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Admissions Astronomy/AP Grad School Admissions

  1. Dec 12, 2008 #1
    I am a Junior Physics/Astro student at a large university in the US and have been wondering about my chances to get into grad school. I have been to a couple informational meetings, talked with people applying this year, and met with advisors and professors, but they seem to say a lot of different things.

    My advisor and one of my professors seemed to say that I should not take courses like Quantum 2, C. mechanics 2, Advanced E&M, thermo, etc. as I should start taking as many easier classes as I can to boost my overall GPA to be as high as possible, even suggesting I take classes like Philosophy/Art.

    A lot of potential grad students that I am friends with are taking lots of advanced courses above and beyond the degree requirements, some even staying for 5 years as an undergrad to do so, but not getting the best grades in any of them.

    A conference I went to said that Grad schools only look at three main things: High Level Astro classes, Quantum I, E&M, and thermo, and then research that you have completed/professors letters as a secondary component to getting into a Phd program.

    I have taken Quantum, Honors Optics, Classical I, Stellar Properties, and a couple other randoms thrown in, but I am not in the top niche of students grade wise for the physics courses. I always have gotten above the average grade, but I have not as of yet gotten a 3.5 or higher on a upper level physics class. Is that going to kill my chances?

    Also, I am not in the honors college, but I take honors courses as I think grad schools will look favorably on applicants taking an Honors option rather than the regular route. Am I correct in this, or is the extra work a waste of my time?

    Being a standard college freshman with too large of an ego to study hard, I got a 1.5 on my Honors Physics I (first calc-based physics you take). The next semester I got a 4.0 in Physics II with ease. Should I retake this my senior year, or will it be negiligible in the overall view of things?

    Also, will being a dual-majored Physics/Astrophysics really help? I only have to take one more class to get the duality, as I took all of the other prereqs out of general interest, but if it doesn't matter at all I would rather not.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 12, 2008 #2


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    I would disagree with this advice. I don't want to sound harsh, but if you can't get into grad school for physics by taking physics courses, then you shouldn't be in grad school. And even if you do get in, those advanced level senior courses contain information that you'll need to draw on. Advising you to take "easy" courses will only hurt you in the long run.
  4. Dec 13, 2008 #3
    How often as an Astronomy graduate will I be using anything from quantum 2, or advanced EM? If I was going to do straight physics, I could definitely see myself taking all those classes.
  5. Dec 13, 2008 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    I'm afraid your application will be quite weak. Typically a 3.5 is what's considered a minimum acceptable grade for getting into grad school, and it is also typically what's considered a minimum to stay in graduate school. According to you, you have never achieved this while taking undergraduate classes. How do you plan on convincing the admissions committee that the more difficult graduate classes are not beyond you?

    Having a 1.5 as an early grade doesn't help you. Because departments look for patterns, it's more damaging than it would be otherwise: it indicates a student who is not only not getting good grades, it indicates a student who has never gotten good grades.

    I also wouldn't be so quick to pooh-pooh your advisors' advice, especially in favor of the advice of some guys on the internet. They know what your application far better than we do, and history has shown that a lot of advice posted in this section comes from people who haven't finished grad school. Or college. Or high school. As they say, on the internet nobody knows you're a dog. If I had to guess, your advisors are trying to get you to demonstrate that you are capable of getting good grades in something. Which may well be your best hope.
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