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This is a somewhat long question. I hope you can take the time to read it carefully.

I obtained my bachelor's degree in physics in June 2019. I decided I wanted to go to physics graduate school in the USA after finishing my undergraduate degree, however I noticed I was not going to be a strong candidate because I only had one letter of recommendation, had very little experience doing research, and had never published a paper. Hence, I decided to postpone my application and work with physicists to do research. Since I come from a place where research opportunities are scarce, I decided to contact researchers from the USA to work with them. It was really hard to get a response from them, but finally I got a response from two very good physicists from UC Santa Cruz and Georgetown. I am currently working with one of them and there's a possibility to publish an article by the end of this year's Fall. The other physicist advised me not to work with the two of them at the same time, as I might become overwhelmed by the amount of work from both projects. So he told me that it was my decision if I wanted to apply this year or wait until the next year. He said to me that if I waited one more year to apply, we would work together on a project and he claimed that we would publish a paper together by the end of Fall 2021. My dilemma is that if I wait one more year I would be older and when I start my phd, three years will have passed since I graduated from college. However, if I wait one more year I will have one more letter of recommendation and one more paper published (which would probably make me a stronger candidate).

My question is the following: is it a better idea to wait one more year considering that I can get all the things I mentioned before? Or, does waiting this amount of time affect my chances of being admitted?

I graduated from a 4-year physics program at the age of 22 (I'm 23 now).

  • What are the arguments against applying this year? Nothing stops you re-applying next year if you don't get an offer that you are happy to accept. – avid Sep 18 at 2:50
  • @avid I was thinking what you suggest, but I have to pay application fees for every time I apply and will have to spend most of the money I saved during college in one application cycle. Since choosing the right place to pursue a PhD is really important, I would like to study in a good university, but based on my current research experience and lack of good letters of recommendation I find it hard to achieve. – eemg Sep 18 at 3:55
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    The number of years since your bachelors just isn't that important compared to the quality of work you have done. In some cases industry experience is valued. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 18 at 4:22
  • @AnonymousPhysicist The question you pointed out does not really answer my question. My main question was if waiting a few years after completing my bachelors could be detrimental to my application. You and Allure below have already provided me a good answer. – eemg Sep 18 at 23:26
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Waiting can negatively affect your chances of admission if you aren't doing academia-related things: for example, if you quit to join industry for 3 years, then when you get around to applying your letter writers might not remember you that well anymore (they might even have died/retired/resigned), which will have a negative impact.

What you are doing, on the other hand, will not negatively affect your chances - in fact you are likely to improve your chances. You are after all getting more/better letters of recommendations & publications, two key aspects to an application.

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