2020 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.

Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Feb 19, 2020 8:12 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by jz82 » Tue Feb 25, 2020 6:28 am

As an Australian who knew very little about applying to the US (I was the only one from my physics cohort to apply to the US), I found this forum incredibly helpful. Thus, I shall try and give back by sharing my details as well.

Undergrad Institution: an Australian University
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s): Maths
GPA in Major: 6.95/7.0?
Overall GPA: 6.7/7.0 converts to US 3.7 or 3.8? (did not study hard/ had one particularly disastrous semester during early uni, perfect GPA last two and a half years)
Length of Degree: 3 + 1 year honours
Position in Class: near top? small cohort
Type of Student: International female

GRE Scores :
Q: 159 (83%)
V:163 (82%)
W: 4.5 (81%)
P: 720 (51%) yike! prepped 1 day due to thesis submission the day before and general unpreparedness for US apps

TOEFL: (R: , L: , S: , W: ) Not needed

Research Experience:
- Research based degree so I did four semester long projects (not including honours) throughout my undergrad. in theory/ exp in various fields.
- Spent last two years on topological photonics with six month 3rd year project (Jul 2018 - Nov 2018), three month internship in Singapore (Nov 2018 - Feb 2019) and also honours thesis (Jul 2019 - Oct 2019)
- Honours thesis was also in quantum optics theory in niche area (waveguide QED). First author arxiv submission in this field in Nov 2019, that was submitted to Physical Review Letters (got accepted in Feb 2020, don't think any schools would know except Cornell since I was emailing POI at the time)

- Various academic awards/ scholarships, mostly last two years of undergrad
- 1 prestigious conference (Lindau) and 1 conference specifically on niche subfield (quantum topological photonics) where I won best poster
- Fulbright, full tuition and stipend ($3.5kAUD/month) for five years for full US PhD (website said max funding for 10 months - 2 years, so I did not even realise it was five years till I got it. Fulbright used to only allow Australian PhD with US visit. I am one of the first cohorts for full US PhD's which is a heads up for future Australian applicants as not many people know this is allowed under Fulbright Aus now).

Pertinent Activities or Jobs:
- Olympiad tutor for 4 years?

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:
- Topic very niche: topological photonics/ waveguide QED.

Special Bonus Points:
- Australian group and Singapore group are two of the strongest groups for topological photonics
- Did not plan for arxiv submission in waveguide QED, got very lucky and stumbled upon unexpected/ really deep result during honours project, which made supervisor want to push for publication quickly
- one strong main supervisor letter, one famous/ highly cited supervisor probably weaker letter, one overseas letter
- Got to meet a bunch of POI's that I was applying to during niche conference in December (Duke, Stanford, CUNY, Maryland). Lucky timing.

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

Applying to Where:
Duke - ECE - topological photonics exp (Jan 9 Accepted) Dec interview
Stanford - Applied Physics - topological photonics/ waveguide QED (Feb 11 Accepted) no interview
Cornell - Applied Physics - topological photonics (Feb 14 Accepted) no interview
Harvard - Physics - quantum optics theory/exp (Feb 14 Rejected)
Caltech - Applied Physics - quantum optics exp (missing my strongest recommendation letter which I did not follow up) (Feb 21 Rejected)
CUNY - Physics - topological photonics (invited for interview - withdrew)
Maryland - Physics - topological photonics
Penn State - Physics - topological photonics, Nov interview (Feb 20 Accepted)
Columbia - Physics - waveguide QED theory, Dec interview
Cambridge (UK) - Physics - topological photonics (Jan 30 Accepted - withdrew due to guilt of accepting US funding) applied last minute in case US applications did not go well – sent one referee request to submit two hours before deadline and she actually submitted on time lol.

  • It's possible with bad pGRE! Yay. For reference I think there was someone in forum few years ago with 660 who still did well
  • I had VERY targeted applications. Emailed all schools/ groups with very specific research interests adjusted to fit the groups interest around October/November. I think this is why some interviews happened so early. Stanford was likely the strongest research fit since POI does both my niche topics. Harvard and Caltech were less related to research interests, so rejections there unsurprising. I think having keen/specific research interests was one of the stronger parts of my application, since I know there are people with higher scores/grades who did not get in to Stanford
  • I think field matters. HEP-th and quantum information theory are normally really competitive. I think the fact that my field was really niche inadvertently helped. I expect the groups I applied to would be surprised to have applicants with background in the field
  • You should write your application as if the field/ group you are applying to (and grad school) is a perfect fit for your interests, even if you are unsure. Same goes for grad jobs actually. Practical lessons I learnt late.
  • I think opportunities came due to judicious life choices about what physics/ opportunities I did throughout undergrad, rather than just blind hard work. Though I did also work hard to turn my early grades around. Chose topological photonics because I knew there were groups if I wanted to do an overseas PhD. So I knew of a few of the groups I applied to since mid-2018.
  • Was close, I think, to my referees. Or at least I respected them a lot, so probably helps with the letters. Good also to get your writers gifts as thanks.
  • I guess serendipity, luck and privilege (as well as hard work) play a role
  • May link my statement of purpose here as a reference later if I remember

Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Feb 26, 2020 1:38 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by yellowcard420 » Wed Feb 26, 2020 2:02 pm

Undergrad Institution: Top 20 Private School(non - ivy), decent at physics
Major(s):Physics & Mathematics
GPA in Major:3.87
Overall GPA:3.87
Length of Degree:4
Position in Class: up there somewhere
Type of Student: Domestic

GRE Scores: (didn't really study for either but I'm a good test taker I guess):

Research Experience: 2 years on CMS at LHC, no publications.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Honors in both degrees, Sigma Pi SIgma

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: TA for 3 years in math and physics departments, all service courses

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: nah

Applying to Where:

All for Hep-Ex:
MIT - Rejected(2/12)
Harvard - Rejected(2/13)
Cornell -Accepted(2/19) 30k stipend
UC Berkeley - Rejected(2/21)
UC Santa Barbara -Accepted(1/29)32k stipend
Chicago - Rejected(2/11)
Columbia -
UMD College Park -
Duke -Accepted(1/27)32k stipend
BU -

probably going to cornell

Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Dec 11, 2019 1:34 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by purplepinetree » Thu Feb 27, 2020 4:24 pm

purplepinetree wrote:
Wed Feb 12, 2020 3:20 pm
Undergrad Institution: Small liberal arts school
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s): Computer Science, Philosophy
GPA in Major: 4.95
Overall GPA: 4.96
Length of Degree: 4yrs
Position in Class: Top
Type of Student: International female

GRE Scores : (revised or old version?)
Q: 169
V: 158 :oops:
W: 4.5
P: 780 :oops:

TOEFL: (R: , L: , S: , W: ) N/A

Research Experience:
4 HEP-EX research and 1 Mechanical Engineering research.
- one at CERN (for a summer)
- one in a national lab (for a summer, one presentation)
- one at a university close to my college (for 3.5 years, one publication one of many et.al, but did my senior thesis and got some honors with it)
- one at another university for a year after my graduation
- one at another university for a semester, paid position (Mechanical Engineering)

- an award based on GPA
- another based on research
- Sigma Pi Sigma
- Magna cum laude
- High Honor in Physics
- two huge scholarships for undergrad program
- two huge scholarships for graduate program

Pertinent Activities or Jobs:
- TA for every semester except for my first semester
- grader for 2 years
- mentor/tutor for physics for 3 years
- department liaison for a year
- research assistant for a year
- software engineering at Microsoft for a summer (kind of related??)
- SPS officer for a year
- Research Fellow at one of the top universities for a year
- Annual lecture series I had in Asia for the past three years for women (high school students) in science
- Contributed a couple of articles about my research and physics in general to a widely read newspaper

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:
- Two huge scholarships. One covers full tuition for 4 years + stipend of $3000/month + research grant, and the other also covers full tuition for 6 years + stipend of $2000/month :D
- launched a new scholarship program in collaboration with one of the scholarship groups and the admission office of my school, for future students hoping to go to my college from the country I am from. :D

Special Bonus Points:
- Very strong recommendation letters.
- The PI I have been working with was my recommendation letter writer, and she also helped me choosing programs/professors to apply to, and she knew most of the professors I mentioned in the SoP.
- Same for another recommendation writer. He went through the list of professors I am applying to, and he seemed to know most of them.
- Those two professors I mentioned above are the professors at my first choice school.
- The other recommendation writer is a prof at my undergrad institution, and he has seen me from struggling through classes as non english speaker to getting a research fellow position and starting off my career as a professional scientist.
- Some people told me my SoP was one of the best they have ever read :D

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter:
I was raised to be a house wife and did not know any math or science until I came here for college. It's been rough 5 years, but I studied so much harder and put so much effort in bettering myself,and I am pretty sure it showed up in the LoR from a prof at my undergrad institution.
I also won some prizes with playing the flute but I guess it doesn't really matter..?
I already talked via Skype/phone or in person to the most of the professor mentioned in SoP.

