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Yet another grad school question thread

  1. Dec 3, 2007 #1
    I know these grad school threads have been overdone but nobody ask this question yet:

    Would it be fair to say that the grad school applications commitee looks at :

    30 % gpa
    30% GRE score
    30 % Research experience
    10% letters of recommendation?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2007 #2
    No, I think it would be fair to say that each graduate school figures out what is important to them. There are to many factors to consider for a some simple algorithm to figure out. For example, if you have a lot of experience and decent recommendation, does that make you better than a guy who has some experience but awesome recommendations from world famous researchers? According to your little system there, it does.
  4. Dec 3, 2007 #3
    In that case scenario you just describe, I think I would be the better candidate because experience matters a lot than who you know(or should matter) . I think to grad school applications commitee will be well aware of the fact that most of the grad school applicants have not rubbed shoulders with stephen hawking or michio kaku. And I don't think it should matter whether the physicist has won a nobel prize or not, but only if he/she knows the students weaknesses and strengths whether the student was a student of that professor or worked as his research assistant.
  5. Dec 3, 2007 #4
    Okay, but the admissions committee knows they can trust the opinion of someone they think highly of because that person has a reputation to uphold. If this is the first time they've heard of your adviser or your school than they have nothing to go on.

    This is the way the system works.

    P.S. Most physicists have not won a Nobel Prize, and don't expect you to have worked with someone who has, either. But it certainly wouldn't hurt.
  6. Dec 3, 2007 #5
    No way, from what a lot of my professors are telling me it's more letters of recommendations than anything, if not a majority at least a plurality.
  7. Dec 3, 2007 #6


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    The GRE General test counts for very little. Research experience and reference letters are key. It also helps to ace the subject test, but the subject test score (if applicable) is mostly used as a disqualifier.
  8. Dec 3, 2007 #7


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    For admissions, this is probably true.
    However, for university-wide competitions for fellowships, a good score on the General Test might help win one.
  9. Dec 3, 2007 #8
    I have one crappy recommendation letter, one decent one, and one good one (my most recent one). How will an admissions committee view that? Will my crappy recommendation be enough to kill my chances to get into a certain school?

    My crappy recommendation is from a research-for-credit course I took last year. I was taking more than a full course load so I kind of rushed my results and thesis. I felt I had to include it since it was one of my research experiences related to what I want to get into.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2007
  10. Dec 3, 2007 #9


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    I'm Canadian but I didn't write the GRE, does this mean I can still qualify for graduate school in the US?

    I did really well in my subjects, I have research experience, and I already have lots of TA experience (probably more than most graduate students!).

    I can also get really good reference letters.

    Would I have a shot a nice school in the US?

    Note: I might be sending in a paper of an alternative proof to a theorem. I'm getting another prof. to look it over and then it's in.
  11. Dec 3, 2007 #10
    The GRE General is mandatory for all applicants.

    Most schools require the GRE Physics subject test

    I hope you're not applying for entry in 2008. If you are, I'd recommend that you do a Master's in Canada first because you won't get into most American schools without writing the GRE subject test. Then apply again next year or the year after for an American school.

    Which school do you go to?
  12. Dec 3, 2007 #11


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    I'm thinking of doing mathematics not physics though.

    Maybe I'll just apply next year.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2007
  13. Dec 3, 2007 #12
    You might as well write the GRE General test since it's offered throughout the year. So that you don't have to cram for it along with the Math Subject test when you write it next year.
  14. Dec 3, 2007 #13


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    Math subject test?
  15. Dec 3, 2007 #14
    What makes a good letter of recommendation?

    Is it the professor's glowing review of your achievement? It seems that any professor you've got a good relationship with would give you the best review he possibly could, even if you're not the best student he's ever had.

    Is it the reputation of the professor? Does a letter from the head of the department get more weight than a tenured professor, which counts for more than a non-tenured one? Is a letter from an alumnus of the school you are applying to better than one from a non-alumnus?

    What should I write for my students if I were a professor (I'm not)?
  16. Dec 3, 2007 #15


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    No. Taking the General test is mandatory. But an admissions committee is hardly likely to pick someone else over you because their verbal score was 600 and yours was 500. However, if your quant score is really low (unlikely, in your case), that could possibly kill your application. That's typically how it works with admissions.

    I'm not aware of other potential uses, such as those that Robphy mentioned. I had a Q800, V690 score and landed university fellowships at 3 of the schools I applied to. I didn't think my scores were fantastic, so I'm not sure if there was necessarily any correlation.
  17. Dec 3, 2007 #16
    How is a combined 1490 not fantastic? Perfect quant and probably like 90 percentile for verbal. Am I missing something? Most graduate applicants (in all fields, not just physics) would kill for scores like these.
  18. Dec 4, 2007 #17
    so letters of recommendations and research experience are more important than GPA and GRE score ? Also will letters of recommendations from professors normally com from professors who taught a physics course or professors who observed your research skills.

    To all professors, what do you normally consider a good letter of recommendation and a bad letter of recommendation. Would a good letter of recommendation be a dedicated student with average physics grades, who shows up for all her classes, and that she is intensely interested in the subject?
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2007
  19. Dec 4, 2007 #18
    Absolutely, without a doubt. It is nice to have a good GPA, good GRE scores, but letters of recommendation are so much more important, and having some research experience also helps. Letters from professors who are well known within their field is even better.
  20. Dec 4, 2007 #19
    A good letter of recommendation would be one from a professor that knows you well, outside (and inside, if possible) the classroom. This generally means through research experience. However, it could also be from your involvement in a group such as the Society of Physics Students (SPS) at your school. The way I think of it is that any information that cannot be seen on your transcript would be useful. So, it would seem to me that a letter saying that "so and so showed up to class, got good grades, and seemed interested in the subject" is not too valuable a letter. For a professor like that, it might be OK if you are actively involved in class discussion and come to their office often, especially to talk about things outside of class, such as your future plans or research areas.
  21. Dec 4, 2007 #20
    my advisor said extracurricular activities like sps did not matter like they might have mattered in high school. Have there been a professors that gave bad letters of recommendation?
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