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What are my Grad school prospects?

  1. Aug 26, 2009 #1
    What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    Ok so i kind of have a unique story. I have bachelors in Mech eng and Math from university of illinois champaign and a bachelors physics from loyola chicago all in 4 years. I would have went phd physics but i thought i wanted the money and went engineering. I'm looking to go back for a phd physics now.

    So I have some real world experience and obv the three bachelors. I got a great paying but amazingly boring job straight out of college and im only a year out of college. I also have good test scores, although i have not taken the physics gre yet (will soon). On the other hand, my gpa was pretty low, 3.3 as i didn't care about grad school at the time. My major(s) gpa (math/mech 3.4 or in physics 3.6) is in fact higher than my total so that might be good. I only have 1 publication in physics, but it's pretty good. I don't really have too many good letters of reccomendation lined up either which is bad. Finally, while I have independently studied quantum and i am fairly confident that i am up to the level of the pgre based on practice exams, I didn't actually take quantum mechanics in undergrad (i know, it's weird). I intend to try to explain that in my cover letter/and also potentially take it in the spring. Oh and not that it matters but i have good extracurriculars.

    That's pretty much all the relevant information i can think of. I'm talking with my old phys professors and friends that got into grad programs. To be completely honest in my mind it doesn't look too good for fall 2010. But i would absolutely hate to wait another year.

    Im posting this because i wanted to get more opinions from people that don't know me personally. What do you think about my grad school prospects assuming a decent pgre score, and i am domestic us so decent means like 60 percentile and up. Also, if you have any relevant advice feel free to share it.

    Thanks in advance
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 26, 2009 #2
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    This may be off topic but I'm fairly interested as to how you got 3 bachelors in 4 years. :S

    See with may accredited engineering programs you are not allowed a double major in things like math or physics
     
  4. Aug 27, 2009 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    I hate to say this, but I think your chances are poor.

    First and foremost, you don't write like a college graduate. You write like a fourth-grader. For heaven's sake, capitalize the word "I". There are two possibilities: one is that after four years of college and three degrees, you are still unable to write proper English, and the other is that you can write proper English but choose not to. Neither is a positive feature in an applicant for graduate school.

    Second, graduate school is competitive. The number of students who enroll is somewhere around half as many as who take the GRE. 60% percentile is towards the bottom end of acceptable. If you got that and had strong grades and good letters, your odds would be better, but as it stands, you are talking about marginal-to-substandard grades, a marginal GRE, and few or poor letters.

    Third, the idea that you need opinions not from the people who know you but the people who you don't know you makes very little sense.

    You say you're talking to your old physics professors. They are the ones whose advice you should be taking if you want to improve your chances. Not people who don't know you.
     
  5. Aug 27, 2009 #4
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    Ouch, man. Ouch. I would say your prospects are much better than Vanadium suggests. It also very much depends on the field you want to work in. You would have a much greater chance of acceptance if you were applying to work in a field where you could draw on your real-world engineering experience. I wouldn't apply to Harvard or anything but I think if you present yourself correctly (it's all about marketing) you would have a shot at grad school at a decent public university in fields like experimental polymer, experimental optics, etc. (it depends specifically what you did in engineering) and if theory's your thing you could always highlight your math degree.

    As for Vanadium's comments about your writing I find them very out of line. I personally didn't see the problem. Everyone's lazy when writing on the internet. That doesn't suggest a person CAN'T write better. Besides, my undergrad thesis advisor did his grad school at an english speaking school and when he started he barely spoke a word of english but he caught on and the department didn't seem to care (since he did very well in his courses and research and such). Plus, it's physics, half of a given department is ESL.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2009
  6. Aug 27, 2009 #5
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    Yeah exactly. What's funny is that Vanadium never picks on Mathwonk, who makes 10 typos per sentence.
     
  7. Aug 27, 2009 #6
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    Personally, I'm not one for criticizing people's writing on the internet (life is too short), but I can't really disagree with this statement. Perhaps everyone *is* lazy when writing on the internet, but being lazy is still not the way to impress people with your academic ability.

    However, moving on, I don't think that things are totally hopeless for the OP at lower tier schools. The lack of good recommendations is a huge stumbling block though. (I'll also add parenthetically that extracurriculars are completely irrelevant if they aren't work or research related.)
     
  8. Aug 27, 2009 #7

    cristo

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    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    One crucial difference: mathwonk is not planning on applying to graduate school in the near future. Also, there is a difference between an obvious typo, and lazy writing style.

    From my experience, Vanadium's point is valid: if you allow your standards to slip, you will eventually find yourself with a habit you are unable to break.
     
