Hello everyone, and Happy New Year! As you have probably already guessed, this New Year is especially important for me since it is the time when I fill the applications for US graduate schools on Physics. I am more than a little bit worried about my chances since, in case I won't enter any graduate school this year, I will have to serve in my country's army for a year, according to the law, and, I'm afraid, if that happens, my career in physics that has been going quite well so far may be destroyed. So, I want you guys to assure me that everything is going to be fine. Please tell me honestly what, in your opinion, are my chances to get into one of the universities I apply to? I'll try to sum up the most important facts about my background. --- I am a Russian student of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT, the highest ranked university on physics in Russia) receiving my Master's degree this summer. Program of Fundamental Interactions and Cosmology. GPA: 4.63 / 5 overall, 4.67 / 5 in Bachelor's diploma. TOEFL: 99 (every subscore >=22) GRE: 164 Quant. (89%), 151 Verb. (49%), 4.5 Anal. (78%), 840 Phys. (78%) I have participated in the T2K experiment in Japan for 3 years, including 3 collaboration meetings visited in Japan. I have 5 collaboration papers with 200+ names including mine, and a publication in popular Russian journal "Nuclear Physics and Engineering" co-authored by my supervisor. I have some results, not incredibly outstanding, but useful for the experiment nonetheless. I also have a total of 4 conference speeches: 3 on my institute's conferences and one on an international conference in Moscow. I'm going to continue working in experimental particle physics and, so, I apply for the programs with opportunities for PhD students in popular particle experiments, such as T2K, ATLAS, CMS, D0, MiniBooNE, etc. Here are the universities I decided to apply (deadlines there are relatively late, so I am no late at all): University of Toronto University of Tennessee, Knoxville Louisiana State University Colorado State University University of New Mexico Florida State University University of California - Riverside New Mexico State University University of Houston University of Kansas University of Nebraska - Lincoln University of Oklahoma University of Delaware Strong points: 3 years of participating in the leading neutrino oscillation experiment in the world, I think, is the strongest advantage I have over most other applicants. 6 publications, although 5 of them are co-authored by 200+ other people, should also help me a lot. Also, I think, my GRE Physics result is very good for the universities outside of top-40 or so. Also a very strong point is the amount of courses we have in MIPT. For example, in Bachelor's diploma I have 1330 hours of General Physics course, 615 hours of Mathematical Analysis, 432 hours of Theoretical Physics and many different courses on experimental and theoretical particle physics. I don't think committees will have much doubt about my academic readiness for the PhD study. Weak points: The weakest point is recommendations, I think. The problem is I haven't persuaded my research supervisor to send more than 3 recommendation letters totally, so in most universities committee will probably be curious why I don't get a recommendation letter from him. Also, my GRE General Verbal score is quite low, although I've heard that it is far less important for international students (I hope I'm right) and my Quantitative score should more than compensate for it. --- So, how would you evaluate my chances? Should I add 2-3 "weak" universities as a safe heaven, or should I expect to be accepted in at least 2-3 programs? Thank you very much for your time!