Where am I going to graduate school?

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  • Thread starter capandbells
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  • #1
This is something I've been wondering about for a while. When I tell people I'm going to graduate school, they inevitably ask me where I'm considering going. The thing is, I have no idea what my list of schools to consider should even look like at this point. I'm a junior majoring in physics at a state school that's not known for its physics program (although it is well-known for being a party school). My GPA isn't a 4.0, but it's reasonably close, and I'm taking what I'd consider an 'average' course load (whatever that means). My research experience is limited: last summer I worked in my school's accelerator lab, but I didn't really do anything, and it ended up mostly just being a hands-on course in accelerator physics. I enjoyed it, but it was definitely not 'research.' This summer, I'm working one on one with one of my professors doing research in nanoparticles, which should hopefully be much more productive. This professor helped me out a lot by helping me get funding for this summer. He has also told me that he will try his best to get me a publication out of the work I do with him. I can almost certainly get a strong letter from him, as well as a couple more 'OK' letters from other professors I know. Given that I don't know how I'll do on the Physics GRE yet, can anyone help at least give me a "tier" of schools I should be looking at? Should I even consider 'top' schools? I realize there's a lot of subjectivity and randomness in this process, but I've been becoming increasingly concerned that I don't even have the slightest clue where I might be going when I need to apply later this year.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
hotvette
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If I were you I'd first ask my professors that know me the best, especially the one you are working for. Aside from that, I'd also ask my undergraduate advisor, who should have a good idea of past placement history for graduates from your school.
 
  • #3
fzero
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You should definitely consider "top" schools, but you shouldn't get too caught up in thinking about tiers. You seem to be doing the right things to make you a good candidate for admissions. What you also need to do is figure out what schools are a right fit for you. To start, you should make a list of what you require out of a grad school. This would include having active groups in the areas that interest you, as well as geographic/social issues that would be relevant over the 5+ years that you might be there. The important thing is that there's no point in applying to a school that you'd be unhappy attending. However, there are many options that should suit you and with a suitably broad list of places to apply, your chances of being accepted at a place where you will be able to thrive should be very good.
 
  • #4
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physicsgre.com is an amazing resource for this situation. http://www.physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3421" is this year's thread where 150 people posted information about their grad school application profile, where they applied, and where they got in. There are similar threads for 2010, 2009, and 2008. If you just take some time to read through these, you'll get probable as good a sense as you can of what admission standards are like at various places.
 
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  • #5
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I think a major factor, possibly as big a factor as research experience, will be the score you get on the physics GRE. In my opinion, you probably should decide if you want to go to the top tier now so you have time to study and do well on the GRE.

A good GRE score won't get you in, but a bad one can certainly keep you out.
 
  • #6
Regarding the physics GRE, will it be a problem if I haven't had a legit E&M course before the test? Is the E&M at the level of Halliday and Resnick enough?
 
  • #7
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physicsgre.com is an amazing resource for this situation. http://www.physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3421" is this year's thread where 150 people posted information about their grad school application profile, where they applied, and where they got in. There are similar threads for 2010, 2009, and 2008. If you just take some time to read through these, you'll get probable as good a sense as you can of what admission standards are like at various places.

I am so happy that I clicked this thread. That is an amazing resource and I want to personally extend my gratitude to you for posting.
 
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