Applying to Where: All High Energy Physics Experiment
Harvard - Feb. 5 : ACCEPTED via email :D
MIT - Feb. 12 : ACCEPTED via email :D
Yale - Interviewed/casually talked to PIs (November/December), Feb 19: ACCEPTED via email :D
Princeton - Feb 19: REJECTED since they don’t have any neutrino experimentalist, totally makes sense
Berkeley -Feb 24: REJECTED Aw, kinda makes me sad :cry:
Columbia - Feb. 11 : Interviewed (they already know Columbia is not my first choice)
U Michigan - application withdrawn
Stanford - application withdrawn

Having gotten acceptance from my top choices, a couple of thing:
- PGRE is not everything! There might be some threshold, but you don't have to get crazy high scores if you can cover that aspect with something else.
- Don't give up on getting into top graduate programs just because you are from liberal arts school. I myself was, but honestly the education I got there was extraordinary and I wouldn't have gotten such an amazing results without it, or specifically, professors there. Talk to you professors and learn as much as you can from them.
- If you feel like you didn't have enough research experience, it's a great choice to take a "gap" year and do research. That was exactly what I did, and I am so glad I did. I got experience, and I now know that I want to pursue my career in physics for sure.
- I don't know how much the full funding scholarship has helped me with the application, but it definitely will once I start my graduate study. I know applying graduate schools are stressful enough already, but if you could, I really recommend applying to scholarships/fellowships as well.

So thrilled to be back to school next year!! :D
Good luck to all of us here!!

Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Feb 27, 2020 11:00 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by OriginalUsername » Thu Feb 27, 2020 11:36 pm

Undergrad Institution: Private school in the US, not well-known for physics
Major(s): Physics
GPA in Major: 4.00
Overall GPA: 3.99
Length of Degree: 5 years
Position in Class: Near top
Type of Student: Domestic white male

GRE Scores: Revised (2019)
Q: 166
V: 162
W: 4.5
P: 920

Research Experience:
4-ish years of research experience exclusively in HEP-ex (my field), three summers at two "top" institutions.
3 APS talks, 2 conference posters (1 undergrad conference, 1 APS conference)
4 papers (1 publication, 3 conference proceedings)

Goldwater Scholarship

Pertinent Activities or Jobs:
Didn't mention anything specific in my applications.

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:

Special Bonus Points:
Probably none.

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

Applying to Where:

MIT - HEP-ex (Feb. 12: ACCEPTED for Ph.D. via email)
Stanford - HEP-ex (Feb. 11: ACCEPTED for Ph.D. via email)
Berkeley - HEP-ex (Feb. 20: ACCEPTED for Ph.D. via email)
Caltech - HEP-ex (Jan. 31: ACCEPTED for Ph.D. via email)
Yale - HEP-ex (Feb. 19: ACCEPTED for Ph.D. via email)
Columbia - HEP-ex
UCSB - HEP-ex (Jan. 29: ACCEPTED for Ph.D. via email) - Declined
Michigan - HEP-ex (Jan. 29: ACCEPTED for Ph.D. via email) - Declined

Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Jan 24, 2020 4:46 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by kvinto » Tue Mar 03, 2020 1:23 pm

Undergrad Institution: (college, small in the europian country, no reputation)
GPA in Major:
Overall GPA:3.18
Length of Degree: 5 years
Position in Class: top
Type of Student: International, female

GRE Scores: revised

TOEFL: (R:23, L:21, S: 18, W:21 )

Research Experience: 1 article

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: teacher at school, participation in the conference

Applying to Where:
Last edited by kvinto on Sun May 17, 2020 2:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:52 am

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by Pouya » Thu Mar 05, 2020 12:27 pm

Undergrad Institution: University of Tabriz, Iran. Little to no reputation in anything I guess.
Major(s):Engineering Physics
GPA (last two years): 16.37/20 (3.42/4)
Overall GPA: 16.03/20 (3.33/4)
Length of Degree: 4 years
Position in Class: Near Top
Type of Student:International male

GRE Scores :revised
P:730 (54%)

TOEFL: 107 (R:29 , L:28 , S:25 , W:25 )

Research Experience:
2 years of Lab experience in Plasma Physics during my undergrad. Designing and building two Plasma Tube Rectifier from scratch. One is now being used for plasma demonstrations for students enrolled in plasma lab and the other which is capable of changing electrode size/matter/distance and gas pressure is being used for research material. Was writing my first paper on different (Bullet and Rectification) modes in low pressure plasma when applying for grad school.

Top Physics undergrad student in top 10 universities of my state (Winner of Ali Polad Grand Scientific Prize 2019).
Scholarship for Exceptional Talents offer from my undergrad school for masters (declined).

Pertinent Activities or Jobs:
Some minor Workshop certificates and student projects.

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:
Overall strong CV for an undergrad.

Special Bonus Points:
I put a lot of time emailing Professors in my field of interest, which 3 of 100 gave solid Yes'es!

