Aiming too wide for my own good

Now that I’ve got rejected from Tufts, I’ve began to wonder whether I have been aiming too wide. Even though rankings are, in a research context, amusing at best, they may be used against you if you try to get out of research. Very few HR departments even know about NRC, ARWU or other rankings of that ilk, and the ones that do usually belong to entities that engage in R&D.

Oh, but, with the appropriate legal training, you can do patent law and is sensitive to prestige somehow. Patent law is another beast altogether: employers that hire patent lawyers don’t care about where you did your scientific or technical training as much as they care about where you went to law school, as with many, if not most, areas of legal practice do. Most legal employers would rather interview a lawyer with a PhD from, say, Case Western and a JD from Harvard than a lawyer with a PhD from Harvard and a JD from Case Western.

For as much as I’d love to believe that I wasn’t tufted and there were legitimate reasons for me to be rejected at Tufts (and what applies to Tufts applies to Dartmouth too, from which I was rejected as well), I will list those reasons I believe are legitimate.

  • People of interest are unable to take an additional student next year (lack of funding, time, etc.)
  • Small department size (and painful decisions had to be made)
  • Lack of papers

I find it a little weird that my acceptances and waitlists are sandwiched between rejections (if you look at them through the lens of the physics US News rankings) but, now that I learned that I actually have connections at Minnesota (Vainshtein) beyond merely having faculty at my undergrad that went to Minnesota (Carlos Silva, who first recommended Minnesota to me) as I would have at UPenn (Trodden and Khoury, and, if I ultimately attended UPenn, Mark Trodden would, in all likelihood, become my advisor), given that Minnesota is a protectionistic school (if only because it’s a state school) it gives me some hope for UPenn.



  • #26 Minnesota
  • #54 Notre Dame


  • #36 Carnegie Mellon
  • #44 WUSTL


  • #2 Princeton
  • #7 UChicago
  • #11 Michigan
  • #54 Vanderbilt
  • #70 Dartmouth
  • #77 Tufts


Speaking of UPenn, I feel like they had yet to render decisions to anyone for particle theory (cosmology or not); my current advisor claimed that there were a rather large number of withdrawals (in a subfield’s context) from people who were cross-applicants to top-20 schools and UPenn who got accepted elsewhere in the top-20. That and combined with my connections, as well as Carnegie Mellon’s waitlist without connections (despite being between Minnesota and UPenn for cosmological prestige) it still gives me some hope for UPenn, less so for Columbia.

And UPenn in particular is a little peculiar in the context of US schools (but rather common in Europe, where sometimes the application deadline depends on when the predecessor files the first draft of his/her dissertation): it releases decisions by subfields (Feb. 6 was HEP-EX, Feb. 19 was microwave astro). Perhaps it’s a whole new format for them, with growing pains, perhaps no one who got acceptances for condensed matter or biophysics, or even particle cosmology, decided to make their offers public.


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