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Admissions Where should I apply? Physics PhD programs

  1. Oct 2, 2016 #1
    Hey everyone, I am wondering if anyone can give me an idea of which physics PhD programs I should be looking at. I am a bit confused about which programs I would be competitive for. I have read things about how ranking and "minimum gpa" requirements are misleading when it comes to admissions. I am a double major in math and electrical engineering with a physics minor. Also, I go to a small, relatively unknown, liberal arts college and plan to have 2 good letters of recommendation and 1 average one from a professor whose course I did well in. I should also note that my physics courses for my minor include classical mechanics, Electrodynamics, QM, Stat-mech/thermo, optics, and modern physics. I just want to know if anyone has any idea of the type of schools (i.e. "stick to schools ranked 70-100" etc.) I should be applying to or if I am even competitive enough to be accepted to any PhD programs. By the way, I would be applying for experiment HEP or condensed matter. Thanks for any feed back!

    GPA: 3.3
    Physics GPA: 3.6
    GRE: Verbal: 153
    Quant: 160
    Writing: 4.0
    Physics GRE: 800

    Physics REU doing experimental HEP
    Coauthor on a small paper with a professor at my school.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 3, 2016 #2
    I'd say you're competitive enough to be admitted to a PhD program somewhere, but it's always difficult to tell where to aim. You might want to look at the applicant profiles on physicsgre.com: http://www.physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?t=6128
  4. Oct 3, 2016 #3
    I don't think there's much point in going to graduate school in physics unless you are working with a well funded, highly influential adviser in your field of interest*. Start by looking into who those people are to build a list of schools (which will, it turns out, include more than just top ten schools), and figure out who has funding for new students by talking to them. Then talk to the faculty member who is the chair of graduate admissions about your chances.

    *Of course, sometimes it works out if you go for an underdog or a new faculty at an institute of lesser prestige, but that makes a hard road harder. The only faculty I know who consistently produce professors are the top faculty. I'm assuming you want to be a professor.
  5. Oct 3, 2016 #4


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    I attended two physics PhD programs ranked over 100 (with a 3.7 from a top liberal arts school and a publication) and pretty much all the graduates of both programs I've kept in touch with have jobs, mostly as professors. Sure, most of us aren't at Harvard (although a few are, at least as researchers) but we all got jobs at small colleges and universities somewhere, and are mostly happy with our decisions.
  6. Oct 3, 2016 #5
    Thanks for the replies everyone. I am not going into graduate school with the sole goal of becoming a professor. I would be just as happy moving into big data, engineering, quant position, etc. I was just wondering really if anyone had any idea if my application would even be competitive at a school ranked around 70- 100, i.e. colorado state, u of new mexico, or similarly ranked schools?
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