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Which graduate schools do I have a chance at?

  1. Oct 24, 2009 #1
    Hi There,

    I am getting close to the end of my undergraduate life and am looking on to bigger and better things. Specifically, I want to attend graduate school but the program is not specified as of yet: physical chemistry, computational science, or engineering. It's all in the air at this moment, I'm spending my remaining year really trying to finalize my path.

    I just wanted some advice from those who have gone through the process, or those who administer the process. I've listed a brief description of my background but not in it's entirety. I live in the Chicago area, and am looking to attend Northwestern, UofC, or something in New York.


    University of Illinois Chicago

    BS Mathematics
    (core courses in typical math curriculum followed by courses in applied: complex, probability, stat. theory, DE, PDE)

    BA Chemistry
    (typical curriculum)

    Minor Economics

    GPA 3.59

    Honor's College student.

    Research for one year with chemistry: certain proteins and their CD spectrum analysis.
    Research for one semester in mathematics: symmetry studies and it's application to
    Research (upcoming): environmental/green chemistry with modeling data.

    I'll have the recommendation letters I need.

    Taking the GRE next fall: subject in chemistry and possibly mathematics.
    I also have a huge interest in random things, and bizarre pieces of information. I would definitely like to conduct new studies and pave the way into a new era.

    What do you think?

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 24, 2009 #2
    I'd say you probably have a pretty fair chance anywhere, the exact places will depend on which you end up pursuing. Overall you are in an enviable position!
  4. Oct 24, 2009 #3
    you probably won't have any problems getting in where you want to go, so my advice would be to look over the work of faculty members at institutions you might be interested in and try to see what interests you most or whose group would work best for you. your professors could probably give you a few helpful names if they work in your field of interest

    personally i've never had any experience with computational work, but it doesn't appeal to me at all.
  5. Oct 25, 2009 #4
    If your letters of recommendation are strong, you will have a good shot. If you can squeeze in some teaching experience (a lab or a tutorial/recitation) then you would be pretty much guaranteed to get accepted to quite a few top schools.
  6. Oct 25, 2009 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    I strongly disagree.

    First, "pretty much guaranteed" is never really the case. But even if it were, GRE scores would be a large factor (and we don't know what they are), letters of recommendation are a large factor (and we have to guess at those), and teaching experience, if it matters at all, is a very minor part.

    We also don't know what the quality of the "research is". I've seen undergrads with top notch research experience, and I've seen undergrads who, despite having spent years doing "research" and can't explain what they were trying to do. Quantity does not equal quality.

    There is a lot of advice being passed around on how to get into grad school from undergrads, and in some cases, high school students. I submit that people need to weigh the source.
  7. Oct 25, 2009 #6
    Chemistry programs are not nearly as selective as other science programs. For one, they generally have much more funding available to them as well as needing to offer two year long sequences required by lots of pre-professional programs, so chemistry departments at large schools require lots of TAs to handle those loads. At every single chemistry program worth applying to, teaching is considered a major part of the program and they usually require their admitted students to go through two years as teaching assistants before they are allowed to become research assistants. GRE tests are just formalities required by the general graduate school and have little impact. I've e-mailed Berkeley, UCSD, and UCSF and they all said they make admissions decisions without subject GRE scores, and UCLA doesn't even require it for their domestic application.

    With that said, of course the quality of your research helps, because chances are when you're interviewed they will ask you about it, and you will have to talk about it, so it would make a good impression if you are glib about it.

    I mean, UCLA is a top world class institution with 3 chemistry nobel prize laureates in their faculty and they have an acceptance rate to their program of ~48%. That's pretty darn good considering the quality of the program.
  8. Oct 26, 2009 #7
    Thank you everyone for the insight. I agree with quality over quantity any day. I believe the small work I have done at my university can fall within the quality category rather than quantity.

    I don't expect to go to Harvard, but I owe it to myself to get somewhere reputable.

    I look forward to being a TA, then an RA or whichever way my graduate program would like it completed first. As an undergrad, the chemistry department does offer an opportunity to spend 4-5 weeks with general chemistry students in lab with a project; I'll inquire this semester for the upcoming year.

    I hope the GRE goes well as I'm usually a slow test taker, I get rather thorough on answering questions :)
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