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Bombed the GRE's, what to do?

  1. Dec 6, 2012 #1
    For emotional/burnout reasons, I did very poorly on both GRE's (unacceptably low on the general) and one of my supervisors upon hearing this has discouraged me from applying this year. Both of us think I don't stand a chance despite the rest of my credentials, even though all of (8-9) schools I was aiming for were below/around top 20 in astronomy/astrophysics. I am very crushed about this but I have been encouraged to not give up and try my luck next year. I am turning 26 shortly after graduating.

    What can I do as a US permanent resident (graduating from a EU university) to improve my chances for admission, besides studying for the GRE's next year? I've been searching for internships/summer programs and so far I've only found a few for graduating seniors in astro fields: NRAO and LPI.

    I've also been looking around at several observatories' websites but so far have only found one with a position for graduating seniors (IDL/IRAF experience desired though). I'm also open to positions in the EU, but I only know of one in A&A (at my home university), which is fiercely competitive at the EU level (classmates of mine with far better academic records still failed to get in)

    I am barred from interns at national labs/NASA as I'm not yet a full US citizen but I've been checking their contractors and found one that does astronomical research (USRA, though no intern positions are listed), could anyone list any additional institutions where I could get some relevant research experience? What other things beyond summer programs could help? I would be living relatively close to a big university in NJ around the fall, would knocking some doors at the physics/astronomy department and offering to do unpaid research work be something worth trying? (they're not places I would be applying to anyway, I just want to do research in A&A or work with some kind of optics/electronics related to astronomical instrumentation)
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 6, 2012 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Did you consider taking a GRE prep course? They can help you with time efficiency and how the test is structured and can improve your points.

    Perhaps you can take some more advanced courses to bolster your chances next year, take the GRE prep and get ready for next year.

    Also go talk with some other profs or your academic advisor/mentor and get their opinion. They may have some unorthodox way of helping you to get accepted. Perhaps conditional on your getting better GRE marks on the next test. Do this quickly and signup for a prep course no matter what they say.

    As an aside, a recent story on Dave Brubeck, the Jazz great mentioned how he almost got booted from Veterinary school to the music conservatory and then while there almost got booted again because he couldn't sight read music. Some of his profs petitioned the dean saying you're making a big mistake he's brilliant at counterpoint and harmony and so they agreed to keep him provided Dave agreed NEVER to teach piano to anyone.

    (see wikipedia article on Dave Brubeck)
  4. Dec 6, 2012 #3
    I don't have the option of taking additional courses upon graduating (and staying for longer is not an option as my funding runs out), but I've already taken the most advanced courses in my field that my university offers (including many my home university doesn't offer, as I'm an exchange student this year at a top uni).

    My top reccommender (the one I'm doing research with and actually knows about grad school in the US) is the one discouraging me from applying, so I don't think it would be appropriate to ask him to pull some strings, plus I cannot take another GRE within 60 days, which is well past the application deadlines and runs onto the dates when many university send out their first waves of acceptances.

    I know the material; I took the exams pretty much in an emotional wreck (the general, with very little sleep, not reading the questions properly), so additional preparation would only have helped me being speedier with the PGRE, as I already knew exactly what to expect from the GRE (having worked through most of the most recent official prep book).
  5. Dec 6, 2012 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    I would apply anyway and also retake the exams. Don't send in the GRE scores just yet tell them you will be taking them shortly that is acceptable as they don't usually start reviewing your folder until after the deadline for applications is up. I imagine the Graduate Admissions will contact you about the missing scores but that just means it hasn't been forwarded to the physics/astronomy department.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
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