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Programs Looking for Advice for Next Round of REUs

  1. Mar 17, 2017 #1
    As march begins to wrap up, I'm realizing that I will probably spend the summer without an REU position. I realize as a freshman, I was probably too ambitious in my applications, nonetheless I do not want to make any of the same mistakes again. I have already compiled a spreadsheet of 20 REUs that will probably be offered 2018. I'm asking for advice on where to improve my application?
    As a freshman I am currently in Linear Algebra and Differential Equations as well as a Theoretical (Mathematical) Methods course and and intro to Modern(Quantum) course.(4.0 GPA for first semester). I have experience with IDL, Python, C++, and MatLab, so I have some computer expertise. This semester I am continuing an astronomy research project and beginning a project with a professor at my home institution and at Oak Ridge. So I imagine(hope) that my applications met some minimum thresholds of coursework and skills. Where I must have faltered, I imagine my essays were weak or that my letters of recommendation were weak. I think over the next year and a half I will be able to strengthen my relationships with professors in order to improve on those letters. Does anyone have any advice on writing stronger essays? What other advice could people offer?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 17, 2017 #2
    From what I understand, most places are hesitant to give freshmen research projects as REU students simply because they don't have the research/academic background necessary to both catch up and contribute in a summer (since everyone will need to do both, and many struggle to do it in the ~10 week time span. I think it's pretty standard for students to begin research at their home institution and really get grounded there before looking elsewhere for summer projects.
  4. Mar 18, 2017 #3


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    It sounds like you will be fine. It's more than likely be more productive this summer working at home than at an REU. While it is nice to do one in that you get to experience another institution, they are definitely not necessary to get into a great grad school. There are a lot of other factors in admissions that are involved that may put you at a disadvantage for getting one. For example, people tend to come from smaller schools, so if you from a big university you will be at a disadvantage. They also give preference to underrepresented groups and have an a artificially high number of women. So being rejected from a schools REU has no bearing on your admission to that school for grad school, although doing an REU there can help a lot in making connections (for example if they really like you they may actually ask you to apply to their grad program).
  5. Mar 18, 2017 #4


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    If you're already involved in two research projects as a freshman, there's a lot to be said for focussing on the work that you're doing rather than worrying about other work that you could get involved in. Unless there is a very specific project that you're pining over, you'll probably get much more out of a project at your home institution that you can stay involved with over several years than one where you spend most of the summer climbing a learning curve.
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