I'm an international student currently at the end of my penultimate year in Msci Theoretical Physics in UK and am considering applying to US graduate programs that do high energy gravitational theories, in particular black hole thermodynamics. Both UCSB and UMD seem to be good choices. However, I screwed up my GRE general exam and is a few percentiles behind for both quantitative reasoning and analytical writing to be considered "competitive" in UCSB standards. I haven't sit for the Physics GRE yet, and I don't have much research experience (which is hard to come by in UK). The only thing I have is fairly strong grades. So I wouldn't expect to be a competitive candidate overall. Is there any school out there in US (or anywhere else) that has similar research areas but is considered less competitive?