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Good Astro grad schools

  1. Nov 11, 2006 #1
    Hi there, I'm in the process of applying to graduate schools and am having some trouble deciding what schools to pick. At my current school there is no Astronomy/Astrophysics going on (there's primarily condensed matter, optics /photonics, some bio physics and high energy stuff being done). I spoke with a professor who will be writing me a letter of recomendation and he said he honestly wasn't so sure about what good astro schools were, and the only one he recomended was Johns Hopkins. I'm looking to get as many opinions on theses issuses as possible and thought that this might be a good place to do it.
    My first problem is that I'm not 100% all the time whether I want to do astronomy or astrophysics, and even in that I'm not sure what I'd want to due more specifically in each area. I'm thinking of applying to some astronomy programs and some astrophysics I think...although that also depends on the school seeing as some schools have seperate astronomy and physics departments.

    I've come up with a few schools, but I'm not basing my opinion on much more than what I've heard here and there and their websites. What I'm trying to do is come up with a list of schools ranging from ones I'd love to go to but don't know if I'd really get in, middle of the line schools but still good ones, and sorta safety schools but hopefully still good schools.

    What I've got so far (and am willing to take out and replace with others if necessary) is
    Berkeley (my top choice)
    Johns Hopkins
    University of Hawaii
    University of Washington
    University of Chicago
    University of Michigan
    Stony Brook

    I don't really know what's a typical # of schools to apply to but it's for a good purpose so why not just go for a bunch right?

    I'm not really sure whether some of these are worth considering and what some other good schools (not just top but middle of the line and saftey schools too) are.

    I'm also honestly not sure what my shot of getting into some of these schools is either. My GPA isn't the best nor the worst. Overall it's a 3.140, my physics GPA is about 3.34. I know the grades aren't the best but I've working full time and living on my own and supporting myself so I'm hoping that means something. I've also taken a graduate math methods course, 2 semesters of grad E&M, and will be taking a stat mech course next semester. I don't know what my phy gre score is yet but i feel like i might have done not too bad...not great but pretty ok. I also did a summer REU in astronomy looking at the issue of Compact Narrow Emission Line galaxies an their relation to other compact systems like drarf galaxies and quasar host galaxies. I'm currently still working with the professor I was working with over the summer and hopefully something good will be forthwith.

    I know alot of this is vague and I'm probably rambling but hopefully you folks understand the plight of a nervous undergrad worrying about getting into a grad school:smile:
    Any opinions on any of this (other good for astro grad schools, opinions on the ones i put etc.) would be greatly appreciated. Also honesty is truly important here...if someone thinks i haven't got a shot in hell in getting into certain schools I've listed I'd apreciate the honesty.
    Sorry again for rambling, and thanks for any advice.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2006 #2
    Since applying gets expensive, I'd say 5-10 is the usual number. I'd say 2-3 "love to get in (but it would be a miracle) schools," 2-3 "love to get in (probably a good shot) schools", and 2-3 backup "wouldn't be the greatest, but would be okay schools, and should get in." I'd give the middle section the most weight.

    Also to consider with grad schools... how many faculty (how many to pick from -- even do they have projects at national labs or NASA facilities NEARBY), what the other accepted students are like (if you are accepted and go to the places for their recruitment activities), and could you live there (geographical/sociological terms speaking).

    One of my friends was an physics/astrophysics undergrad at CU Boulder, they had a grad program that she thought was cool, although it doesn't say HOW it was presently ranked. I did some googling and found that the NRC (National Research Council) ranked it 12th (but that was in 1995 -- and lthough i think it isn't yearly...how often do they do the rating?).

    U of M and Hopkins I hear a lot about, but also through those with local connections. You'd also think there would be good schools in this in the southwest, but maybe it's all about buying time on devices for a few days, or getting data from afar, or sending stuff into space?
  4. Nov 12, 2006 #3
    It's funny cause just yesterday someone was telling me I should consider CU Boulder. Thanks for the advice.

    Somebody else I know also recomended U of Arizona and Florida. I'm not to keen on florida though, but aroizona looks nice.
  5. Nov 12, 2006 #4
    University of Arizona is a pretty good school. You should include that on your list.
  6. Nov 12, 2006 #5
    I agree. UA is a really good school and the sky is great here. If you want to get into the practical end of Astro, the UA is building the giant binocular telescope near here. It will be the largest in the World when done. The optics department has a Nobel prize winner on its staff too. He won it for work at the UA. They didn't steal him from somewhere else.
  7. Nov 13, 2006 #6
    Nice for me to know others think U of Arizona's program is good... that was one I was thinking of when I said "schools in the southwest"! The sky IS good! (and I knew the that UA's optics program was good).
  8. Nov 13, 2006 #7
    How about MIT? Is it good grad school for astronomy
  9. Nov 13, 2006 #8


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    Note that Kitt Peak National Observatory is a short drive away.
  10. Nov 13, 2006 #9


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  11. Nov 27, 2006 #10
    Ya my advisor for research i did over the summer (and ongoing) went to UA and said he still knows most of the people there so maybe that's a good thing. I really really want to go to Berkeley though:!!)
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