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

Applying to Where:

Boston University - Physics, PhD - Space [Plasma] Physics (Feb. 24: Rejected via email)
Well probably the committee was not interested as much as POI.
Rice University - Physics PhD - Space [Plasma] Physics (Feb. 24: Rejected via email to check website)
University of Toronto - Physics, MSc - Biophysics (Laser/plasma-soft matter interaction) Mar 9: Rejected Via Email to check portal
University of Alberta - Physics, MSc - Space [Plasma] Physics (Mar 28: Rejected via email to check website)
University of Calgary - Physics, MSc - Space [Plasma] Physics (Mar 4: Accepted ~34K/year Email by POI. Official letter: Mar 5: 25k TA/RA + 5K RA (Side Project) + 1K International Student Scholarship + 2.7K Tuition Award) - WILL ATTEND
Safe: (Only will apply if rejected by all above)
York University (Canada)
Saskatchewan University (Canada)
Middle East University (Turkey)

Now lets see if I will be able to travel around for Visa considering this Coronavirus outbreak and borders being shut down.
Last edited by Pouya on Fri Mar 27, 2020 3:57 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Aug 06, 2018 12:03 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by vrajan1996 » Wed Mar 11, 2020 1:48 am

At India, Bachelors in science is a 3-year degree. Therefore, in order to apply for grad school in the US, one can fulfill the minimum 4-year bachelors degree requirement only by doing a bachelors(3 years)+masters(2 years).

Undergrad Institution: Small unknown college in India(partially funded by the government)
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s): Math, Electronics
Overall GPA: 3.82/4.0
Length of Degree: 3 years
Position in Class: Probably near top

Grad Institution: large well-known central University in India
Major(s): Physics
Overall GPA: 3.4/4.0
Length of Degree: 2 years
Position in Class: Average

Type of Student: International male

GRE Scores :
Q: 157 (64%)
V: 153 (60%)
W: 4.0 (60%)
P: 680 (45%) :cry:

TOEFL: 98/120 (R: 23, L: 26, S: 24, W: 25)

Research Experience: At Bachelors level, 2 major research experiences. First one was a term paper focussing on the basic theoretical study of M.H.D(Magnetohydrodynamic) equations in the context of astrophysical plasmas. Second, a research project at the IPR (Institute for plasma research) dealing with modeling and studying the acoustic waves in a classic fluid model and plasma oscillations. At Masters level, did my Master's thesis on Topological Insulators (TI) concerning the theoretical and numerical study of topological insulators in 1-D and 2-D. After masters, continued working on TI and formulated an entirely new problem/question (though did not result in any new publication)

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: organized & volunteered for science knowledge propagation for the underprivileged ones.

Special Bonus Points: Had a well-rounded SOP and very well-known recommenders (2 from my grad institute +1 from a research lab).

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: Many accolades for devising robots

Applying to Where: (CMT: condensed matter theory, AME: at. & molecular experimental)

Big shot:
Brown -Physics, Ph.D- CMT- Jan. 30: Rejected via email
Penn State -Physics, Ph.D- CMT - March. 3: Rejected via email

Purdue -Physics, Ph.D- AME (related subfield involving TI)- Feb. 20: Accepted via email + T.A $2k/month
IU, Bloomington - Physics, Ph.D
University of Virginia -Physics, Ph.D- CMT- March. 3: Rejected via website
UCF - Physics, Ph.D

University of Utah -Physics, Ph.D- CMT- Feb. 12: Interviewed, March 8: Accepted via email + T.A $19k for 9 months
George Mason - Physics, Ph.D

Some thoughts:

Aim realistically. By realistically, I mean, prepare a list of places that you want to apply based on your scores, teacher's(recommenders) suggestions and careful scrutiny of admits & rejects of previous year applicants (PGRE forum is the only source). while doing projects, try to attack/approach a deep problem/question: leads to a good SOP. Carve your recommendation letters by talking to the recommenders (sometimes be specific and in some cases being general/open to experimental/other fields also helps). Mailing professors beforehand might also help.

Finally, It is okay to aim some (not all) big shot places and experience rejections. Failures prepare you for Phd and life !! :D
Last edited by vrajan1996 on Sat Mar 21, 2020 10:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2020 4:02 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by sk » Mon Mar 16, 2020 4:18 pm

Undergrad Institution: small liberal arts (not really known)
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s): CS
GPA in Major: N/A
Overall GPA: 3.98
Length of Degree: 4 yrs
Position in Class: we don't do ranking
Type of Student: international female

GRE Scores : (revised or old version?)
Q: 167
V: 159
W: 4
P: 940

TOEFL: 114 (R: 30 , L: 30 , S: 27, W: 27)

Research Experience:
- 2.5 years at the home institution
- summer research abroad (NYU)
- APS March Meeting presentation (the meeting was canceled lol)

Pertinent Activities or Jobs:
- TA intro physics for a semester
- Executive Board Member for women in STEM group

Special Bonus Points: 1 famous recommender

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter:
I do a lot of unrelated extracurricular things: sing, bake, volunteer :)

Applying to Where: (biophysics/soft matter/imaging)
Cornell - Applied Physics - Accepted WILL ATTEND! ^_^
Yale - Physics - Accepted
Northwestern - Applied Physics - Accepted
Duke - Physics - Waitlisted - Rejected
UMichigan - Applied Physics - Rejected
MIT - Physics - Rejected
Harvard - Physics - Rejected
Stanford - Applied Physics - Rejected
Princeton - Physics - Rejected
UC Berkeley - Physics - Rejected
UPenn - Physics - Rejected
Caltech - Physics - Rejected
Last edited by sk on Fri Apr 17, 2020 6:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2020 2:08 am

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by arjavsharma » Wed Mar 18, 2020 4:45 am

Undergrad Institution: One of the top engineering colleges in India (not very good reputation in physics)
Major(s): Engineering Physics
Minor(s): N/A
GPA in Major: 84.3/100
Overall GPA: 84.3/100
Length of Degree: 4 yrs
Position in Class: near the top
Type of Student: International male

GRE Scores :
V:155 :(

TOEFL: (R:30 , L:30 , S:25 , W:27 )

Research Experience: 5 months of full-time and 9 months of half-time research at home institution in quantum optics (no papers published) + some other minor engineering projects.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Merit Cum Means scholarship to cover full tuition, cracked the exam taken by 1.3 million students to get accepted for B.tech by one of the top institutes which have 10k seats in total, Letter of appreciation from PMO for being in top 0.1% in senior year of high school.

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: Actively participated in the management committee for the yearly fests of my college and blood donation camps (don't know if relevant).

Special Bonus Points: Two referees seniors in their respective fields + all 3 related to my field of interest and increasing trend in the GPA in junior and senior year in college.

Applying to Where: For MS/PhD in quantum computing.

UBC (Canada) - (March 14: Rejected via email) (well, expected at this point but still.. this one hurt)
Maryland - (Feb. 28: Rejected via website) (OUCH.. :cry: )
UC Santa Barbara - (March 04: Rejected via website) :(

UW Madison - (Jan 28: Accepted for PhD via email; 22.5k TA + Tuition fee waiver) WILL ATTEND!
Purdue - (Feb. 13: Accepted for PhD via email; 1059 bi-weekly TA)
Colorado, Boulder - (Feb 19: Rejected via website) (Oh No..!)
U Waterloo (Canada) - (Feb. 27: Accepted for fully funded MSc in biomedical optics)
TU Delft (Netherlands) - (Jan. 6: Accepted for MS)

Texas A&M -
Michigan State -

Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:11 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by tr112 » Thu Mar 26, 2020 9:25 pm

Undergrad Institution: Ivy
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s): N/A
GPA in Major: 3.96 / 4.0
Overall GPA: 3.85 / 4.0
Length of Degree: 4 yrs
Position in Class: top
Type of Student: International male

GRE Scores :
Q: 167
V: 162
W: 5.5
P: 850

TOEFL: (R: , L: , S: , W: ): exempt

Research Experience:
2.5 years QI experiment, 1 year CME, both at home institutions. Worked at these places through 2 summers.
1 publication under review in QI at time of application.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Award from physics department, some summer research stipend awards.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs:

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:

Special Bonus Points: 2 very strong LOR from the professors I have been working with (third LOR weak).

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: march meeting presentation (eventually cancelled..)

Applying to Where: (All for QI)
UChicago - PME - Accepted via website Jan. 13th
MIT - EECS - Rejected via email Feb 20th
Caltech - APh - Accepted via website Feb. 5th
Princeton - EE - Accepted via email Feb. 10th
Harvard - APh - Rejected via website Feb. 24th
Yale - EE - Accepted via website Feb. 5th
U. Maryland - Phys - Rejected via website Mar. 1st

Normal dude6283
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Mar 28, 2020 9:46 am

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by Normal dude6283 » Sat Mar 28, 2020 10:17 am

Undergrad Institution: Small SUNY college, solid physics reputation by APS standards.
GPA in Major:3.37
Overall GPA:3.20
Length of Degree: 4
Position in Class: around the top
Type of Student: Domestic male

GRE Scores : (revised or old version?)
Q:159 (70%)
V: 157 (76%)
W: 4.0(57%)

Research Experience: 1 Year for a High Energy Physics group studying precision manufacturing and metrology for an LHCb Collab

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Tutor for school.

