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Back to Texas?

  1. Dec 3, 2007 #1
    Dear Physics friends,

    the time has come for me to decide what to do with my physics degree. I have asked a lot of people but in the end its me who has to take the decision. But I think I need your counseling.

    Let me tell you something about what I have done so far: I studied physics for 3 years at the University of Bilbao (Spain). I obtained a grant to go to study at UT Texas at Austin. I spent one year there and it was a wonderful academic experience. Actually all my courses were graduate core-courses and since I did quite well (A+) many professors offered me a PhD position for the future (once I get my spanish physics degree).
    I spent the summer at CERN. In 3 months I published a paper on accelerator physics (field that I didn't enjoy much). Now I am in Germany taking a mixture of theoretical and experimental courses and working on a nano-optics lab. I will graduate in May 2008.

    my big mistake is to focus in as many fields as I can. My background is theoretical but I am now enjoying my experience working in a lab (i'm not that clumsy after all). It would be easy I think, to apply to UT Austin again as an official graduate student and do my PhD there. But do you think it is worth trying something else? Can I apply to MIT? SHould I stay in Europe, now that research in physics has a lot of funding? The deadlines are in December; should I hurry or wait another year? My grandfather gave me very interesting advice: "whatever you do, focus on it, do it well and you will be happy".

    I thank you for your advice.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2007 #2


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    It sounds like you've got a fair bit of experience. If you enjoyed your time in Texas, then I'd advice going back there, since you obviously got on well with the members of faculty there.

    However, if the deadlines are in December, that doesn't really give you much time to prepare! Did you think this through before, or is it a last minute decision? Plus, for the american universities, don't you have to do extra exams before you apply (like the GRE and whatever else you may need).
  4. Dec 3, 2007 #3
    One of the keys to success as a PhD student is liking your adviser and enjoying the environment. You already know that you like UT-Austin, so it's worth applying there, but I would suggest you apply to other places also and visit them.
  5. Dec 3, 2007 #4
    Thank you for your comments. Regarding the GRE, I took the Subject test while I was in Texas (because I was thinking of going back at that time). I didn't have time to prepare and my score was 880. Someone told me that the score was low for universities like Caltech or MIT. I don't know about that.

    So I can take it again (although may be its not that important) and wait until next december 2008 and apply for Fall 2009. But by that time I don't know where I will be. This is why I think I have to take a decision now.

    PowerIso suggests applying to many places. That would be great but I always feel very bad when asking for letters of reccomendation. Another point I am considering is the fact that I already took the core-courses required for PhD. candidacy at UT. If I go somewhere else, does that mean I have to take those courses again? Each college has its own policy but do you know something about this? Thanks again, guys!
  6. Dec 3, 2007 #5
    If you managed to talk to a bunch of professors there and they like you, then you have a good chance of getting in. Get them to submit recommendation letters for you.

    880 is a decent score even for international students. The UT website itself says that its average INTERNATIONAL GRE subject score was 858, so you are above average for its applicants, which is all that matters (come on, they're not going to let people in just because they have a 990, but they might reject applicants that are < 700)
  7. Dec 3, 2007 #6


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    Have you taken the GRE General Test? Do not delay - take it immediately. The scores are not that important (scoring close to 800 on quant is trivial) but taking the test is mandatory. Definitely apply to UT and about 3 more schools in the US and as many in Europe/UK. Most recommenders will gladly write (i.e., print out) as many letters as are needed.
  8. Dec 4, 2007 #7
    Think a little bit about where you would like to live for the next few years. Did you like the environment in Texas? I think Austin would be an awesome place to live and learn
  9. Mar 4, 2008 #8
    Dear friends,

    I followed your recommendations and took the GRE and sent my applications to many grad schools. Now it's time to wait for replies.

    The first one came 3 weeks ago from MIT. I have been admitted into the Physics Graduate Program. I haven't heard from UT yet.

    MIT is like a dream for me, I'm very happy I got in. However I know it's not like UT. I'm starting to hear bad things about life in Cambridge, the academic pressure and loneliness of grad students. Is it that bad? Should I think twice before accepting?

    I'd like to hear a couple of comments of what you think about MIT.

  10. Mar 4, 2008 #9
    There is going to be academic pressure, and loneliness regardless if you go. The key is to find a place where you like what the groups are doing and where you feel you can find an adviser who is willing to work with you.
  11. Mar 4, 2008 #10


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    I'd go to MIT, definitely! You're only lonely if you let yourself be lonely, that is, if you don't make an effort to talk to people. No-one's going to come along and say "hey, here's a group of friends" but at the same time, I don't see why you'd think it would be lonelier there than anywhere else!
  12. Mar 4, 2008 #11
    Wow. MIT. UT at Austin is in the top 10, but MIT is in the top 5.
  13. Mar 5, 2008 #12
    Ideally, you should visit the campus and department and use the visit to decide for yourself whether or not you would be happy and productive as a student at MIT. We can provide a little information about what we've either experienced or heard about the experience at MIT (and be more objective about it than MIT faculty or staff), but ultimately you are probably the best authority on what sort of environment would make you happiest and most productive.

    As far as academic pressure and loneliness go, those are only problems if you let them be problems. You can be stressed out and lonely anywhere.
  14. Mar 5, 2008 #13
    I think you'll find it best to ask MIT students themselves. Follow this link.
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