2021 Applicant Profile 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.

occamsshaver12
Posts: 10
Joined: Sun Jul 05, 2020 6:52 pm

Re: 2021 Applicant Profile and Admission Results

Post by occamsshaver12 » Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:10 pm

Undergrad Institution: Really good engineering school in my country
Major(s): Mechanical Engineering
Minor(s):
GPA in Major: 3.4
Overall GPA:
Length of Degree: 4 years
Position in Class: no idea, probably above average (not proud of it)
Type of Student: International male

Grad Institution: Decent reputation for Physics, great for Gravitational Physics
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s):
GPA in Major: 3.96
Overall GPA:
Length of Degree: 2
Position in Class: no idea, probably top
Type of Student: International

GRE Scores: 166 V, 169 Q, 4.0 AWA
Physics GRE: 920


TOEFL: (R:30 , L:28 , S:28 , W:28 )


Research Experience:
1 year in biophysics at my undergrad institution, resulting in a thesis
2 years in LIGO gravitational Physics, 1 first-author paper, 2 posters, 2 talks, masters thesis
1 summer in Cosmology, worked with a famous Cosmologist, one paper co-authored
1-semester studying Binary Neutron Stars, 1 talk

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Scholarships during my undergrad and graduate studies.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: TA for 4 semesters. Some outreach.

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: President of a graduate Physics club.

Special Bonus Points: My recommender is famous in the Gravitational Wave community, pretty sure at least two of my letters are strong.

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: After this cycle is over, this is what I can say about my application.
Negative:
Having an engineering background applying to theoretical Physics hurt my application more than I expected.
I also only used letters just from my grad school, I made it a point to talk less about my undergrad. That probably doesn't look good but it seemed like the best way to deal with it.
Positive:
My advisor is famous and my other recommender wanted me to "succeed". Did a lot of work for a Masters's student. Took a lot of classes and made my own code for Parameter estimation of BBH systems for a Computational course.

Applying to Where:
I only applied to places where they were doing LIGO or Numerical Relativity or both. All Physics except RIT where I applied to their Astrophysics program.
UT Austin- Feb 6th (invited to the open house) March 12th (waitlisted) April 13th (accepted 28,654/yr)(GRE sent but later they said they don't require it) WILL ATTEND!
UW- Milwaukee- Feb 22nd (accepted for Ph.D via email 21.5k per annum (will increase from spring since I already have my masters)) (GRE sent) (Their grad coordinator Kate is great!) DECLINED
Johns Hopkins- (rejected via email) (GRE not needed)
Caltech- Feb 19th (rejected via email) (GRE not needed)
Northwestern- April 9th rejected via email (GRE not needed)
UIUC- March 8th (rejected via email) (GRE sent)
West Virginia- 23rd Feb (interview request) 3rd March (accepted via email, 26k per annum) (GRE sent)DECLINED
Penn State - 1st March (rejected via email) (GRE sent)
RIT- (waitlisted) April 13th (application withdrawn)
Applied to Georgia Tech but they weren't taking any Astrophysics students.

I am leaning towards Milwaukee. They have an amazing group working with LIGO.
UPDATE (April 13th): I got accepted by UT-Austin. I am so relieved! While UW-Milwaukee is a great school, I really wanted to do more theory and UT-Austin is exactly what I was looking for. My interview during open house for sure helped but I kept in contact with a prof, which definitely helped me secure this acceptance.

Final notes:
-Cast a wide net! I can't stress this enough.
-Connections help a lot.
-Wherever I got responses, I had to send my GRE scores. I think my GRE scores definitely helped me get these acceptances.
-Learning about the admissions process at my grad school, there are a lot of factors that you just can't take into account. If your profile contains something that is universally considered great, you are good. If not, then try your best but understand that a lot of your achievements are open to interpretation. Some might say taking Grad classes is hard and add a plus to your profile but others might focus on the fact that they are graded relatively leniently. So be realistic and try not to take things personally (easier said than done), recognize your shortcomings, and either overcome them or try to suppress them in your app.
-Grad cafe is toxic, so limit its use.
-You will see that every year grad schools say they got more applications than they expected and applicants complain that that specific year is hard to be applying for Ph.Ds. While somewhat true, it adds nothing because it is true for each year. So just do your thing. I will admit that internationals this year who weren't in the US were not in a good spot. Two committee members admitted to not admitting many international students because of complications in travel/visa due to COVID.
Last edited by occamsshaver12 on Sun Apr 18, 2021 9:16 pm, edited 18 times in total.

