Another GPA, GRE and getting into a (physics) graduate program thread

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Main Question or Discussion Point

I made the mistake of actually graduating. I had a low GPA at the time but was planning to go overseas anyways and didn't realize just how much such a low GPA would affect me. I now have a BS in Physics with a GPA of 2.9 in a no-name state university.

What are my options? My goal hasn't changed: I want to get a research position (be it at a university or in industry). I would like to teach at a university someday.

This is a major failing on my part it seems: I should have stayed an extra year to straighten out my GPA. I blame myself foremost, but I can't help but be a little angry at my academic advisor. Just last Friday I had a wakeup call and realized that all this time I am spending overseas (paying off student loans and teaching) is killing my dream.

Now my academic career looks much like a bell curve: I did horrible my first semester in, transfered to another school and did better. I managed to ace quantum the fall of my last year but received a D in thermal that spring. That D managed to keep me below 3.0. I just about aced all my math courses. The point is anyone who looks at my record will not see a 'recovery' or really any pattern that is easily explained.

I have done some research, but am only published (not first or second name) once.

I've read quite a few threads related to this topic in these forums. I'm trying to piece together what my options are though. I am going to finish up here some time around August. I'll be leaving with about 10k USD in savings and about 20k in student loans.

Will an excellent score on the physics GRE compensate for my low GPA?
Is it possible (and likely even) to go back to my old university and work, for money, as an RA? I figure improving my research experience could help however the reality is I can't afford to throw 1250 dollars a semester into it unless I absolutely have to.
Should I throw in the towel and go back to school for a BA in Mathematics? Could I then use that to apply for physics grad school?
I've pretty much determined that it is impossible to improve my GPA now that I have graduated. I haven't contacted the school, but the impression I get is that the deed is done. Is that true, generally speaking?

I've also read that it is possible to just start over with another school and get the same degree, but that if the school finds you have a previous degree then it is game over. Would a BA in physics be considered the same degree?

I know what I want now and, unlike in the past, I am very motivated to get it. I have already started studying for the physics GRE. My current plans are to study for the physics GRE until I am back in the states and then take it this Nov/Oct. While studying, and being in the states, pursue research through my university. Once I finish with the physics GRE I will start studying for the general GRE and take that in the Spring.

I will then apply to schools with a focus on the research I am interested in and keep my fingers crossed.
 

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