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State of high energy physics graduate admissions in US !


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I would be applying to US universities this year for Fall-2015 start. I was an engineering PhD student in United Kingdom earlier but dropped out (in 2013) after second year of my PhD to pursue mathematical physics. Since last one year I have been doing research in high energy physics (string theory) in the best university for physics in my home country in Asia and have been able to produce three publications in high impact journals like Journal of High Energy Physics. 


From discussions with many academics around the world, it seems that theoretical high energy physics is kind of losing funding and so getting admission in a good PhD programme in high energy physics is really hard (especially for international students). So I would like to know  if it would be worth applying to the top PhD programmes in high energy physics in US universities. What level of competition I should expect. A reality check is what I need basically. My academic profile is as follows


-  Undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering with around 3.2/4.0 GPA (from a reputed college in my home country).


-  PhD in Aerospace Engineering (dropped out after second year) from one of the top-30 universities in the world (in UK)


Research Experience-  2 years in my PhD programme where I published one paper as first author. And 1 year research in high energy physics with three publications with my collaborators.


I hope to do well in Physics GRE and other standardized tests. And I hope to get good recommendations from my collaborators.



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Top US hep-th programs are notoriously difficult to get into, and most people will say you need a perfect or near perfect PGRE to be considered as an international applicant. This is mainly because there are so many people applying to the top ranked hep-th departments, that the department generally has its pick of top scoring applicants, and it's generally more difficult to be accepted as an international in the first place. 


I can't tell you if it's "worth it" to apply, and I also can't gauge your admission chances based on your "stats" alone -- a lot of this stuff depends on personality and research fit, which varies dramatically from department to department. It also matters a lot if you have some sort of connection to the institution you're applying to, such as a previous student from your advisor doing well there, or professors reviewing your application that are collaborators with your current group. 


My only advice is, look at profiles in the physics gre forum, and if it's not clear that you wouldn't have a shot in hell, and you can afford it, apply away. Consider your applications as sort of lottery tickets, and you never know what will happen. I also recommend applying to a variety of programs -- a range of rankings, a range of research interests, anything that broadens your application's chances of getting reviewed by someone who might really want to work with you. 

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