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Admissions Graduate school applications: am I shooting too high?

  1. Dec 26, 2016 #1
    Hi everyone! This is my first post here, hopefully of many, as I love internet forums and physics. I just graduated from a small private university with a B.S. in physics (and a minor in mathematics)

    I'm finishing up my grad school applications. I'm having panic attacks almost every day, worrying about whether or not I totally missed the boat on the schools I have a chance at. I'm hoping you guys can help me out.

    My info:
    Overall GPA: 3.90/4.00
    In-major GPA: 3.92/4.00
    General GRE: Q:160, 76% V: 159, 82% Writing: 4.5, 82%
    pGRE: 640, 37% (no excuses, but I prepared for this the wrong way. will retake if everything goes poorly and I don't get into a school this year) ::frown:

    I applied for 14 REUs last summer, almost got into about 5, but they were ridiculously competitive. So no research. My letters of recommendation are very strong. I have some neat stuff on my applications including helping to start my school's astronomy club, which is now very active on campus and in the community, and helping with Mathcounts stuff.

    My grades are obviously my strong point. I have no delusions of a future at MIT or CalTech. These are the schools I've applied to so far:

    SUNY at Buffalo
    University of Rochester (I'm considering this a "reach")
    Lehigh University
    Stony Brook University (another reach)
    University of Pittsburgh
    Carnegie Mellon (reach)
    Kansas State University
    Colorado State University
    Arizona State University
    University of Oklahoma
    University of Utah
    University of Notre Dame (reach)
    Brandeis University

    I'm just about done, but I still have some time if I need to submit some more applications to lower-ranked schools than these. But I have no idea if I need to, or not. Can anyone help out? I'd like to at least have to make a choice between a couple schools. Have I adequately gauged my chances or do I need to apply to a few lower-ranked schools, asap?

    Thanks!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 26, 2016 #2

    ZapperZ

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    I think that you have made a realistic selection of schools. If it weren't for your GRE scores, I'd say that you could have aimed even higher. But these are a good group of schools that you have applied to with a fair range of competitiveness.

    Good luck!

    Edit: BTW, you didn't indicate if you already have an area that you intend to specialize in.

    Zz.
     
  4. Dec 26, 2016 #3
    Thanks for the reply, and for the luck!

    It's a shame, I didn't spend enough time studying and only took the last available test before this round of applications were due. I didn't do a good enough job finding out exactly how to get into grad school during my sophomore/junior years. I'm now ready for the decisions/process, but waiting and misunderstanding did its damage.

    If I retook the test I'd feel a lot better. My late preparation was much more focused on an understanding of the underlying principles, and not on how to solve pGRE questions efficiently. As a result I was spending way too much time doing calculations and second-guessing, with no tips or practice for fast test-taking, and I answered less than 50% of the questions...total test day meltdown. I got a good percentage of those correct, but it might have been the most embarrassing day of my life.
     
  5. Dec 26, 2016 #4
    To your edit, Zz:

    I'm not really sure what I want to do most, but I'm open to basically any area of study. I think I'd prefer astronomy/astrophysics, but I'm open to anything but biophysics. I'd rather not do solid state type stuff, but haven't indicated this on applications. They've all asked me to select areas of interest in no particular order and I've most often put astronomy/astrophysics, high energy, particle physics, relativity, etc.

    In short, I haven't been asked to be too specific yet outside of some personal statements, in which I've explained that astrophysics is preferred but that I'd be thrilled to do those others.
     
  6. Dec 26, 2016 #5

    ZapperZ

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    In which state do you live in, and have you included the top public schools in that state? Most public universities have a standing mandate to give preference to qualified in-state students.

    Zz.
     
  7. Dec 26, 2016 #6
    I'm in New York. UB, UofR, Stony Brook. What are other public schools in my range, do you think? Syracuse? RIT?
     
  8. Dec 26, 2016 #7

    ZapperZ

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    Those are it, I think.

    Also note that Stony Brook is nothing to sneeze at. It is as good as any Ivy Leaguers, in my book, especially if you include its connection to Brookhaven lab. So if you get an acceptance there, you should be very happy about it.

    Zz.
     
  9. Dec 26, 2016 #8
    Yeah, as far as I know it's the highest-ranked on my list. It's the "dream school." I'm not expecting it, but I was told by my adviser to include a few I don't think I have a shot at, if I have time, because why not?
     
  10. Dec 26, 2016 #9

    ZapperZ

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    I just remembered this: CCNY. This is another good school that you may want to apply to.

    Zz.
     
  11. Dec 26, 2016 #10
    Thanks for the help, Zz.
     
  12. Dec 26, 2016 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    I don't think you're shooting too high, but if I were you, I would shoot some more. Your list has a lot of small departments, and small departments don't admit as many students as large ones.

    You didn't do well on the PGRE, and when coupled with high grades, some committees are going to conclude "grade inflation". If your school has sent a lot of people to graduate school (like, e.g. a Kenyon or a Bates), that will mitigate this to a degree, because some committees will be able to normalize, at least relative to a previous applicant. If not, I think you will want to add some schools to your list.
     
  13. Dec 26, 2016 #12
    Thanks for the reply. I'll keep filling em out!
     
  14. Dec 26, 2016 #13
    Vanadium 50, do you have suggestions for other, larger programs that would fit the data I've provided?
     
  15. Dec 26, 2016 #14

    Vanadium 50

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    UC Riverside, Oregon State, maybe Wisconsin, maybe Michigan State as another reach. Maybe Maryland, Colorado, or Washington. Minnesota? Ohio State?
     
  16. Dec 26, 2016 #15
    Thank you!
     
  17. Dec 26, 2016 #16

    jtbell

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    University of Rochester is private, no? Maybe Albany? I agree with ZapperZ that Stony Brook is good, probably the best place for physics among the NY public universities.

    (I taught for a couple of years at a college near Albany, as my first job out of grad school many years ago.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2016
  18. Dec 27, 2016 #17
    You will soon be up to 1k in application fees.
     
  19. Dec 27, 2016 #18

    Vanadium 50

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    Your point being?
     
  20. Dec 27, 2016 #19
    better to be one k in fees than spend some more K in an institute you hate because you did not apply elsewhere
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2016
  21. Dec 27, 2016 #20
    I wouldn't suggest the OP do a graduate degree in science unless he has a TA position, so his degree should be "free" but regardless 15 applications seems excessive, borderline crazy.
     
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