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Best path to a good Grad school and Career.

  1. Jul 1, 2007 #1
    First, I believe I should mention that I have almost no idea how admissions to grad school works or of how grad school works in general.

    Basically, I want to know what I should do to get into the best Grad school in the future. When I got to college, I had wished that I had begun preparing for college early. By that, I mean I wish I had kept my grades up, done volunteer work/school activities, and other things that would make it easier for me to get into college.

    I beleive that I may have already ruined my chances of getting into a good graduate school because of what happened in college the year before last.

    Basically, I entered as a freshman, with a full scholarship and a member of the honors program at my university. I technically never met the requirements for neither my scholarships nor my honors program. During my first two years of high school, I had really bad grades, and was getting in trouble at school a lot.

    It wasn't until I hit the 11th grade that I began to change. In a hospital visit, I picked up a physics book and realized how much I liked it. I then began to teach myself math and physics for fun, and my grades also began to rise. By the time I was in the 12th grade and applying for college, I had already taught myself Partial Differential Equations and had done classical mechanics and a bit of quantum theory. However, my overall GPA was only about a 2.4ish. I was lucky enough to get a full scholarships even with the low GPA because of the math professors that saw how much I had accomplished by myself in such a short amount of time.

    When I finally got to college, I did good the first semester, then I ran out of health insurance, got really sick (both physically and mentally) and my grades plundered. I was kicked from honors and lost my scholarships and put on academic probation.

    I missed a full year of college due to problems at home, etc. I also had to go through some intense therapy for my severe depression. I'm now on medications for ADD and depression, and getting counseling for my mental conditions. I'm also getting a lot of therapy, and I'm finally ready to get back into school. I've already talked with the honors college; I can be readmitted and could get some scholarships and aid back, as long as I do well for one semester.

    The question is: Will this time where I really really screwed everything up look really bad when I try to get into grad school in a few years? How bad will these screw ups hurt me?

    Also, what can I do now to increase my chances of getting into a really good grad school? I know keeping my grades up will help, but what else is there that I can do to further improve my chances?

    I'm a double major in math and physics at the moment, and I plan on going into particle physics in the future, if that matters. I hoped that I could get a Ph.D in both math and physics, but after talking to a few people, that seems unlikely.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 1, 2007 #2
    Understandably, you're still thinking of the college-to-grad-school transition the same way as the high-school-to-college transition, but really, the two are quite different. For example, volunteer work mean almost nothing to the grad school admissions committee (volunteer for your own personal reasons, not to boost your resume), school activities are nearly meaningless on applications unless they are directly related to your education (academic club, honors society, tutoring, etc.), and it doesn't matter at all how long it takes you to gain your bachelor's (taking a year off from college won't hurt you in the application process).

    Since your low grades were received at the beginning of your college career, the best thing you can do is achieve good grades in the future. Upper-level physics and math grades are much more important to an admissions committee than freshmen year grades. Does your college allow you to re-take classes and “erase” previous poor grades from your record? A significant turn-around can actually be seen as impressive to a grad school admissions committee, just like it was when you were admitted to college.

    In short, I don't think you've screwed up your grad school chances much at all, as long as you're serious about bring and keeping your grades up. Perseverance is truly important. If you're looking to increase your chances of getting into grad school, consider gaining some research experience.

    Good luck,
  4. Jul 1, 2007 #3

    I had the feeling that the transition from undergrad to grad would be different than High School to Undergrad, but since I had absolutely nothing else to base it on, I just had to assume they were similar.

    My college is going to let me retake the classes that I failed last year. I'm happy to hear that I didn't completely screw myself over due to my mistakes.

    I'll look into getting some research experience.
  5. Jul 1, 2007 #4


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    For the research experience, go around and talk to the professors in your department and see if they have anything you can help with. Usually there is more work in a lab than there are people to do it. I'm sure someone will have something for you. You can also check out some research internship programs. These can get competitive, but if you are able to get good recommendations letters and already have some research experience under your belt then it make being accepted much easier.

    PS. You should read the essays stuck to the top of this forum - "So you want to be a physicist...".........Wait a minute. It's not there anymore? Can someone please point out where it is for the OP's sake and mine!:smile:
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2007
  6. Jul 1, 2007 #5
    This may be a dumb question, but what does "internship" mean? I hear this word a lot, but I don't really know what it refers to.
  7. Jul 1, 2007 #6


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    question to man on street: how do i get to carngie hall? answer: practice.
  8. Jul 1, 2007 #7
    I'm going to be applying to grad schools this upcoming Fall, but here is what i'll tell you about this whole "path" garbage. There is no clear cut path to anywhere, you pave your own path. Work your butt off, keep your ears tuned for any oppurtunities, be aggressive. There are things called REU's, they are undergrad research programs that take place during the summer. They usually take sophomores and juniors, apply for these early. It would be great if you could get into an REU during your soph and junior year (and i mean soph and junior year in terms of what courses you've taken within your major, like for physics, you probably need to have already taken modern physics and maybe electromagnetism, etc to be a junior or a sophomore in the major) that would be amazing.

    Your GPA does not define you, but having a great one does not hurt you at all.

    Other than really general, vague, cliched advice, you make your own path to anywhere, dont ever forget that. You have to find out sh!t on your own, nobody is going to hold your hand.

    good luck
  9. Mar 20, 2010 #8
    Does a business major with a lot of CS research experience have as good a chance to get into a good CS grad school compared to a CS major with research experience?
  10. Mar 21, 2010 #9
    If you score well enough on the CS GRE to convince the school that you can keep up with the grad CS work and pass your quals you may have a shot, but the CS GRE isn't a walk in the park. What kind of research anyway? I know the various types of research projects we have in our lab, and some of them are very CSish and lots are pure math that happens to be coded. Is your research CS enough that it's clear that you have a good grasp of what the field actually entails?

    You've gotta talk to an admissions person about this stuff, 'cause you will be playing catch up and some programs don't want to deal with that. Based on your other posts, you want to go into AI/Machine, which is basically the CS equivalent of theoretical physics. Do you really feel like you have the math and CS theory background to make an AI/Machine Learning guy want to pick you up for his research group? Basically, replace your question with "can a business major with a lot of physics research get into a good physics program as compared to a physics major who's also done research?", look at the answers to that, and translate 'em back.

    It's in academic guidance (where this thread probably really belongs), not in career guidance, where this thread is currently posted. https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=240792.

    Stick to the counseling and don't get too caught up in thinking about the future. I know that doesn't sound directly related to GPA and research, but experience has taught me that the people with the best GPA and strongest research also tend to be the most together 'cause it's hard to not flake out when you're drowning. Otherwise, I'm with Laura 'cause I was told the same thing by advisers and a professor on a grad school admissions committee: a solid period of strong grades can make up for a block of weak ones.
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