Hello, This is my first post on the forums. It's mostly elicited by anxiety about getting into grad school. I have seen a bunch of similar posts, and extrapolated as many data points as I could from them (in terms of where to apply, etc). But it's always nice to receive personalized responses/advice -- so I request your indulgence: I would like some clarity on the following questions: 1. Given my record (over-detailed below), and my interests, which grad schools can I hope to get into? 2. How many grad schools should I apply to, without annoying my recommenders etc.? 3. Is it easier applying to 'related but not quite physics' phd programs, like EE, applied physics, applied science and technology, nanotechnology etc? 4. Should I mention my excuses for a low(er) GPA in my statement, or is that just negative talk? perhaps I should focus on what's good. I graduated from a large top-20 public university in Physics with a Minor in Math. My GPA is not stellar, but not terrible, about a 3.6 overall, and a 3.55 in my subject. (oh, and I'm a US citizen).I screwed up a year or so in between basically because I was sad that a girlfriend left me (silly, but true, unfortunately). I was unmotivated, and it reflected in some of my core physics classes (e&m, classical mech upper division classes -- some B's, no C's thankfully) I did two summer research projects in university, and have at least one high-profile recommender out of it. I also have a recommendation letter from a prof with whom I took two classes and managed not to screw them up. After college, I have worked at a national lab in semiconductor physics/spintronics for about 1.5 years. I will get a strong recommendation letter from my PI (known, but not super high-profile). I have 1 first author publication in APL, and another 3rd author publication also in APL. There are hopefully one or two more articles in preperation, but I'm not sure if they will be submitted by the time I apply this december. My general gre is good, 790/710/5, and I just took the physics gre in october (I expect about 800, but i don't have a good measure of how i did). -- My interests are condensed matter physics/spintronics/quantum-computing, and I would like to apply to the following school, in order of preference: ucsb, uiuc, yale, stanford applied physics, ucb (applied science and tech), ucsd, columbia, u penn., harvard, ut austin, penn state physics, umd physics, u-washington seattle (ee or physics), boston u (physics) -- ucla-ee, ucdavis-physics, uc-irvine (these would be backups). Am I wasting my time applying to harvard/ucb/columbia/yale etc? Can I even be assured of getting into my backup schools? Will my publications help offset my gpa? -- Thank you so much for reading through this. Any advice is appreciated. Feel free to tell me I'm out of my mind for even considering top-tier schools etc. or tell me if I've missed some great programs in my area of interest.