1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Advice on PHY PhD School Selection for Husband and Wife

  1. Sep 9, 2015 #1
    Hello, my wife and myself both just graduated with Masters degrees from a relatively low-ranked PhD program and we are looking to apply to a PhD program with better opportunities. Both of us have been here for about 5 years and we would, if at all possible, like to be accepted to the same school.

    My undergrad is in Physics from a relatively high-ranked school in the US (which I completed with a GPA of 3.7/4)

    My wife's undergrad is in Physics from a relatively high-ranked school in India (which is equivalent to about >3.5/4 after conversion)

    I have two Masters degrees. The first is in Physics (which I completed with a GPA of 3.7/4)

    My second Masters Degree is in Science Education (which I completed with an overall GPA of 3.9/4)

    My wife's Masters degree is in Physics (which she completed with a GPA of 3.6/4)

    She was also pursuing a PhD in Physics following this, for which she completed all of the course-work (overall GPA is 3.8/4)

    Other information which may be helpful is that we both passed the Physics Qualifying exam at our school at the PhD level. We believe that this is likely a positive for our application. Also, my wife has completed her PhD candidacy exam, which happened about 1.5 years go.

    In addition, both of us have research experience and computer programming skills at both the undergrad and grad level.

    As an undergrad I worked on a theoretical REU project and also worked on an experimental project. Both were strongly related to optics.

    As a graduate student I have worked closely on two projects, both of which are in Physics Education.

    As an undergrad my wife worked on both theoretical and experimental AMO projects. At the graduate level she has also worked on both experimental and theoretical projects AMO.

    Having said all this the research opportunities at our current graduate school are very limited. We do not have papers and we have taken the decision to move elsewhere. It is actually because of these limited opportunities that I originally chose to see if Physics Education was a good fit. It was not, and as the opportunities at this school were not a good fit for either of us, and it became apparent that the opportunities necessary were not going to become available in the future, we have made the decision to move, even after all this time.

    This time lapse of about 5 years is something which we believe may count against us. We are certainly going to explain it as well as we can in our SOP's (and do it in such a way it makes it clear it will not happen again) but just to be sure we are looking at applying to about 20 schools. We have come up with a very tentative list and would like any advice which you can provide about good choices (i.e, to say if we are over-reaching or under-reaching, other schools to consider, etc...)

    We are going to be taking the September PGRE next Saturday, followed soon after by the General GRE. Thus, we won't be able to upload our exact scores for a while. However, as things stand right now we expect that for both of us the scores for the PGRE should end up 800+. Thus, please take that number into account for any advice.

    We would very much appreciate any advice regarding the list of schools which you can provide. We're really in a very difficult situation, and any advice which may help us to get out of it would be very much appreciated.

    Heres our list so far. We are applying to a lot of lower ranked school because honestly, as I said previously, we are in a very difficult situation and need to get in. Trying again next year is not an option. Our research interests lie mainly with experimental AMO for me, and theoretical AMO for my wife. However, as our situation is somewhat desperate we feel we can be a little flexible. Also, in order to increase our chances of getting multiple acceptances, we plan on applying to a wide range of schools. Thus, you may see a few unranked universities in our list, which we feel is okay as there will be about 20 in total.

    1) University of Nebraska - Lincoln (Ranked 70 on US News)

    2) Washington State University (Ranked 77 on US News)

    3) Georgetown University (Ranked 77 on US News)

    4) Oregon State University (Ranked 77 on US News)

    5) Colorado School of Mines (Ranked 77 on US News)

    6) University of Central Florida (Ranked 85 on US News)

    7) University of Texas - Dallas (Ranked 95 on US News)

    8 ) Lehigh University (Ranked 95 on US News)

    9) University of Maryland - Baltimore (Ranked 103 on US News)

    10) Temple University (Ranked 103 on US News)

    11) University of New Hampshire (Ranked 103 on US News)

    12) University of Houston (Ranked 103 on US News)

    13) West Virginia University (Ranked 111 on US News)

    14) Wake Forest University (Ranked 123 on US News)

    15) George Mason University (Ranked 131 on US News)

    16) Old Dominion University (Ranked 142 on US News)

    17) Portland State University (Unranked on US News)
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2015 #2
    I think you owe it to yourself to apply to at least one top 50 school. With your backgrounds, Ohio State might be a good fit. I think you are pursuing a course likely to succeed.

    Keep in mind that the larger departments who admit more grad students each year are more likely to admit you both than the smaller departments. When prioritizing which schools you apply to, size should be a factor for this reason.
  4. Sep 10, 2015 #3
    Thank you very much. So if I am understanding this correctly, you mean that the main criteria we should use when choosing a school is the following:

    1. Quality of groups performing relevant research
    -Only helps us decide on whether the school is a good fit or not, not on how difficult it is to get in
    2. Rank of the school on US News (as this gives a rough indicator as to how high the criteria with which you are compared increases)
    The higher the rank the higher the criteria with which we are compared, meaning that in general as the rank increases our chances of getting in tend to decrease
    3. How many acceptances are sent and how many are admitted
    So in general the greater the number of acceptances sent the higher our chances of getting in

    If so then we'll need to figure out how many acceptances are sent out, and admitted, and add this as a column in our spreadsheet. This can help give us a better idea of how we stand (this number and the school rank). Do you think this may be a helpful way to try to quantify this? I know it's not an equation, but from what you said it seems that bullets 2 and 3 may be very very helpful.

    We know that a lot of people with very good publications will apply to the top 40, so we assume that around that amount we would automatically be either rejected or waitlisted and then rejected because they have so many students who are coming straight from undergrad, have research experience, and have papers. Do you think this is correct, or is it less direct than this?

    We would certainly prefer to get into higher ranked schools, but at the same time, as we are applying to only 20 we also don't want to waste an application on a school where we have essentially no chance. For example, Ohio State is ranked at 23, and we therefore feel that the competition for Ohio State will be much too strong for us to stand even a reasonable chance. In your opinion would you agree?

    We're trying to get a better feel for how this works, and any other thoughts you have will be very helpful.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook