I'm browsing through some acceptances posted by prospective graduate students here: http://www.physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4274 and there are some guys with very close to 4.0 GPAs and great GRE scores along with pretty good research experiences and letters of recommendations that are getting rejected from top schools when other students with lower GPA and GRE scores but with similar research experience are getting accepted to them. The only real difference I noticed is the field within Physics they applied for. When applying to a department in general, how much does the sub-department you're applying for matter? For example, in Physics they have different sub-fields such as AMO Experiment, HEP, Plasma Physics, Condensed Matter, etc. If those students who got rejected applied to a different field (and possibly done their research in a different area), would that have affected their application?