Special Bonus Points: Awesome letters of recommendation

Applying to Where:

SUNY Polytechnic Institute - College for Nanoscale Science and Engineering - Nanoscale Engineering; Optics and photonics (Undecided, but ACCEPTED for Ph.D via website/email website/email $25k/12 month RA)
West Virginia University - Physics - Experimental Condensed Matter Physics (undecided but, ACCEPTED for Ph.D via website/email $25k/12 month TA)
Syracuse University - Physics - Experimental Condensed Matter Physics. No response.
University of Georgia - Physics - Experimental Condensed Matter Physics. No response.
Colorado School of Mines - Electrical Engineering - Computational Electromagnetics (ACCEPTED for MS via website/email)
SUNY at Buffalo- Electrical Engineering- Solid state electronics (ACCEPTED for MS)
SUNY Binghamton -Electrical Engineering- Power Systems (ACCEPTED for MS)

My point in writing this was to demonstrate that for most mid-range applicants, the Physics GRE is essentially useless. Most people with the incredible accomplishments below will end up in academia somewhere, creating great graduate students. For someone with an industrial focus, I hope this was useful.

Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Mar 29, 2020 1:38 am

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by JuanitoN » Sun Mar 29, 2020 2:09 am

Undergrad Institution: Best University of Mexico
Major(s): Physics (also Master of Science)
Minor(s): NA
GPA in Major: 3.99
Overall GPA: 3.99
Length of Degree: 5 years
Position in Class: Top student
Type of Student: International, male, bi?

GRE Scores : (revised or old version?)
Q: 154, 157, 161
V: 150, 152, 155
W: 3.5, 3.5, 4
P: 850 (75 %), 860 (77 %)

TOEFL: (R: , L: , S: , W: )

Research Experience: I studied the non-interacting boson particles immersed in optical lattices, UltraCold Quantum Matter. One publication.
Experimental research summer on Simon Fraser University. Two poster sessions at APS March Meetings.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Top student in Undergrad, second place at Graduate (Masters)

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: TA for 3 years, also Assistant Professor at my University

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:

Special Bonus Points: Any connections, grad classes in Statistical Mechanics, not famous recommenders. However, I got EducationUSA sponsorship.

Applying to Where:
UC Boulder Rejected on February 18
UIUC Rejected on March 8
GTech Rejected
UC Berkeley Rejected on February 20
URochester Accepted February 7, Financial Aid
UCLA Rejected on Mar 27
UT Austin Accepted on March 10

Posts: 1
Joined: Tue Feb 11, 2020 9:16 am

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by astroturtle » Sun Apr 05, 2020 8:51 pm

Undergrad Institution: Top 3 in an East Asian country (Top 5 in Physics), not well-known in physics internationally
Major(s): Physics and English Language & Literature
Minor(s): None
GPA in Major: 3.94/4.5 (Home Institution), 3.89/4.0 (Study Abroad) - Physics and Astronomy courses only
Overall GPA: 4.0/4.5 (Home), 3.76/4.0 (Study Abroad)
Length of Degree: 4 (Home) + 1 (Study Abroad)
Position in Class: probably within top 25%?
Type of Student: International Male

GRE Scores : Revised
Q: 170 (96%)
V: 162 (90%)
W: 5.0 (92%)
P: 960 (91%)

TOEFL: 114 (R: 30, L: 29, S: 26, W: 29)

Research Experience: None before my 4th year;
- some basic cosmology (CMB) stuff at my home institution for a couple of months
- a cosmology project (computational/theoretical data analysis) at a top Canadian institution as a Study Abroad student for a year (still working on it): wrote a thesis on with this project and gave several departmental talks (in Canada), but no publications "yet" (I hope I can get it published this summer!)

- Government Scholarship for "Top" Science/Engineering Majors (full tuition for 2 years)
- Research Award for Summer Research in Canada (for international students)

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Nothing much other than research-related ones, some astronomy outreach experience during my time in Canada

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: My home institution has little to do with astronomy (I took the first ever astronomy-related major course offered by my department during my final (10th) semester), so I chose to go abroad during my senior year where I could do some research in astronomy/astrophysics. Also, I took 2 cross-listed (in undergrad and grad) physics courses and did decently.

Special Bonus Points: 2 of my references came from the group I worked with in Canada - I know both are strong; one of them was from an extremely well-known cosmologist

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter:
I am fluent in English (lived in North America for 5 years before high school; this definitely helped with my interviews) and quite used to moving around (between countries). I also mentioned in my SOPs that it was difficult to get research experience in astronomy at my home institution, which is why I went to Canada for a year.
I have a couple of B's in some of the core 2nd and 3rd-year physics courses such as Classical Mechanics, E&M, and Quantum Mechanics - this probably was not viewed favorably at many schools. However, I didn't get any B's during my last two years of undergrad (so basically an upward trend).

Applying to Where:
I'll try my best to organize my list since I applied to so many schools (the categorizations are super-subjective). All programs are PhDs unless otherwise stated and (nearly) all funding comes with a tuition waiver + health insurance support. Within the sub-categories, I've listed the schools according to their deadlines (earliest at top to latest at bottom).
My research interests are in cosmology/extragalactic astronomy, as well as planetary science (though I'm down for any research in astronomy). I also mentioned several very specific (cosmology/extragalactic) research topics in my SOPs (although I expressed this differently depending on the department's interests) - I'm adding at the end of each school whether the department had faculty members working on these topics (Align? YES, NOT QUITE, or NO)

Physics (including Physics & Astronomy) Programs

Super Reach
MIT - Align? NOT QUITE (Feb. 12th : Rejected via Email/Website)
UC Berkeley - Align? YES (Feb. 20th : Rejected via Email/Website)
Stanford - Align? YES (Feb. 11th : Rejected via Email/Website)

University of Pennsylvania - Align? YES (Jan. 16th: Skype Interview) (Jan. 27th: Accepted via Email + $30.8k TA stipend) Will Attend!
UC Santa Barbara - Align? NO (Mar. 3rd : Rejected via Email/Website)

Still not "Safeties"
UC San Diego - Align? YES (Jan. 31st: Accepted via Email + $21.9k TA salary + $4k Summer Fellowship + additional $9k (potentially $12k) Award/Stipend for the 1st year) Declined on Apr. 7th
New York University - Align? NOT QUITE (Mar. 18th : Rejected via Email/Website)
UC Davis - Align? YES (Feb. 18th: Accepted via Email + $22.6k TA salary + $6k Summer Support) Declined on Apr. 2nd
SUNY Stony Brook - Align? YES (Mar. 30th : Rejected via Email/Website)

University of Toronto (M.Sc.) - Align? YES (Feb. 13th: Accepted via Email for PhD! + at least $CAD 24.5k TA/Scholarship) Declined on Apr. 9th
McGill (M.Sc.) - Align? NO

Astronomy (and Astrophysics) Programs

Super Reach
Harvard - Align? YES (Feb. 10th : Rejected via Email/Website)
Princeton - Align? YES (Feb. 10th : Rejected via Email/Website)
Caltech - Align? NOT QUITE (Jan. 24th : Zoom Interview) (Feb. 19th : Rejected via Email/Website)

Still Super Reach
Cornell - Align? YES (Mar. 6th : Rejected via Email/Website)
Yale - Align? YES (Feb. 12th : Rejected via Email/Website)
Columbia - Align? YES (Feb. 6th : Rejected via Email/Website)

Still Reach
Ohio State - Align? NOT QUITE (Feb. 28th : Rejected via Email/Website)
University of Washington (Seattle) - Align? NO (Jan. 31st : Rejected via Email/Website)
University of Texas @ Austin - Align? NO (Feb. 4th : Rejected via Email/Website)
UC Los Angeles - Align? NO (Mar. 25th : Rejected via Email/Website)
Northwestern - Align? NO (Feb. 23rd : Rejected via Email/Website)
Pennsylvania State - Align? YES (Jan. 24th: Accepted via Email + $30.5k TA + fellowship $6k (upgraded to $10k) for the 1st year) Declined on Apr. 9th
UC Santa Cruz - Align? NO (Mar. 23rd : Rejected via Email/Website)
University of Illinois @ Urbana Champaign - Align? YES (Feb. 15th : Rejected via Email/Website)
Arizona State University - Align? YES (Feb. 3rd: Accepted via Email + $23.5k TA/RA) Declined on Apr. 3rd

University of British Columbia (Canada, M.Sc. in Astronomy) - Align? YES (Jan. 8th: Accepted via Email + $CAD 19k TA/RA) Declined on Apr. 7th
University of Toronto (Canada, PhD in Astronomy) - Align? YES
Cambridge (UK, 1-year MASt in Astrophysics) - Align? course-intensive program (Jan. 29th: Skype Interview) (Feb. 10th: Accepted via Email - no mention of funding as of early April) Declined on Apr. 2nd

In Retrospect (April 5th):
I applied to so many schools partly because I've seen how difficult it is for international students to get into physics & astronomy programs in North America and partly because I heard that a decent amount of luck (research fit, institution's financial situation, or even simply if they just like your application or not) is involved in these admissions, especially for international students.
While I did spend a huge amount of $$, I don't regret my decision at all, because I received more than enough offers that I'm very happy with. Plus, all the Open Houses (I would have gone to if it weren't for COVID-19, I still went to several before the rest got cancelled) make the $$ well-worth spending on applications.
Needless to say, I was not able to rewrite a whole new statement for each of the schools I applied to. But the deadlines were spread-out (50% before December 15th and 50% after), so I tailored at least two paragraphs to the specific program I was applying.

