2014 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

  • 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: Sun Apr 27, 2014 4:50 pm

Re: 2014 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by grizzman » Mon Apr 28, 2014 11:23 pm

Undergrad Institution: Medium-sized state school in the heart of the American auto industry, very small physics program
Major(s): Physics, Mechanical Engineering
GPA in Major: Physics 3.99; ME 4.00
Overall GPA: 3.99
Length of Degree: 4 years
Position in Class: Top
Type of Student: Domestic Caucasian Male

GRE Scores : Revised
Q: 170 (98%)
V: 154 (62%)
W: 4 (54%)
P: 990 (94%)

Research Experience: An REU in experimental nuclear physics; another REU in accelerator physics; a semester in theoretical radiation biophysics. Both REU's were the best in their respective fields. No publications.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention, Presidential Scholar (full tuition scholarship), and other minor awards.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Supplemental Instruction Leader for both of the intro calculus-based physics courses for 3 years, Peer Tutor for physics/math/engineering for 3 years, 1 summer as an intern at a manufacturing engineering company

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: 2 degrees in 4 years

Special Bonus Points: A good personality?

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: Member of Tau Beta Pi - The Engineering Honor Society, officers for two other student orgs related to service

Applying to Where:
Basically, I applied as a general experimentalists between particle, high energy, nuclear, and accelerator physics. If a school was reputable in the area, I applied for it. (no particular order)

Michigan State - Physics - Accepted 1/16 via email. CNS fellowship, NSCL fellowship, University Distinguished fellowship $29,000/year + $1,500 signing bonus - Declined
Michigan - Physics - Accepted 1/24 via email. fellowship and quarter time GSI $2,325/month - Declined
Wisconsin - Madison - Physics - Accepted 1/22 via email. half-TA $19,485/year + Van Vleck Fellowship $1,000 + Brown Fellowship $5,000 - Declined
University of Chicago - Physics - Accepted 1/31 via email to check website. $2,500/month + McCormick Fellowship $1,500/quarter + Sachs Fellowship - Declined
MIT - Physics - Accepted 2/10 via email. fellowship $2,838/month - Declined
Stanford - Physics - Accepted 2/24 via email. TA/RA $37,291 - Will Attend!!! :D

Cornell - Physics - Rejected 2/11 via email ????? :shock:
Berkeley - Physics - Rejected 2/25 via email to check website
Harvard - Physics - Rejected 2/24 via snail mail
Yale - Physics - Rejected 2/10 via email to check website

My advice, beyond what everyone is giving, is that it is possible to come from a no-name school in physics into the elites. My ME degree helped in some ways for experimental physics; however, it also hurt me in other ways. I probably could have done more research during the year. I also did not have the depth of physics course work that most students applying to these schools have; however, I made up for that with my P-GRE score. You also don't need to publish, but it certainly helps. Also, stay off this forum after you have submitted your applications. It will save you stress, just relax because you deserve it!

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Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:07 pm

Re: 2014 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by jjm64 » Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:36 pm

Undergrad Institution: Medium Sized Private School decent physics reputation
Major(s): Physics BS
Minor(s): None
GPA in Major: 4.0
Overall GPA: 3.98
Length of Degree: 5 years
Position in Class: Top
Type of Student: White male domestic

GRE Scores : (revised)
Q: 167 (95%)
V: 159 (81%)
W: 4.0 (54%)
P: 800 (72%)

Research Experience: 1 year of research in astrophysics and 3 years of research in particle physics

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Honors College, Dean's List, 3 physics awards from home institution

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: 2 terms of TA experience

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: NA

Special Bonus Points: adviser had good connections at a few of the schools I applied to

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: NA

Applying to Where: Experimental Particle Physics Ph.D. programs (specifically neutrino physics)

Wisconsin-Madison - Physics - Accepted 1/22 via email, $29k/year - Declined
Yale - Physics - Accepted 2/14 via email to check website, $31k/year - Declined
UPenn - Physics - Accepted 3/2 via email, $29k/year - Declined
Penn State - Physics - Accepted 2/7 via email, $26k/year - Declined
UCLA - Physics - Accepted 2/8 via email, $32k/year - Declined
UIUC - Physics - Accepted 2/13 via email, $21k/year - Declined
Stanford - Physics - Accepted 2/24 via email, $37k/year - Will Attend

Maryland, College Park - Physics - Rejected 2/9 via email to check website
Princeton - Physics - Rejected 2/14 via email
Berkeley - Physics - Rejected 2/25 via email to check website
Chicago - Physics - Rejected 2/6 via email to check website

