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PGRE + rec letters, saving grace for foreign students applying to US grad school?

  1. Jun 14, 2012 #1
    I recently got back my final marks for the first half of my courses (3rd year physics in Spain) and am getting a little frustrated at the fact that my marks don't reflect the work I've put into them. Grades in my country's system work as follows:

    "Aprobado" (5.0-6.9/10)
    "Notable" (7.0-8.9/10)
    "Sobresaliente" (9.0-10/10)
    "Matricula de Honor" (10/10 and top 5%, entirely up to the prof's discretion).

    I've already gotten some frustrating results where I end up getting something in the high 6's, but the "aprobado"/passed label it gets makes it look indistinguishable from a bare pass (5.0). My transcript will show the numerical grade however.

    I have long been searching for grade equivalences between US and Spanish universities but I have never come across anything official, so for now I'm assuming that my GPA translates into something "mediocre" by US standards (just below a 7.0 average), but I have taken several graduate level courses (and will take several more) as part of my curriculum and will be doing a final year thesis under a department head in my chosen field at a top 10 UK institution next year.

    I'm very serious about applying to US grad schools next year (thinking several state schools with programs in astrophysics/physics, have about 7 in mind) and will soon begin preparing for the pGRE which I'm confident I can do well in. I'm going to have to pool a lot of resources I don't really have into it... and I'd really like to know what my chances are if I can do above average on the pGRE (and GRE, and I'll also be taking the TOEFL as although I grew up in the US, my university is not English-speaking, so it is required). I will be getting some good rec letters from profs in the field including my final year project adviser.

    How does my situation look? Am I risking pooling a ton of money with zero chances of admission into 7-8 schools, even if I do well in the pGRE? I'm a legal US resident, does that give my chances of admission a boost compared to other foreign applicants who require a visa?

    Is it a good idea to email universities directly about my concerns? Perhaps ask if they've ever admitted students from my country and with what grades/pGRE grades? I'm fairly desperate here and I really don't have a clue what my chances are. I'd appreciate any help! Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 14, 2012 #2
    Express your concerns on PhysicsGRE.com. Something tells me there's more people who've just taken the PGRE or applied to grad school there...

    (I haven't started college yet, so take this with a pinch of salt...) I reckon it would be sensible if you mention the level of the courses you've taken somewhere on the application and also the grading system. If your rank, with respect to the rest of the graduating class is good, then that could probably work in your favour as well.
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