My Chances for these Physics PhD schools

  • #1
Greetings, guys!

I'm trying to decide which PhD school I should apply so that my chances of acceptance will be higher. I just received my PGRE score - 910 (85th percentile). However, since I'm an international applicant, I don't know if that is a good score or not. I have a Bachelor's degree in Physics (3.72 GPA) and EE engineering from a greek university and a Master's degree in physics.
GRE: 170 Quant, 152 Verbal, and 3.5 in AW.
I have research experience in quantum sensing, which resulted in publications in Physical Review B, and Physical Review A. On one of them I was a lead author. I'm expecting strong recommendation letters and all of them are research-based letters.
I'm applying mainly to quantum computing and information schools. However, my recent PGRE score gave me doubts about my success.
Here are the universities I decided to apply:

University of Maryland, College Park
University of Southern California,
Washington University in St. Louis
Pittsburgh University
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Dartmouth College
Louisiana State University

One weak point might be that I had to take a gap year after Master's graduation due to family problems, and I'm working as a teacher right now.

How would you evaluate my chances? Should I choose slightly lower ranked schools than these?

Thank you in advance for any feedback!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Dr. Courtney
Education Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
2020 Award
3,289
2,447
I'd ask those who are writing your recommendation letters if your list of schools seems reasonable. They are the only ones who know what is in those letters, and they also likely can assess the meaning of your GPA given the reputation of your school. I don't think the gap year will hurt you, and the range of schools does not seem blatantly unreasonable. But those who actually know what is in your recommendation letters will give better advice than strangers on the internet.
 
  • #3
747
55
One weak point might be that I had to take a gap year after Master's graduation due to family problems, and I'm working as a teacher right now.
I wouldn't consider this a weak point at all, so don't worry about it. People, especially in academia, are generally very understanding of people who have gone through difficult situations in life. Besides, if they discriminate against you because of this, would you really want to go study in an institution with such a lack of empathy?

Your previous contributions to publications will stand you in very good stead.

Good luck!
 
  • Like
Likes eternalserv and WWGD
  • #4
I'd ask those who are writing your recommendation letters if your list of schools seems reasonable. They are the only ones who know what is in those letters, and they also likely can assess the meaning of your GPA given the reputation of your school. I don't think the gap year will hurt you, and the range of schools does not seem blatantly unreasonable. But those who actually know what is in your recommendation letters will give better advice than strangers on the internet.
Thank you, Dr. Courtney. I asked them, and they said that I should go for it. I just wanted additional external feedback, as in general people here give decent advice.
 
  • #5
WWGD
Science Advisor
Gold Member
5,419
3,680
Thank you, Dr. Courtney. I asked them, and they said that I should go for it. I just wanted additional external feedback, as in general people here give decent advice.
Have you considered looking for people in the schools you're applying to that are working in your areas of interest? They may help make it easier for you to get in.
Just remember not to include the avatar you use here as a picture in your application! :).
 
  • Like
Likes Dr. Courtney
  • #6
Have you considered looking for people in the schools you're applying to that are working in your areas of interest? They may help make it easier for you to get in.
Just remember not to include the avatar you use here as a picture in your application! :).
Do you mean potential supervisors? I heard some contradictory opinions about contacting potential supervisors in the US. Usually, people say that it's good to contact them, but after all the admission decision is made by the faculty and professors don't have that much influence. Or sometimes they could tell "Go through the usual admission process, and if you're admitted we can talk". That's why I'm a bit hesitant contacting them.
 
  • #7
analogdesign
Science Advisor
1,140
354
Do you mean potential supervisors? I heard some contradictory opinions about contacting potential supervisors in the US. Usually, people say that it's good to contact them, but after all the admission decision is made by the faculty and professors don't have that much influence. Or sometimes they could tell "Go through the usual admission process, and if you're admitted we can talk". That's why I'm a bit hesitant contacting them.
It really depends on the advisor and the school. Where I went to school I met with my future advisor before applying (and also did for another school I got into but didn't attend). I don't think there is any downside to reaching out to people well aligned to your interests. If they tell you "if you're admitted we can talk" you lose nothing, but if after interacting with you they decide they want you in their group, I assure you professors have a good amount of leverage to get people they want admitted (as long as they are qualified) and also to get financial aid.
 
  • Like
Likes eternalserv and WWGD
  • #8
WWGD
Science Advisor
Gold Member
5,419
3,680
Besides, you are likely to run into these profs at the dept or at some social function. This gives you an ice breaker, a topic to use when you run into them. "Oh, yes, you were the one interested in topic xyz. You sent me an email..." And you take it from there.
 
  • Like
Likes eternalserv and analogdesign
  • #9
Thanks for your suggestions. I will then contact them soon. However, don't they receive multiple emails in a week from such applicants? Do you have to say something original related to their research in order to stand out from the crowd? Or just expressing interest is enough?
 
  • #10
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
26,158
9,543
First, don't be a pest. If you come off as obnoxious and pesty, nobody will want you in their labs.
Second, read the replies carefully - some of the replies are clearly intended to be post-enrollment.
Third, the bar for a professor to "meddle" with the grad admissions committee is "I want this student, and I want her badly enough to forego other students in my field". That's a pretty high bar.
 
  • #11
analogdesign
Science Advisor
1,140
354
They do receive a lot of emails, and i agree not to come across as a pest. In my latest hire I had one applicant email me every few days while we were going through the process. This did not help him.

If you are going to contact a professor I would recommend a very brief focused email that is targeted to the heart of why you want to work with this individual. Something very roughly like, "My name is X and I'm planning to start my PhD studies in the Fall. I have been truly fascinated by the work coming out of your lab on clock and data recovery, in particular your student X's paper on blind equalization in the last Solid-States Circuits conference. This is exactly the type of work I want to do, and I bring to the table extensive coursework and internship experience in mixed-signal clocking circuits, a strong work ethic, and a passion for making practical circuits that work. I would love to attend School X and contribute to the success of your lab. If you have a moment, I would love to hear what it takes for a student to succeed in your lab and how I can improve my candidacy to join your research group".

I got an email like this once (only once) and that person became my postdoc a few months later. I have received a few other more generic emails that didn't even demonstrate the candidate knew anything about my research (or had put the effort in to read one of my papers). Those students were not helped by email me (but they weren't hurt by it either).
 
  • Like
Likes eternalserv
  • #12
Thank you, guys! I will try not to be an annoying pest and write a good letter without including my avatar ;).
One question though. What kind of things in the email make one look like a pest?
 
  • #13
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
26,158
9,543
Lack of content.
An "it's all about me" attitude.
Repetition.
 
  • Like
Likes analogdesign
  • #14
WWGD
Science Advisor
Gold Member
5,419
3,680
For the sake of context, I exchanged emails on some paper he had written for a long period of time with a prof. with substantial research background. I made sure to not waste his time, get to the point ( these are very busy people!) , read his replies carefully, asked specific questions, research things I did not understand from his replies, stayed on topic. He could tell I was being serious and interested in his research, respectful, not treating him like a pal, but as a someone who was giving my time. I thanked him at the end of every email. This will, I believe, give you your best shot. Most people, including profs, like to share things that interest them, but they want to do so with those that are serious, know what they are talking about and respect them and their limited time availability.
 

Related Threads on My Chances for these Physics PhD schools

Replies
4
Views
999
Replies
15
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
8
Views
988
Replies
13
Views
1K
Replies
13
Views
818
Replies
17
Views
8K
Replies
2
Views
980
Replies
1
Views
2K
Replies
4
Views
3K
Top