Hopefully I'm not misguided in posting this, but finding such information as "what is a standard applicant among top 20 physics graduate schools" has been a bit difficult, and I'd like to hear others' opinions. My stats are:
Undergraduate institution: a top university
I've done a bit of research in astronomy (largely data reduction) and in condensed matter. In both cases I mostly dealt with programming and will have decent (though I imagine not outstanding) letters of recommendation. These would be from a relatively new prof. who I think is gaining traction in CM and the other in astronomy from a senior research scientist.
I will try for theoretical condensed matter research throughout junior year if possible, but whether I get to do so depends on whether some profs reply.
On top of my prospects in getting in to a top 20 US grad school, I would like to know what are the financial prospects. Would I be likely to take on something like $40k of debt, or would it be likely that I can get through a master's or PhD without taking on almost any debt?