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Is it worth me applying to US grad schools?

  1. Aug 25, 2005 #1

    I'm a UK undergrad in his final year and I'm just trying to figure out whether it would be worth me applying to grad schools in the US. I've doent the research and compiled a list of school but I'm starting to wonder whether I'm wasting my time and should just consider applying for a PhD at UK universities. Every where I read people saying that research experience is very important but I don't know anyone at my university who's and undergrad and has done research during the summer months say. In our final year (of 4 year MPhys) we do undertake a research project (Mine will be investigating virtual substrates in semiconductors) but that is standard for our course. Also when do people usually apply for the GRE general and subject tests and when do people usually take them? How much preparation is required for them? These are my main concerns really. From what I've read by browsing the forums it seems that US students who apply for PhD's at grad schools are really high callibre students when compared to us in the UK. It seems a daunting prospect applying to schools along with 500 or so other students. What are my chances? I'm currently expecting a first class pass in my Mphys degree but it would seem that this doesn't really matter as everyone who applies will have high scores in their classes.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 25, 2005 #2


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    I'm only a junior engineering student, so I don't have much experience with this, but I would say to keep in mind that there is a big difference between how selective schools are. It is really hard to get into the big name schools like MIT and CalTech, but there are other schools of good quality that are less selective. If you apply to schools at different levels you can choose the best one that accepts you.

    It is recomended that people take the GRE's in over the summer of there junior year. This way you know a lot and still have time to retake them. If you want to know how much preparation is required you can download a practice test from the GRE website. They have a full program to simulate the GRE general test, but only PDF's for the subject tests. For the general test they also give you statistics about how your score compares statistically with others. They don't have this for the subject test, which is annoying because the number really doesn't mean anything by itself. I would not worry too much about the general test because as long as you are good at math you will be up around 790 or 800 which is perfect, so the test really can't make distinctions between people who are really good at math and people who are really really good at math.
  4. Aug 25, 2005 #3

    Hmm I was told by my career advisors that i should take it in november that's the general and subject test, I guess it makes sense to take it in the summer so it can be taken again if needed. problem is I was hoping to apply for fall admission in 2006 which is why I am panicking slightly lol. I read that students in the US prepare upto 6 months in advance...I'm left with 2/3...

    Is there anyone in the UK who is planning on applying for fall 2006 admission? Or has applied previously? It's very unsettling when there is no one to turn to who has been through or is going through the same thing you are as none of my friends are planning on applying to US schools.
  5. Aug 26, 2005 #4

    matt grime

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    I think you have the wrong impression of those who attend US grad schools. True, getting in to Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Berkley et al would require you to be exceptional since the competition for admission there is high, but going to (picking an example purely at random, don't take offence if you happen to be there or are an alumnus or something) Oklahoma State, which I imagine to be a perfectly good school, is an easily done thing. Indeed they might be crhying out for (probably better educated) international students (though you may get some crap teaching loads). The education you get there will be potentially better than in the UK, but that would depend on where you were thinking of in the UK. Entrance to schools of comparable quality is slightly easier in the US *but only because they have more places* before anyone starts to accuse me of dsimissing them as less strict (approximately 8-1 in the ratios of best 100 universities for research according to the latest poll, and US universities tend to be larger, so perhaps 16-1 in the number of palces offered, numbers are complete speculation though based on experience, guess work and extrapolation).
  6. Aug 27, 2005 #5
    True True... Do you know where I can found information on the acceptance rates of international students for US schools?

    My main worry at the moment in the GRE.. I've STARTED studying for it even though I'm unsure about whether I actually want to attend an American University.. I read webpages on how people begin preparation 6 months prior to taking the test and I don't believe I have suffiecient time to prepare for it which is why I'm reconsidering actually applying for it.
  7. Aug 27, 2005 #6

    matt grime

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    Oh, please, GRE's are just a hoop to jump through and a a complete waste of time. yo'ud have to try to fail them; i think i dropped 10 marks in about 1800 without doign any prep for them, they are just elementary logic puzzles and the like, of course if you are the kind of person who thinks sudoku is hard then you probably ought to do some work. my warning would be beware that american english is different from english and not just in a "color v. colour" way. try reading the NY times or something online to get used to the *style* of writing.

    to give you some idea of the problems it they are along the line of Alice, Bertie and Charlie work in a burger bar. if charlie works the grill then bertie must wash up, if it's wednesday, then Alice is on the till, if alice isn't washing up then chalie washes up. it's thursday so what colour underwear does bertie have on?

    i'd imagine, ourside of the top schools like MIT and co that the rejection rates of intelligent suitably qualified UK graduates is practically zero: most places are keener to have students than you'd think, it is in their interests to take students. the moral is if you're suited to research (ie if your references are good) then you will be able to find a place to go, just like the UK, only you get paid slightly more and have a better standard of living. it may just take you longer to get a phd and you may have to do more legwork on qualifier courses and attending lectures and such.
  8. Aug 28, 2005 #7
    Hey Matt,

    That's why I ask because personally I don't know anyone who has ever taken them so I'm just going by what I've read on forums like this. It's just remembering long lists of words that a physicist, or any other normal person for that matter, would need to use in their entire lives... It seems completely pointless like you said BUT it's a hoop that people need to jump through if they want to attend these schools.

    None the less I'll continue my prep, get the appropriate books etc after phoning them on Tuesday.

    I would like to hear from anyone else who has taken these two tests just their experiences and how they found it.

  9. Aug 28, 2005 #8
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2005
  10. Aug 29, 2005 #9

    matt grime

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    Different universities in teh States have different deadlines, you need to check waht instutions accept scores and when (plus you need to tel the GRE people to which schools to send the results).

    The simple mantra is if you re good enoug to get into university X in this country (the UK) then you will get the GRE scores to egt into a school of equivalent status in the US. Learning long lists of words? Yeah, i seem to recall that kind of thing, but they really aren't very difficult are they? Hte (flawed) idea of GRE's and such is that you don't need to revise for them and that revision doesn't help you. If you are someone with a mindset that is capable of doing research then you will pass them. Try doing the online samples before you start to panic too much about them.
  11. Aug 29, 2005 #10
    "Hte (flawed) idea of GRE's and such is that you don't need to revise for them and that revision doesn't help you"

    I looked at the maths section and I know I probably won't need to do much revision for that.. I'll probably just go through a few techniques once just in case. My english is pretty good, I can pick up new words quite easily but having to remember 3000+ wordsseems a bit daunting but most people seem to score between 550-700 from what I've heard which I believe for me is quite feasible. I'm less stressed over them than I was when I first started this thread. I really want to order a GRE guide from amazon today so I can hopefully receive it tommorow. I think that will be a great help.

  12. Aug 29, 2005 #11

    matt grime

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    why do you think that you qwill need to memorize 3000+ new words? why don't you think that some will be known to you already, some will be obvious, and some deducible. remember GRE's are mutliple choice. but then i may be underestimating this cos i'm one of those odd people that does cryptic crosswords.
  13. Aug 29, 2005 #12
    Well it's better for me in my planning to assume that I don't know the words rather than to think that I do - it's just safer that way.

    (P.S could someone tell me which book fromt he list on amazon i should get?)
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2005
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