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Are my hopes of grad school over?

  1. Apr 27, 2012 #1
    I am a first year student (canadian citizen) at the University of Toronto in Canada- It's a pretty big university so hopefully someone will know their policies and what not.

    I'll get straight to the point- I totally flunked first year. I failed 2 courses and received a very low gpa. I'm going to be taking 2 summer courses but that would boost my gpa to a 1.5-1.6 max. Yeah, I know, it's super low. Now, the reason for this, and I'll be honest, was sheer laziness. I was a good student in highschool with 80+ in most of my courses but at University, having the freedom to skip classes really changed me. I attended less than 33% of lectures for most of my courses, did very little of the readings, and started studying for tests a few nights in advance.

    So I'm in a pretty bad situation right now and I totally regret it. U of T will put me on an academic probation which means I have to maintain over a 1.6 next year to not get "suspended." Fortunately, I will still be able to get into my majors next year.

    A few questions I have are as follows:

    If I want to switch universities, they will look at my first year marks from universities pretty seriously right? Would the only way to switch to a place like York, be to attend a community college for about a year, boost my grades, and show them I've changed?

    Would staying at U of T be a bad idea? How badly will this first year GPA affect me from going to grad school? It just seems like all hope is lost for grad school and if it really is, please be honest and tell me. Would it be possible to take an extra year at u of t and take more courses to boost my gpa?

    York, unlike U of T, has this policy where if you fail a course and you retake it, the failed course gets removed from your transcript. U of T keeps the failed course on it and makes my GPA take a nosedive. If I switch there, would it be possible to get those failed courses removed if i retake them?

    Last question, and this is a pretty serious one and please answer honestly. My parents payed for my first year tuition, I didn't take a loan. If my parents, theoretically, decide to cut me off and kick me out of the house, what would my options be then? Would it be impossible to take a loan? Would I be stuck with community college for my entire life?

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 27, 2012 #2
    First-year grades are important, but perhaps not as important as upper-level courses. If you do seriously well in your upper level courses (that is, getting A's in quantum, stat mech and E&M -- assuming you're in physics, and if not, I assume the same ideas apply elsewhere), that shows the grad school committee that you are both capable of academic improvement, and of course doing well in rigorous courses. I got a C in my first semester freshman physics course because I too did not treat it with nearly as much respect as it deserved, and still got offers from strong grad programs by doing better in my later years, as well as starting research early on and sticking with it. I didn't get a GPA as low as yours freshman year so it may not work out exactly the same, but I think the principle is sound: the admissions process can be forgiving of freshman year mistakes, if you honestly do fix them.

    So no, I don't think "all hope is lost" for you. But you will absolutely have to work really hard your next few years, and you have to do research that stands out.

    By the way -- I think it will be rather difficult to transfer to another institution with those grades, although I know basically nothing of the academic credentials of the schools in question.

    Depends on whether you want to start over or not. Universities generally require you to send in transcripts for all undergrad institutions where you received credit towards your undergrad degree. So if you transfer credit from your old school to your transfer school, you'll need to send in your U of T transcript when you apply to grad school.

    I'll pass on the loan question because I don't know whether there are opportunities for government loans in Canada.
  4. Apr 27, 2012 #3


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    Hmmmm....you are all worried about your GPA.

    I would be more worried about what you have learned.....which is obviously nothing at this point.

    Just take the courses over for real this time if you can handle the workload. That's a big "if" since you are obviously very childish and immature. Honest enough?

    Being succesful in college is life changing. You will be doing everything differently that you have done in the past if you are to suceed. In other words, you need to go from doing essentially nothing....to studying 24/7.

    You get the jist....hopefully you wake up!
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2012
  5. Apr 27, 2012 #4


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    Are you sure you even want to attend graduate school?

    I did my MS at a school that was fairly laid back and even then, I skipped maybe 2 classes my entire time and that was because I was so tired, I could barely drive to school, let alone endure a graduate quantum mechanics lecture for 75 minutes. "Studying for the test" was a meaningless expression because from the second you started the semester, you were studying for the test. You also can't just "do the readings" either. You have to read texts outside of the course text continually. If you couldn't do all of this successfully as an undergrad so far, why do you even want to go to the next level where it's an order of magnitude harder?
  6. Apr 27, 2012 #5


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    Now that you've been hammered for being.....ummm....not so smart.......

    There is still hope.

    I did the exact same stupid thing you did my freshman year in college....skipping classes, partying, etc......and yes, I also failed out just like you.

    I went on to work construction for the next ten years.....hard labor in the field building houses and so forth. And don't get me wrong, this can actually be the best thing for anyone....especially the immature student.

    I then went back to school for EE when I was 30 and put the nose to the grindstone and graduated with a 3.1 in less than 4 years. I then went on to get my professional engineers license which also takes an immense amount of studying likely beyond your comprehension.

    So let's review. When I took your path I was a complete failure just like you.
    When I started studying non stop 7 days a week....things started going my way.

    Which way are you going to go?
  7. Apr 27, 2012 #6
    All is not lost. I had a friend that came back from worse. In our rural HS, he was top of the class, 4.0 GPA, high SATs, and on his way for a pre-Med program. He partied so much, his first term GPA was 0.03 at the Univ. of MD. His only passing grade was a ā€œDā€ in a PE course.

    First, you see your mistake, and that realization is good. The question now is whether you learned from it and can make the commitment to yourself that you will not fall again. Can you hold the disciplined attitude together for the entire rest of your college years without falling down again? You've heard of AA? Well, you're in the academic version AA. Every day you'll have to avoid the temptation to revert to the first year habits, no matter how well classes look like they are going at the time. If you still want to go to graduate school, be up front on the application and in your essay about the lessons you learned in transitioning from HS to college. I think a graduate school will recognize the trend and appreciate the demonstrated rededication to your education.

    Retake all the courses you screwed up. Surround yourself with students, and not the first term version of you, but real students that are purpose driven. Join study groups for the course help and to help you keep your eye on the prize.
  8. Apr 28, 2012 #7


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    To the OP, as a graduate from U of T (who also flunked a humanities course in first year and retook a different course, but was still able to continue on to graduate school, finishing a Msc, and could have continued on to a PhD if I didn't have the desire to join the work force early on), rest assured that doing poorly in first year is not that important, so long as you show clear improvement in your grades in subsequent years.

    The overwhelming majority of graduate schools are more concerned about your GPA in your 3rd or 4th year (with emphasis on your grades on the relevant course material you intend to pursue graduate studies in), and if you get A's on all of these, along with a strong letters of recommendation from your professors, (and possible research experience -- consider applying for an NSERC Undergraduate Research Award when you reach your 3rd year), you should be just fine.

    Now as far as transferring to another university, that is an option that may well be open to you. I have known other students who have transferred and did really well and went on to graduate school, without needing to submit the transcripts from their earlier university (unlike what Steely Dan had stated). I personally think you should stay at U of T, given their academic reputation and greater opportunities to pursue research with professors in the sciences (although York is a respectable school), but I admit that I'm biased on this point.

    As for the loan question, as a Canadian citizen, you are eligible for both Canada Student Loans and OSAP (to American posters, these are loans offered through the Canadian federal government and the province of Ontario, respectively -- the equivalent to the federal Stafford loans). I know many students who have applied for these loans -- speak to your registrar about the options involved there.
  9. Apr 29, 2012 #8
    The good news is that this is pretty common among college freshmen, and graduate schools will take this into consideration. If you "shape up" then what happens first or second semester is only going to have a minor impact on graduate school admissions.
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