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Joined: Thu May 01, 2014 11:03 am

Re: 2014 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by heisenberg_aka_ww » Thu May 01, 2014 11:22 am

b]Undergrad Institution[/b]: Big State....Good (top 20) reputation in physics.
Major(s): Physics, Mathematics

GPA in Major:~3.7
Overall GPA:~3.1
Length of Degree: 4 years
Position in Class: near top
Type of Student: Domestic White Male


Research Experience: A couple of years working in a theory group. Took a class with the PI. Working on submitting a paper. Presented at APS March meeting. Think I have at least a couple strong LOR.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: National Undergraduate Research Fellowships (paid for by major company). Some dean's list bs .

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: SPS VPres and SPS Pres

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: Wrote opinion pieces for school paper for two semesters (featured topics of interest to science students)

Special Bonus Points: A good handful of grad classes with As.

Applying to Where:
I stated in all of my applications that I was interested in CMT and Biophysics theory. Tailored what I said specifically to each department.

Yale - Physics-Accepted
UCLA -Physics -Accepted
CU Boulder -Physics -Accepted
UCLA -Physics-Accepted
CU Boulder -Physics-Accepted
Oxford -Physics-Accepted
Rice - Physics-Accepted -Will Attend

Caltech - Applied Physics-Rejected
Harvard - Applied Physics-Rejected
Berkeley - Biophysics-Rejected
UChicago - Biophysics-Rejected
MIT - Physics-Rejected
Princeton - Physics-Rejected
UCSD - Physics-Rejected

NSF GRFP-Accepted....Pretty cool.

Really surprised I got into top physics programs but no interest from applied physics or biophysics which are generally perceived as easier to get into. They tend to be much smaller programs so maybe I seemed a little rough around the edges.

Even though I got into "better" schools I choose to go where I did because of specific professors in the department and overall feel of the place.

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Joined: Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:58 pm

Re: 2014 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by wildcat » Wed Jul 16, 2014 4:35 pm

Undergrad Institution: State University (large in my state, small nationally)
Major(s): Physics, Education
GPA in Major: 4.0 (kind of)
Overall GPA: 3.0
Length of Degree: 5 years to complete a degree in education, 2 more years to finish a degree in physics
Position in Class: ??
Type of Student: White male

GRE Scores : Revised
Q: 168 (96%)
V: 157 (73%)
W: 4.5 (78%)
P: 870 (82%)

TOEFL Total: N/A

So, some explanation here will probably help clarify the rest of my profile. I graduated in 2007 with a degree in secondary education. I was a high school physics teacher for 5 years before returning to school to finish a B.S. in physics.

Research Experience: About a year writing software to test electronics as part of the CMS upgrade.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Outstanding future teacher award; several scholarships

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: TA in Chemistry and Physics departments, lab coordinator, high school physics teacher

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: I did a lot in school my first time through (student government, coached, taught classes). I was also very involved in my community as a teacher after I graduated the first time.

Special Bonus Points: As a more "mature" student, I am sure I appear to be lower risk for failing.

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: I am a first generation college student from a relatively poor family.

Applying to Where:
All of these schools I expressed interest in doing neutrino experiments with the exception of Michigan State (nuclear).

Kansas State - Physics - Accepted
Michigan State - Physics - Accepted
Minnesota - Physics - Accepted
Duke - Physics - Accepted - Will Attend

CalTech - Physics - Rejected
Chicago - Physics - Rejected
Yale - Physics - Rejected
Berkeley - Physics - Rejected
Wisconsin - Physics - Rejected

Takeaway for future applicants
Prepare! I can some up all of my advice with that one word. Though, I will give some specific advice here, if you just stay on top of everything the process is much easier to deal with (and less stressful).
Research - We all know you should do a lot. I think it is also important to make sure that you are learning valuable skills from that research. Work in labs where they are doing the kind of work that you don't know how to do so that you learn new skills.
PGRE - Those who say it isn't that important are wrong. Of course we've all read about that person with a terrible score that got into some terrific place. But those are exceptions. I applied to much better schools than I was planning on applying to after I got a better score than I had planned on getting. Look at my GPA and research experience - without my PGRE score I would have probably been staying at my undergrad institution for grad school.
Make flashcards of equations that you don't know. I made about 120 of them and reviewed them every once in a while when I was waiting in line or eating lunch. I answered 4-5 questions on the exam correctly because I looked at the exact equation I needed right before the exam.
SOP - Start early. I wrote my first draft about 6 months before applications were due. I had anyone who would read it do so. I got some good advice and some less than helpful advice. But it is very easy to forward your most recent draft of your SOP to a professor. Consider having a prof outside of physics read it. I had a political science prof who proofreads texts on the side read mine. She made a lot of nice suggestions on sentence structure and word choice.

