Where Should I apply?

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Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:58 pm

Where Should I apply?

Post by cjcoon4293 » Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:09 pm

I am currently a senior at a small private school in New York.
I am interested in pursuing physics as a graduate student, specifically thinking about astrophysics/astronomy or quantum.

These are my current stats:
Major: Mathematics (Pure)
Minor: Physics, Computer Science
4 Year University GPA: 3.89/4.00 (Junior & Senior Year)
2 Year University GPA: 2.50/4.00 (Freshman & Sophmore Year) ... I had a rough start...

Awards: 2 Scholarships for Excellence in Mathematics at Home University, Pi Mu Epsilon Member

GRE Scores:
Q: 159 (70%)
V: 151 (51%)
W: 3.0

Will take the Math and Physics GRE in September and October.

Research: 2 years of research with chair of math department in applications of linear algebra and Non-Euclidean geometries
1 year of research with physics professor in astrophysics, galaxy formation and evolution. Partly studying the CGM surronding a galaxy, to try to discern a pattern for patchiness when probed for lyman-alpha absorption. Then measuring spectral analysis obtained from radio telescope to determine the heliocentric velocity, flux, and other characteristics of a given galaxy.
Summer participation in ALFALFA Undergraduate Research Team Workshop.

I am looking for opinions on what my safety schools and such should be since my GPA from my 2 year college is so low.

Posts: 143
Joined: Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:10 pm

Re: Where Should I apply?

Post by geekusprimus » Fri Jul 26, 2019 2:11 am

You've given us the basics of your profile, but there's a lot of other information that can be important (and would be impractical to list here), such as your specific contribution to your research projects, whether or not you ended up on any papers, your statement of purpose (why do you want to go into physics, why are you applying to that specific school), and if you already know someone who would be interested in working with you.

GPAs can be difficult to compare between schools; A-level work at one university is C+ work at another, and vice versa. Some schools intentionally keep GPAs low to ward off accusations of inflation, while others really don't care. Additionally, a low GPA might not be a huge issue as long as it's not because you did poorly in classes important to your major. I met one of the associate deans for graduate education from the University of Texas (which has outstanding math, physics, and astronomy programs) at a conference I attended a few months ago, and he said, verbatim, "I really don't care if you got an F in French." The most important thing is that you do well in your upper-division coursework.

My suggestion for safety schools is start by looking at good state schools, especially ones who are frequently overlooked but excel in one of the areas you're interested in. For example, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln isn't a school that comes to mind when you think of physics, but they have a strong enough AMO program that a couple classmates of mine very seriously considered attending there despite getting very good offers from nominally better schools. Another good example is Utah State, which has a small and limited physics program but recently hired a couple young professors in string theory and gravitational physics who seem quite good. It's hard to get much more specific than that, but hopefully that gives you some guidelines to guide your search a bit.

I would take a look through http://www.physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=5062 for some more thorough information. Also, talk to your academic adviser and/or (if they're separate) the professors you've done research with. They'll know more about you and will be more likely to help you find schools that are a good match for you, and they'll also know people in the field who might be willing to work with you.

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