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Advice for Sophomore w/Low GPA

  1. Nov 21, 2013 #1
    Hi physics community,

    I am a sophomore in college right now and my GPA is low. Like 2.5 low. I think the lack of passion in learning intro-level physics courses really messed me up (right now I am in modern physics, though, and I find it pretty interesting and fun). I thought I wanted to do more of the astrophysics side of the space science and exploration, but I think I am more into the planetary science/geophysics side.

    Anyways, the problem I have is that my GPA is too low to transfer into the geology school and I don't really know how to study for upper level physics (and I guess any level physics since I got C's in mechanics and E&M). That, and I don't feel motivated to work really hard for classes I have no interest in. Astronomy is really cool which is the root of why I would do planetary science and not just earth sciences or something along those lines, but my stellar astronomy class is pretty boring to me. I only really listen when the lecture has something to do with planets. I am pretty sure I will stick with my physics/astro degrees, though, because of time but I just wanted to know your opinions on my situation.

    I know undergrad research in planetary science is something a lot of people would recommend, but I feel that I need a lot more skills in geo than I have now, which is like, middle school high school stuff, and I should probably do a masters in PS since I kind of need to catch up on geo and GPA wise, it would be better and basically only possible decision before pursuing a PhD. My degree plan only allows me to take geo courses my senior year since I have junior year stocked up, but will the few classes be too basic? I really would appreciate everyone's comments and opinions! :shy:
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 21, 2013 #2
    Could you do me a favor and split this up in paragraphs? Thanks.
  4. Nov 21, 2013 #3
    Done! And thank you for that. I kind of just typed but never thought about how unreadable that really was.
  5. Nov 21, 2013 #4


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    To put things in perspective, if your 2.5 GPA is after taking into account your fall semester of your sophomore year, then you are probably around 3/8 of the way through undergrad. If you aim to get as close to a 4.0 as possible, you would end with a little above a 3.4 should you succeed. This is a fine GPA. Should you fall short, and get say a 3.7 average from here out, you would still end with a 3.2 or so. This would still be above the minimum GPA required by many physics graduate programs.

    To seriously raise your GPA to these levels, you MUST change the way you approach classes. Excellence does not come from passion, it comes from dedication and discipline. If you have the attitude that you will not bother with a subject if you don't have strong interest in it, you will continue wallowing in mediocrity. It's a childish outlook to have and you must correct it if you want to truly succeed.
  6. Nov 21, 2013 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    ZombieFeynman uses a very good word - "discipline". Indeed, you will here these fields even called disciplines. To reach a certain level of excellence and expertise in a topic requires working on things that might not be fun or interesting at the moment. As you are discovering, the strategy of avoiding things that aren't immediately interesting runs out of steam sooner or later.

    As my old gunnery sergeant once put it, "Discipline is simply remembering what you want".
  7. Nov 25, 2013 #6
    In regard to your GPA, I would agree with what others have said about discipline. But what I would argue is even more important is finding MOTIVATION. What helps with motivating me in my physics classes is realizing that I'm developing problem solving skills, regardless of the topic. This will be useful in anything that you decide to do later on in life. During my second year as a physics major I took my first geology class and fell in love with geophysics. I decided to stay with the physics major because it is the most fundamental and I enjoy the problem solving. Anyway, this led me to start doing undergraduate research in geophysics and this has motivated me more than anything else. It also helped me confirm that I want to do after undergrad. I would highly suggest talking to your professors and try to get involved with some planetary science research if you can.

    As for the geology classes, don't worry about not having enough of a background before grad school. Before taking my first geo class, I knew absolutely nothing about the earth sciences.... probably about a middle schooler's knowledge of the Earth. During that class I read a lot on my own and the next semester began taking senior level geology classes. Honestly, if you are taking physics classes, then geology classes will seem trivial in comparison. Even if you only get to take a class or two before graduating, there is a huge learning curve and you'll pick up on things very fast. Most of the geology major classes are just small details of the bigger picture. It's the geologists coming into geophysics without the quantitative background that really have problems.
  8. Nov 26, 2013 #7
    Yeah I've had this problem where I've been a "prima donna" and not really tried when I got bored, and I regret it due to lousy grades. I probably won't have a shot at a top 10 school for my PhD, just as an example.

    But it's hardly the end of the world; I've started to work harder, and learned valuable time management skills. If you don't like doing something, just commit to working for an hour or 45 minutes and then take a short break; it's easy to psyche yourself out if you sit down and say "I'm going to get the entire assignment out of the way!"

    This skill is vital. When you have a real job in the real world, chances are you'll need the ability to sit down and work no matter how you feel, or the consequences can be dire. A friend of mine who's a reasonably high ranking engineer at a very successful company was once down to the wire where his decisions could literally cost the company millions of dollars if he screwed up; he had to possess the ability to work 80 hours+ to make the deadlines. And even if you go the academic route, you'll be competing against people who can put 80+ hours into their research; a successful professor I was conversing with on the very same topic of low grades pointed out that he averages 60 hours a week in the lab, and sometimes more!

    It's not always fun or even remotely relaxing, but it's just how the world works, and the world doesn't care much for slackers.
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