If anyone reading this has a sort of non-traditional route to grad school, feel free to PM me. I think I learned a lot about this process in going through it and would be more than happy to share with you what I feel are the challenges and the advantages (and I think there are many of these too) in being non-traditional.

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Re: 2014 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by idk » Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:22 pm

I'm a bit late to the party, but hopefully next year's applicants can still benefit from my experiences :-P

Undergrad Institution: Top in Canada for physics
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s): Mathematics
GPA in Major: 4.00/4.00
Overall GPA: 4.00/4.00
Length of Degree: 4 years
Position in Class: Top, or close to it
Type of Student: White Canadian male

GRE Scores:
Q: 170 (98%)
V: 169 (99%)
W: 5.5 (97%)
P: 970 (92%)

Research Experience: One summer + term project in experimental condensed matter, one summer in experimental AMO, one in theoretical AMO, and term project in experimental quantum optics, all at my home university. One publication (PRB) from the first of these.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Litany of "top in x" scholarships from home university, NSERC USRA (Canadian equivalent of REU) at home university in the summers of second year, NSERC USRA + Chair's Scholar (additional departmental award) in the summer of third year. No external awards.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Have held a nicely-titled peer mentoring position for the past two years.

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: Nothing..

Special Bonus Points: My recommenders seem to have extremely high opinions of me - two told me they'd directly contacted people at places I've applied... I worry this is entirely undeserved

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: Made some gambles in my personal statements (particularly for Caltech and Princeton) that apparently did not pay off.. ;A;
My interests are a bit restrictive or limited / limiting: almost every university I applied to only has one person whose work interests me; I named the one person I was interested in for most of my apps.

Applying to Where:

Boulder - Quantum Optics - Accepted Jan. 31 via email with $8000 signing bonus
Berkeley - Quantum Optics / Ultracold Atoms - Accepted Feb. 4 via email to check website, offered Berkeley fellowship Feb. 28
Caltech - Quantum Optics - Rejected Mar. 10 with an amazingly impersonal email
Chicago - Quantum Optics / Condensed Matter (IME) - Accepted Jan. 15 via email + IME Graduate Fellowship - declined
Harvard - Quantum Optics - Accepted Feb. 13 via email, beautiful folder in the mail later - WILL ATTEND!
McGill - Quantum Optics - Unofficial acceptance via email Jan. 18 - declined, but really like two profs and am working there over the summer
MIT - Quantum Optics - Rejected Feb. 18 via email
Princeton - Quantum Optics / Condensed Matter - Rejected Feb. 14 via email
Stanford - Quantum Optics / Ultracold Atoms - Accepted Feb. 24 via email - declined
Yale - Quantum Optics - Accepted Feb. 14 via email - declined

I guess I agree with a few posters before me in that you're best off applying in the field of your best-connected recommender. I suspect mentioning a specific prof for most places helped me overall, but the admissions process remains pretty opaque to me. Apart from that, I'm very happy with my results - best of luck to all !! :-D

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Re: 2014 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by Izaac » Tue Nov 17, 2015 10:32 am

Undergrad Institution: French uni, good reputation in sciences
Major: Physics
Minor: Maths
GPA: 75%-ish
Length of Degree: 3 years

Grad Institution: Japanese uni, good reputation in sciences
Major: Physics
GPA: 85%-ish
Length of Degree: 2 years

Type of Student: International

GRE Scores : revised
Q: 168 (95%)
V: 162 (89%)
W: 4.5 (80%)
P: 870 (83%)

TOEFL Total: 115

Research Experience: one summer working on a programming project (Monte-Carlo simulation of particle physics process), one summer working on building a microscope, four months at a low temperature lab studying silica aerogel and superconductive materials. No publication.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: a few scholarships from the Japanese government.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: one year TA.

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: nah

Special Bonus Points: nah

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: nah

Applying to Where:
all in HET, with interest in nonlinear dynamics/CMT

MIT - Physics nope
Yale - Physics try again
Cornell - Physics c'mon!
Michigan - Physics aww seriously man
Wisconsin-Madison - Physics aaah, see?
Georgia Tech - Physics yeah, shake it baby!

and the winner is:
Cambridge - MASt in Applied Maths ooOOWMAGUDYEAAAAH!