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Admittance to MIT for Graduate School?

  1. Sep 30, 2012 #1
    I am currently a Junior at Utah State University majoring in Physics and minoring in Mathematics. As of now I am on the 5 year program so I have 3 more years to go. My GPA is not the most impressive, it's currently a 3.3 and I am projecting around a 3.6 when I graduate. I've always focused more on the research aspect of school then getting straight A's. I feel like doing good research does more to benefit my education and society than being a book worm. As far as my research experience goes I work with the optics on the largest LIDAR (Light detection and ranging) system in the world at Utah State ran by Dr. Wickwar. For those of you not familiar with LIDAR systems it is a rather niche field that uses light detection and ranging to map the upper atmospheres temperature profile, densities, and other phenomenon including noctilucent clouds, gravity waves, etc. By the time I graduate I expect to have written a published paper or at least get my name on a paper.

    Although I am not interested in atmospheric physics I am interested in optics, specifically optical quantum computing. Dr. Wickwar has agreed to mentor me in the field of optics and have me work on a side project designing an optical system for a quantum computer which I will submit to the research colloquium at Utah State. I will be applying for the research REU at the University of Washington since they have a quantum computing group. Hopefully I will be able to go either this summer or next.

    As far as extra curriculars I am a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity holding several positions and continuously doing service. I am involved with SPS (Society of Physics Students) and will be getting more involved soon. I will be running this term for the Science Senator position for student government. I am involved with many other clubs and organizations on campus. I teach a physics lab, TA for physics classes.

    Am I on the right track? I feel as if I have to save the human race to even qualify to apply to MIT.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 2, 2012 #2


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    Your GPA is very low for admission to any good grad program, and at the moment your research background is unremarkable. I know people who did 3+ REUs, had 3.7+ GPAs, and several publications in major journals who didn't get into any top 20 physics grad schools - and that was 10 years ago. It's more competitive now, if anything.
  4. Oct 2, 2012 #3
    Why MIT?
  5. Oct 2, 2012 #4


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    That sounds like an extreme exaggeration unless those people had the worst luck a college student could possibly have; I know a handful of people with unequivocally sub - par credentials relative to the ones you mentioned who got into places like cornell, stanford, santa barbara and some others. Not getting into any Top 10 or Top 5 wouldn't seem as shocking but not into any top 20 just sounds like a hyperbole.
  6. Oct 2, 2012 #5
    Several publications in major journals and 3 REUs? It is not common that undergraduates have several publications in major journals, actually I've never seen such an application. Despite a 3.7 GPA, this is a very solid application! If we factor in 800+ PGRE score then this is a very competitive application.
  7. Oct 2, 2012 #6


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    I would only say 'very low' if it remains at 3.3. 3.6 is probably just 'low', but balanced by an impressive performance on the PGRE it shouldn't create too much friction.
  8. Oct 3, 2012 #7
    Seriously? 3.6 is "low"? Who the hell goes to grad school then?
  9. Oct 3, 2012 #8
    Low for MIT. :smile:

    3.6 should be enough to get you into a decent school.
  10. Oct 4, 2012 #9


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    Sounds like you have great research experience - keep it up! I had an officemate in grad school who did lidar work - it looks like great fun. While I agree that 3.6 is likely on the low side for MIT the probability of getting in would still be nonzero, so I wouldn't worry too much about it now. Just work hard to do the best you can over the next couple of years. If I were you I would apply to MIT anyway - the most you have to lose is tha application fee and a few hours filling out the application. When it is time to apply to schools, work with your professors to make a list of schools, including some that may be less likely (MIT?), those that are more likely, and then a couple of "sure things."

    I don't know how mit does things, but where I went to school (years ago!) my advisor explained the situation like this: out of 500 applicants, there were a few dozen stand-out applicants that automatically get accepted (the kind that get into everywhere ... and usually end up at MIT/Stanford/etc instead of where i went!), 200-300 that were thrown out because it was deemed they probably couldn't hack the graduate program, the remaining applicants were distributed among the faculy, who gave offers to whomever caught their eye for whatever reason. A 3.6 would almost certainly put you in that last group - if some professor liked your application then you would be set.

    I applied to mit grad and did not get in (no surprise at all!). A friend of mine did get into MIT and every other school he applied to except his "safety" school, UT Austin (go figure!). Outcomes are unpredictable!

    Best wishes,

  11. Oct 4, 2012 #10
    I think they sometimes don't accept because they feel that your going to deny it anyways, they would rather not wait-list other potential applicants. Sort of like when you don't get a job you applied for because you are over-qualified for it.
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2012
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