Is it over for my grad school dream?

  • 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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THEPenjoyer
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Sep 06, 2022 9:50 am

Is it over for my grad school dream?

Post by THEPenjoyer » Fri Sep 09, 2022 1:33 pm

I had read several posts here in this forum and I realized that how research experience is important in getting admission offers from grad schools. However, it seems like I am lacking in research experience as a recent undergrad. Here are few background information of mine:

-My undergrad research was in experimental condensed matter. Did a research presentation at my University. I had also done a poster presentation at other university. However, my research interest is in HEP (which my small uni's two physics professor doesn't have HEP)
-I do not have any internship experience. As an international student, I was unaware of CPT (only know that I can apply OPT post grad for some reason) and I didn't get to seek for research internships. Because of this, I spent all my summers working on-campus to earn money for my 4th year tuition.
-I had tutored math classes many semesters during undergrad
-I had a CGPA of 3.8 from a private university that isn't super famous or anything

From all of these background information of mine, is it over? Is there no point of salvage? You telling me I have to compete other top tier applicants with this garbage credentials of mine? I want to study HEP. I want to be involved in HEP research. It is literally the only thing that motivated me to study physics. Knowing how and why things work from the mathematical description of reality inspired me hard to study at my uni. Now what? After lurking more in this forum, some of the people that had more research experience than me during undergrad or more post-grad work experiences also got rejected from grad school got me thinking about my future... what are the chances of me going to graduate school at all?

I'm at the lower percentile of prospective grad student applicant pool and I don't know what can I do to make myself more attractive to grad school admissions team. I don't know if anyone in this forum had similar situation as mine. Please give me any helpful advice. I don't want to give up on my grad school dreams yet.

blackhole343
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Aug 23, 2022 10:23 pm

Re: Is it over for my grad school dream?

Post by blackhole343 » Mon Sep 12, 2022 9:19 am

THEPenjoyer wrote:
Fri Sep 09, 2022 1:33 pm
I had read several posts here in this forum and I realized that how research experience is important in getting admission offers from grad schools. However, it seems like I am lacking in research experience as a recent undergrad. Here are few background information of mine:

-My undergrad research was in experimental condensed matter. Did a research presentation at my University. I had also done a poster presentation at other university. However, my research interest is in HEP (which my small uni's two physics professor doesn't have HEP)
-I do not have any internship experience. As an international student, I was unaware of CPT (only know that I can apply OPT post grad for some reason) and I didn't get to seek for research internships. Because of this, I spent all my summers working on-campus to earn money for my 4th year tuition.
-I had tutored math classes many semesters during undergrad
-I had a CGPA of 3.8 from a private university that isn't super famous or anything

From all of these background information of mine, is it over? Is there no point of salvage? You telling me I have to compete other top tier applicants with this garbage credentials of mine? I want to study HEP. I want to be involved in HEP research. It is literally the only thing that motivated me to study physics. Knowing how and why things work from the mathematical description of reality inspired me hard to study at my uni. Now what? After lurking more in this forum, some of the people that had more research experience than me during undergrad or more post-grad work experiences also got rejected from grad school got me thinking about my future... what are the chances of me going to graduate school at all?

I'm at the lower percentile of prospective grad student applicant pool and I don't know what can I do to make myself more attractive to grad school admissions team. I don't know if anyone in this forum had similar situation as mine. Please give me any helpful advice. I don't want to give up on my grad school dreams yet.
Not at all! In fact, your application profile looks good, at least not bad! You have a great GPA, tutoring experience, and research experience

First of all, the admission committee looks at your skills rather than what you exactly did. They foresee you changing your research direction in the future anyway. So having a condense matter background is not a disadvantage. In your application, focus on what you learnt during your research, did you learn to code? or data analysis? etc ...

You said that you work to pay for tuition, is it because of your family background? if yes, make sure to mention it in the personal statement.

However, you should also state what kind of HEP you would like to do. It seems that you want to do HEP theory. However, HEP theory is super competitive, and it also seems that HEP theory is not going to give you good jobs after you graduate. If that's the case, maybe you should also be looking at HEP experiment. You mentioned you love to solve physical phenomena using mathematical equations, maybe you should also take a look at condense matter theory, given that you have a condense matter background. It is a common mistake that graduate students say they only want to research in a certain subfield. Make sure to widen your horizon.

One more strategic way to apply for grad schools is to look for programs that have condense matter experiment research and HEP research. In your application, you mention you want to do condense matter, then you change your research direction to HEP once you get into grad school.

You are also right, your application profile isn't stellar, at least not stellar in the way that every top program would love to grant you a position without hesitation. And you are also right that people that had more research experience than you also got rejected from grad school. This is the reality, academia is super competitive. So you should do expectation management. Be sure to apply to a broad range of programs. Be realistic on your application profile. Do not just blindly aim for the top X programs. And do not aim for only top schools. The school fame has nothing to do with your career in academia, your advisor and your department do.

To conclude, I have had a similar situation as you and, if you want, please feel free to PM me for a little chat :D



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