1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Which has more weight applying to grad school

  1. Apr 14, 2005 #1

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    What has more weight when a grad school looks at your application?

    Recommendations
    Research
    GPA
    Time you took to graduate
    classes you took

    Specifically for like, Berkeley or Caltech or Stanford
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 14, 2005 #2

    mathwonk

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    2015 Award

    in general, if the reader knows the letter writer, a reccomendation is the most convincing. But everything has some weight.

    But if two epople apply to say stanford, and both come with straught A's form somewhere, the one with those grades at harvard gets precedence over the one with those grades from indiana community college.

    but if the letters says, "i know you don't take many students from here, but this is the best student I have seen in 27 years, and I mean she is comparable to the best undergrad majors i taught at princeton too. This student has not only technical power but originality, and tenacity. Grab her. I am sure you will not be sorry."

    then it should help.

    but you really should be calling up those schools, asking for a graduate advisor and asking them.
     
  4. Apr 14, 2005 #3
    Recs are pretty up there, but how much consideration given each year to each particular thing depends on who's on the admissions committee that year. For example, the GRE is typically given greater consideration when there are more theory-based people on the board then experimentalists (or so I've heard).
     
  5. Apr 14, 2005 #4

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    How bout research? Seems like althoguht you guys say their all equally weighted, research is not the type to have a year/committe where it stands out...
     
  6. Apr 14, 2005 #5

    Gokul43201

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    If I had to guess a mean level of importance for each and rank by this estimate, I would have something like : (of course the variation from school to school is often larger than the difference in importance between neighboring -or more- points on the list below)

    1. Recommendations
    2. Research
    3. GRE - subject score
    4. GPA; GRE general test score
    5. classes you took
    6. Time you took to graduate (unless this number is very unusual)
     
  7. Apr 14, 2005 #6
    I know that research is VERY important. I've heard rumors that Princeton didn't even consider people who didn't have a publication. Only a rumor, so it may not be true, but it sounds likely to me.

    As someone who got rejected from quite a few of the big name schools, I can say that I think the biggest thing seperating me from some of the people I know who did get in was research activities. I had some, but apparently not enough.
     
  8. Apr 14, 2005 #7

    SpaceTiger

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    In astro, they're not considered if they haven't done any research. They don't have to be published, I don't think, and they certainly don't have to be first author. The faculty have learned from experience that good grades and test scores are not a good indication of one's research abilities...and research is ultimately what you're going to grad school to do.
     
  9. Apr 14, 2005 #8
    well, the answer depends heavily on whether you are a US applicant or an international one.

    in general, if your recommenders are known by name (because of their reserach) to the people in the places you are applying to and they rave about you, then that is a significant plus - everything else becomes secondary.

    a bad score on the physics gre may rule out your chances while a good score does not ensure anything. what is a "good" or "bad" score depends significantly on whether you are an international applicant or not.

    I notice that your list does not contain the "Statement of purpose". What you say is your area of interest is very important - because it should obviously have an overlap with the departments in the places you are applying to and those departments should have money!

    A good way to find out about this is to email a few profs in the deprarment of your interest in the places you plan to apply to.

    i know many people who have gone to ivy leagues with no prior publications.

    good luck!
    adi
     
  10. Apr 14, 2005 #9

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Id be a US applicant plus instate applicant. Ill get in touch with some of the people though and try to line up some research summer of junior/senior year or whenever i can. Would getting your BS in 3 years instead of 4 make much of a difference? At my current pace, i could easily do it in 3 years... but should i instead go for 4 years and take a bunch of extra physics classes (wanna go into plasma or high energy physics) or do research in the spare time i have during the regular school year or what would you people suggest?
     
  11. Apr 15, 2005 #10
    I don't get it. What (and how) are you supposed to research when you're an undergraduate? It's like 3 years after High School, you only start learning general physics (for example), do they expect you to be a prodigy?
     
  12. Apr 15, 2005 #11

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Well, i think its assumed that when i say 'research', i meant assisting in research like an intern or something. Going out into the real world and helping out and participating in research projects. Theres some flyer for undergrads for helping out in some plasma physics research at... uhm.... some lab in chicago.... and no, not fermi lab... think it was a university.
     
  13. Apr 15, 2005 #12

    mathwonk

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    2015 Award

    I never heard of this, but I am a math prof. there is almost never any research done of any significance by an undergraduate in math, so I can remember maybe two PhD candidate in the last 25 years at our school who applied and already had a publication. One was a Chinese student, and maybe older than average US students. He transferred to Berkeley as I recall, and was one of the best I ever saw at Georgia, better than some grad students at Harvard. The other was a Russian student, just extremely strong, the only one I recall being nervous to teach to in 28 years.

    Even at Harvard, I can remember only one undergraduate who did significant research as an undergraduate. One kid did a senior honors thesis that accomplished something interesting and useful in group theory, and actually it was used by the people who finally classified finite simple groups.

    Washing the pipettes for a researcher is not research, at least not in math. We mean actually discovering something and proving it is correct. Undergraduates very seldom do this. Maybe Galois. I think even Einstein was about 25 when he published something interesting. I could be wrong.

    One of our undergrads is going to UCLA next year in math and I think he does not have any research.

