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Physics safety grad schools

  1. Jun 24, 2011 #1
    Hello all,
    What are some safety physics grad schools, preferably in California. (I have 3.4 GPA). I'm going into spintronics/condensed matter. Right now I am applying to
    UCSB, Stanford, UCB, Caltech. Obviously all are quite a reach for me, so I am looking for some good safety schools.

    Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 24, 2011 #2
    I know that UCSC has some spintronics going on, and they're probably easier to get into than your current list. You should also look into the other UCs, they're all probably easier to get into for CM than SB and B (LA possibly being an exception). Add USC to your list and then you're looking at essentially all the physics grad programs in CA.
  4. Jun 25, 2011 #3

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    The concept of a "safety school" isn't really there in grad schools.

    The difference in quality among graduate schools is much smaller than the difference at the undergraduate level. Only about 4% of colleges in the US offer a PhD in physics, so in a sense you are looking at the difference between schools in the 95th percentile and schools in the 99th percentile.

    Additionally, unlike at the undergraduate level, not everyone gets in somewhere. People have questioned this here, but the fact is that more than twice as many people take the Physics GRE than are admitted into a PhD program. This is, of course, related to the first point.

    It's good that you are thinking about multiple schools - but thinking of them as "safety schools" may mislead you.
  5. Jun 25, 2011 #4


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    I attended two physics grad schools, both ranked above 100 but both with very good programs in very specific fields (rankings don't mean much - the ranking of a program is directly correlated to the number of PhDs they graduate each year, so the biggest programs are ranked the highest and the smallest the lowest, regardless of overall quality). The average student has an undergrad GPA of about 3.7, decent PGRE, great GRE, and most had a publication or two. There really aren't safety schools; they can all expect whatever they want of graduate students since most get at least 5-10x the number of applicants they can take.
  6. Jun 25, 2011 #5
    I see, thank you for replying. From what you've said I am probably well below the average applicant and might not have a chance of getting in everywhere. I have already considered applying into a MS applied physics or an electrical engineering program. Do you think these are better options for me?
  7. Jun 25, 2011 #6

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    You should talk to your advisor. He can give you advice on what you should be thinking about, since he has information that we don't - such as a pretty good idea of what your letters and GRE score will look like.
  8. Jun 25, 2011 #7
    First of all, don't go into a field you don't like. You can do plenty of things with a BS in Physics. Teaching high school is always an option; if you love Physics, doing any form of physics should make you happy.

    2nd, look into schools that have a professor doing/getting somewhere with research that is in your *interest*. I know it's hard to look past the prestige, but there are some very unpopular schools that will surprise you. Rankings dont say ANYTHING about the school to be honest. I am at Illinois, we are number 2 in Condensed Matter but somewhere in the teens for Astronomy/Astrophysics, and the professors doing Astrophysics don't have much success in their research. So it all depends on who you work under!

    A 3.4 is *adequate*, What really matters is your Math/Physics GPA for ADVANCED physics courses, plus any Graduate courses you might take as an undergraduate and how well you do in those courses. Doing near-perfect on GRE math section will be needed since most physics people find it easy. And of course the Physics GRE needs to be within standards of the places you want to go.

    It all depends, GPA doesn't mean everything. GRE doesn't mean everything. It's all about how your whole application looks.
  9. Jun 25, 2011 #8
    Thanks for your replies. I will talk to my adviser. I going to have to disagree with nasijen however. I love physics, but I know what I want to do, and don't want to be too much of an open mind going into grad school. Also, I've done quite a bit of research, and it turns out the schools that have the most interesting publications and research projects happen to be the prestigious ones. I think that is no coincidence.
    3.4 is my math/science GPA, my main GPA is much lower unfortunately (3.15). I have not published anything, and I don't plan to take an graduate courses.

    I am in UIUC as well, maybe we know each other!
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