I'm at a "top 50" school. I've developed a strong interest in geometrical physics. But my school doesn't have anybody working on geometrical physics. So I want to transfer. However, I'm lacking confidence due to my label as a "transfer student." Here's my background. Sorry if it's long winded. I also apologize if it sounds a bit egotistical; I guess I'm trying to fluff myself up; if it doesn't impress the reader than I guess it serves to boost my own confidence during this whole ordeal. I started physics at the beginning of 2011 when I realized my four years in college studying finance wasn't my passion. In fall of 2012 I was already taking my first graduate class. My GPA through my finance career was a paltry 2.8 or so. My physics GPA was about a 3.8. All lecture courses I received As; 4.0. Some labs I scored Bs. I ended up as a cumulative 3.2. My PGRE was a 900. I was quite foolish and over-confident and only studied for about five days. I feel as if I could get a 990 if I put a couple weeks or so into it. But I'm not sure if a 990 as a second year grad student is as impressive as a 900 as a second year undergraduate. I think I might take it again anyways. I did no research as an undergraduate. Something I regret, but my goal at the time was to finish my degree instead of dragging it out and doing research instead of classes. I taught myself calculus one and two in Nov/Dec 2010 and graduated in July 2013. So research would have just held me back another year before graduate school. Also of note was that I won a few scholarships and awards as the programs top undergraduate. Because of the four years wasted with a 2.8 and my lack of research, I shied away from applying to more prestigious programs. (A lack of confidence in my credentials is a trend of mine.) I got into my top school and I accepted it. This past year, I did very well academically. I managed straight As with one A-. (And that A- was a fluke. We had two exams of three problems each. Both exams I misread a problem and answered the wrong assumptions. On the final I got 0 points on the problem and on the midterm I got about half credit. Dropped me from an A to a high A-. At any rate...) I managed the highest grade on about 14/16 exams during my first year. Come time to find an advisor, I realized that the reason I came to this school (phenomenological particle physics) is no longer an interest of mine. I've become deeply interested in geometry and topology in physics. And nobody here works on those topics. So I've decided to transfer. I feel as if I'm intelligent enough to go anywhere. I'm quite confident that I've been the top student in every course I've taken. And my grades support that claim. However, I have no research and my recommendation letters probably say nothing more than "he does extremely well on tests." My pipedream is getting into a top school such as MIT/Caltech and doing work on something geometrical such as Calibi-Yau manifolds. I'm pretty confident that those caliber of schools will have enough applications with less risky applications than my own, however. I guess I would like some opinions about these few topics: 1. Should I retake the PGRE? Would a 970/980/990 as a second year grad student be a worthy improvement over a 900 as a second year physics student? Also of note, I'm currently only 3.5 years through my physics career. Not sure how that fact would play in. So my time as a physics student is still comparable to a normal undergrad. 2. How do you feel my transfer student label effects my application? I'm terrified of it. 3. Should I bother applying to top 5/10/20/30 schools or just try to bounce to another 45th ranked or so program? (Sorry for the overuse of rankings. I just would like a job in academia and I'm just playing off the trend that I've noticed where 99% of professors all went to top ten or so programs.) 4. Any other advice to improve my application? My lack of research history also terrifies me. At this point I could take some summer research position of "clean up my code" with no chance at publishing. I've chosen not to, however, in favor of self administering my own courses on differential geometry and general relativity from internet found syllabi. 5. Of course, any other advice/opinion is welcome.