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Attempting to be an Astrophysicist

  1. Oct 23, 2011 #1
    Hello everyone! I am an aspiring undergraduate student majoring in astrophysics now. I come from Harlem in New York City, which isn't exactly famous for its scientists. Prior to college, I had absolutely no scientific background other than my aspirations. When I went to college, I struggled in my first two years but my third year it is evident on my transcript that I am catching up and excelling. I am in my fourth year now and I am trying my best to maintain great grades. I am taking an extra year so that I won't have to scramble to graduate by the spring. My adviser and I both agree that I am not the average applicant for the Grad. School process. He thinks I should look into education, but my heart is set on research.

    I'm sorry for the essay but I have never met anyone in my situation and any sort of advice is welcomed. Thank you in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 23, 2011 #2
    Are you asking what we think your chances are of getting accepted into graduate school? Or what type of graduate school we think you should pursue? We can't really answer either of those questions.

    If you are considering studying astrophysics at the graduate level, spend some time perusing programs and research areas at different universities. Have you formed any relationships with your professors? You will need ~3 letters of recommendation, so now is a good time to really start trying to get to know them. Also, having done some research in your prospective field (or one related) is a huge plus on an application, as well as a great way to get a glowing recommendation from a faculty member. Professors are an invaluable resource for advice about graduate school, because they know what the process is like. They may also be able to recommend some specific programs to you.

    At this point, it is most important that you spend some time figuring out what graduate school/research will be like. If it seems like it's something you're interested in, then start working on strengthening your application.
  4. Oct 23, 2011 #3
    Thanks bromden. I did do an REU internship 2 summers ago and grad school and research is where I want to go. I guess the concerns that I left out was that I really don't know what to do if I do not get into any graduate programs. I'm in the process of researching places and preparing for the GRE and the Physics GRE. But I also want to have a plan B. I really have my heart set on doing research but with my academic record, I'm worried that may not be possible.
  5. Oct 23, 2011 #4
    This is good to hear. I would still advise you to get involved in research with a professor at your university, if you have the time. More research is always better, as are more strong recommendations.

    You should put a lot of effort into doing well on the Physics GRE. I know studying for it can be a nightmare, especially with all your other coursework, but it is a good opportunity to demonstrate to graduate schools that you do know the material, especially if your grades are lacking.

    As for a plan B, that's a tough one. I'm glad you're thinking about it, though. Is education something that you might consider? Or did your adviser just bring it up unsolicited? If graduate school is really what you want to do, not getting accepted on your first try is not the end of the world. There is no shame in spending a year working and trying to reapply - I know several folks who have done this - just make sure you don't stop doing science in the meantime.

    The other option would be to apply to some M.S. programs that have research options. That way, you can complete research and graduate coursework, hopefully with better grades than your undergraduate. If you can find a few M.S. programs that aren't as tough to get into, then you have a plan B that doesn't really take you off the track of/put you behind in attaining your end goal.

    And there are jobs out there for physics majors - you just may have to be willing to take a position programming or using your analytic skills for something other than science.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2011
  6. Oct 24, 2011 #5


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    Hey dazfeliz and welcome to the forums.

    Have you spoken to your professor and asked about Masters courses?

    I don't know how expensive it is for you though, but if it is an option maybe you could do that and then use that as well as PGRE and recommendations maybe.

    The only thing is though that I think those courses in your country are very expensive :(. Based on your REU, do you think you can get good letters of recommendation?
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