How do you begin the graduate school search as a physics major?
I am a current junior in college planning to graduate next year, and am looking for advice on how to begin the search for schools. #career-path #physics #graduateschool #gradschool #application #school #college #astronomy #junior
I'm not a physics major, but did study STEM, go through the grad school admissions process, and for what it's worth have two best friends who are Physics PhD students (1 in Ohio and 1 in Arizona).
Of course, the exams, physical applications, and resume are going to be the things that get you into a graduate program, but like your question suggests, that's not where I would recommend starting. To get started, think about the areas of physics that excite you. Is there a specific course you loved? A lab? A professor you had whose research was intriguing? Once you have that understanding, you'll want to look for individuals currently doing research in those fields! In a made up example, perhaps you're excited by classical mechanics, and after googling about classical mechanics research, you find that Arizona State University was given a huge grant to work on classical mechanics problems and questions, and have some of the most foremost faculty on the subject... Well ASU might be a good school to look into!
Long story short. Identify your passions, research those passions, and find who is making those passions come to life!
GOOD LUCK :)
Now, you have the advantage of abundance of information at the tip of your finger. The key questions should be:
1. What is the specific field in physics you would like to specialize in?
2. Which university houses the physics department in the field of your interest?
3. What is the reputation of the department in that specific field?
4. If you need financial support, would you be granted a graduate assistantship in the perspective university?
5. What is your geographical preference in the choice of universities?
I have a Ph.D. in physics.
Graduate work in physics is more about what professor or group you might work with, whether their areas of research interest match yours, their national/international reputation/funding/publication rate, and how graduate students who work with them have fared including how long it took to get the degree and what jobs they landed after graduate work. Will there be research openings for you with the professor(s) or group(s) of interest?
I would ask about the graduate student burnout rate in the department, as some physics departments just take on graduate students to be cheap Teaching Assistants.
Chat with graduate students and others in the department: How well are graduate students treated in the department? How well are secretaries and custodians treated because you can judge the character of an organization by how they treat people with little power. Who in the department is known to be a jerk, and who is kind and professional? (Secretaries have all the gossip and often have a surprisingly accurate understanding of who is doing great work and is easy to work with, and who is not).
Choose a school with a location where it would be pleasant to live for a number of years, not some nightmarish, grim, crime-ridden wasteland.
Apply to a mix of hard to get in Physics Departments and easier to get in.
Once accepted, consider any financial support and visit the top 1 or 2 schools/departments.
Hope this helps!