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Stanford (or any Ivy League) Graduate Program

  1. Feb 19, 2015 #1

    I have a few years left on my undergraduate degree but I wanted to see if anyone has experience applying to Stanford for graduate school.

    I started UCSD as a liberal arts major and then switched to physics about 10 months ago. I have about 130 community college units (you only need 80, I think, to transfer to a 4-year) and my GPA is around a 3.0. I have a 2.6 GPA at UCSD for the liberal arts classes I've already taken. I despised my liberal arts degree and my grades reflected that. I learned about 10 months ago that I could take a leave of absense and change majors! As of now, I am doing very well in calculus and physics, getting As, and I anticipate continually earning As until I complete my B.S. in physics.

    So, when I graduate, assuming I do extremely well in my field of study (physics) my GPA will be affected by the handful of liberal arts classes I had taken previously. Should this be an issue if I intend to apply to Stanford's graduate program for physics?

    Any thoughts/recommendations in preparing a strong application?

    p.s. I have military and work (non science) related experience.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2015 #2
    Update: I have read the Stanford graduate application process. It would be awesome to hear anyone's personal experience though!
  4. Feb 19, 2015 #3
    I've not applied to Stanford, but from what I hear I wouldn't advise getting your hopes too high. Stanford is very difficult to get into even with a 4.0 GPA, awesome letters, and a lot of research experience. Not only that, but from what I've seen, past grades affect the general graduate application more than they probably should.
  5. Feb 19, 2015 #4
    The best you can do is get research experience, good grades, good physics GRE scores, and have a clear idea about why you are applying to particular school. For example, if you want to go to Princeton and are interested in ultrafast optics, you'll get rejected because no research in ultrafast optics is being done at Princeton. So when preparing to apply to Stanford you need to know why Stanford is a good school to achieve your goals.
  6. Feb 19, 2015 #5


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    I agree with Mmm_Pasta.

    You're thinking about details that are too far in the future. If your goal is to get into an excellent graduate program, you'll likely be able to do so from where you are. Your grades will matter - even the liberal arts ones. But less so if between now and then you take all your major-related courses and do well in them.
  7. Feb 20, 2015 #6
    And even Ivies are pretty uneven. If you want to become a particle experimentalist, I would recommend applying to Yale, but, if you want to do condensed matter, I'd suggest either Cornell or UPenn (depends on whether you want hard or soft condensed matter respectively)

    The easiest two Ivies to get in for a physics PhD are Dartmouth and Brown, in that order.
  8. Mar 18, 2015 #7
    Thank you all for the responses - good stuff.
  9. Mar 18, 2015 #8


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    I was actually accepted to Stanford's physics PhD program last year but chose to attend another program (which happens to be an Ivy). The two most important components of your application are your letters and research experience. This seems to be a consensus between all of the professors I have spoken with, many who were on the admissions committees for the top schools) Grades matter too as well as the PGRE, but they don't have to be perfect if your letters (probably at least a ~3.4 if you have an upward trend and have taken a rigorous courseload) and research are outstanding. For example, I did research during all three summers during undergrad and during five semesters. I also attended an REU at another school. I published a first author paper in one of the top journals, and am finishing some other work for undergrad. I also won a few significant awards. So basically, you need to show through your accomplishments that you have potential as a researcher.

    From what I have heard, the top physics programs in no particular order are Stanford, MIT, Harvard, and Princeton, then Caltech, Berkeley, and Chicago, and after that Cornell, UCSB, Illinois, Michigan, Yale, and Columbia. Penn is also very good and exceptional in soft matter and CMT in general. Their weakness is that the department is very small and is missing research in areas like AMO.
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