Simive
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2021 2:28 am

Re: 2021 Applicant Profile and Admission Results

Post by Simive » Thu Mar 18, 2021 5:50 am

Undergrad Institution: an Asian university (little reputation), one year at a state university in US (high reputation) as a visiting student
Major(s): Physics (Honors Program)
Minor(s):
GPA in Major: 3.86 (93.3/100)
Overall GPA: 3.86
Length of Degree: 4 years
Position in Class: top 3%
Type of Student: international male

GRE Scores: N/A
TOEFL: 96 (R: 28, L: 22, S: 22, W: 24)

Research Experience:
A project about the model of solar cells in home school for 2 semesters
Quantum information experiment in visiting school for 1 semester
Experiment and simulation of spectroscopy for condensed matter in visiting school for 2 semesters (co-authored 1 paper)

Awards/Honors/Recognitions:
scholarship for 3 times, an award for my 1st research experience mentioned above, some other trivial awards

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: No

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:
Strong skills in using simulation software, programming, and engineering drawing.
I did pretty well in my visiting school in both course and research, which might make up for the unknown fame of my home school.

Special Bonus Points: Recommendation letter
Two from the research advisors of my 1st & 3rd research experience mentioned above (Strong both)
One from a professor of a senior course (Unknown, at least not negative)
One from my dean (Strong, a letter about personality,morality, etc.)

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

Applying to Where: CME or AMO

Reach:
UC-​Berkeley (UCB) - Physics Ph.D. - (Mar. 6: REJECTED)
University of Chicago - Physics Ph.D. - (Jan. 30: REJECTED)
UC-Santa Barbara (UCSB)
UC-San Diego (UCSD)
University of Wisconsin-​Madison (UW) - Physics Ph.D. - (Jan. 29: REJECTED)

Match:
Stony Brook University-​SUNY (SBU) - Physics PhD - (Feb. 20: ACCEPTED, $23k 9-month TAship + summer stipend ($5k RA or $2.5k TA) + 90% of health insurance)
University of Minnesota-​Twin Cities (UMN) - Physics Ph.D. - (Jan. 26: ACCEPTED, $27k including 9-month TAship & summer support + health insurance)
Georgia Institute of Technology (GT) - Physics Ph.D. - (Jan. 31 Interview, Mar. 1: ACCEPTED, $29k TAship)
Rice University - Physics Ph.D. - (Mar. 14: WAITLIST) Declined
UC-Irvine (UCI) - Physics Ph.D. - (Mar. 18: REJECTED)
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)- Physics Ph.D. - (Feb. 3: WAITLIST, Mar. 2: REJECTED)
Boston University (BU) - Physics Ph.D. - (Mar. 2: REJECTED)
Purdue University - Physics Ph.D. - (Feb. 8: ACCEPTED, $18.4k TAship) Declined

Safety:
Florida State University (FSU) - Physics Ph.D. - (Feb. 6: Interview) Declined
Iowa State University (ISU) - Physics Ph.D. - (Mar. 15: ACCEPTED, 1/2 TAship = $19k) Declined
North Carolina State University (NCSU) - Physics Ph.D. - (Mar. 2: ACCEPTED, $19.5k 9-month TAship + summer support + health insurance) Declined
UC-​Riverside - Physics Ph.D. - (Feb. 15: Interview) Declined
University of Oregon - Physics Ph.D. - (Mar. 17: REJECTED)

qm_or_gr
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2021 9:29 pm

Re: 2021 Applicant Profile and Admission Results

Post by qm_or_gr » Tue Mar 23, 2021 11:53 am

Undergrad Institution: Top University in Latin America, some reputation in Physics (?)
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s): we don't have that
GPA in Major: 9.6/10
Overall GPA: 9.6/10
Length of Degree: 4 years
Position in Class: top
Type of Student: International female

GRE Scores: NO GRE REQUIRED FOR THIS YEAR (WE ALL KNOW WHAT HAPPENED)

TOEFL: 111 (R:30 , L:30 , S:24 , W:27)

