BA in Physics, want to go to Grad school. Suggestions?

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  • #1
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I have a decent GPA (3.6) but have taken no classes in Chemistry and advanced Computer Science (can only code python!). The Physics GRE is incredibly intimidating to me and many topics that it covers are not offered at the liberal arts college I attended. I predict a receiving a poor score and am overwhelmed by the possibility that good grades and a passion for Physics is not enough to be accepted let alone succeed in graduate school. Should I try to get a BS first? Any thoughts/advice?
 

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  • #2
G01
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We'll need more information to formulate good advice. What's your course background? What physics courses have you had, which important topics have you skipped?

How about your Math background? What math courses have you taken? This is more important than your Chemistry background.
 
  • #3
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I've taken classical physics, astrophysics, classical mechanics, mechanics of materials, statics, quantum mechanics, advanced lab, and modern physics. As for math I have taken calculus, linear algebra, discrete structures, multivariable calculus, ordinary differential equations, and abstract algebra.
 
  • #4
fss
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The GRE is not a particularly exhaustive exam in terms of material- you took no thermodynamics or statistical mechanics classes in your undergraduate career? What topics on the GRE were not covered? If you want to advance in physics you're going to have to take the GRE.
 
  • #5
jtbell
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I've taken classical physics, astrophysics, classical mechanics, mechanics of materials, statics, quantum mechanics, advanced lab, and modern physics.

No E&M or thermodynamics / statistical mechanics beyond the freshman level?
 
  • #6
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No, unfortunately. I don't mind taking the GRE but it definitely makes me feel stupid. E&M and statistical mechanics are the main sections that I am deficient in for the GRE. Should I go for a BS before going to grad school?
 
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  • #7
fss
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Gosh... I've never even heard of a legitimate physics degree program that doesn't have E&M as a required course.
 
  • #8
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We could choose two of the following three: E&M, Classical Mechanics, and Quantum Mechanics. This was at a small liberal arts college, I'm not sure if that's relevant though.
 
  • #9
jtbell
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Degree requirements like this are sometimes seen at small schools where the physics program is in effect mainly a pre-engineering program and most students go on to graduate school in engineering rather than in physics.

If a student at such a school makes it known to the faculty that he plans to go to graduate school in physics, they should strongly advise him to go beyond the minimum requirements for the degree and take the full set of core subjects: classical mechanics, E&M, QM and thermo/stat mech.

When I was an undergraduate at a small college many years ago, I hardly even looked at the requirements for the physics major. I simply took every physics course that they offered!
 
  • #10
lisab
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We could choose two of the following three: E&M, Classical Mechanics, and Quantum Mechanics. This was at a small liberal arts college, I'm not sure if that's relevant though.

Can you take E&M at the college you're attending now? I wouldn't recommend taking the GRE without a thorough knowlege of it.
 
  • #11
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Gosh... I've never even heard of a legitimate physics degree program that doesn't have E&M as a required course.

I didn't think it was possible for a program to get accredited without at least offering classical mechanics and basic E&M?
 
  • #12
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E&m is offered as is Classical Mechanics at my school, that is not the issue. The problem is that I am about to graduate and don't have time to go take E&M before I take the GRE because I want to apply to grad schools soon so I can attend one next fall, assuming I am even accepted. From the posts so far it seems that I should get a BS somewhere or at least take an E&M course before taking the GRE or else I am setting myself up for failure. If I do take the GRE now and do poorly can't I retake it later or would it be better to just wait and take it when I am better prepared, (which would require putting off applying to grad schools for another year).
 
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  • #13
jtbell
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Is it possible to postpone graduation for a year, so as to fill in the gaps in your coursework? Maybe even just one extra semester would be enough, depending on when your college offers those courses. Then you could take the GRE next fall and apply for grad school admission in fall 2012.

Another possibility is that if you get good recommendation letters from your professors that specifically address your coursework deficiency and say that they're sure you won't have any trouble making it up, you can probably get into grad school somewhere under the condition that you take their undergraduate E&M and thermo courses before proceeding to the corresponding graduate level courses. This probably wouldn't work for a top-level grad school, but maybe for a mid-level one like a lot of the bigger state universities.

I also went to a small liberal arts college as an undergraduate many years ago. When I got into Michigan for grad school, they had me take the senior-level math methods course during my first semester.
 
  • #14
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Considering that I am about the take the Physics Subject GRE November 13, knowing that I am in no way prepared currently to get a good score, would it make sense to cancel that and take it next fall? By that I mean will one bad score (I am predicting really bad) destroy my chances to get into a well respected research university (I am realistically hoping for a mid-level state school) and even if I were to take it again would that bad score haunt me regardless of any improvement made on the second attempt? I know Physics is what I want to do for the rest of my life and I would love to be a researcher or professor someday and the thought that this test could ruin that dream after all of my hard work makes me inclined to spend much more time studying for it than I have thus far. Taking a year off (while taking minimal classes, work, etc.) could afford me that previously unattainable luxury and I am now seriously contemplating that option. Any thoughts?
 
  • #15
lisab
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Considering that I am about the take the Physics Subject GRE November 13, knowing that I am in no way prepared currently to get a good score, would it make sense to cancel that and take it next fall? By that I mean will one bad score (I am predicting really bad) destroy my chances to get into a well respected research university (I am realistically hoping for a mid-level state school) and even if I were to take it again would that bad score haunt me regardless of any improvement made on the second attempt? I know Physics is what I want to do for the rest of my life and I would love to be a researcher or professor someday and the thought that this test could ruin that dream after all of my hard work makes me inclined to spend much more time studying for it than I have thus far. Taking a year off (while taking minimal classes, work, etc.) could afford me that previously unattainable luxury and I am now seriously contemplating that option. Any thoughts?

Honestly, I don't know if a bad score would hurt your chances -- but how can it help? There is no award for 'most improved'. I'd advise you to wait. I know it's hard to wait, you sound very enthusiastic. But by rushing and taking this test before you're ready, you may end up hurting your chances to achieve your goals.
 

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