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Opinions on where crappy grades get you into--

Posted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 7:25 pm
by ohsobored
Hi, I was just wondering if anyone had any first hand experience/knowledge about how difficult CU is to get into. It's not top tier of course, but still consistently 2nd.

Being honest my grades aren't good at all. Didn't decide to put any effort into school until last semester. When I did I got a 4.0 in senior level physics courses. Although its at an adequate public school in NM. I have research experience at a national laboratory [two years, with several publications]. After taking a GRE Subject practice exam I feel extremely confident in my ability to get at least an 850. I know that it's hard to tell from such a mediocre pool of information, but I would love to get some opinions on what schools this could get me into, and what would be a stretch. I'm starting to look at prospects but i am clueless as to where my standings even put me. I'm not overflowing with cash to apply to dozens of universities that are out of my league.

I suppose my real question is: what level of university is realistic for a female with a good GRE score and completely shitty grades to get into? Does a 4.0 for two semesters [taking upper undergrad, lower grad level classes] wipe away three years of mediocrity?

Any knowledge is helpful.

Posted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 8:30 pm
by schmit.paul
in cases like these your letters of rec should carry a lot of weight, as they will reinforce (or disprove) the notion that your final year of exceptional performance wasn't just a 'fluke,' and that that final year is a better representation of your academic potential

Posted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 11:37 pm
by braindrain
didn't mean to post the same thing twice, then it won't let me delete without typing something

Posted: Tue Jan 30, 2007 11:38 pm
by braindrain
I can't say that I know any right or wrong answers on this. After all, the people responding have yet to be accepted and the people accepted last year are long gone. BUT, I think you should sit down and figure out which schools/potential advisors are best aligned with your interests and where do you really want to go above all others if you could. You could even write to some professors. So, I guess what I would vote for is apply to where you really want to go rather than match scores up to some school profile. There are several philosophies of admissions - one is that everybody has to offer and have everything, but there is another one where they may accept people based on certain things that stand out as special about them. I don't think your situation is that uncommon about improving grades later on. I think even medical schools which is probably the most difficult admissions of anything look at grade trends and if you improve later on, they like that. I believe physicists would do the same thing. I think academics know and understand these things. They also give lots of opportunities on applications to explain reasons and hardships and such. I don't think that anyone will ever think good grades are a 'fluke'. I think a person can 'fluke' a bad grade but not a good grade. But, they may have questions about consistency of a person. The schools want to know if you can academically get through their classes and do research. Top grades in upper-level classes may answer that question for them.

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 12:04 am
by schrodingersmistress

I'm sorta in the same boat and what I've hear there are a good deal of females like this and many don't do well on the physics GRE. I talked to some advisers from MIT and this is a website they gave me:

the two big things they are really looking for are good recs and research experience. Granted good grades can help but there are lots of people in this world who can get good grades but don't think outside the box and don't take initiative or have drive. They are really looking for this drive in females. The biggest thing I have heard though are the rec letters and research. The competition for females is different than for males though officially it doesn't say that anywhere. What my adviser said was that UCSD had no official policies on this but they want as many rounded females as they can get and will often let in chose a female with lower grades or scores rather than a male who would be considered more qualified. If you were a male I would say your chances are slimer since the number of qualified males is higher but as a female you have more a chance of getting in some place good. Apply wherever you want, though you shouldn't expect to get in and its only $80 more each place you want to apply anyways. Anyways, I have looked into this stuff alot and there is so little information on the web the best thing to do is to talk to some advisers.

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 12:09 am
by schrodingersmistress
also someone posted this for my question... dunno if it helps.. ... 50004.html

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 12:33 am
by braindrain
Doesn't this bother anyone, that the admissions procedure/system seems discriminatory to both men and women?

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 12:41 am
by schrodingersmistress
only about 170 women across the entire united states get their PhD in physics every year, it really doesn't cause that must of a blip on the radar. And for the school itself it brings in more grant money... if you can say you've got so and so females it makes grant people happy and they give more money they like to see females and minorities. I don't think its right by any means, but being a female it's in my favor so I don't complain

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 12:42 am
by schrodingersmistress
*much not must a dyslexic, its very hard to coherently write things out :x

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 2:23 am
by myumla
i don't see why grad school applications would ask for one's gender on the first place, or at least not make it optional like they do for ethnic background, etc. i know some people who don't take women in science seriously because of this so-called "positive" discrimination ("you only got in because you are a woman" kind of thing) :x

and honestly, i dont see how being a female would make it harder for me to get good grades/do well on the GRE :roll:

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 4:56 am
by braindrain
I asked someone about what is causing the gender disparity on the test. They said its something about women are more likely to prove they are right and do the calculations before committing to an answer and men are more likely to think they are right immediately and move on to the next question. They said it was partially a perception/confidence/ego issue and that becomes a timing issue. I heard too that women might publish less journal papers by waiting for more substantial results which then becomes a question of less papers but more important ones versus more papers but not as important ones. I think men and women are different somehow or we would all get along better than we do :) and we wouldn't all think physics is easy compared to understanding the opposite gender :).

Posted: Wed Jan 31, 2007 7:03 pm
by artschoolapplicant
I'd REALLY like to see a source on that study, if there is one. Be careful when relaying speculations.

I think it's far too easy to perpetuate the whole "timid woman" thing. "Oh, she just got a lower score because she's so shy. Poor dear."

Why doesn't the disparity exist anymore in biology and medicine?

I think it's safe to say that the grad schools are saying to themselves, "Ok, here's our applicant pool. We want women as well as men (as well as international students, etc.). Let's get some."

And then that translates into "there are women getting into physics programs, some of whom may have lower GRE scores than some of the men."