Research Experience: Short project on Experimental Nuclear Physics (3 months, paper to appear) at my school and 1-year project on Quantum Foundations at another school (no paper yet)

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: ranked 1st in my cohort, scholarships to attend summer schools, a research fellowship

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: QM TA, Physics/Math tutor for High School students

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:

Special Bonus Points: female, lesbian (does it help in any way??), only applying to master programs

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: some grad level courses, exchange student in a good school in North America with GPA 4.0

Applying to Where:

Cambridge University - MASt in Applied Maths and Theoretical Physics (Part iii) Mar 9th ACCEPTED via email/website
Perimeter Institute - PSI Masters Dec 10th interviewed, Mar 16th ACCEPTED via email + Full Scholarship
University of Chicago - MS-PSD (Physical Sciences Division Masters Program) Mar 29th ACCEPTED via website + 50% Scholarship

mathtutorass
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Apr 01, 2021 9:36 pm

Re: 2021 Applicant Profile and Admission Results

Post by mathtutorass » Thu Apr 01, 2021 9:50 pm

Undergrad Institution: Strong liberal arts school, no reputation for physics
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s): Mathematics
GPA in Major: 3.96
Overall GPA: 3.96
Length of Degree:4
Position in Class: near top
Type of Student: domestic white male

Research Experience: 3 years research, one summer at high-profile research lab, no papers

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: some departmental awards

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: not much

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:

Special Bonus Points: 3 strong recommenders, taking two graduate courses

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

Applying to Where:

University of Florida - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Feb. 8: ACCEPTED for Ph.D via email)
Purdue University - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Feb. 16: ACCEPTED for Ph.D via email)
Yale University - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Feb. 19: ACCEPTED for Ph.D via email/portal + ~$37k/year stipend)
Cornell University - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Feb. 26: ACCEPTED for Ph.D via email + ~$28k/year stipend )
UMD College Park - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Jan. 30: ACCEPTED for Ph.D via email + ~$37k/year stipend + JQI Fellowship)


MIT - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Feb. 18: Rejected via email)
Berkeley - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Mar. 5: Rejected via email/portal)
UCSB - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Feb. 23: Rejected via email/portal)
Harvard - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Feb. 23: Rejected via email)
Princeton - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Feb. 15: Rejected via email)
UC Boulder - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Mar. 11: Rejected via email/portal)
UIUC - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Feb. 14: Rejected via email)
Caltech - Physics Ph.D - CMT/QI (Feb. 19: Rejected via email)

rjk12
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2020 11:05 pm

Re: 2021 Applicant Profile and Admission Results

Post by rjk12 » Sat Apr 03, 2021 12:25 am

_____________________________________________
Undergrad Institution: good US public school, physics reputation good i think?
Major(s): Physics & a little-known degree called Engineering Science (fancy way of saying I started out in engineering, switched to phys, but now have some mechanical/aero experience)
Minor(s): Applied Mathematics
GPA in Major: 3.5 (really bad first year - i was stressy depressy :( )
Overall GPA: 3.5
Length of Degree: 4 years
Position in Class: top third+?
Type of Student: domestic white female

GRE Scores: hehe nope

TOEFL: n/a

Research Experience: 3 years at nuclear experimental lab at my school. One thesis project in my fourth year that has actually turned out some really interesting results. An instrument I engineered in production... also produced documentation for a major nuclear physics experiment. And lots of little side projects!

1.5 years at theoretical/computational nuclear group, also at my school. Lots of coding, two posters (presented at a conference) and a PAPER (3rd Author).


Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Honor Society membership (and was VP my senior year). Dean’s List at some point


Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Tutor for underserved high schoolers for 2 years now. Grader in intro physics class at my school. SPS Board member for a year (minor role, though)


Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: When I was in engineering, I picked up a LOT of skills – solidworks, soddering, basic welding, etc. And I know a few programming languages now, as well as machine learning.


Special Bonus Points: I am a lady… I took a few grad classes and did pretty well. I also have zoomed with some of the professors I’m interested in and, in retrospect, think this was my saving grace for the schools I got into.


Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: Significant upward GPA trend throughout undergrad (lately I’ve rocked it 😊)


Applying to Where:
U of Virginia - Physics - Nuclear experiment - Waitlisted in Feb. - I actually applied to work with the prof I did my thesis with, but he asked me if I still thought I would want to come and by this point I'd gotten into 2 schools and felt I should be honest (hmm... I wonder where I did undergrad? :wink: ) - (April 2: Rejected via email to check portal)
UC Irvine - Physics - Plasma theory - (Feb. 4: ACCEPTED for Ph.D via email)
CU Boulder - Nuclear experiment - (Feb. 23: Rejected via email to check portal)
U of Washington - Nuclear theory - (March 16: Rejected via email to check portal)
UCLA - Physics - Undecided experiment - (March 14: Rejected via email to check portal)
UCSD - Physics - High Energy experiment - (Jan. 15 ACCEPTED for Ph.D via email)
UC Berkeley - Physics - Nuclear/HighE experiment - (March 3: ACCEPTED for Ph.D via email with $41000 total first year stipend) - WILL ATTEND!!! :D

Sooo I'm still in shock, personally, and also ecstatic... a part of me was terrified I'd be rejected everywhere with my GPA. Berkeley was my super reach but I got incredibly lucky. I think that talking with the professors there before I applied was really helpful (and also made me really excited about the slim slim chance I would get in). I also think I had really good essays and really good rec letters, and a ton of research in the field I applied. But of course, at this point, I can really only guess!

Thanks everyone for all your help over the years with this site. And congrats on getting through applications and decisions this year - I know COVID was tough. Best of luck to everyone on their paths

brnkh
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Aug 27, 2019 7:25 pm

Re: 2021 Applicant Profile and Admission Results

Post by brnkh » Thu Apr 08, 2021 1:27 pm

Undergrad Institution: High Ranked UC
Major(s): Physics, Mathematics
Minor(s): Political Science
GPA in Major: 3.426
Overall GPA: 3.310
Length of Degree: 4 years
Position in Class: School doesn't rank us but I'd guess mid
Type of Student: American white male

GRE Scores: V = 164 (94th percentile), Q = 166 (87th percentile), A = 5.0 (92nd percentile)

Research Experience: 2 Projects in the same lab, both lasting six months, both in high energy physics. One paper

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: None

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Physics/Math tutor for lower division students, Lab assistant

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: I have a lot of experience in circuit building and quite a bit with FPGA and ASICS. I've got experience with essentially every power tool, soldering, crimping wires. Lots of leadership experience (IDK if that's important), captain of the sailing team, president of a school charity for a year, etc.

Special Bonus Points: 2 great letters of recommendation from my research advisors and one good one from a very well known cosmology/astrophysics professor

Reach:
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Medical Physics Ph.D. - Rejected via email
University of Chicago (UC) - Medical Physics Ph.D. - Rejected via email
University of Washington (UW) - Particle Physics Ph.D. - Rejected via email

Match:
University of Wisconsin, Madison (UW-M) - High Energy Physics Ph.D. - WAITLISTED, REJECTED via email
University of Virginia (UVA) - High Energy Physics Ph.D. - WAITLISTED, REJECTED via email
University of California, Davis (UCD) - Particle Physics Ph.D. - REJECTED via email

Safety:
University of Oregon (UO) - High Energy Physics Ph.D. - REJECTED via email
University of Pittsburgh (PITT) - High Energy Physics Ph.D. - WAITLISTED, REJECTED via email
University of Southern California (USC) - High Energy Physics Ph.D. - REJECTED via email

I don't know what to do anymore. My dream since I was a kid was to do physics and now it feels like I have no way to do that. I have no options moving forward. My friends with worse GPAs all got in, most of them only applied to like 3 or 4 places and they got in to every single one...

I'm already taking a gap year, have absolutely no research opportunities, and am working an unrelated job in IT. I feel like I have no more chances, I'm at the end of my rope here.

astrograd
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Feb 22, 2021 6:27 pm

Re: 2021 Applicant Profile and Admission Results

Post by astrograd » Mon Apr 19, 2021 2:02 pm

Undergrad Institution: Small liberal arts, strong reputation in physics
Major(s): Astrophysics & Art
Minor(s):
GPA in Major: 3.4 (Astro), ~4.0 (Art)
Overall GPA: 3.61
Length of Degree: 4
Position in Class: N/A
Type of Student: Domestic white female
GRE Scores: 
163 V (92%)
164 Q (83%)
4.5 W (80%)


