• #26
248
8
Thanks, that is all very helpful information. I will definitely check out the physicsgre forums.

As far as "long shots, reasonable, and safeties," what sort of ranking ranges would you consider? Long shots being anything in the top 25?

Also, I am planning on applying to University of Rochester. I believe they're ranked 44 or somewhere around there, but they are ranked 6 in AMO. Since I apply to the graduate program in physics and not specifically in AMO, does anyone have any insight whether they would be as hard to get into as a 6th ranked school, or a 44th ranked school. This type of scenario applies to more than just U of R, but it makes a good example.

It still depends on how you do on the PGRE. Nearly everyone admits that the PGRE is not a good indicator of graduate school success, but they still need it for admissions to help normalize GPAs obtained from different schools. I've talked to several admissions professors about this and I get the feeling they look for a certain cutoff score, and after that they care much more about research experience, letters, and grades. This way they will not accept people who did nothing except study for the PGRE, and still accept someone who did decently but not great, but has good research experience and promising letters. In other words, the PGRE probably will not be a deciding factor in their decision about you. If a committee was deciding between someone in the 70th percentile and someone in the 80th, they would probably make the decision based on something else and not just pick the person with the better score. In fact, my grad school cohort had scores ranging from the 30's all the way up to near perfect.

Here is another point you may not have considered yet. You're research experience does sound a little weak, especially since you won't be very far along in your senior project. You could potentially benefit greatly by taking a gap year, and you could finish your project and get a paper and study more for the PGRE before applying. That's not to say you shouldn't try this time around, but it's something to keep in mind.

As for a school like Rochester, it is certainly easier to get into compared to a school ranked 6th overall that is also strong in AMO. But it's also probably harder to get into compared to a similarly ranked school that isn't in the top rankings for some sub-field. This is a good thing for you, since really the most important thing for your success is who you're advisor will be, not the name of your school. But even though you apply to the graduate program, they do consider what you say your intended sub-field will be. More people applying to Rochester probably say they want to do AMO compared to astrophysics, so it's probably harder to get into for someone with a stated interest in AMO compared to astrophysics.
 
  • Like
Likes EJC
  • #27
EJC
42
4
Here is another point you may not have considered yet. You're research experience does sound a little weak, especially since you won't be very far along in your senior project. You could potentially benefit greatly by taking a gap year, and you could finish your project and get a paper and study more for the PGRE before applying. That's not to say you shouldn't try this time around, but it's something to keep in mind.

I'm definitely considering the option of a gap year to do exactly that. I'll have more on my application at that point, and would get another go at the PGRE and have much more time to study on that. I plan on applying this year, and if I don't get into any schools for whatever reason, then that is likely my plan.
 
  • #28
149
4
Why is there no mention of Arizona? Is it an AMO misfit?
 
  • #29
radium
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
764
243
Arizona and Rochester might be good as less competitive schools to apply to, but if you got a good PGRE score and has more research experience you should aim much higher. I do agree your research experience is a bit weak. Most students at top schools (besides some internationals since they don't focus as much on it as in the US) have spent every summer doing research time, some doing two REUs or other programs and also spend around 15 hours per week during the semester.
 
  • #30
149
4
Arizona and Rochester might be good as less competitive schools to apply to, but if you got a good PGRE score and has more research experience you should aim much higher. I do agree your research experience is a bit weak. Most students at top schools (besides some internationals since they don't focus as much on it as in the US) have spent every summer doing research time, some doing two REUs or other programs and also spend around 15 hours per week during the semester.

This is the very reason why I even suggested Arizona; better have a list that is bottom-heavy rather than top-heavy at the PhD level, when research experience is a little weak. I do not think Arizona is low enough to suffer from Tufts Syndrome in an AMO context.

If the OP is more the kind of person who would use AMO as a research tool to do something else, Northwestern perhaps...
 
  • #31
radium
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
764
243
Completely disagree. If the OPs professors think they stand a good chance of getting into top schools if not several of them.They should apply to a lot of them while having maybe two or three safeties. If you are a great applicant, most often you will get into a top program of you apply to enough. You run into the same general group of AMO people at all of the top 10 open houses. That's because they were the top applicants that year so everyone wanted them.

Tufts syndrome is for the most part not a thing at PhD programs. If they really want you to come they will offer you a special fellowship and no teaching duties. There was a program I got into which I would never attended (they most likely knew that) so they tried to lure me in by giving me extra money and no teaching duties for the first year.
 
  • #32
radium
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
764
243
The weak research experience may be something that can be overcome if they get very strong letters, or possibly take a gap year to do research, which is definitely not a bad idea. However, the level of schools they apply to should be based on professors advice. If the professors think they have a good chance of getting into a top school they need to apply to a lot.

If you feel less secure about your application in this case, just apply to more schools, have realistic places but still apply to a lot of the top places
 
  • #33
149
4
Completely disagree. If the OPs professors think they stand a good chance of getting into top schools if not several of them.They should apply to a lot of them while having maybe two or three safeties. If you are a great applicant, most often you will get into a top program of you apply to enough. You run into the same general group of AMO people at all of the top 10 open houses. That's because they were the top applicants that year so everyone wanted them.

Tufts syndrome is for the most part not a thing at PhD programs. If they really want you to come they will offer you a special fellowship and no teaching duties. There was a program I got into which I would never attended (they most likely knew that) so they tried to lure me in by giving me extra money and no teaching duties for the first year.

In my experience, only low-tier (think 60+ and down) departments will suffer from Tufts Syndrome...
 
  • #34
radium
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
764
243
Well I wouldn't call it Tufts syndrome, I would say it's getting a sense that you are not interested in their program and would be unlikely to come if admitted. At least at the undergrad level there is really no hard evidence of so called Tufts syndrome since if you looks at the data for the schools people claim to practice it, you will see that at the level peoe think it applies there are also a lot of students who are in fact admitted. This means that the failure for the other high scoring/well qualified students to be accepted has more to do with holistic admissions than it does with denying people who are overqualified.

At the PhD level, I would believe if you show knowledge and genuine interest in the program that they would admit you regardless if you are technically one of the most qualified applicants. These schools also tend to be smaller so they need to make sure they don't admit too many people. Overestimating yield is not a great thing, it has happened at several schools I know in the past few years and it means that professors need to take on more students than usual.

Anyway, if your professors think very highly of you and tell you from experience that you should apply to top programs, you should maybe stick to the top 40. These schools have more money and resources as well as higher quality students. If you take a gap year and perform very well in research, I think you should most definitely aim very high. Also, if you get an outstanding research from your time at the government research lab that will really be great for your application.

It is definitely possible to be admitted to top programs from a less well known LAC if you really stand out, especially in research.
 

Related Threads on Chances of Getting Into Graduate School Ph.D Programs

Replies
8
Views
1K
Replies
2
Views
6K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
938
Replies
3
Views
958
Replies
1
Views
2K
Replies
3
Views
3K
Replies
10
Views
3K
Replies
4
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
824
Replies
6
Views
1K
Top