    By the way this advice is based on experience of having been a postdoc at Harvard for 1 and 1/2 years, a university professor for 28 years, having served on graduate admissions committees, taught grad courses for 26 years, and having been graduate coordinator of the math department at a state university for 2 years. Still, i could be out of touch with practices at some places.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2005
  14. Apr 15, 2005 #13

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Well tuesday ill go to our undergrad study room and check out the flyer and get down the information. I know our school has student-teacher publications and there hasnt been anyone to graduate with a masters (no phd offered) within the last 3 years and i swaer one was very recent.... Ill go check it out.
     
  15. Apr 17, 2005 #14

    Simfish

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    There are quite a few students who do research in high school. Quite a lot of students participate in Intel/Siemens, for example. Also, there are research programs like RSI, HSHSP, SSP, NASA SHARP, etc. A sample of the research topics in these programs show that the topics definitely are not accesible by a mere high school curriculum.

    Survey courses at the high school and freshman sophomore level won't really help with research. Research is so specialized that school will barely cover any of the content in research. Although laboratory experience would be more important in this regard.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2005
  16. Apr 17, 2005 #15
    I wish that I had been born in the US. :frown:
     
  17. Apr 18, 2005 #16

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    So what about getting your bachelors in 3 years instead of 4? Any + or - for your applicaton? :)
     
  18. Apr 18, 2005 #17
    Irrelevant.
     
  19. Apr 18, 2005 #18

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Dang! Foiled again
     
  20. Apr 19, 2005 #19

    mathwonk

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    2015 Award

    Let me comment on the opinions that "many high school students do research". Again those statements referred to lab science, and I am talking about math. Still there may be comparisons.

    There are certainly some high school students today who also claim to have done "research" in math, but this claim is highly susceptible to interpretation, at least if you understand the situation as I think i do. I know of two examples.

    1) for years there have been high school math competitions in which students entered by proposing certain projects they supposedly carried out, in math research.

    I have been advisor for such projects. Even some of my students who got admitted to Ivy league schools, did essentially nothing on their own project. I.e. I came up with all the ideas, and all the questions, and the student just wrote down what I had said and added nothing and did not even try to add anything.

    Some more dedicated advisees at least worked out examples of what I suggested, in addition to writing up the basic theory, but usually it was impressive enough to the judges that they were even familiar with the terminology i had taught them from the college curriculum.

    I recall one exception of a student who actually learned some abstract algebra on his own, and then generalized a small result about modular arithmetic. The result he proved was well known, but he did not know that and ddiscovered and proved it on his own. This impressed me. He is now a junior level mathematics professor at Columbia I believe.

    Even his high school work was not "research" in the sense of new information, but it is research in the sense of self discovery and verification. I.e. it did show his potential.

    Oh yes, I remember several more students who did their own excellent work as well. (As I learned the game, I stayed out of it more, and also some of the students were just really gifted, and their high school teacher was outstanding as an advisor as well, much better than me.)

    I have also seen hugely impressive lab science projects at math/science fairs which were obviously carried out with the benefit of a large engineering lab at a university, and hardly likely to have been the work of the student at all, except possibly as an assistant to his father or uncle. Even if not, it would have been impossible for a student without access to a major lab. Quite unfairly, these projects won major gold ribbons.

    2) There is a current funding initiative from congress and NSF called "VIGRE", or vertical integration of research and education. This mandates that universities involve undergraduate students in research early in their careers. The fact that there is a lot of money available for this means it is happening and many people can claim participation.

    It does not mean that what is happening there is actually significant research. Faculty are pressed to use this money as congress intended, and also challenged to respond to the need to involve more American students in math and science (the money is restricted to US citizens), but we are very challenged to come up with "research" experiences that undergraduates can actually participate in.

    So there are students claiming participation in VIGRE research experiences who will have not done any research that I, or maybe anyone, would consider real research.


    So I stand by my original statements on this topic, in spite of rumors people may have heard that "research" is common among high school students and undergrads, and a necessary ingredient of an application. If the reader of the application knows as much as I do, and all university professors know this, those claims are highly suspect. Or at the very least the meaning of the word "research" has to be understood carefully.

    I hope this helps clear the mystery up some. Of course as always, I could be wrong, even though this statement is based on long experience. Also be aware that college admissions officials normally do NOT know as much as faculty about these things, and they are sometimes impressed by things that do not impress scientists.

    For example, although sad to me, it may be true that the high school student who actually did his own research may have been benefited more on his college application by the less meaningful fact that he took calculus from a local college while in high school. I.e. almost anyone trying to enhance his resume can do that, but not anyone can discover and prove a theorem, even a small previously known one.

    Indeed the students who did the least on their projects with me got into the most famous schools, since that was their goal, and they did what it "took" to get into those schools throughout their careers. Nonetheless the more talented students probably did get in where they wanted to. No actually the best of them was turned down at one top place, or at least got less scholarship than needed to go there.

    So there is a tension between the truth about a candidate, and the BS on a vita that may help get him in a certain school. Still I advocate being as straightforward as possible, without being self destructive, and not becoming cynical. Sometimes you will not be treated fairly, but eventually you will be likely to come out where you want.

    I.e. take calculus at the local college if that will impress the admissions official, but also do the real work to learn as much as you can, to impress a professor who may interview you.

    good luck.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2005
  21. Apr 19, 2005 #20

    mathwonk

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    2015 Award

    did anyone benefit from that essay?
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Which has more weight applying to grad school
Loading...