What are some factors to consider when applying to graduate school in physics?

In summary: I've been there. I remember feeling like a total novice when I first took the qualifiers. The sheer difficulty of the problems and the pressure of the exam made it feel like I was drowning. It definitely takes a lot of effort and practice to get good at these things.2. I don't think there's a definitive answer to this question. It really depends on your individual story and experiences. It can be great to be in a female-dominated field, or it can be difficult. It all depends on the person.3. I'm sorry to hear that you've had difficult experiences in graduate school so far. From what you've said, it sounds like you're determined to make things better, and I think you have a good
  • #1
Ashley1nOnly
132
3
Hi,
Little about me:
I'm a fourth year physics major(graduating fall 2017). I currently have a 3.6 gpa with 164(verbal) and 165(math) . I took the physics GRE and got a 800 which sucks and I would like to score above a 920 which I am studying for next year. Two publications with a fair amount of cites and I am currently working on another. Part of every honor society and majority clubs. Participation ranging from president to member. I'm an African American female.

Will having an applied physics degree affect me getting into graduate school vs just a regular physics degree? (Bachelors)

Could I taking a year off from school to attend a post bacc program hurt my chances of getting into graduate school?( I was thinking of attending a national lab program for one-two years)

Are there any scholarships or fellowships I could apply for?

How does it feel to be in graduate school from both female and male perspectives?

Thank you in advance
 
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  • #2
Ashley1nOnly said:
Will having an applied physics degree affect me getting into graduate school vs just a regular physics degree? (Bachelors)
I take it that your degree is in applied physics? If so, and the programs you plan to apply to are "applied" then there is perfect harmony. If not, then you simply have to make the case for why you want to transition away from "applied" into "pure", if you will.

Ashley1nOnly said:
Could I taking a year off from school to attend a post bacc program hurt my chances of getting into graduate school?( I was thinking of attending a national lab program for one-two years)
Depends on whether the post bacc it fits in within your developing narrative. Would the post bacc be furthering your research in the area you wish to pursue? Then, an unqualified "yes". If not, then why would you do it? To gain exposure to different areas of research? To broaden your skill set? Both of these would be viewed as positive reasons for doing so.

Ashley1nOnly said:
Are there any scholarships or fellowships I could apply for?
For the post bacc or graduate school? Please clarify.

Ashley1nOnly said:
How does it feel to be in graduate school from both female and male perspectives?
From a social perspective? An academic perspective? Could you be more specific with this question? I don't know how to answer it as it now stands.

Generally speaking, given your gender, ethnicity, choice of fields and your performance the world should be your oyster. Run with it.
 
  • #3
I'm looking for scholarships/fellowships for graduate school. The post bacc program will be directed towards my field of study. Hopefully I can get into los almos or fermi lab. I've worked both places and have established great connections. I would like to know what it is like on a social perspective and academic. Will majoring in physics be an isolated major or will it allow for some free time? What is it like taking the qualifiers? I've talked to a few female graduate students who say working in a male dominated area has proved difficult and the men are harsh. I've also noted that everyone has different experiences depending on where they go. I've seldom heard good things from females in graduate school. I figured I probably found the rough patch and wanted to know if there would good stories about graduate school for females. Is it possible for me to find a good job with a bachelors or should I just get my Ph.D. I would love to get my Ph.D but the money will be the issue.
 
  • #4
With the credentials you listed, I cannot see any reason to delay your applications to graduate school. You mentioned you wanted to do better in the GRE, but 800 puts you in the top 30%, I believe. You might consider that holding off and taking the exam again, you could do better, but then again, you could do worse.
I believe, admission committees also recognize that historically, women do not do well in GRE's as men, but they often do as well as men in graduate school. In addition. 800 is a good score (for men or women). Your GPA is good, Your publications and research sound impressive.

From a male perspective, the only one I can speak about, you will have work at least 40 hr weeks, but you will have some free time. However, I remember for almost the first two years, I always felt the qualifiers were over my head like a sword of Damocles. I felt this impending whenever I had free time.
Qualifiers are the most difficult exams you will ever take. To prepare, do problems, problems, problems. I have not seen men giving women a hard time in graduate school.

Best of Luck with your decision
 
  • #5
1. I know people in my physics program who majored in engineering/applied physics. There are also separate applied physics programs you can apply for.

2. I don't think it would hurt you if you took time off to do research, I also know people who did that. National labs have a lot of interesting research going on.

3. You should apply for the NSF, NDSEG, and Hertz fellowship among others when you apply for grad school. They are very nice to have. The NSF for example funds you for three years so you won't have to teach and your advisor will not need to pay you.

4. This is highly dependent on your specific department and your group. Some departments are better about this than others. From my own experience and from talking to my friends at different institutions, I think the general attitudes of the professors (especially the grad chair) and other people in the department as a whole really influence the culture, especially when it comes to women. When students feel that these people care about their wellbeing, things are much better. In terms of gender discrimination, I think it is very important to look at how the department responds to these issues, since unfortunately they still do happen. For example, I have heard of situations in certain departments where the response to a given incident in a way which gave the impression that they didn't take these issues seriously. However, there have been equally disturbing incidents in other departments where they did in fact take major actions that showed they cared about the students and wanted to make things right.

The percentage of women also varies quite widely by subfield. For example, in my subfield there are very few women, so there have been many times in research related meetings/seminars group lunch/dinner (starting in undergrad) where I have been the only woman in the room. To be honest, it was a bit uncomfortable at first, but the guys in my groups are all really great, so I gradually got more comfortable. So that dynamic is also very important.
 

Related to What are some factors to consider when applying to graduate school in physics?

What are the requirements for applying to graduate school?

The requirements for applying to graduate school vary depending on the program and university. Generally, you will need to have a bachelor's degree, a competitive GPA, letters of recommendation, a personal statement or essay, and standardized test scores (such as the GRE or GMAT). Some programs may also require a resume or work experience.

When should I start preparing for graduate school?

It is recommended to start preparing for graduate school at least a year in advance. This will give you enough time to research programs, study for standardized tests, gather letters of recommendation, and work on your personal statement. Starting early will also give you time to retake any tests or make improvements to your application if needed.

Should I apply to multiple graduate programs?

Yes, it is recommended to apply to multiple graduate programs. This will increase your chances of being accepted and give you a variety of options to choose from. However, make sure to only apply to programs that you are genuinely interested in and are a good fit for your academic and career goals.

What is the importance of letters of recommendation?

Letters of recommendation are an important part of your graduate school application. They provide insight into your academic abilities, work ethic, and character from someone who has worked closely with you. It is important to choose recommenders who can speak positively and specifically about your skills and potential for success in a graduate program.

Do I need to take any standardized tests for graduate school?

Most graduate programs will require you to take some form of standardized test, such as the GRE or GMAT. However, some programs may have different requirements, so it is important to research the specific requirements for each program you are interested in. It is also a good idea to study and prepare for these tests to achieve a competitive score.

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