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Graduate schools suggestions

  1. Jul 31, 2008 #1
    I'm in the final year of my undergraduate studies. My GPA is about 2.5, I have done research (but no paper), I have excellent recomendations and I will sit for the TOEFL and GRE, general and subject - physics test in the next few months. I am interested in experimental high energy physics and I started sending applications to the following schools: MIT, Caltech, Columbia, Cornell. I understand that maybe I have no chance in some of them and I want to send applications and to other schools where the probability of admission is higher. So I need school suggestions and how many applications do you believe I should send?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 31, 2008 #2
    Well, I'm in the same position as you in looking for a graduate school. I don't know if this is the very best thing to do, but I'm looking at all my "dream" schools, making a list of the 10 ten choices for me, then I will narrow it down to about 4 to apply to. I'm using the AIP 2007 graduate programs booklet (they're online at http://www.gradschoolshopper.com/). It's a very handy book and gives you all the statistics it can, like minimum required undergrad GPAs, typical physics GRE scores, etc.

    I only will apply for schools I feel I have a reasonable chance at acceptance (and MAYBE one or two really good schools just for the hell of it) because the applications all cost money, all along with the cost of the GRE, sending the GRE scores etc. It can become rather expensive. I know if I only applied to MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Cornell, etc, there's a chance I'd get in, but more than likely they'd just have a good laugh at me :rofl: It's not as important to go to a school with a big name as to go to one with 1) research in your field of interest, 2) an advisor you can work with, because a good school may JUST have the name if there's nothing special in their physics department or the research isn't suited to you.

    That being said, it doesn't hurt to dream either... I'm still going to apply to Chicago and maybe Princeton! :cool: Good luck with your GREs!
  4. Jul 31, 2008 #3
    you should definitely apply to more schools. Not to discourage you or anything, but the schools on your list are all VERY competitive (as i'm sure you know already).
    Do you have recommendations from someone with connections to the schools you are applying to? that would help.
    look for school with good HEP researches, like quasar_4 said, gradschoolshopper is a good source. also you can go to physicsgre.com and look at the profile thread to see examples of what kind of application profiles got accept into which school.
    choose some safety school, which i am trying to do right now.
    i'm planning to apply to about 10 schools, just because i'm getting really nervous lol. i know it's very expensive :frown:

    I'm contemplating whether to apply to Princeton or not. I love the school so much, but the chance of getting in makes it seems pointless, and i'm not even sure i would wanna stay there for many years if i get accepted. arr but the school is so nice, i'm confuse :rolleyes:
  5. Jul 31, 2008 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    This is a 2.5 GPA out of 4.0? To get into any decent graduate school with a 2.5 out of 4.0 will be difficult. You will need outstanding test scores, and letters from well regarded physicists that have phrases like "the best I have ever seen".

    I think it's also worth looking not just at the overall fame of a school, but how well regarded it is in the field you are planning on studying. For example, the entering physics coordinators for the LHC experiments are from UCSB and I think Chicago. The spokesperson of the MINOS experiment is from Stanford, and one of the D0 spokespeople is from Northeastern. The point is that there are a number of excellent people at schools other than the ones you mentioned, and what matters most is one's advisor, not some nebulous general impression of institutional quality.

    Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Stony Brook, Berkeley, those are all great schools for HEP that are not on your list.
  6. Jul 31, 2008 #5
    If graduate school is really what you want to do (is it?), I would suck it up and pay to apply to many schools. Take a loan or whatever if you need to. There's basically 2 possibilities:

    1) You only get accepted to 1 or 2. In this case its damn good you applied to so many, otherwise you wouldn't have gotten in anywhere.

    2) You get accepted to a lot, in which case they basically give you a free weekend vacation flying you out there. Its a $50 application fee for flight and hotel stay for a couple days, you get to check out a new town and hang out with the graduate students there and have a good time (and obviously meet with the professors there), which is a good deal however you slice it.
  7. Jul 31, 2008 #6
    You'll need to be careful with that GPA. Several of the schools that I applied to had a posted minimum GPA of 3.0. Even if your application doesn't get tossed out for it, a 2.5 is going to be a serious hurdle, and you better have a good explanation (i.e. not an excuse).
  8. Jul 31, 2008 #7


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    Most grad schools, in every subject, set a minimum GPA of 3.0 for applicants. That's because you have to maintain a 3.0 in grad school to remain enrolled in the program, and grad school is a lot more demanding than undergrad - a 2.5 tells them you can't handle it. A good way to get over that hurdle would be acing a couple of graduate-level physics classes before you apply to grad schools. If you don't get into any this year (and you are aiming wayyyy too high with your GPA - most of those schools turned me down with a 3.7 and a publication), take a few courses as a non-degree student at a school you're interested in and apply again there. If you do well, I've seen a few people get in this way even when their undergrad GPA was low.

    Good luck, and look around a bit more. There are more than 100 grad schools for physics in the US, and the rankings are highly correlated with the number of students they graduate every year. Small schools with good programs may be ranked near the bottom because they only graduate a few students a year, but may have one or two well-known scientists on staff. For example, Montana State isn't ranked in the top 100 for physics grad schools, but has key members of the LISA team and one of the top solar groups in the country.
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