  9. Aug 27, 2009 #8
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    The second portion of your reply is more towards what i was looking for, the first portion in mai eyes kinda kills your credibility. haha..

    But seriously thanks for taking the time to respond to everyone.

    And to answer your last point I never implied I didn't talk to people that know me, on the contrary. But everyone is encouraging me to do it as I was def one of the stand out students without trying too hard. I'm just not sure if it's really realistic with the hard numbers/facts without knowing me personally, which I doubt too many comms will chance. I'm not saying my profs are being overly optimistic, but my peers definitely are.

    The 60s is more of a worst case scenario, my friend got into northwestern with a 63. And your stats comment is misleading... although it's unfair imo a 60s score for a domestic isn't bad but for a foreigner it is. I would say it's solidly mediocre as opposed to barely acceptable.

    And to the first guy what you say is true, but I started as a physicist and many of those programs encourage the double in math, and if you'll notice it's 3 majors from 2 schools, it's really not nearly as impressive as it sounds.

    Edit: So internet forums can be weird places, but I guess one uncapped i or two counts pretty big here, so uhh, apologies and try to just look at the facts, aside from my obvious mental deficiencies as evidenced by my lack of caps or 's or my runon sentences... on topic pls =p
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2009
  10. Aug 27, 2009 #9
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    Psshh. When I'm writing something of relevance I take my time and pay special attention to style, grammar, spelling, etc. When I'm shooting off a quick reply I do it in a matter of seconds and am mostly just transcribing stream of consciousness. If you like to spell and grammar check every one of your posts that's your business but the notion that you could really make a strong conclusion about those who don't is ridiculous. Typical Fundamental Attribution Error.
     
  11. Aug 27, 2009 #10

    cristo

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    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    Perhaps one would be well advised to try and not just transcribe streams of consciousness, but should instead think about what one is writing. Still, I don't spell or grammar check my posts-- I never got into bad habits in the first place!
     
  12. Aug 27, 2009 #11
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    For what it's worth, I got into a decent graduate program in physics with something like a 3.1 GPA (3.3 upper division) and a 620 on the physics GRE (that's 42 %-ile). I guess I must have had awesome letters of recommendation. That, or the admissions committee members were wasted when they reviewed my application. Despite poor undergrad performance, I've done really well in grad school. I've got a 3.43 graduate GPA, and I passed the PhD qualifier. So you can be admitted with a low score and still be successful in grad school. No comment though on what your chances of admission are, since the information I've given you constitutes only one data point.

    My recommendation: apply to as many schools as you can afford and see what happens. Some schools let you apply for free: you send your info to the physics department directly, and they make you pay the fee only after you've been guaranteed admission. Oh, and study like crazy for the physics GRE. A good physics GRE score can offset a low GPA. Or, as in my case, dumb luck can also do the trick.
     
  13. Aug 27, 2009 #12
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    vanadium is right. while there is a vocabulary portion on the GRE test, the admissions board doesn't actually look at it. rather, they go back and check all your old forum posts and make sure you capitalized your 'i's.
     
  14. Aug 27, 2009 #13
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    Yeah...I'll stay out of the side discussion. But regarding the GRE and vocabulary:

    Most schools that I'm aware of don't care about the score on your general GRE, so I wouldn't worry about spending too much time studying for it. In fact, some schools say outright on their websites that you general GRE score doesn't play any role in the admissions process (i.e. no one bothers to look up the score). Your physics GRE, however, plays a really important role, so spend a month or two studying for that. Furthermore, almost all departments will want a personal statement from you. As I'm sure is true in any scientific field, the committee doesn't care about your English skills for the sake of being grammar Nazis. But I think what Vanadium was getting at is that spelling and grammar mistakes will stick out and make you look bad. This isn't a physics thing, it's true in every sphere of life. When you read a textbook and see a stupid spelling error, it sticks out like a sore thumb, and you stop focusing on the content of the textbook. Same goes for newspapers, that ticker thingy on Fox News, etc. Good spelling and grammar won't make your application, but bad spelling and grammar can break it.

    The other thing to remember on your personal statement is that physicists (at least the ones at the schools I'm familiar with) don't give a rip about your extracurriculars, personal life, hobbies, etc. A physics grad school application is totally different from a med school application in that respect. They care about admitting students who have research skills and who aren't going to fail out, thus wasting all the money the department is about to spend funding you as a TA and RA. Everything you say should bear directly on why you would pass their PhD qualifier, do well in your classes, and complete a PhD-level research project. Talk about the physics-relate stuff you did in undergrad, but I would say not to waste any words on your extracurriculars or how you happen to feel, etc.

    Anyway, just my recommendations; take them for what little they're worth.
     