(I hate the phrase "more qualified." By whose friggin standards? It's rumored that Harvard likes to accept abberrant students. I don't know if that's true, but assuming it's true somewhere, would that make a starfish "more qualified?" I don't think many starfish have applied yet.

When I ask current grad students about what the committees are looking for they invariably answer "which committee?" and/or "which person on which committee?")

Anyway, I'm just this white guy at a crazy arts school, but let's not too freely commingle a statistical phenomenon ("the women who applied to THIS school had, on average, a lower GRE score than the male applicants") with a fairly broad interpretation ("poor things, if only their egos were more maleish").

Posted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 8:05 pm
by braindrain
The speculation came from the analysis that was done on the 1996 UTexas study. I don't really know if it was speculation or they actually had the data of how many questions the women vs. men answered. I don't think wanting to prove calculations first and be sure is a shyness or timidity issue. That is your interpretation and nobody has said that in any analysis. Also, nobody is implying that women have to have the egos of men or be more 'maleish'-your word, just that if women work a certain way which the test biases against then it may be possible to fix the test not fix the women. I think they suggested in that outcome that more time for everyone on the test may make a big difference giving the women more time calculate but if the men were calculating less for example then more time would not add that much for them. It was just ideas that came out of their analysis. There has to be some rational explanation for a disparity. I think we tread on dangerous ground leaving biases in exams. For one thing, as you intimated it perpetuates wrong impressions. And for another thing, once the reason for the bias is figured out one can also flip the outcome in the result by writing a test that caters to favoring a different group. If we know why liberal arts students score lower, we can just write a test geared towards them and everyone else will have a problem. Its unclear what standardization really does if it never really standardizes.

Posted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:22 am
by artschoolapplicant
Cool. You're definitely right: that was mostly my interpretation of what was being said. And along with you, I do hope that they tweak the testing method, if that is indeed the problem.

Posted: Sun Feb 04, 2007 11:49 am
by tnoviell
To the original poster,

I went a little different route than most people here, and I would like to offer you some advice. Don't focus on school name, because it's not worth it. Look at the faculty, what they've done, and see if anyone personally meets who you are. You've got to understand that going to a big name school isn't necessarily the best thing to do - it's all about who you work for. For instance, I go to a school that isn't well known for grad studies at all - but there is a professor in the chemistry department who is very well known, and if you work for him you are guaranteed a great job when you receive your masters or PhD.

There are alot of graduate schools out there that are small with a very well known professor in the department, and not many people apply there, and so your chances are pretty good of getting in.

This is just advice, but I hope you consider it.

Posted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 9:36 pm
by ohsobored
thanks to everyone...your opinions help. :wink:

GRE scores for women

Posted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 6:43 pm
by theorygirl
I completely agree (at least for myself) with the study that says that women spend more time doing calculations before committing to answers. I got a 740 on the Physics GRE but only answered 65 questions total. When I took an entire practice test, I only got 13 out of 100 questions wrong, which would give me a very good score, but I spent about 4 hours on it. This shows that I am capable of scoring well, but timing is an issue. I am very thorough on tests and homework, which is one of the reasons I have a very high GPA (3.98 physics), but that attribute is not rewarded on GRE tests. This is not to say that I am timid, just very thorough. :)

Posted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 1:10 am
by artist
I got a 740 on the Physics GRE but only answered 65 questions total.

Haha, I got a 720 on the physics GRE and answered something like 95 questions. Yes, I'm a guy.

Posted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 8:28 pm
by fizzics
I made a post somewhere else that's very relevant to this. ... &start=400

Besides Wisconsin and Carnegie Mellon all the schools I applied to sent me something in the mail after I took my GRE. I figured if they went through the effort to do that then I should give it a shot. A few schools don't have application fees either so you mind as well try. You might have an advantage getting into some schools as a woman.

Posted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:12 am
by shirazu
I answered them all with like 20 mins left at the end and got a 750. I was actually very displeased with this score, I did much better on practice tests, perhaps I would have did better had I slept at all the night before. I actually think that the test is so easy that 800 or so should be required just to get in to a phd program and that I should be forced to retake the test (at no charge of course) to go to grad school. By the way, when I read about people who didn't answer all the questions, I realize that virtually everyone who got a score similar to mine is probably much better than me at physics. Taking your time and leaving a few questions blank is a mathematically terrible strategy. A guess has an EV of 0, but it is actually better to guess and add some random variance to your result because the way the percentile ranks come in, getting an extra point is slightly better than losing an extra point is bad for those with average scores. But more importantly even questions about stuff that I had never heard of (and there were lots of these as I had only taken intro physics when I took the test, no quantum, e&m, or stat mech at that time) were usually such that you could eliminate two answers based on basic physics principles. This is worth 1/4 of a point, and an additional 3 or 4 points can be worth 10 percentile points in the middle range.
I don't see what the problem with time on this test is though, 2/3 of the problems require basically no calculations. I actually think the four older tests online were much more time-intensive than the one I took, I think they have dumbed down the questions a little to deal with the time problems. I have been told that the point of the test isn't 100% to see how good you are at physics, because honestly you can't do that in a 3 hour test, but simply to measure if you can think fast under pressure about problems related to physics. And with many of the problems, the point isn't to do long calculations but to see the simple trick/symmetry that allows you to quickly eliminate the other answers. Finally if you are going in to experiment there is probably little to no correlation between GRE performance and actual research performance, other than perhaps your ability to pass the quals at tougher schools.

Posted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 1:42 am
by artist
"I have been told that the point of the test isn't 100% to see how good you are at physics, because honestly you can't do that in a 3 hour test, but simply to measure if you can think fast under pressure about problems related to physics."

This is actually really important in my area of research, Speed Physics. Being able to complete the GRE in under 10 minutes is pretty much required for this specialization.