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1st undergraduate degree affect admissions for 2nd?

  1. Dec 9, 2015 #1
    Hi, I'm a recent graduate from a civil engineering program in the US and got hired as a civilian nuclear engineer for the navy. For various reasons, I would sooner or later like to go back to school to study physics and go on to get a phd. I am afraid that already having an undergraduate degree in a technical field will hurt my chances of getting into a good BS program (especially because of my undergrad GPA~2.9; I never really took school as seriously as I should have.)

    1. Would schools discriminate against my application for having already completed an undergraduate with mediocre grades?

    2. Would taking classes at a community college, doing very well, and then transferring those credits solve this problem?

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2015 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Welcome to PF;
    1. Depends on the school - but I'd expect that you would be discriminated, if at all, in favour of rather than against: particularly if you are funded and the course you are contemplating is not otherwise restricted. After all you have a demonstrated ability to complete and pass an undergrad degree, and you will be entering with in-field experience and maturity compared with new entrants. Mind you: I have no idea what you would consider a "good BS program".
    2. Depends on the school - some will do that and others do not.

    Bottom line: you should ask at the school where you intend to apply.
  4. Dec 9, 2015 #3


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    Some ( or maybe many) schools will place restrictions on your options when being admitted for a second undergraduate degree, like, you are not allowed to change your major field undergrad degree objective.
  5. Dec 10, 2015 #4
    Thanks for the replies! I guess I should send out some emails and see what the programs I'm interested in say. I would hope that after some years of experience in nuclear engineering, and probably the retaking of some courses for transfer credit at a CC would benefit my applications.
  6. Jan 19, 2016 #5
    If anyone is looking for the same answers, I heard back from a couple schools and the results vary:

    1.) The University of Maryland has said that a second bachelors degree student will be considered as a transfer student during the admissions process. They do consider work experience with the application, and also consider the taking of additional classes before you apply. These additional classes would be factored into one's GPA calculation, and I gather they would have some kind of weight in their own right depending how far removed one is from the first degree.

    2.) The University of Washington however had said that admissions for a second bachelors (post bacc) is extremely difficult. The admissions priority is for first time bachelors student rather than students returning for a second. The admissions advisor recommended that I apply to a masters program instead if my interests lie in graduate studies anyway. (I however though this might be difficult without any undergraduate physics under my belt.)

    3) Have not heard back from UT Austin

    So it really does depend on the school and the priorities of the admissions council.
  7. Jan 19, 2016 #6


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    You already have a BS as a CE and are employed by the USN as a civil nuke. What possible courses could you take at a CC which would shine brighter than that on your academic record?

    CC is basically there for those who are trying to transition from HS to regular college, but might need more remedial instruction on the basic subjects which they failed to get in HS. It's like Grades 13 and 14. Unless you think taking a course in Modern Interpretive Dance would impress the admissions committee at a future school.
  8. Jan 19, 2016 #7
    I was thinking that maybe retaking calculus I, II, & III and performing better the second time around, would would help my application for undergraduate admission, and improve my transcript when I eventually apply to graduate school. I know some CCs also offer calculus based Physics I & II which I would have liked to have done better in.

    I'm not concerned with my ability to use the skills I learned in those courses, however I'm more concerned with providing "objective quality evidence" that I have those abilities. (to use a navy phrase)
  9. Jan 19, 2016 #8


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    They probably meant applying for a master's degree in Engineering, as you have about a zero percent chance of being accepted into physics graduate school currently.

    Will schools discriminate because you already have an undergrad, yes, as you will soon find out. No CC classes aren't going to help you get in, it's best to just keep emailing and find a program that will take you. Take CC classes if want to brush up, though.

    University of Maryland sounds like they will. That's probably your best bet. I wouldn't try to claim course credit for work done for the Navy, I worked for the Navy, trust me.

    Why did you want to go back to school, anyway? Why physics? What makes you think you'll do better this time?

    Are you thinking about using the smart program or TA from the DoD?
  10. Jan 19, 2016 #9
    Student 100, Thanks for the input. I'm doing a lot of self studying to brush up on my math skills and using that as better guide to see if I really want to do this and am capable of the mathematical rigor involved. I'm going through "Boas, Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences" right now. I have a feeling that taking a few nondegree math/physics classes at the school I'm aiming for will help, perhaps not necessarily at a nearby CC.

    I've always enjoyed physics and mathematics, they've always been the subjects that have "moved me" the most in college. And I honestly want to get to a point to where I'm making contributions to the field. I can't think of any attainable profession that's more exciting to me or would be more fulfilling. I also have a feeling I'll perform better the second time around because I actually started to perform well in CE towards the end, senior year GPA 3.5; Also I've been tops, or close to it, in all my Navy classes.

    Haven't heard about those DOD programs, I'll look into them thanks!
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