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Are my Grad School dreams over?

  1. Sep 3, 2007 #1
    I need some advice.

    I graduated from a prestigious liberal arts college in May with a 3.0 GPA and a double major in Physics and Astronomy. I had always planned on going to graduate school, but for whatever reason did HORRIBLY on the Physics Subject GRE. Like worse than 15th percentile horribly. I am not sure if this is because I didn't study enough, or the fact that I was petrified of the test and it's life-defining implications, or the fact that a professor convinced me that there was no way I would score higher than the 30th %tile graduating from a liberal arts college. I also did rather poorly on my general GRE- (600s in math a little higher in verbal). I applied to a bunch of physics PHD programs and of course was rejected.

    Has my horrible physics GRE score destroyed my chances of getting into any grad program (masters or otherwise)? I know I'll have to take it again before I go for a PhD. I think it shows up on your score report when you report your general score... will this ruin my chances of getting into masters programs with no required physics subject gre?

    I currently work for a technical company and was originally hired as a research technician but was recently promoted to applications engineer. Will this job help my chances? thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 3, 2007 #2
    You should apply for a MS before PhD. If you apply for a PhD, I believe they hold you to a higher standard if you're coming from a B.S. degree.
  4. Sep 3, 2007 #3


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    no big deal. study and take it again, or interview and imporess someone.
  5. Sep 3, 2007 #4
    It depends. Do you mind getting a Ph.D or M.S. from any grad school? Or are you aiming for MIT/Caltech type of schools? Some grad schools don't require physics GRE scores.

    It's not where you do it, but how you do it that matters to future employers.
  6. Sep 4, 2007 #5
    Two pieces of information that would be interesting to have:

    1) What programs were you applying to?
    2) Was their evidence that you had research potential/focused circulum that did not gel with the programs you were applying.


    Being as I am not yet at graduate school either, I can't give you any more insight. However, being one that has watched similar topics on the forums develop, I would say either you put a red flag on your application, or the programs you were interested didn't see why you were interested in them.
  7. Sep 5, 2007 #6
    thanks for the advice everyone. I applied to a big range of programs but a lot on the west coast some of them being Yale, NYU, U Oregon, U Washington, UCSC, UNM, UCI to name a few.

    I did an REU at NRAO (national radio astronomy observatory) for a summer doing research and also did research with a professor for a senior thesis in physics.

    I agree that the astro research is pretty specialized but I played up my physics experience. I also tried to pick programs that had at least one condensed matter physicist (not very hard to find) or someone doing something easily applicable to jobs in industry because I want to go that route I think in the future and I made sure this was known in my essay.
  8. Sep 5, 2007 #7
    I am familar with a few of those programs myself, as I will be applying to some of them also-so here is my advice.

    Yale and NYU- Reach schools, don't worry about it if you didn't get in.
    U of Washington- Their programs, according to my friends in seattle, are fairly specialized and as a result if you didn't make it clear that you could be a good fit for their programs, they would probably prefer someone else.
    U of Oregon- They are a "nano-school" if you wanted to do nano-tech, then thats where you should focus on reapplying...if not, I wouldn't worry too much.

    The rest of the programs I am not quite as familar with, but my best guess is that your scores were likely a sore spot.


    Another question: What exactly do you do at your job? Is it research orientied? Does it lend you to deal with theory on occasion? Does it demonstrate signfigant knowledge in the topics you wish to study in graduate school?


    My last word of advice: Don't send in your GREs to schools if they don't require them, but only recommend them. Than play up on your research experance and job experance. And if worst comes to worst, fork out the 100 clams for another shot at the GRE.

    Best of Luck!
  9. Sep 6, 2007 #8
    I would definitely take the general GRE again. With a modest amount of studying, you should be able to score significantly better on the math section. I would guesstimate that anything below ~750 on the math section will get you rejected from all but the least selective of schools. You could also take a look at gradschoolshopper to see what kinds of scores people were admitted with.

    Also, focus your applications on schools that do research you're interested in. The school I go to is pretty much either nano or plasma, so it'd be a waste of time to apply if you wanted to do something else.
  10. Sep 6, 2007 #9
    One question.........can I get a Ph.D without a Masters Degree????
  11. Sep 7, 2007 #10
    Yes. Many people go straight from BS to PhD.
  12. Sep 7, 2007 #11


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    Usually the Master's degree comes along the way to a Ph.D.
    I believe most US Ph.D. programs accept applications from applicants with only BS or BA degrees. There are some places that offer a Ph.D. but will not accept applications for a terminal Master's... one has to apply for the Ph.D.
  13. Sep 7, 2007 #12
    but, with a Masters degree its less complicated to enter in a Ph.D program? or it doesnt matter?
  14. Sep 7, 2007 #13
    It depends, really.

    Some schools don't offer a terminal MS normally (it's the prize you get when you fail to get your PhD).

    Some schools only offer an MS, in which case you would need to go to another school to finish up. This path may not be the best idea, as you'll likely end up taking a lot of classes over.

    Many schools admit everyone as PhD students, but you aren't actually a doctoral candidate until you pass the qualifying exams.
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