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


Research Experience:
Observational astro research every summer of undergrad (one NSF REU), but no major pubs in undergrad (two Nth author in prep, stemming from undergrad thesis research). One 6-month study abroad astrophysics research at major physics research lab. Presented at many conferences (at least one-two/year) including AAS, won a prestigious award for strong presentation quality.
After undergrad, did a yearlong postbacc research internship in computational astro research (compact object simulations) at a national lab with connections to one of the best astro grad schools. Two accepted pubs from this work (2nd author to ApJ, 3rd author to PRD) with at least two more 3rd author papers in prep. Also a co-investigator/senior investigator on three computing time allocations for this work.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Astro thesis honors, Dean’s List, Sigma Xi, a fellowship for women in STEM

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Observatory TA, president of college’s women in physics group, postbacc outreach w/middle schoolers interested in STEM

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: Strong background in data visualization

Special Bonus Points: Female in physics, slight connections to famous school/researchers for astro through postbacc internship.

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter:
Not on my app, but I applied to eight astro programs last year and was universally rejected. I’ll describe exactly what I did differently this year that I believe led to my acceptances.

Applying to Where: All for astro/physics PhDs (compact object studies, observational and theoretical)

Extragalactic reach:
Caltech - Astronomy - rejected Feb 19
Northwestern - Astronomy - waitlisted Mar 30, withdrawn
UC Berkeley - Astronomy - rejected Feb 1
University of Arizona - Astronomy - rejected Feb 24
University of Illinois Urbana Champaign - Astronomy - interviewed Jan 20, accepted Feb 15 + ~$24,135/yr, declined
University of Michigan Ann Arbor - Astronomy - rejected Mar 16

Galactic reach:
CU Boulder - APS - accepted Feb 11 + $39k - $42k/yr (depends on year), declined
Vanderbilt - Physics/Astronomy (Astrophysics track) - interviewed Feb 15, accepted Feb 21 + $37k/yr (includes fellowship), declined
Yale - Astronomy - rejected from PhD (sometime in early Feb)
(int’l - Canada) University of Toronto - rejected from PhD (sometime in mid-late Feb)

Solar system reach:
Washington University in St Louis - Physics - accepted Jan 22 + $40k/yr (includes fellowship), declined
Stony Brook University - Physics (Astrophysics track) - rejected from PhD, offered MA option Mar 8, declined
(int’l - Canada) University of British Columbia - Physics/Astronomy - ?? Assuming rejection
(int’l - Canada) McGill University -Physics/Astronomy (Astrophysics track) - interviewed Jan 11, accepted Feb 4 via email, WILL ATTEND for Physics M.Sc + ~$29300 CAD/yr (includes TAing and fellowships), option to fast-track to PhD after one year

Final Thoughts:
After getting rejected literally everywhere last year, and with the covid situation, I had very low hopes of getting accepted anywhere, let alone to multiple places! On paper, it might seem sort of crazy that I turned down such high caliber places as UIUC and CU Boulder… it certainly was not an easy decision. Even though my final choice (McGill) provides a lower stipend, the research advisor was 100% the best fit both in terms of personality and research interest (and they are the most well-connected in the field I want to study). I also want to live somewhere that I will actually enjoy, and I believe Montreal is the best fit for my lifestyle. If you have multiple options to consider, try to weigh all the factors that are important to you, not just the school’s prestige. In the end, for astro I think the advisor is as important if not more important than the school as a whole.

