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EE/PHYS 3.2/3.4 With GRE what are my chances?

  1. Jun 19, 2013 #1
    Hey everybody, I am an electrical engineering and physics double major with a math minor coming out of a small liberal arts college. I take the GRE/PGRE in November and was curious about where I could realistically be accepted (I am aiming for physics graduate programs). I've heard extremely varied reports on the importance of the GRE, some don't consider it at all, and others weigh it heavily. I am aware that my GPA is very undesirable for top tier schools. My adviser informed me that a score in the 80 percentile range(I have taken the practice test on the ets website and think 80 is possible) could offset my GPA and render me admissible. As far as I know I have two professors who will give me very strong letters of rec (one of which claims he could not imagine writing a stronger letter), and several other good ones. After this summer I will have 3 summers (one at Stanford nanofabrication facility) and a semester of research experience, numerous poster sessions as well as 2 conference presentations. So my quandaries are as follows:

    1.Given a strong performance on the PGRE is there a reasonable chance of being accepted in the top tier? If not, what are my chances for second tier(rank 10-25)?
    2.Does my double major offset my GPA?
    3.Will admissions boards look at my overall GPA (3.2) or be merciful and consider only my major gpas?(3.2/3.4)
    4.How important is an upward trend in GPA? (First 2 years 3.0, last 2 years 3.5)
    5.There is a chance I will be second author on a paper this summer, will it have a strong impact on my chances?

    Thank you in advance for your consideration and please be brutally realistic, this is my future.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 19, 2013 #2


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    First you must accept that anyone you ask here (myself included/especially!) has really only guesses for you regarding your future chances. Lack of data however, has never stopped a theoretician from guessing.

    1. Some students from large Brand Name Schools with Excellent GPAs also get Excellent GRE Scores. What makes you think a good gre score is all you need to do to match their chances?

    3. One must consider that they probably ask for your full transcript to read the whole thing. Do you think schools that accept < 10% of schools have mercy on their mind while admitting students?

    4. I'd imagine it's better than a downwards one.
  4. Jun 19, 2013 #3
    First off, thanks for taking the time to reply. I am aware of the speculative nature of any advice received, however that seems to be all that is available short of asking the deans of admissions at the respective universities.

    1.I am aware that I will not beat out someone with everything I have plus an excellent GPA. Upon searching I could not even find a statistic for the number of people who get ENG/PHYS double majors but it is at best less than 5%. I suppose I misrepresented my aspirations. All I'm looking for is a reasonable chance(is it even worth applying), as in, would a strong GRE performance keep the deans from tossing my application outright, and perhaps perceive my GPA as not entirely representative.

    3.Obviously, but my question is can one assume that they are not robots and instead see the applicants as people?

    4.Clearly, but to what degree is it considered. But I guess anything further would be school dependent and speculative.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2013
  5. Jun 19, 2013 #4


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    1. I have no idea, however I would suggest giving up on the idea of "tiers" and focusing more on finding the program that's the right fit for you personally, given your interests, desires, and constraints. If that happens to be a place that's ranked in the top N by some arbitrary ranking system then so be it.

    2. Why would a double major offset a GPA? I would imaging there are some people on admissions committees who may favour candidates who've taken more challenging course loads, but that's an extremely subjective thing to do. When I look at applicants to our program I try to assess how the candidate performed given the courses he or she chose to take. I notice when applicants have taken a bare minimum of challenging courses and when candidates have taken what seems like a challenging course load. The latter may make a difference when comparing otherwise similar candidates. It won't turn a 3.2 GPA into a 3.7.

    3. Every school has a different system. Some will give more weight to the courses that are obviously related to the graduate program. Others will go by overall GPA. Consider though that a weighting system is difficult to introduce. What do you do with courses that are ambiguous?

    4. I notice it and I imagine others do too. It's important to demonstrate that you will be successful in the more challenging courses. That said, it won't change a 3.2 into a 3.7.

    5. Having a publication in a peer-reviewed journal does tend to boost your chances at acceptance, but I believe most people on admissions committees will be looking more closely at what your references say about the level of your contributions than simply awarding points for having a publication.
  6. Jun 20, 2013 #5
    I'll keep that in mind.

    The way I see it my double gives me extreme versatility and utility as an experimentalist. Additionally in doubling I was forced to take maximum (and often overloaded) course loads, surely it's not as trivial as you say? Compared to a straight physics major from my university I will have something like 80 more units(~20 classes, I went through my transcript and counted). This is a troubling prospect indeed if you are right, I will have wasted a considerable amount of time and effort.

    That's good news I suppose, I performed far better in my upper divisions.


    Ok good I don't think that will be an issue.

    Overall thank you for the excellent, thorough, and clearly knowledgeable review. It appears I am ****ed. But, seeing as I have a bit of optimism left I must ask; You mentioned a number of things which would not make up for the low GPA individually, best case scenario they all work out as well as they could, collectively would they be sufficient to turn a 3.2 into a 3.7?
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2013
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