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No REU Experience/Grad School Question

  1. Feb 12, 2013 #1
    Hi all,

    I'm a math/physics double major at a decent public university. I simply don't have time to do an REU this summer but I have really good credentials otherwise (I think :/). So I am wondering...is the whole lack of REU experience going to kill my chances of getting into an average/upper level grad school for theoretical physics? I'm hoping to enter Fall '14.

    --I kind of fooled around in freshman physics, but since then, I have straight A's in all of my upper level math and physics coursework.

    --I've fulfilled requirements for pure math BS and I've taken enough grad math classes in the last year to get a masters (can't genuinely get one due to a technicality at my univ.)

    --I've done mathematical physics research and presented at a handful of conferences plus the Joint Math Meetings poster session. Thesis might get published but not at all a guarantee.

    --Got A's in two semesters of graduate Quantum Field Theory.

    I've heard from my math friends that for math grad school, they essentially toss out your application if you don't have an REU. If I can study like crazy and get in the 80th-90th percentile on the physics GRE, do I still have some chance of getting into a good grad school without an REU?

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 12, 2013 #2
    I got into a few grad schools with no REUs and worse GRE scores with that. I'm not sure what you define as "good" though... I did have undergrad research, just not an REU. Generally I think REUs are more competitive than grad school. I applied to 10 REUs and got accepted to none. I applied to 7 grad schools and got accepted to 5 ranging from top 50 to top 20.

    I dont think they really care if your research was an REU or not, what is more important is what you did research on, whether or not you published/presented and what your adviser has to say about you in the recommendation letter.
  4. Feb 12, 2013 #3
    I'm not sure where your math friends heard about people tossing out applications for not having an REU. I've known people that were accepted into math graduate programs without an REU.
  5. Feb 12, 2013 #4
    Where did your friends hear about this throwing your application out nonsense? I had no REUs, in fact I had no research experience at all, yet I managed to get into several pretty good schools (well, I mean I was accepted to several, I am only going to one of course.) I think a lot of it has to do with what you say in your personal statements and your letters of reccomendation - though I have never been on any sort of admissions committee, do this is speculation.

    If I was on some sort of admissions committee I would value grad-level coursework over research experience. The reason is that I think people can do research programs with out actually doing a whole lot of research, which isn't a horrible thing. However, if you can get through a grad level course, I think this shows, more than doing an REU or research, (in most cases) that you are able to do grad school.
  6. Feb 13, 2013 #5
    Thanks guys! That eases my nerves a little.
  7. Feb 13, 2013 #6
    I'll be applying the same year as you and have a similar problem. Decent credentials grade-wise including a few graduate courses, but I'm highly lacking on research (I've done a couple of independent studies, but no actual research). My general impression is that math grad schools value graduate coursework over research, but physics grad schools love to see research.

    Which one are you applying for?
  8. Feb 13, 2013 #7
    I'd be ecstatic to get into an east coast Ivy but I very much doubt that will happen! I'll also apply to McGill in Montreal and some mid-level public universities in the States. What about you?
  9. Feb 14, 2013 #8
    I meant to ask whether you'll be applying for math or physics, seeing as you're well prepared to apply for either. I haven't decided exactly what schools I'm gonna be applying to but I think my approach is gonna be to take a look at both departments for a given school and see which one has more people doing stuff I'm interested in and apply to that department.
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