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I got kicked out of graduate school. Can I ever get back in?

by Mistake
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Mistake
#1
Oct3-11, 10:27 PM
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I got kicked out for failing classes (I passed my quals though). This happened last year. Since then I tried to find a job as a programmer or engineer (I'm was a physics graduate) but ended up at the lab I was working for at the time because I just couldn't find anything. It's a year later now and it's almost time to apply to grad school again and I'm wondering if I have a shot at this point. I'd get a letter of recommendation from my current professor and I'm almost ready to submit my very first article to a journal. I doubt this will go to a very good journal, but whatever. I plan on retaking the GREs to get a better score as well.

I just don't know if this is enough to convince people that I have grown up and will take my classes more seriously. I really have grown up and am willing to do anything, but my word obviously isn't enough.

Should I work for a few years as an engineer or programmer (whatever job I find)? Would that give an admissions board a better idea of how much I've changed?

Moreover, I'm not hell bent on it being physics grad school. I've found I really love the engineering aspect of experimental physics and engineering and physics are very hard to separate. Should I try and get a Master's in EE instead? Go for a Ph.D. in EE? I'm just not sure of my options at this point really.
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Vanadium 50
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Oct4-11, 11:10 AM
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I would not vote to accept you for a physics graduate program no matter how much work experience you gain. In my mind, you've demonstrated that you cannot handle the material, and I would instead go with someone who has not demonstrated that. Sorry, but that's how it is. There's always one more application in the pile.
eri
#3
Oct4-11, 11:13 AM
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You'd still have a shot at getting into another program. I know someone who failed the quals at once school twice (in physics) and still managed to get into another similarly ranked school for physics, get a PhD, get a great postdoc, etc. It helps if you have someone on your side, a faculty member at the other school willing to vouch for you, and if you're not applying to a great school. But it sounds like you might be happier in engineering than physics. You'd only need a PhD in engineering if you want to teach.

Vanadium 50
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Oct4-11, 11:22 AM
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I got kicked out of graduate school. Can I ever get back in?

Right, but there's more than the qual. There's the minimum GPA, and that's usually a university requirement, not a departmental requirement.
G01
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Oct4-11, 11:32 AM
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The point of PhD level graduate work is research, and it seems you have that on your resume. However, if you can't make it past classes, you will not be able to get to the point where you are doing research for the department, so that is a moot point. The admissions committee will see your resume and say "Well even if he can do research, he won't be able to make it past his first year." Honestly, I think that, at this point, serious consideration of your other options would be prudent, especially considering Vanadium's point about minimum GPA requirements.


If there is a grad school with a physics program near you, that would still consider you as a candidate(given your previous grades), perhaps you can audit a few graduate courses or take them as a non degree seeking student. Take the exams and do the homework. If you do well, then you have a professor who can write a letter and attest to your ability to succeed in graduate level coursework.

But before you do this, you need to ask yourself why you want to go to grad school. It did not work out last time. Why? Did you like being there? What is it that makes you want to go back? Is that reason a valid reason to consider putting more time into schooling? What has changed that makes you think this time will be any different?
robphy
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Oct4-11, 11:44 AM
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What was the reason for the poor performance in the classes?
Was it one class? or more?

Were you not academically prepared?
Or were you not motivated? Or distracted?
xdrgnh
#7
Oct4-11, 11:48 AM
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Quote Quote by Vanadium 50 View Post
I would not vote to accept you for a physics graduate program no matter how much work experience you gain. In my mind, you've demonstrated that you cannot handle the material, and I would instead go with someone who has not demonstrated that. Sorry, but that's how it is. There's always one more application in the pile.
What would someone need to do to gain your vote to accept him or her back into a physics graduate program after being kicked out?
Vanadium 50
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Oct4-11, 12:18 PM
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Nothing. The risk is too great. It's less risky to reach back in and take one more applicant from the pool.
xdrgnh
#9
Oct4-11, 01:04 PM
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Is it a risk if he's paying or on some kind of probation where he has to pay till he proves he can handle the course work?
Mapes
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Oct4-11, 01:36 PM
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I had a similar problem, though with poor undergraduate performance in my past. However, I made it into grad school and am a couple weeks away from my PhD defense. Part of the remedy was taking a self-funded, one-year MEng program at the same school and excelling in the classes. That way they had nothing to lose.

The best way to minimize previous poor performance is to delivery exceptional performance in the same area.
Lavabug
#11
Oct4-11, 01:47 PM
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Quote Quote by Vanadium 50 View Post
In my mind, you've demonstrated that you cannot handle the material,
Without getting too sidetracked, how does failing one or more courses mean "you can't handle the material"? I know a pretty brilliant person from my university with a pretty much flawless academic record that failed undergrad QM and analytical mechanics (grad level courses by US standards), the latter twice and the former 3 times. Also failed a senior course. He graduated and got into the grad school/phd he wanted.

