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Graduate school applications: am I shooting too high?

  • #26
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You might want to shoot an e-mail off to some grad students (or if you were given a faculty/staff to contact with questions) at Oklahoma, unless there are some hanging around here. Your questions (especially about how rare it is to get an RA) are good ones.
 
  • #27
Dr. Courtney
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With that GPA, I'm surprised no research opportunities were available at your home institution. Students should not need REUs for research, good students should be able to find it at their home institutions.
 
  • #28
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I would go with where you've been accepted this year, provided you're confident that it's a good program. l don't put a whole lot of weight in rankings or prestige. What's important is that you'll have the opportunity to do good work there, and that you're going to learn from good instructors. Qualifying exams are going to be hard work regardless of where you get in. Where I'm from (Canada) it's common for grad students to TA pretty much the entire way through the PhD.

And the other factor to consider is that waiting a year could backfire. While you might do better on your GRE with the opportunity to study more and repeat, it doesn't sound like your other factors are going to change a whole lot. And what happens if you do worse next year? You'll have taken a year off and that will make it that much more difficult to get back into student mode.

I don't mean to argue that waiting is a *horrible* idea. It sounds like you're putting a lot of thought into it, and if that's what you really want to do, then go for it. But if you're just putting off attending a good program because it's not *perfect* there's a good chance you'll be in a similar situation next year.
 
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  • #29
You might want to shoot an e-mail off to some grad students (or if you were given a faculty/staff to contact with questions) at Oklahoma, unless there are some hanging around here. Your questions (especially about how rare it is to get an RA) are good ones.
I plan on writing a few today.
With that GPA, I'm surprised no research opportunities were available at your home institution. Students should not need REUs for research, good students should be able to find it at their home institutions.
Well, this is all my fault. I didn't switch to physics until after I started attending the school, which didn't have any active research while I was there (a new professor just started including students in his research this semester, after I've graduated). When I did switch to physics, I didn't do the legwork to realize exactly what you need to get into grad school until I began applying for REUs my junior year, and by then I only had 2 full semesters left, and I had no idea where I would transfer if I did, and I just figured I'd be fine to finish my degree there. Once I began applying to graduate schools, I finally wrapped my head around the entire process of physics education where I had been in the dark before. I just didn't have the understanding of the field that I needed to in time, which falls on my shoulders. Going back, I would go to a public research university for undergrad, but what's in the past is in the past. I can only move forward from here.
I would go with where you've been accepted this year, provided you're confident that it's a good program. l don't put a whole lot of weight in rankings or prestige. What's important is that you'll have the opportunity to do good work there, and that you're going to learn from good instructors. Qualifying exams are going to be hard work regardless of where you get in. Where I'm from (Canada) it's common for grad students to TA pretty much the entire way through the PhD.

And the other factor to consider is that waiting a year could backfire. While you might do better on your GRE with the opportunity to study more and repeat, it doesn't sound like your other factors are going to change a whole lot. And what happens if you do worse next year? You'll have taken a year off and that will make it that much more difficult to get back into student mode.

I don't mean to argue that waiting is a *horrible* idea. It sounds like you're putting a lot of thought into it, and if that's what you really want to do, then go for it. But if you're just putting off attending a good program because it's not *perfect* there's a good chance you'll be in a similar situation next year.
Ultimately this is where I'm at. Knowing me I could luck into research, get a much better GRE score, get into a great program, and then still not be satisfied because there will be "better" programs still out there, so this is just some of that feeling. The only blockade between me and doing research I really like to get a PhD and achieve a childhood dream is myself at this point. I can go to Oklahoma and make a name for myself if I put in the work.

Thank you all for the responses, by the way.
 
  • #30
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Knowing me I could luck into research, get a much better GRE score, get into a great program, and then still not be satisfied because there will be "better" programs still out there, so this is just some of that feeling
You're right to recognize that. You could improve things and get into Pitt, only to then think if you wait another year you can get into Notre Dame, ad infinitum. And, of course, there is no guarantee that you will better - or even as well - in a future admissions round.
 
  • #31
After emailing with some students, I get the idea that some professors can't support every student with an RA every semester so they have some TA, while the student still does research with their remaining free time (the TAing is ~20 hrs per week as usual) but the students also say that they have no delays in their progress and it really isn't a big deal. That doesn't seem like a perfect world scenario, but my profile is not one that deserves a perfect world scenario, so I really feel fine with that unless everyone tells me that it's a huge red flag...and I don't think it is, and the students don't think so either. So I feel pretty good. Also, I am confident that the stipend will be enough after a few more questions and a little more research.
 

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