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What Grad Schools Can I Get Into?

  1. Jul 23, 2015 #1
    Hi guys. I'm just looking for a little help with how "big" of a school I can realistically get into for graduate studies.

    GPA: 3.5 (for both physics and generals)

    Physics GRE: 850

    Research: At the time of graduation I will of had 1.5 years experience. (I'm not sure exactly of how the accomplishments here are going to be though.)

    Getting letters of recommendation shouldn't be a problem.

    I was a tutor for 1 year, and an SI (supplemental instuctor) for another (both for physics).

    I'm primarily looking for campuses in California. I'm also not sure of what type of field I'd like to research. My primary goal is just getting help with knowing what schools are in reach.

    It might be useful to note that my GPA in upper division physics is near 4.0. Most of my "poor" grades came from my first few quarters.

    Thank you to anyone who takes the time to help me out!
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 23, 2015 #2


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    For what it's worth, I think you're looking at this backwards.

    You need to figure out what area you want to go into before you think about which schools you want to apply to based on someone else's ranking criteria.

    You see part of getting into any school - big name and otherwise - is having a plan for what you want to do. This will come though in your personal statement, but perhaps most importantly it plays a role in slot alottment, and that can be huge.

    In my experience with admissions, what tends to happen is that a department will have funding for so many students. But that gets broken down into so many students per group - weighted by things like relative size of the subfield, which professors have grants and which professors are in positions to take on students. So a department may be willing to take on 10 students, but of those maybe two positions will be open for the astro group, six for the condensed matter, and two for the particle physics group. If you apply to this school to work under a cosmologist who you think had a neat web page, even if you have a perfect GPA and seven first author publications you won't get in because that particular prof is not accepting graduate students that year.

    This is one big reason why you hear stories about guys who look like superstars on paper getting rejecting from what they considered to be "safety" schools. It's also why you see guys with less competative stats getting into big name institutions.

    My advice is to start with the places that you'd really like to go. If you know you'd be admitted anywhere and prestige would have zero impact on your career, where would you go? Look at their programs and the work that's being done there. Visit the campus if you can. Talk to current students and professors. Also spend a lot of time reading and try to figure out what specifically you would want to do for graduate studies. Once you have this nailed down, then start ranking programs according to what's important to you.
  4. Jul 23, 2015 #3
    I had a feeling that was pretty much what I had to do. I really have to start looking at what I want to study. Thanks.
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