low gre score, 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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Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Dec 07, 2006 12:53 am

low gre score, chances?

Post by nervous » Thu Dec 07, 2006 1:06 am

I just got my physics score, and I'm pretty upset- 560
Here are the others:
V: 640
GPA: 3.6 (3.8 physics)

I have one REU, and I'm doing a senior thesis
Both of those will result in publications (eventually)

I think my letters should be good...

I'm from a liberal arts school, I'm white and female. I want to study high energy phenomenology.

The schools I'm really hoping for are:
UW Madison
Johns Hopkins
U Penn

Back up schools are:
Ohio State
University of Minnesota
University of Illinois, Chicago

Do you think I have a chance at those schools?

(Please don't be mean- there have been a few posts on these forums that have been really harsh- I am NOT posting my scores to be told that I'm an idiot!)

Posts: 161
Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 7:48 pm

Post by schmit.paul » Thu Dec 07, 2006 1:44 am

You should add whether your interest is in experiment or theory. By high energy phenomenology I assume you're referring to theory, but my inference could be incorrect. As just about anyone on this forum will tell you, prospective theory students tend to be held up to slightly higher standards w.r.t. test scores and academics compared to experimental students. One obvious reason is that theory grad students will deal with advanced mathematical topics on a much more regular basis than experimental students, particularly once they begin their dissertation research. This is also in part because most every undergrad that has research experience has done experimental research, even if their preference for grad school is theory (I consider myself one of those people... I was blessed with an opportunity to do some theoretical/computational work at an MIT summer program, but my main experience back at my university has been experimental). This is because most undergrads have not assimilated enough advanced concepts to provide any meaningful contribution to purely theoretical work (this is also why theory grad students are often given TA's). Thus it will be your test scores, GPA and class selection (ie did you take any graduate courses, additional math courses, etc), and letters of rec that will best vouch for your potential to do theory. Your experimental background can still say something about your potential to be creative, but theoretical work will be much different than anything you've done as an undergrad in an experimental lab setting. I feel that I might not be the best person to ask with regard to your potential to get into these programs, but I can say that your physics GRE score is one way for graduate programs to assess your ability to "think like a physicist" (ie not just memorize formulas but actually apply concepts and tease out approximate solutions), and theory programs will recognize this. If your preference is theory, I would say make sure you do these things: 1) be adamant in your statement of purpose about your chosen field, as loyalty can sometimes buy you preference in admissions committees because they won't fear giving you funding and having you run off to another group; 2) give as many examples as you can regarding creative problem-solving you've done as an undergrad, so that if your GPA and test scores aren't necessarily above everyone else's, you can show something that will distinguish your ability to "think like a physicist," which others may neglect to do; and 3) make sure your recommenders vouch for your potential to become a theorist, and don't be afraid to request it of them...if they send in a general letter that doesn't indicate your most prominent strengths, then you are more of a "crap shoot" in the eyes of an admissions committee. And perhaps, apply to some experimental programs too, though if experiment has been your preference all along, then that won't be a problem ;-)

Posts: 235
Joined: Sun Nov 05, 2006 10:31 am

Post by tnoviell » Thu Dec 07, 2006 12:29 pm

You should always aim high for yourself, but like any student give yourself one or two schools that you know are virtual locks - there's no way you'll be rejected. Your backup schools are very good schools as well - if you wish to apply don't let anything stop you. But like I said, perhaps you should pick one or two safety schools.

You never know what a school may like about you - so apply anywhere.

astrophysics chica
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Joined: Tue Dec 05, 2006 11:09 pm

Post by astrophysics chica » Wed Dec 13, 2006 10:04 pm

I had a nightmare last night that I scored in the 25th percentile of the Physics GRE...it was quite traumatizing, as I was convinced that it was reality. Maybe I am thinking about this too much....kinda pathetic (I won't find out my actual score for 2.5 more weeks)

Posts: 40
Joined: Mon Nov 06, 2006 10:44 pm

Post by artschoolapplicant » Thu Dec 14, 2006 7:21 pm

i'm living your dream, so to speak

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