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Gap time between undegrad completion and PhD

  1. Feb 25, 2016 #1

    My brother is a final year student at one of the top engineering colleges in India (IIT). He is pursuing mechanical engineering with a minor in physics. He is interested in doing a PhD in theoretical physics. This year his admission was declined by most major universities, so we are apprehensive about his future career options. Please advice if he should wait another year to apply again, if yes what's the best way to further improve his profile and his chances of admission next year. Or should he just take a corporate job?
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  3. Feb 25, 2016 #2


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    So he was admitted somewhere? If so, why not take that offer?
  4. Feb 25, 2016 #3
    No - He applied to about 12 universities only thinking he had decent chances there. So currently 0 acceptances.
  5. Feb 25, 2016 #4


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    Sorry for the misunderstanding. I was confused by your "most". :smile:
  6. Feb 25, 2016 #5


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    I don't see that waiting another year is going to improve your brother's prospects. You haven't indicated how well your brother is doing academically in his undergrad program, and this could be a major reason why his application for graduate school is not being considered favorably.

    I would recommend to your brother that he contact the universities to which he submitted his application and ask them for their reasons for declining him.
  7. Feb 25, 2016 #6
    Thanks for your response.

    To answer your question, my brother has maintained a 9 point GPA throughout his 4 years. He has done research projects in his area of interest in dark matter. His summer internship was in a top university in Germany in a similar field. He has a stellar academic record since high school. He scored full marks in GRE physics.
    Hence we did not really doubt him converting his dream colleges but now we are but worried.
    I will suggest to him to enquire about reason for rejection at the universities where he applied.
    Do you think doing additional internships under a professor in theoretical physics improve his profile for applying next year? Should he look for any other courses such as masters? Are there any other career options available to him in his interest area?
  8. Feb 25, 2016 #7

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    It's probably more efficient to have your brother here directly, but in any event, I am with Steam King. Waiting is unlikely to help. Unfortunately, most schools won't provide a reason for declining other than "We had stronger candidates."
  9. Feb 25, 2016 #8


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    One of the flags that I see is that his degree is in mechanical engineering. The pool of applicants that he's competing with are likely full of high-achieving students who have completed degrees in physics. If there's any question that he might not have an adequate coursework background to be successful on a comprehensive exam, most admission committees will toss the application. Doing an extra internship is not likely to help if the problem is background preparation.

    If they they feel his background is sufficient, there is still the problem of competing for the few available slots. Does he have a good answer for why a program should accept him over someone who has come through a program more directly related to the topic of graduate study?
  10. Feb 25, 2016 #9
    Thank you for your advice.

    He was aware of that weakness which is why he demonstrated interest in physics in his profile. He has done a minor in physics along with major in engineering which is a lot of extra courses and harder work. Beside this his projects are in his field of interest in physics rather than engineering.

    He is really passionate for pursuing physics which is why he even opted out of getting a regular job like his classmates. Will doing an MSc in physics be useful to tackle this weakness?
  11. Feb 26, 2016 #10
    First off, this is your brothers business, not yours. So I am going to assume this is about you, and you mention it is your brother as an excuse, for whatever reason.

    You have a degree in ME. That is not a degree in physics. You should have an engineering approach and you had tons of applied course material. When you then apply to theoretical, I can see that there is a problem as no ME class will help you with theoretical physics and you have to think like a scientist, not like an engineer.
    If it is some applied field, then there is a lot more synergy.

    When it already takes the average physics BSc time to adjust and get worked in to that theoretical group, then surely they are not eager to get a ME person.

    I do suggest doing an MSc in physics. When you have no research experience, with handlebars on, in physics, let alone theoretical, it is just hard to get accepted when there's a lot of candidates. It just makes sense to do the coursework that prepares you for the internship/thesis, then do that, then get a PhD position.

    It should be clear to the group you are applying to that you have the right background for their research group. So depending on how significant the minor was, you may or may not need an additional year of BSc physics courses to start the first year of the MSc. This is up to the institution where you are applying.

    Should you take a corporate job? Maybe. Or find some PhD program where it actually helps to have an ME degree.
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