Granted this situation is different, but extending the cold judgement you're using to an undergrad, wouldn't someone who failed undergrad courses be worth even less than a grad student that fails?
robphy
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Oct4-11, 02:29 PM
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Possibly encouraging reading:
http://www.physicsforums.com/showthr...96#post1276996

... but I think one needs requires motivation, skill, and persistence.
gravenewworld
#13
Oct4-11, 04:46 PM
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We have a professor that failed out of MIT because he refused to do coursework and only wanted to work in the lab. He was subsequently snatched up by Duke and wrote a paper that is now one of the most cited in his field.


Just do well in your courses. At this point I just think of them as almost worthless formalities to jump through. Let's be honest here, you a REALLY in grad school to do research in a lab, make the university money, and to improve your PI's resume.
Mistake
#14
Oct4-11, 10:39 PM
P: 41
Quote Quote by Vanadium 50 View Post
I would not vote to accept you for a physics graduate program no matter how much work experience you gain. In my mind, you've demonstrated that you cannot handle the material, and I would instead go with someone who has not demonstrated that. Sorry, but that's how it is. There's always one more application in the pile.
What's the point of the qual if not to demonstrate that you know the material? I passed.

Quote Quote by robphy View Post
What was the reason for the poor performance in the classes?
Was it one class? or more?

Were you not academically prepared?
Or were you not motivated? Or distracted?
It was two classes. I failed them my first quarter due to various factors. My parents were going through a divorce and I had never lived alone before, so that took some time to adjust. On top of that, I underestimated the difficulty of the classes and just didn't put in the required effort.

They gave me a second chance to pass the classes the following year. I had passed my quals already. This time I was determined to not only stay afloat, but to catch up to my peers. I retook the classes I failed as well as another class and I was doing as much research as I could on top of that (finding a group that wasn't flat broke was difficult so I wanted my professor to commit to taking me on). Unfortunately that proved to be too much. The extra class I was taking was much tougher than I expected and overlapped 100% with one of the classes I was retaking. Overall everything suffered. I should have prioritized better. Put research aside for the time being. Not taken that extra class. But that's too late now. That's why I want to know if there's any chance of trying again. Obviously I won't be getting into MIT or Harvard, but I want to know if it's possible to get in to a decent 2nd tier school.
Vanadium 50
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Oct5-11, 02:52 AM
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Quote Quote by xdrgnh View Post
Is it a risk if he's paying or on some kind of probation where he has to pay till he proves he can handle the course work?
Yes, because that's a slot that someone else could be taking.


Quote Quote by gravenewworld View Post
We have a professor that failed out of MIT because he refused to do coursework and only wanted to work in the lab. He was subsequently snatched up by Duke and wrote a paper that is now one of the most cited in his field
I'm sure there are such cases, just as there are people who have spotless records and still wash out. But when admitting students, you have to play the odds. You're better off with a demonstrable track record of success than a demonstrable track record of failure.

Quote Quote by Mistake View Post
What's the point of the qual if not to demonstrate that you know the material? I passed.
But yet you still were kicked out for bad academic performance.

The qual is not intended to be a final exam after all your graduate classwork. In many places its the same as a masters comprehensive exam.

Quote Quote by Lavabug View Post
Without getting too sidetracked, how does failing one or more courses mean "you can't handle the material"?
If your academic performance is so bad that the school kicks you out, I think that's a pretty good sign that you can't handle the material.

Quote Quote by Lavabug View Post
IGranted this situation is different, but extending the cold judgement you're using to an undergrad, wouldn't someone who failed undergrad courses be worth even less than a grad student that fails?
I don't quite follow that, but in admitting a class for graduate school, you are trying to get the best students you can. Someone who has tried grad school and was kicked out is a huge risk, and there are plenty of equally good students in the pile who haven't tried and flunked out.

Why should I deny them their chance?
symbolipoint
#16
Oct5-11, 05:07 AM
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Vanadiam_50 said,
I'm sure there are such cases, just as there are people who have spotless records and still wash out. But when admitting students, you have to play the odds. You're better off with a demonstrable track record of success than a demonstrable track record of failure.
That seems to mean that you should start a new track and maintain it for a while; this may take some time, including at least a couple of advanced courses or something.
Vanadium 50
#17
Oct5-11, 08:14 AM
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How does he take these classes if he's been dropped from the program?
Vanadium 50
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Oct5-11, 08:17 AM
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Quote Quote by Mistake View Post
Obviously I won't be getting into MIT or Harvard, but I want to know if it's possible to get in to a decent 2nd tier school.
And if I said "no", would you believe me? And by "possible", do you mean "as possible as winning the lottery"?

There aren't "tiers" in graduate school. Good state schools have a large number of excellent applicants to choose from. They don't have to take on people who have flunked out elsewhere.


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