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Top Physics universities in the US

Universities / August 7, 2019

This will get updated once I get the admission results back!
Undergrad Institution: Small LAC (many graduate and get admitted to top colleges for experiment, but idk how to judge reputation).
Major(s): Physics
Minor(s):
PA in MajorG: 3.5ish
Overall GPA: 3.5ish
Length of Degree: 4
Position in Class: cum laude (idk what percent that corresponds to.) Honors in major too.
Type of Student: Domestic

GRE Scores : (revised or old version?)
Q: 74%
V:50%
W:56%
P: 700 (52%) *this is the score i am submitting, I have taken it multiple times*

Research Experience: Hep-th at undergrad, hep-th at a top school. Despite the lack of publications, I think I did well. My advisors were happy and I know they will write my strong recommendation letters.

Awards/Honors/Recognitions: Honors in major, graduated cum laude, a couple of fellowships for summer research.

Pertinent Activities or Jobs: Tutor, SPS President.

Any Miscellaneous Accomplishments that Might Help:

Special Bonus Points: My profs have pretty good connections for hep-th, but I am not applying for it. Soo IDK what to put here.

Any Other Info That Shows Up On Your App and Might Matter: Grades have been inconsistent. I don't do well on timed exams, but otherwise I have taken many advanced courses and went for breadth.

Applying to Where: For physics, All for CME/CMT...interest in HEP-th might have been obvious from research experience+I talked about problems I am interested in

Purdue University - Jan 22

Ohio State University- Jan 23
University of California Los Angeles - Feb 27 Rejected via email. Oh well =)

UIUC - Late March

USC - May (snail mail, I don't know the exact date because I went on vacation)

Penn State - mid March

*I had other application acceptances, but they were not for physics and some were job applications. The choice was very hard to make between grad school and job, but that's life. Decisions are tough. I hope future applicants will also have a variety of options to choose from, but in the end you can only pick one.*

Disregard this advice if you want to do experiment (below)

If I could have done things differently, I would have signed up for September AND October test. Physics gre scores matter a lot for theory. If you lurked around this forum, you already know that. However, how much it matters depends on the school you went to. From my experience, it matters a lot if you didn't go to a topish school for undergrad (in physics). I would have given myself more options if I had a higher pgre score. Obviously grades matter too and they matter the most (compared to pgre), but they look at trends, level of the class etc.

I don't want to claim being a bad test taker, because I tend to do well on exams that do not have a time pressure on them. Depending on the subject and my comfort in the material, I would do well even with time pressure. For whatever reason, I effed up on the physics gre. On practice exams I was doing much much better. Soo much better that I was confident going into the exam. sucks SO my advice is to do GREAT on the practice test so you will do GOOD on the real thing. Don't aim for GOOD on practice test or otherwise the real one might just be okay ( like me).

Also don't lose confidence in physics if you have a sucky physics gre score (unless if you don't know your physics). I was well prepared for the content of the exam, but who knows maybe something equivalent to stage fright crept in.

Publications are a great thing to have if you gpa/pgre are sort of on the mediocre range... Because research experience/recommendation letters matter the most in the end. very strong recommendation letters are a must! So form a good relationship with your research mentors and work hard!
It's tough to get publications at a small LAC, but even at other schools it depends on the prof and really good timing.

I do not regret applying to the schools I did, in fact, it was a good range in my opinion (if you take into account ALL applications and not just physics). NEVER just aim too high or too low... aim for places you can thrive in and be happy living in. If getting a post doc and being a faculty matters to you then work hard to get into a school that will take you on that path. For the record, most schools do... but it all depends on you.

Source: www.physicsgre.com