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Graduate schools for Condensed Matter Physics

  1. Aug 11, 2012 #1
    Hi, I am planning on applying to graduate school for condensed matter physics. I'm not entirely sure how I should narrow down my choices though.

    I have a good GPA, three summers of research experience in different areas (though no publications as of yet, but hoping to have one possibly before the end of the year) and I believe I can get good recommendation letters from Professors.

    SO I think I have at least a *reasonable* chance of getting into a decent program, but how does one know which programs are good or not? One idea I had was to just apply at schools where I see authors of good or influential papers in the field are located, but I'm not sure how smart that is.

    Is there rankings based on specific sub-fields that in *your* opinion are reliable? Maybe there exists websites where grad students can pitch or warn against their school of choice?


    Any tips appreciated.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 11, 2012 #2
    This is always a tough decision to make. Looking at authors of papers is a good way to decide, but unless you're an exception to the rule, you probably won't have enough background in the field to really know which papers really intrest you when you're deciding on grad school. There are rankings, e.g. US News, but I don't put very much stock in them. I find that they're more a ranking of the program's reputation rather than the actual program, and they tell you more about how impressed people will be by your degree than the education you'll receive.

    My advice would be to NOT narrow down your list (lol). Just apply to a ton of schools. 10 is pretty much a lower limit. Grad school apps aren't that tough to churn out, so why not? Then once you see where you've been accepted, your list will be automatically narrowed. Then you can look into each department more in-depth and you can visit/call individual professors and they'll be much more willing to talk to you once you've been admitted.

    Maybe you have SUPER good grades and you'll get accepted to Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Princeton, Berzerkeley, and the handfull of other top-notch schools. They are all stellar so you'd be happy anywhere. Just look at them individually: the faculty, the program, where you'd be living, etc. But most of us don't get that privilege.
     
  4. Aug 14, 2012 #3
    Thanks for the advice, I like your idea of applying to a lot and letting the graduate committee take a lot of the decision out of my hands. I don't know if that's feasible or not though if most schools require an expensive application fee.

    I don't think I'll bother applying to a top 5 program, not because I don't think I can get in but because I just don't think I want to deal with the hyper-competitive atmosphere and the enormous pressure those places put on their students. I want to go to a good school, but not someplace I'm expected to work 80 hours a week just to survive.
     
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