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Schools Looking for grad schools in string theory/quantum gravity

I'm beginning to apply to grad schools (primarily in observational or computational cosmology and extragalactic astronomy) but have a deep interest in M-theory and quantum gravity although I haven't been able to study it. I very much enjoy theory and think that I would find studying M-theory or quantum gravity in grad school very fulfilling. However, I'm a bit overwhelmed by the number of grad schools available to apply to and how to choose which ones I would have a reasonable chance at getting into.

I'm completing my undergraduate degree at a moderately sized state school (not known for research). I have a GPA of 3.87, 800 quant, 5 AW and 890 PGRE score (84th percentile). I have about a year of research under my belt including a full time summer of research. However, the research isn't directly related to quantum gravity.

I'm absolutely open to move just about anywhere. I think I'd love to live somewhere else while attending grad school, so location isn't much of an issue. Where can I apply and have a reasonable chance of getting in?
String theory is an extremely competitive field. If this is what you really want to do, then you should apply to a lot of schools of all sorts of ranges.

Some great schools to consider in no particular order of ranking: USC, UC Berkeley, UCSB, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Rutgers, UPenn, UT-Austin, UMich-Ann Arbor.

These are some of the schools that come to my mind, but I am sure there are more. Look at faculty web pages, read their papers, and maybe consider sending emails asking if your faculty of interest is taking new students or not (also indicate your interest in working with them). This might save you from applying to a place just for a string theory; no point in applying if no one is accepting new students in the field.

Your stats are very good, but admission to top 10 is never guaranteed. What will set you apart from the rest would be your research accomplishments and letter of recommendations!

My only advice is to keep your mind open! Good Luck!

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