. =)

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Post by artschoolapplicant » Wed Nov 15, 2006 10:36 pm

I'll let you in on a little secret, because it's nearing the point where this little secret won't matter (almost everyone's already applied this year).


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Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 7:48 pm

Post by schmit.paul » Thu Nov 16, 2006 12:05 am

You could try applying to my school (Arizona State University). We're quickly becoming a massively-funded Class A research institution, but some departments have been slow to increase their acceptance requirements. I remember hearing complaints from one of my professors that at times the admissions committee doesn't even look at the physics GRE scores...so if that's still the case and you can't bump your score up, then you still might have a decent shot at getting in. We've got a lot of talented faculty, and we're one of the nation's leaders for electron microscopy research and development. We also just established a gigantic interdisciplinary academic research institute called the Arizona Biodesign Institute (I work for our most successful physics professor in the Center for Single Molecule Biophysics), so if you have any affinity for the biosciences we have some brilliant experimentalists and theorists as well as a ton of opportunities to do interdisciplinary research. But yeah, work on nailing the physics GRE the best you can, I found memorizing formulas and doing a couple full length exams in the weeks directly leading up to the exam helped me a lot. Good luck

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