Here is my perspective on the things I improved on/did differently this year (listed roughly in order of importance):
->Publications: Doesn’t even have to be first author, but the more the better!
->Network with professors you’re interested in working with: I cold-emailed at least one prof at almost every school, and kept in contact with a few throughout the app process.
**Super important: ask the professor if they’re looking for new students in the near future. If they say no, then don’t mention them in your app essays!
->Apply to more schools: The odds of getting admitted to an astro program are so remarkably low, I encourage most people (with the financial means) to apply to 10+ schools. Cast a wide net. Some schools offer fee waivers, so make sure to check for those early on.
->Specialized research experience: Get research experience in the subfield you want to go into (for me, compact objects).
->Mention profs in app essays: Specifically mention profs you’re interested in (esp if you’ve already talked to them) in your apps, and provide a couple detailed sentences in your app essays talking about how you’ll contribute to each professor’s research projects.
->Choosing reference writers: In my first time applying, one of my references was a postdoc. In hindsight, this is a risky choice because postdocs generally aren’t yet well-established/respected in their field, so their letter may carry less weight with app reviewers. Second time applying, I replaced that letter with my very well-established current research supervisor.
->GRE scores: I know they were optional at a lot of places this year, but my acceptances were skewed towards places where I submitted the scores, so it seems like it did make a difference. My target was to get the Quant score to around 85th percentile.
->Increase your (academic) online presence: First time applying, if you googled me almost no results came up. Second time around, I created a very detailed LinkedIn, an astro twitter page, and there were several articles about me online (from end of undergrad, conferences, etc.). This might seem minor, but admissions committees certainly google applicants (my LinkedIn was viewed by several schools I applied to), and it’s helpful to have some sort of online presence so they can see who you are.

Overall, astro admissions are trending towards single digit acceptances, which is ridiculous. When things are this competitive, every little thing you can do to improve your apps is helpful. In general, schools now are looking for “fit”: how well does the applicant fit with our program? You want to demonstrate how good of a fit you are, especially for the program’s research.
I hope all this information can help future astro applicants. Just know that this process is a huge mental and emotional struggle for everyone, and you will go on to do amazing things!

D^nn*XzaYaQ7m@t
Posts: 1
Joined: Tue May 18, 2021 8:17 pm

Re: 2021 Applicant Profile and Admission Results

Post by D^nn*XzaYaQ7m@t » Tue May 18, 2021 8:47 pm

Undergrad Institution: Unranked, No physics reputation, non-research state school
Major(s): Physics & Math
Minor(s): N/A
GPA in Major: 4.0
Overall GPA: 3.95
Length of Degree: 5 years (started w/ no major)
Position in Class: Near top
Type of Student: Domestic white male

GRE Scores: N/A (COVID)

TOEFL: N/A

Research Experience: 2 small projects at my undergrad (one of which was my senior project). After graduation I did internships at national labs full time for a little under two years. 4 months experimental research(2 months CM QIS, 2 months HEP with 7 more months after application deadline), 9 months theoretical research (CM QIS). Got onto two preprints by the time of applying (1st author on the theory one).

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: A few "good student" type awards at my university, a presentation award at a state conference for my senior project, honorable mention in a data science group competition

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Math tutor for a few years as an undergrad

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help: Nope

Special Bonus Points: None

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter:
-Took two years off after graduating to do research, not sure if taking the time away from classes hurt anything or not.
-Since my school wasn't a big physics school, I didn't take any physics electives like solid state physics, nuclear physics, QIS, etc. and I only had one semester of classes like E&M and Quantum. No stat-mech offered, didn't take optics. Had a lot of math courses.

Applying to Where:
Super Reach:
PSI (Msc) - Rejected
Berkeley - Physics (CMT/QIS) - Rejected
Stanford - Applied Physics (CM/QIS) - Rejected
Caltech -Physics (CMT/QIS) - Rejected
UChicago - Physics (CMT/QIS) - Rejected
UIUC - Physics (CMT/QIS) - Rejected

Reach:
UT Austin - Physics (CMT/QIS) - Accepted (Will attend)
CU Boulder - Physics (CMT/QIS) - Rejected
Maryland, College Park - Physics (CMT/QIS) - Rejected

Match(/Safety?):
Boston College - Physics (CMT/QIS) - Accepted (Declined)

Thoughts:
I didn't make this easy on myself with the schools I applied to, but I don't think I would make it any easier since I like competition. One thing I didn't do was to contact professors ahead of time, which probably would've helped in shaping my SOP. The main problem is that I didn't really want to talk to any professors because I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to study (and this is still kind of the case, I want my first year of grad school to be exploratory), and I didn't have enough knowledge to have read and understood their theory research. But I should have asked earlier to see if they were accepting students, and if they weren't I wouldn't mention them in my SOP (and maybe I wouldn't have applied to the school). I didn't really have much guidance in how to make a good theory application, but it turned out alright in the end.

An extra note: Not all of my applications were based on the quality of research. Embarrassingly, a sizeable portion of it was just the name. I got too caught up in the prestige. Don't do that.



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