1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Are these likely to bolster my standings?

  1. Aug 3, 2008 #1
    Physics for me the last couple undergrad years has been a rough endeavor. Not to say that I haven't succeeded, I have. Only, my freshmen year of physics was abysmal (and by abysmal, I relate that to the standards of those super-physicist people who deem anything below a B to be awful) landing in the rough mid-C range.

    My sophomore year has been looking up with my grades steadily increasing with time. All the general undergraduate requirement (GUR) classes that I've taken I've B'd or better'd, so that's really no factor, but my GPA is still going to wind up being impossible to pull out of the low 3s. With they way quality points and those things work with regards to GPAs, it's not like getting a bunch of As will launch my GPA back up into mid to high 3s, so I'm getting worried.

    I'm involved in research in astronomy, aiming to get into a good school for astrophysics. My main interest is Dark Matter with no real guidance as to what I would possibly specialize in, in that field.

    Given that, and given that schools (or schools with good departments in astronomy/physics) are rather nit-picky about GPAs, I was wondering if the myriad of other things I've been involved in would help to skew the picture to, "well he wasn't doing so hot initially, but he's a rocketship of success now!"

    Allow me to clarify: at the end of this junior year, when I'm applying for grad schools, I aim to have a full box of tools at my disposal to make me stand out. GPA is my one weakness, here are my strengths in terms of extra-curricular activities.

    1. Physics lectures
    2. Planetarium work
    3. Lab TA work
    4. Involvement in faculty research
    5. Papers published
    6. Books published

    First the lectures: these are 4 or 5, 1 hour-long public (and serious, academic) lectures given with sponsorship from the Physics department at my university. The topics range from time travel to the history of the universe to dark matter, etc.

    Planetarium work: I've been volunteering at the planetarium here for some 2 years now, giving shows and doing the run-of-the-mill planetarium job description.

    This year I plan to start my lab TAing, which I should've done last year, but didn't get up and do.

    As stated before, I'm doing research in galaxy cluster size modeling.

    I hope to publish at least 1 paper with my adviser before the end of my junior term.

    I hope to publish at least 1 book of mine based either off the lectures as stated above (which would be short and follow the lectures rather closely) or off of my podcast that I ran for several years devoted to Thought Experiments in philosophy, mathematics and physics.

    I also want to get elected president of my university's Society of Physics Students (SPS) club.

    (There are other extra-curricular activities I'm involved with as well, but none of those are physics related.)

    It's a lot to accomplish, but I already have the lectures done and making chapters out of the outlines that I have for all my lectures shouldn't be all that hard. I am taking classes this next quarter, but I will have a lot of free time, as I'm only taking 12 credits or so. The research I'm doing is going on now (I'm on campus for the summer) and a paper doesn't seem too out of the question. The rest just shows I'm devoted, I guess.

    So the bottom line is this: will my activities in the world of physics and education help to balance out the fact my GPA is sub-mid-3-range?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 3, 2008 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    They won't hurt you - that's for sure. If you get a publication as an undergrad, I think you're way ahead of the curve. Marks are primary, but all of those factors will help.
  4. Aug 3, 2008 #3


    User Avatar

    Lots of people graduate with publications these days, so while they like to see it, it's not really going to make you stand out from the top of the applicant pool. But you'll have a decent shot at some of the mid-range schools. The only schools I know of that do dark matter research are the top ones, and you probably won't have a great shot at them, but consider other topics and some of the smaller universities that still have some top people in a field or two - like Arizona State, Montana State, Clemson, UMass Amherst, U Virginia.
  5. Aug 4, 2008 #4


    User Avatar

    Grad schools definitely look at much more than the grades, and your research activities will help a lot. Since you've been very involved, you should be able to get very good letters of recommendation, and research experience with a publication looks great on a resume.

    As it is, I would say that your research does balance out your GPA. To help your chances, you should look into taking some graduate courses (and getting good grades in them), to prove that you can handle the coursework (which, really, is the only iffy point in your application). One one hand, they'll see the low overall GPA, but if you get an A+ in two grad courses, you'll definitely have proven that you can do classwork. And with research and publications, you've proven that you can do research as well. Then TA work and lecturing etc. proves you can do these things, which is nice since the university will want you to teach.
  6. Aug 5, 2008 #5
    LORS payoff. Stay active and involved with people that have power and can credibly judge potential and you will do fine.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook