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What is a good gpa for getting into REUs?

  1. Jan 2, 2014 #1
    Hi, I am currently a junior majoring physics/math and I am looking to get into a reasonably good REU for this coming summer. However, my gpa is EXACTLY 3.5 (from NYU-poly), and I have no way of knowing if this is considered high or low on the spectrum. I have applied to CERN and SULI, which are long-shots, as well as some random colleges throughout the US.
    Besides the GPA, I have taken upwards of 18 credits of physics and math courses since sophomore year every semester, I am getting reasonably good recommendations from my advisor and one professor, and I worked the previous summer in a nuclear lab, doing experiments on various decaying isotopes and analyzing the spectra.
    Basically, my question is whether or not this is impressive enough to get into a decent REU program for this summer, or if my efforts are best focused elsewhere.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 2, 2014 #2
    I applied to 10 with a 3.8 and got into none. But some of my classmates with very slightly worse GPAs did get REUs, so GPA isnt everything. Luck is very important, as well as your access to research opportunities at your institution and any disadvantaged minority status you may have.

    I believe that REUs are much more competitive than grad school admissions, so dont let this dissuade you from grad school if that is your goal.

    In my experience, 3.5 is about average for a physics major/graduate.
  4. Jan 2, 2014 #3
    I applied with a 3.8 to about 7 and got into 5...i guess luck is a factor.
  5. Jan 2, 2014 #4
    I think GPA is important but not everything. You've chosen some extremely competitive ones so it will be difficult regardless of your GPA. Have you done research in the past? How are your recommendation letters?

    As a physics major, I applied to 4 last summer and got accepted into 3. Prior research experience probably played a large role as well as the field I chose (geophysics isn't so popular). Also I'm a Hispanic male which is likely the main reason I was chosen.
  6. Jan 2, 2014 #5
    I haven't done legitimate "research" per se, but I have worked in a lab environment. My recommendation letters are very reasonably good. My main applications are to fields related to particle dynamics (which is tough for an undergrad, but they're offering such research so I'll take it). I am not a minority.
  7. Jan 3, 2014 #6
    REUs are a very strange beast. Typically, it's more difficult to get into a good REU than to get into a good grad school. The reason luck comes into play is that if a school receives 300 REU applications with 17 excellent applicants and if there are 12 spots, 5 people are left out. There is definitely a minimum GPA cutoff due to the time it takes to go through the applications (probably 3.2-3.8, depending on the program), but just like grad school or fellowships...no one cares. There is so little GPA variation among the top contenders that it's fairly irrelevant. As far as worth, I would split up the application for these things into:
    50% - personal statement/previous research
    40% - Rec letters
    10% - grades (GPA/GRE)

    Bottom line: I think someone with a 3.5 can certainly get an REU, but don't be surprised if you don't. Just pay a lot of attention to those personal essays, they are editable, GPA isn't.
    (*I had 2 NSF REUs in undergrad including an international one)
  8. Jan 3, 2014 #7
    Thanks for the advice. For my essays, I'm writing about the specific programs I am interested in that each school offers, as well as why I'm interested in them and what I think I can contribute. Is this a good approach?
  9. Jan 3, 2014 #8
    Definitely. From what I remember, they are pretty short (1 pg?), so you don't have room for fluff. Be eloquent but not overbearing, sincere but not boastful (maybe a little boastful). All too often, people don't know how to sell themselves and it bites them in the end. They also need to know that you've researched their program and are interested in specific people for specific reasons, the faculty pick you. In other words, they want to know why you? and why them? make yourself unique. Also, if you have a weakness like GPA, ask your recommenders to possibly point it out and mollify it with your unique attributes, but don't mention it in your essay. Finally, make sure you have people review your application before you send it in.

    Good Luck!!
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
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