Having applied to so many schools, I feel I have a pretty good sense of how my applications were viewed - My decision to go on a Study Abroad during my senior year was definitely the best decision I made during the past 5 years of my life. I seem to have been more competitive for Physics programs than Astro ones (4/11 acceptances for physics and 4/19 acceptances for astro), though this is probably because my focus is on cosmology. I wasn't accepted to ANY of the programs where my specific interests in cosmology did not match the faculty members' interests.
If I did admissions again, I would not apply to those schools, but apply to more physics programs (even to the schools that have separate astronomy departments) and aim at ONLY cosmology/extragalactic astronomy since I have no experience in planetary science.
That being said, I am quite satisfied by the outcome.

I also feel I have a lot to say about Physics/Astro grad apps in general - References are extremely important; I would say they could carry more weight than grades or publications. My impression is that publications could be more important for Astronomy programs (as most astronomy programs have their students start research right away) and that grades could be more important for Physics programs. Astronomy programs almost always have lower acceptance rates than Physics programs (I was told the acceptance rate at one astro Open House and I was really surprised.)

I hope this helps future astronomy/astrophysics applicants and please feel free to PM me if you have any questions!
Last edited by astroturtle on Thu Apr 16, 2020 4:48 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2020 10:03 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by tasgall » Wed Apr 08, 2020 10:39 pm

Undergrad Institution: Large Private University Ranked ~100
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s): Math
GPA in Major: 3.86
Overall GPA: 3.87
Length of Degree: 5
Position in Class: Top of small class
Type of Student: Domestic Male

GRE Scores :
Q: 161 (76%)
V: 156 (73%)
W: 5.0 (92%)
P: 810 (68%)

Research Experience:
5 months in computational astro working on cosmic voids, 1 poster held at our university
6 months in experimental condensed matter working with superconductors
6 months computational cosmology simulating dark matter models
1 year in dark matter detection and continued this research for my senior thesis, 1 nth author publication

Some university scholarships
Dean's list
Award for graduating top of my class

Pertinent Activities or Jobs:
Held a couple officer positions for an athletic club

Special Bonus Points:
2 grad classes with A's
In contact with at least 1 faculty member at each program (some are recommending my application, others just know my name)
Strong letters of recommendation from research advisors

Applying to Where: All Ph.D. programs in experimental particle physics focusing on dark matter/neutrino detection

UC Berkeley - Rejected (Feb 20)
Princeton - Rejected (Feb 19)
Columbia - Will Attend (Mar 6)
Yale - Rejected (Feb 19)

University of Washington - Accepted (Feb 6)
UC Davis - Officially Waitlisted (Mar 9) -> Rejected (Apr 14)
Purdue - Accepted (Jan 30)

UNC - Rejected (Apr 22)
Texas A&M - Rejected (Apr 17)
RPI - Accepted (Feb 7)

Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2020 10:56 pm

Re: 2020 Applicant Profiles and Admission Results

Post by starlight » Fri Jul 31, 2020 8:52 pm

Undergrad Institution: public school in the US
Major(s): Physics
GPA in Major: 3.91
Overall GPA: 3.935
Length of Degree: 4 years
Position in Class: Top
Type of Student: International female

GRE Scores:
Q: 166
V: 166
W: 5.0
P: 750

Research Experience:
~4 years of research experience in astrophysics at my home university
1 summer internship at a top-ranked university
1 first-author paper published in a reputable journal with a professor at my home university, another first-author paper in prep at the time of application with a professor at a top-ranked university

Many awards and honors at home university, but no fellowships or national awards (didn't qualify since I'm international)

Pertinent Activities or Jobs:
Some volunteer work at home department, nothing significant

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:
Attended AAS conference and gave a talk

Special Bonus Points:
I heard afterward that my letter from the professor at the top-ranked university was very strong.

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

Applying to Where: (all astronomy/astrophysics unless otherwise specified)

Note: Before you decide to mark me as spam or something (I tried to post these results before and got reported), this really happened. It's possible, even with a subpar Physics GRE score. I only sent my Physics GRE score to schools that absolutely required it. The purpose of this post is to show that miracles can happen...though, honestly, I'm not sure how exactly this happened to me.

Harvard -- Accepted on Feb 5
Princeton -- Accepted on Feb 6
Columbia -- Accepted on Feb 2
UChicago -- Accepted on Jan 27
Caltech -- Accepted on Jan 31
MIT - Physics -- Accepted on Feb 12
Cornell -- Accepted on Feb 10
Yale -- Accepted on Feb 5
Northwestern -- Accepted on Feb 4
Berkeley -- Accepted on Feb 3
UCSC -- Accepted on Feb 12
UCSD - Physics -- Accepted on Jan 9
UCLA -- Rejected
Ohio State -- Accepted on Jan 13
UT Austin -- Accepted on Jan 17
UCSB - Physics -- Accepted on Jan 25
Arizona -- Accepted on Jan 29
Rutgers - Physics -- Accepted on Jan 29
Stony Brook - Physics -- Accepted on Feb 4
CU Boulder -- Accepted on Feb 4