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Rejected from all REUs, worried about the implications

  1. Mar 21, 2012 #1
    Hello PF,

    I am currently a sophomore in physics at a top-10-in-physics large research university and I applied to 5 REU's to possibly enter into in the summer before my junior year. However, I heard from the 5th program today that I am rejected. This leads to a total of 5 rejections. This really worries me about graduate school, as I feel like this is a forecast of how my results will be when applying to graduate school.

    Thus I come to you guys, do REU entries forecast the likely-hood of getting into a graduate school? Are they judged similarly? Did any of you have bad luck with REU's but still made it to graduate school?

    Graduate school in physics what I REALLY want to do and perhaps I am overreacting by merely making this post, but it really grew some fears in me getting a rejection after rejection. I put a lot of thought and time into the essays and I feel I had really good recommendations :/.

    A little about me to help you guys respond:
    Overall GPA: 3.52
    Math-Phys GPA: 3.48
    400-Level Math-Phys GPA: 4.00

    Applied to:
    UC Davis
    Columbia U
    Indiana University

    Up to now I've completed all math requirements, all intro phys, intermediate classical mechanics I & II, intermediate E&M I and II, a classical physics lab, and a few programming courses. Only reason my GPA looks a little low is due to a mess up my first semester.

    Thanks in advance for any replies.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 21, 2012 #2
    I'm a math major so take this with a grain of salt.
    REUs are getting increasingly competitive every year. Your credentials are not strong enough to get you into those programs. First of all, you need more advanced physics courses.
    When I applied to math REUs the second semester of my sophomore year, I got into 1 out of 10. By that time, I already took a year of analysis, a year of algebra and PDEs and I had a 4.0 major GPA. But I knew that my credentials were not strong enough back then, because A LOT of people had taken more courses than me and had done research.
    Your GPA is bit low as well, as you already noted. My first semester cumulative GPA was also low(3.67), but now it's way higher than that.
    So to sum it up, take more courses and raise your GPA. Since you are a sophomore, you have time to fix those. :) And sorry but since me myself hasn't applied to grad school yet, I don't know the exact correlation between REU application results and grad school application results.
  4. Mar 22, 2012 #3

    It might be because you are a sophomore and those programs prefer juniors so I would definitely apply again next year. As for a predictor I don't think so, as there are so many factors that go into REU selections that might not go into grad school selections (such as, perhaps those schools wanted to give research opportunities to people not in a top-10 school - i'm not saying that is the case before people start point to the contrary, I just want to point out there are things that we don't think about it). Also, I applied to a whole bunch of REUs and internships (way more than 5) and only got offered 2 each year (out of like 11 or 12) but I got accepted to *all* my grad schools, so I wouldn't worry about correlation if I were you. Instead try to work with a prof at your own school this summer.
  5. Mar 22, 2012 #4

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    I've read a number of your posts, and think that you should seriously about whether science is the right career for you. The theme of your posts is that whenever something doesn't work out 100% according to plan, like getting a B+ instead of an A, you freak out. In science, things almost never work out exactly as planned. A colleague waited almost a year for telescope time, and on his night, it rained. This happens, and if will drive you bananas, you will be absolutely miserable.

    I have not done REU admissions (although I have been asked by the NSF to make some general comments), but I personally think that students at major research universities should be at the back of the queue. They have opportunities for research at their home institutes; people from liberal arts colleges where this is their only opportunity should have priority.
  6. Mar 22, 2012 #5
    don't worry, try again after you have taken junior level courses :)
    in the mean time, use this summer to learn skills that you can sell in your next round of REU applications next year. I agree with previous post: learning to not worry and be patient is pretty important in science, because things go wrong frequently in the lab!
  7. Mar 22, 2012 #6
    To the OP: Obviously I don't know you, but I know when I was a sophomore I was not at all ready to do an REU. Most sophomores simply have not taken enough advanced classes so do any meaningful work at an REU. That's why juniors are preferred over sophomores for REUs. I did an REU after my junior year, and was very happy with the experience. By that time I was ready to do meaningul work.
  8. Mar 22, 2012 #7
    Which opens up the question. Have you started asking local professors to see if they have summer jobs available? If you are in a large research university, you should be able to find something that will keep you busy over the summer. If you got good recommendations from local profs, then they should know of some openings somewhere. If all fails, get a random job cleaning tables and spend the summer locked up in the library.

    The other thing is to get used to rejection. It's going to happen again and again. The trick is not to freak out when you get rejected.
  9. Mar 22, 2012 #8
    This helps. Thanks a lot!
  10. Mar 22, 2012 #9
    Thanks for the replies everyone. I suppose sophomores are too fresh to get into those REU's, and I didn't consider the fact that I'm at a large university.

    I've been asking since November, and I'm currently "waitlisted" if you will by a few professors at my school. Hopefully something happens.

    In general I'm fine rejection (to a certain extent, I mean who is 100%?), but I should really freak out less.
  11. Mar 22, 2012 #10
    I can see now why that would be true; large universities tend to offer a lot of research for their students.

    That really sucks, what happened to your colleague. Thanks for the insight, I'll try to create less meaningless posts.
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