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How to get into a top graduate school from an unknown university?

  • #26
IGU
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Specifically, I wanna be an Astrophysicist, ...
One of the things about being young is that almost everything you believe you know is wrong. There's a pretty good chance you'll find out that other things interest you more than astrophysics. So having quality people and departments available, even in areas that don't currently interest you, is important. Dismissing this is a sure sign of, well, being young.

As for going to a lesser regarded institution, there are many advantages to being a big fish in a small pond. If you're good, then you'll get lots of attention from professors. When you ask if you can work in their labs, they'll say yes. When you ask if they would be willing to supervise a reading course on a topic for which no class is available, they'll say yes. Take advantage of these things and everybody will be happy.
 
  • #27
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
2019 Award
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However, I think we can all agree that UT Arlington is really not all that known.
Sorry, but just because you don't know it doesn't mean it's unknown. Dave Nygren is there for heaven's sake!
 
  • #28
296
28
There are several points I want to make:

1. Things may be different in India (with their IIT system), but universities in the US with strong engineering programs (particularly those that tend to have strong research programs in engineering) tend also to have strong science programs.

2. Related to #1, physicists, particularly those who specialize in condensed matter physics or optics, are often deeply involved in research involving nanotechnology. So if a school is renowned for nanotechnology, then I would strongly suspect it would be well known for physics research as well.

3. You state that you are interested in astrophysics/astronomy, but there are many different areas of research in physics, so keep an open mind in terms of what types of research opportunities are out there. It may well be the case that you might develop interest in a completely different area of physics than what you had thought.

4. The 2 examples I highlighted about UTA alumni were specifically those who distinguished themselves in science & technology.

5. Most important of all (and as someone who has already posted), rankings in QS are weighted very heavily toward research, which is really not that important for you when pursuing your undergraduate degree. At this stage, the most important factor you need to take in is which school offers you a chance to learn. In that respect, UTA is about as good a school as any. The fact that a school is ethnically diverse indicates that the school is open and welcoming, which would make you feel comfortable and at home. You may not think that is important to you, but feeling comfortable and welcome at school is important if you have to live on campus day in and out. Those personal factors are just as important as how renowned the research is in a given field.
Makes perfect sense (all of the points). Thank you so much! :)

Also, the 3 point is especially important. I've always thought that I wanna do Physics, but was never quite sure which area in Physics I wanted to pursue and then I took some courses in Astronomy from ANU online and was hooked. But you are right, I haven't had enough exposure in different areas in Physics so I can't really be sure of what I really wanna do.
 
  • #29
296
28
As for going to a lesser regarded institution, there are many advantages to being a big fish in a small pond. If you're good, then you'll get lots of attention from professors. When you ask if you can work in their labs, they'll say yes. When you ask if they would be willing to supervise a reading course on a topic for which no class is available, they'll say yes. Take advantage of these things and everybody will be happy.
That's absolutely true and I agree 100%. I watched a video a while back which researched the top universities' students vs. not-so-top universities' students and searched for how many publications they had. It turned out the top students at a lower ranked university had more publications than the mid-level or bottom level students at top universities. So I guess it really is important how competitive your peers are and it makes perfect sense to me that it'd be much better and more helpful if I could get an edge over others in that respect.
 
  • #30
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28
Sorry, but just because you don't know it doesn't mean it's unknown. Dave Nygren is there for heaven's sake!
I know and that's why I said:

And okay, I agree, maybe it is a renowned institution
And what about all of those logical and reasonable things I said about rankings?
 
  • #31
1,009
303
That's absolutely true and I agree 100%. I watched a video a while back which researched the top universities' students vs. not-so-top universities' students and searched for how many publications they had. It turned out the top students at a lower ranked university had more publications than the mid-level or bottom level students at top universities. So I guess it really is important how competitive your peers are and it makes perfect sense to me that it'd be much better and more helpful if I could get an edge over others in that respect.
Be careful that you are only comparing universities with a graduate program. A lot of not-so-top universities do not have graduate students, so it makes sense that undergraduates are coauthors on papers more frequently.
 
  • #32
296
28
Be careful that you are only comparing universities with a graduate program. A lot of not-so-top universities do not have graduate students, so it makes sense that undergraduates are coauthors on papers more frequently.
Oh no, in that particular research, they looked at only research institutes, there were no liberal arts colleges. And they were comparing SAT scores VS publications.
 

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