How to be attractive to physics grad schools

In summary: They'll look at your cumulative GPA, your coursework, your research, your letters of recommendation, and your extracurricular activities. All of these things matter.You also need to make a great impression in your interview. I know it's tough, but try to be genuine and passionate about what you do. If you can do that, you'll have a lot of luck.The most important thing is obvious: grades. Beyond just grades, a variety of factors come into play. Course workload is good, but not as important as you'd think. Unlike high
  • #1
grantwilliams
67
0
Hi I am a freshmen at university and I would love some advice on looking more attractive to graduate schools. (i have looked around on the forums and talked to professors individually about it, but I figured the more opinions the better)

I have been studying really hard and making A's on exams and quizzes

i have joined the physics society, and 2 different groups that help minority students work towards a doctoral or masters within STEM
I am starting to do research this first semester with a professor who is doing research in the field I am most interested in.

And if I have research done by this time next year i will have an opportunity to present it at a national conference.

I plan on applying for REU's this summer and the next.

My question is what else can i do to be more attractive to grad schools? I have really high hopes of going to a university like Caltech, MIT, or the University of Chicago, but I also understand how competitive they are and would like the best chance possible of being a competitive student.

Thanks-Grant
 
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  • #2
I think that's a bad attitude to have. Be active, passionate, compete with yourself and progress, maintain a possitive attitude. Other things, such as a prestigious graduate school, will come as a result with practically no direct effort towards them.
 
  • #3
It doesn't necessarily have to be a prestigious grad school, I'm just trying to make sure when the time comes to apply to grad schools I have the best chance possible of attending my dream school (whatever that may be). I didn't try very hard in high school and I was disappointed when i couldn't get into the college i wanted to the most, and I am just trying to make sure that won't happen again.
 
  • #4
I think you're doing the things you need to do...get good grades, do research, publish if you can, be active in your field. I would also look into taking graduate classes in your senior year (and make good grades in them as well)...do well in the GRE and you've got your bases cover
ed
EDIT: work with a couple faculty members throughout so they can write good letters if recommendation when the time comes to apply to grad school. Oh, and relax and enjoy the intellectual adventure awaiting you
 
  • #5
Obis said:
I think that's a bad attitude to have. Be active, passionate, compete with yourself and progress, maintain a possitive attitude. Other things, such as a prestigious graduate school, will come as a result with practically no direct effort towards them.
I think the OP has a great attitude. There is nothing wrong with being methodical and planning ahead. Doing that does not conflict with, and in fact enhances, the result of being passionate or "making progress"
 
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  • #6
jk said:
I think the OP has a great attitude. There is nothing wrong with being methodical and planning ahead. Doing that does not conflict with, and in fact enhances, the result of being passionate or "making progress"

Sometimes...this type of attitude can also be counterproductive in the sense that it constrains other important activities and behaviors (social life, hobbies, staying fit etc.).

To the OP, I wouldn't start worrying about this now (I'm in college too, so I understand). Just get good grades, stay active and enjoy your first year.
 
  • #7
Don't get me wrong, I spend plenty of time socializing, Working out at our fitness center, and seeing my family. I consider my life to be well balanced, I just also want to be competitive when it comes time for grad school. My long term goal is to be s tenured prefessor and I know how hard it is to get any kind of position in academia, so I want to do the best I can to be the most qualified for the job.
 
  • #8
grantwilliams said:
Don't get me wrong, I spend plenty of time socializing, Working out at our fitness center, and seeing my family. I consider my life to be well balanced, I just also want to be competitive when it comes time for grad school. My long term goal is to be s tenured prefessor and I know how hard it is to get any kind of position in academia, so I want to do the best I can to be the most qualified for the job.

Right on. Well, I have as much as personal experience with applying to grad school as you (none), but I can give advice. I've grown up with professionals in all fields of science and I've done a fair amount of research so I know a thing or two. The most important thing is obvious: grades. Beyond just grades, a variety of factors come into play. Course workload is good, but not as important as you'd think. Unlike high school where acing eight AP classes is essential, colleges tend to favor taking a few great classes and nailing them. Recommendations from professors is another important thing. When doing so, it's best to ask for recommendations from professors in whom you see the most personal connection, appreciation for your talent, and respect in the physics community (although you're 4-5 years away from worrying about this so I wouldn't worry).

Last -- but definitely not least -- do undergraduate research. At some schools like the one I'm at (UCSC), undergraduate research is easy to find because of the fact that it's highly regarded for undergraduate physical science/engineering research (public research institute). For schools that aren't public research based, I'm not sure. I've heard mixed things which means that it probably varies significantly from school to school. One thing I do know is that getting published reserach/work as an undergrad looks great to grad schools.
 
  • #9
You don't need to rush into grad school preparation just yet, I don't think you really need to obsess over finding research until you're further into your studies (though I guess starting early can't hurt). The extracurricular stuff has almost zero bearing on grad school apps (though they might help with NSF fellowship type things). The number one advantage to impressing application committees is impressing a professor with research. Even one glowing recommendation can make an enormous difference, and I think they're what distinguish the students who get no rejections.

There's also the obvious: GPA, PGRE, GRE. Those numbers have importance, and in that order (GPA will especially impress if you have lots of advanced electives/grad coursework). Maximize them. Once again, this is obvious; if your application without the numbers looks like somebody else's application, but your numbers are simply higher than your competitor's numbers, you win. People complain about this system, which is funny because it's obviously the only way the admissions committee can function.

I sympathize with the post because I did subpar in high school and was barely accepted into my in-state public school for undergrad. I was also determined to succeed, and ended up being accepted into every graduate school I applied to (all top 15's). I was also able to party on weekends, make tons of friends outside physics, date girls, and play in a band that did fairly well locally. Obviously I'm still extremely far away from being a tenured professor, but it's good to know that your entire life isn't dictated by how you did in high school.
 

1. How important are grades for getting into physics grad school?

Grades are definitely an important factor when applying to physics grad schools. A strong academic record, particularly in physics and math courses, can demonstrate your aptitude for the subject and your ability to excel in a rigorous academic environment. However, grades are not the only factor considered and a lower GPA can be offset by other strengths in your application.

2. What kind of research experience do I need for physics grad school?

Research experience is highly valued in physics grad school applications. It shows that you have hands-on experience with scientific methods and can contribute to current research in the field. However, the type of research experience is not as important as the skills and knowledge you gain from it. Any research experience, whether it be in a lab or through a project, can strengthen your application.

3. Is it necessary to have a physics undergraduate degree to get into physics grad school?

While it is not a strict requirement, most physics grad schools prefer applicants with an undergraduate degree in physics or a related field. This is because a strong foundation in physics is essential for success in a graduate program. However, some schools may consider applicants with a strong background in math or engineering, as long as they have taken relevant physics courses.

4. How important is the GRE for physics grad school admissions?

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is an important part of the application process for many physics grad schools. It is used as a standardized measure of your verbal, quantitative, and analytical skills. While a high score can certainly strengthen your application, it is not the only factor considered and a lower score can be offset by other strengths in your application.

5. What other factors do physics grad schools consider in applications?

In addition to grades, research experience, and test scores, physics grad schools also consider letters of recommendation, personal statements, and any relevant extracurricular activities or achievements. These factors can demonstrate your passion for physics, your ability to work well in a team, and your potential for future success in the field.

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