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Cali and NY gradschools

  1. Jun 28, 2008 #1

    If I was to apply to five gradschools only, and was looking at California and NY mainly, which five would be the best choices?
    My area is theoretical particle physics. I want two-three schools that are really good, and also some backups.
    I've still not taken the GRE yet(got the general one in a few days), so I can't tell you my scores on that yet, just yet.

    Also, what's it like for someone from the UK to go to gradschool over there, are there many other people from the UK enrolled typically?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 28, 2008 #2
    We'd need a little more information before we can tell you what schools you have a shot at. GPA, courses you've taken, research, etc
  4. Jun 28, 2008 #3
    Ok. Well I'm not sure how to convert my UK marks into a GPA, but I got a First class in the UK system ( 1st: 70%+, Upper second class: 65-70%, etc ), my actual overall percentage was about 80%. (would appreciate it if anyone knows how to get my GPA, actually...will most likely need it for applications I'm guessing?)

    Ive taken courses in General rel, group theory, introductory QFT, electrodynamics (although Im extremely rusty in this area at the moment), QM, complex analysis......

    I have a tiny bit of research experience, from a 3 month project I did in my final year, which somehow got my name on a paper (although it was only one name of 5)....this was basically writing a computer program(with my lab partner) that predicted cross sections and what not, for an unconvential detection channel of the LHC.
  5. Jun 29, 2008 #4
    I sense this is dying, anyone?
  6. Jun 29, 2008 #5


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    Pretty generic listing of top schools in physics, but I'd say give a look to Caltech, Princeton (NJ - not far from NY), Berkeley, Stanford, UCSB, Cornell, and Columbia. Other less classically prestigious schools to consider include any of the UC schools (UCSD, UCLA, etc), NYU, Stony Brook, or Rutgers (again NJ).
  7. Jun 30, 2008 #6
    Thanks for your reply t!m.

    I am put off Princeton slightly, as I imagine (perhaps I'm wrong) that it has quite a formal, collegiate atmosphere (akin to Cambrige/Oxford in the UK), and Im not sure I want to study somewhere as formal as that (even if I could get in).

    I am tempted to go for Caltech, Berkeley and Stanford( or maybe UCSB) as my top three choices. They all seem like great schools, and I am very attracted to the California lifestyle....200 days of sunshine per year, will be much appreciated after living in the UK, haha.

    Then I would be left to choose around two more schools, that I felt I had a very high probability of getting accepted into; possibly UCSD, UCLA could fit in here?

    Also, are there many english people enrolled in US gradschools typically? Im thinking Cali at the moment (mainly because of this image of sun, sea, beaches, etc), but I dont really know anything about the culture there. Is it more international in NY? more common for a non US to move and live there etc or?

    Finally, what would you rate my chances at getting into somewhere like Caltech? Would it be even more competitive because Im non US?

  8. Jun 30, 2008 #7
    Caltech is a top 5 physics program and it is not a big school, they probably don't have a huge entering class for their physics grad. I could be wrong, but I know it is a small school in general. I don't know if it is more competitive because you are non-US, but it is probably insanely hard to get in to begin with, no matter where you are from.

    ^ That whole discussion applies equally well to Stanford, Berkeley, UCSB and Columbia. And San Diego and UCLA are not safety schools, these are still top 30 programs.
  9. Jun 30, 2008 #8
    Right. So I need some safety choices, any ideas?

    How hard is insanely hard? I mean what is the profile of the typical accepted person for Caltech/Stanford/Berkeley/UCSB/Columbia? Where do I stand...what schools would I have a good chance with? (unfortunatley because it's like $80 a time, I don't want to apply to more than around 5 schools, otherwise I'd just apply to the best of the best regardless)

    Finally, would applying to a private school make it more likely for an international student to be accepted, since I assume they're rich, and wont have any funding allocation limits, that a government funded place may have (like perhaps a public school maybe has only so many slots for international students/is less inclined to fund because of inc fees etc). I read somewhere like all the UC's are very difficult for international students to get a foot into?
  10. Jun 30, 2008 #9
    Oh and is it normal for an interview (or telephone interview) to be held, before an applicant is accepted in the US, like in the UK?
  11. Jul 2, 2008 #10
    Well I have just taken the general GRE, and it gave me provisional scores of verbal 560 (I think) and Quantative 780.

    I have done better in the verbal section on the practice tests, but I feel those scores are not too bad?

    I read on the Caltech site: Average GRE scores for successful applicants are Verbal 600, Quantatative 780, Analytic 760.

    Will my slightly underpar verbal, be considered a downfall here? how much attention do they actually pay to this general GRE anyway? Also why are they quoting a cut off of 760 on analytic, I thought this was on a 6 point scale?
  12. Jul 2, 2008 #11
    I'm sure it varies from department to department, but it bears mentioning that the reason the verbal scores of incoming grad students are so low is that these schools have lots of foreign students for whom English is not their first (or even second or third) language. For a native English speaker from the UK, it might not look so hot, even though it's in line with the department average. A big part of competing with the hyper-competitive Chinese and Indian students in the tech/science fields is strong English skills. This helps you get published, give effective presentations, and generally counters the reputation of science/tech departments as being full of asocial shut-ins that can't communicate effectively. I don't mean to discourage you, but that's the way it is.

    Also, FYI, nobody in California calls the state "Cali." In fact, usage of the term "Cali" is considered the most obvious way of marking yourself as an unhip non-Californian trying desperately to seem cool. Somehow, people outside of California labor under the misapprehension that the term is "cool" inside California, when the exact opposite is true. If you get into school in California, DO NOT use the term "Cali." On the other hand, if you end up on the East Coast, go ahead and keep it. You'll fit right in.
  13. Jul 2, 2008 #12
    I would be more concerned with your Physics GRE subject score. I'm sure the kids at Caltech, or Stanford or Berkeley or UCSB all have 90+% PGRE scores.

    Again, you can just call up the schools, send them emails and ask them about admissions and what they are generally looking for. While none of them will tell you if you can get in over email, some MIGHT give you a strong indication one way or another.
  14. Jul 2, 2008 #13
    Thanks for the honesty. Im pretty sure I did well in the analytical section (well I really hope so anyway), so perhaps that will balance things out, I don't know.

    haha, thanks for the tip. I really wasn't trying to be cool though, I was just being lazy....So much to learn if I do get into a school in California, I'm gonna be the only english physics guy in the state by the looks of it....
  15. Jul 2, 2008 #14
    Yep, subject GRE is next on my list of things to do.

    I did email UCSB a few weeks ago with those questions, but they haven't replied :(

    I really just need to work out a list of potential schools to apply for now, I only really want to shell out for about 5 applications, but I need some 'safety schools', which I dont have a clue on....obviously Ive heard the prestigious school names like Caltech/stanford/berkeley etc, so have no prob picking my top 2 but Im struggling to find lower schools
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