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Physics Graduate School Info?

  1. Aug 14, 2009 #1
    Im a junior physics major, i've been researching the web about physics grad programs. Honestly, they're not too informative. I was hoping people could post some info about graduate school here. If people could, im curious about what type of GPA, GRE, research, and internships they had and what graduate program they got into. Im taking the GRE next summer probably, im wondering what scores i should be shooting for. Thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2009 #2
    I'm not in grad school, but if you go to physicsgre.com and go to the prospective graduate student forum, you will find a topic entitled 2009 profiles or something of the sort. People listed their GPA, GRE scores, publications followed by what schools they applied to and if they were admitted to said schools.
  4. Aug 18, 2009 #3
    APS publishes a book called "Physics Graduate Programs 20xx"" every year (fill in the xx with whatever year it is). In it, they list basically every American physics graduate program along with the GPA and GRE information for every department. If your department has an undergrad physics club, they should have a copy lying around somewhere. Otherwise, I'm sure someone in your department's office will have a copy.
  5. Aug 19, 2009 #4
    I've noticed some things from looking at physicsgre.com (which is an amazing site with those profiles for information about grad schools/what to aim for during undergrad studies) and i've concluded some things. I was just wondering if someone could elaborate on them or tell my if i'm right or wrong about them:

    -The GRE matters a LOT more than your GPA
    -It helps you application immensely by graduating from a well known school
    -It's somewhat easier to get to a grad school in experiment rather than theory
    -Minoring in a foreign language helps your admission chances

    Any input would be great, thanks!
  6. Aug 19, 2009 #5
    I have a comment, but I'd like to make it off the record (i.e. I don't have evidence to back it up, it's just a hunch on my part).

    Most departments have far more experimental groups than theoretical groups. It stands to reason that grad schools admit students based on the number of available spots, and they wouldn't want to admit a student who wanted to work for group X if group X has no availabilities. But you're not required to specify what group you want to be in when you apply to grad school. So it stands to reason that being specific about who you want to work for isn't a good idea when submitting an application, unless you already know the professor and know that he/she wants to work in that specific group.

    When I was applying to grad school, I applied to a certain school specifying in my letter of intent that I wanted to work in space plasma physics. They rejected me, but I was accepted by another school with an overall higher standard of admission. I later found out that this school's space physics groups were already filled. Again, I don't want to make too many conclusions on the basis of one data point. But it does make you wonder...
  7. Aug 19, 2009 #6
    So if i interpret that right, you're basically saying that when you apply you should kind of just apply and take whatever you get? At least for schools with lower applicants accepted. It seems kind of odd to me that they don't make you specify what you specifically want to do while in grad school..
  8. Aug 19, 2009 #7


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    I'm highly skeptical of this. Grad schools all use different formulas for ranking applicants and the weights on the GRE vary, but the fact of the matter is that a GPA is the accumulation of four or more years of work. The GRE is a single test. Sometimes a great GRE score can compensate for a mediocre GPA, but I wouldn't count on it.

    Not that I've seen. My experience is that this idea is propogated by people who are trying to justify paying big money to go to a big name school.

    As pointed out this is usually a numbers issue.

    What? Hey, I've got some land for sale. Real cheap. They think there might be oil under it.[/QUOTE]
  9. Aug 19, 2009 #8
    Hahaha alright, like i said i'm just kind of looking at what i see from that website. But i am interested in that land...
  10. Aug 19, 2009 #9


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    True , There are enough statistics in the profiles thread to imply this. However lying on the second is morally dubious and you could likely end up in a situation in which the admitted A theory students who claimed an interest in theory and A spaces in theory groups available and you who claimed an interest in experimental but actually want to be in theory but there are no available positions in a theory research group so you either have to do experiment or not being able to obtain RA funding.
    False. Ive looked at the profiles and there is no reason to believe any of these statements there are not enough statistics and there is hardly any way to figure out the specifics in the profile. How do you look at a less than a handful of profiles that have research experience/minor in whatever/ and well known school and immediately be able to conclude with any certainty that well known school was the instrument of success especially when so much emphasis on research experience is discussed in grad school admission presentations.
  11. Aug 19, 2009 #10


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    GRE is super important if you have a bad score even with a 4.0 your not going to get into the top grad programs. The profiles show this, especially some of the repeat application profiles of students who reapplied after having a big score increase and research experience (no research papers in the intermitent year)who have gone from 3rd tier admissions to the very top schools.
  12. Aug 19, 2009 #11
    Yeah that's exactly what i saw. Basically, I thought it looked like a good GRE could make up for a bad GPA, but not the other way around.
  13. Aug 20, 2009 #12


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    if you change bad to average I totally agree.
  14. Aug 20, 2009 #13
    Mhm, i guess looking at those profiles 'bad' is about 3.3, but yeah i'd agree on average.
  15. Aug 20, 2009 #14
    This is just my personal thoughts - with no concrete evidence to back it up- but it would seem to me that the GRE could be considered to be more important than a GPA simply because it is standardized. The amount of work required to get an "A" in a given class could be fairly different between schools X and Y, but since all students hoping to go to physics graduate school take the physics GRE, it is a way to compare prospective students on an equal footing. So while GPA is important and a bad GPA is a bad GPA, is seems to me that more stress should be put on the GRE.
  16. Aug 20, 2009 #15
    Yeah, it's kind of funny actually. Hopefully these people with perfect applications are just over represented or else I'm going to have a hard time getting into a decent school, haha. Although, there are a couple of profiles that give me some hope.
  17. Aug 20, 2009 #16
    That's the feeling I get from the GRE too. Without it, there's no way to distinguish an MIT graduate from, say, a Bob Jones University graduate (we actually had that discussion on this forum a couple weeks ago). I hated taking the GRE, but at least it put me on equal footing with students from schools that practice grade inflation.
  18. Aug 20, 2009 #17
    Has anyone taken the GRE in here? If so, what level questions are on it? Or say, is it fair that the test can hurt your chances of getting into a reputable grad school if you do poorly?
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