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Questions about grad school

  1. Aug 8, 2007 #1

    I was born in england and have recently graduated from an English university with a Masters in theoretical physics. I am considering taking the GRE this october and applying to US grad schools in california.

    Firstly, what are the chances of an international student getting funding over there? In england if I did a PhD, then as soon as you are accepted onto the PhD program you are basically garanteed funding of £12,000 per year for 3-4 years of study (no tuition fees etc, more like a job). Does this differ from US grad programs?
    Is it usual for US citizens to pay fees and support themselves or is financial aid readily available, like in the UK?

    Also, what are the best schools in california, I'm aware of Caltech and Berkeley, any others? what would my chances be to get into somewhere like this?- I graduated with a First class from a mid-level UK university, with an average somewhere in the mid 80's%, and am interested in research in theoretical particle physics.

    Finally, how many years undergraduate level study do Americans usually have before grad school in physics or otherwise? the reason I ask is that my friend who I'm thinking of going to the US with has a bachelors(3 years in UK) in biology not a masters, would this be sufficient for grad school for him?

    Many thanks,
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 8, 2007 #2


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    There are sponsorships/scholarships available at the richer institutes.
    Otherwise there are teaching assistantships - you probably come out about even.
    US PhD programs take longer, partly because of the teaching work you are doing but also because you will be doing classes for the first couple of years.
    You might be allowed to skip some of the classes if you have a masters.
    US ugrad degrees are less specialiased than the UK so you should be ahead.

    US PhD students tend to publish more than in the UK and would probably look for a junior tenure track post straight out of a PhD, so you could regard a US PhD as like a UK PhD + first postdoc.
  4. Aug 8, 2007 #3
    thanks for your quick response.

    Yeah I noticed they seemed to be less specialised, which is partly what attracted me to the US as I would prefer to do some more courses before I have to decide specifically what I want to research.

    So financial aid shouldn't be too much of a problem hopefully?

    what about my choices of schools in california? I was thinking of applying to caltech and berkeley as my top choices, then places like UC davis perhaps?
    But I have no idea what my chances are, or what I would need on the GRE to get into somewhere like that...

    Could someone also explain the grading system and GPA to me aswell. I am unsure how your A,B,C... system relates to the UK system of First(>75%), Upper Second (late 60's%) etc... and how to work out my GPA

    So do you guys do 4 years undergrad before PhD or 3?
  5. Aug 8, 2007 #4
    4 years, but many uni's in the UK have 3 semesters right?
  6. Aug 8, 2007 #5


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    I went to grad school in the UK - I worked in the states as a postdoc (briefly at Caltech) but I don't have any knowledge of GRE or admissions.

    I meant that not only are US PhD progams less specialized (at least initially), you don't normally get a supervisor + project before you start as in the UK. But US high school and Ugrad degrees are less specialized - so you might find you have covered more material in greater depth than a similair US ugrad.
    This might mean you can skip some grad school courses - it depends on the particular school.

    UC are state universities - each site is pretty much a separate institution, like UCL/Kings/IC in london university. Remember California is quite large Berkeley (San Fransisco) is nothing like San Diego.
    Caltech and Stanford are private and so charge a lot for ugrad students, I don't know how the funding works for grad school.

    As anywhere the deciding feature of grad school is your supervisor!
  7. Aug 8, 2007 #6
    This is not my experience at all. In fact, not only do most PhD's in the US need to do a postoc before going for even a non-tenure track post, the number of years spent as a postdoc has been growing for decades.

    This differs by area of study. For instance, HEP theorists often have trouble even finding a postdoc, and it can be twenty years between the beginning of grad school and a tenure track position.

    I've never personally met anyone who has gone straight from a US phd to a tenure track position in the Western world (a few go back to China/India and accomplish this). I'm sure they're out there, but I have no doubt they're a minority.
  8. Aug 9, 2007 #7
    So would my friend who i'm supposed to be going with, who has a 3 years UK bachelors in biology not be able to get into US PhD?

    I have checked out the caltech grad website and it appears that funding is available for international students, but the content is a little hard to decipher.

    Just registered for the GRE subject test aswell, $150 to sit an exam! lol

    anyone know how much the GRE general test costs? i'm having some trouble registering for that
  9. Aug 9, 2007 #8


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    I don't think the schools care too much about the number of years - it's the GRE scores that they use for entry, especiall for overseas students.
    There are lots of GRE practice books with sample/past questions, I don't know how easy they are to find in the UK but amazon.com should have them.
    Especially given the cost of the test it's worth having some experience of the type of questions.
  10. Aug 9, 2007 #9


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    "£12,000 per year"

    Are you kidding me? That is like no money at all? In Sweden you get like £20 000 /y
  11. Aug 9, 2007 #10
    You may go http://www.ets.org to find more details about GRE general. I just took it in June, and feel very relaxed now, lol.
    Good luck !
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