  15. Aug 27, 2009 #14
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    right on
     
  16. Aug 28, 2009 #15

    cristo

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    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    You seem to have entirely missed the point that was being made. Perhaps you should read the previous posts again.
     
  17. Aug 28, 2009 #16
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    perhaps as important as grammar and spelling is the ability to know your audience. the internet audience is different from a scholastic audience
     
  18. Aug 28, 2009 #17
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    Well, no one is being graded here, but a better written question will receive better responses. Perhaps the OP is capable of more, but his original post just screamed "try lower-tier schools" to me.
     
  19. Aug 28, 2009 #18
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    So you support dashing some poor guys hopes for no reason other than his inattentivess to voice and grammar in an internet posting? I'd wager a little less than half my colleagues speak and write atrocious english. I see typos and grammatical no-nos in published papers all the time. And that's not to mention that practically ever paper in physics is written in the most dry, minimalistic style one could imagine.

    I've helped ESL students proofread their theses and a lot of them are truly horrendous in terms of written english. A couple revisions later they still read like Hemingway meets Ben Stein but they're good enough for publication.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2009
  20. Aug 28, 2009 #19
    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    Here is a correction to your first paragraph without doing anything to the i's:

    Ok, so I kind of have a unique story. I have a bachelors in Mech eng and a bachelors Math from university of illinois champaign. I also have a bachelors physics from loyola chicago. I accomplished this all in 4 years. I would have went for a phd in physics but i thought i would make more money if I went into engineering. I'm looking to go back for a phd in physics now.

    I assume you can write like this (it's a mathematics thesis rather than physics):

    "This work in algebraic combinatorics is concerned with a new, combinatorial approach to the study of certain structures in algebraic topology and formal group theory. Our approach is based on several invariants of combinatorial structures which are associated with a formal group law, and which generalise classical invariants. There are three areas covered by our research, as explained below.

    Our first objective is to use the theory of incidence Hopf algebras developed by G.-C. Rota and his school in order to construct and study several Hopf algebras of set systems equipped with a group of automorphisms. These algebras are mapped onto certain algebras arising in algebraic topology and formal group theory, such as binomial and divided power Hopf algebras, covariant bialgebras of formal group laws, as well as the Hopf algebroid of cooperations in complex cobordism. We identify the projection maps as certain invariants of set systems, such as the umbral chromatic polynomial, which is studied in its own right. Computational applications to formal group theory and algebraic topology are also given.

    Secondly, we generalise the necklace algebra defined by N. Metropolis and G.-C. Rota, by associating an algebra of this type with every formal group law over a torsion free ring; this algebra is a combinatorial model for the group of Witt vectors associated with the formal group law. The cyclotomic identity is also generalised. We present combinatorial interpretations for certain generalisations of the necklace polynomials, as well as for the actions of the Frobenius operator and of the p-typification idempotent. For an important class of formal group laws over the integers, we prove that the associated necklace algebra is also defined over the integers; this implies the existence of a ring structure on the corresponding group of Witt vectors.

    Thirdly, we study certain connections between formal group laws and symmetric functions, such as those concerning an important map from the Hopf algebra of symmetric functions over a torsion free ring to the covariant bialgebra of a formal group law over the same ring. Applications in this area include: generating function identities for symmetric functions which generalise classical ones, generators for the Lazard ring, and a simplified proof of a classical result concerning Witt vectors. "

    Source:http://math.albany.edu:8000/math/pers/lenart/articles/thesis.html

    The point that the ever so abrasive vanadium was trying to make was that if you cannot write at least at the level of the entry above (as far as the grammatical aspect), you will not be able to write a publishable research paper.

    That aside, you seem to be in alright shape for some kind of school in the top 100. How are your relationships with your professors (will they say you are the best student they have had in a long time or just that you stack up)? You say you are published, what was the subject matter and why did you write it; was it for an REU or did a professor that had a research grant let you in on a project?

    What is your interest in physics; cosmology, condensed matter, string theory? Some areas are more competitive than others and depending on what you published you may have a better chance in one than the other.

    Why do you want to go for a Phd in the sub-discipline of physics that you do?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  21. Aug 28, 2009 #20

    Choppy

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    Re: What are my Grad school prospects?!?

    I support Vanadium's comments.

    This might be somewhat of a generational gap thing, but when you don't bother to type properly it makes your post that much more difficult to read. The language becomes inefficient. To me, it is just like added a little addendum to the bottom of your post that says:
    I don't think anyone around here wants to be a grammar cop. I sure don't. But I have to admit that when I first read the original post, my reaction wasn't all that different from Vanadium's.

    I simply chose not to answer it.

    Something else to remember is that you never really do know who is reading these forums. Some employers actually DO go and check on the internet activity of potential employees.
     
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