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Schools Can I get into university to study physics, if I get bad grades in languages?

  1. Oct 10, 2011 #1
    Ok so I was wondering, I have been a lazy **** lately and gotten **** grades, I got 1/10 in Phonetics, witch is a pointless subject, I also suck in french, english and danish. Im getting bad grades around 3-5/10. But I can get good grades in physics and mathematics. I am good at those things. I have this year and two more years left of college, i'm from europe. And I wanted to go study physics in MIT or Stanford university. Do they look at these subject not related to physics. In my country college ends at 19-20 years old and I am 17 years old. So I do have the time to pull up my grades. I really am lazy but I can get great grades if I try, what do they look at when you apply for a school in physics or engineering?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 10, 2011 #2
    You're applying as an undergraduate, I take it? Most applicants will have near perfect grades all around, great SAT scores, and a variety of extracurriculars that have nothing to do with academics but are still valued in an application for some reason. It's not impossible for you be accepted, but what do you offer that other applicants don't?

    You'll spend most of your life studying "stupid and boring" subjects; you'd best get used to doing it well.
  4. Oct 10, 2011 #3
    That sucks, some of the things I learn are useless. Anyways my grandfather had bad grades in college, and he got in a very good university in england, in geography, and he has been teaching and researching all over the world. But that was a long time ago. I am also not from usa, im from europe so the requirements must be very different, I will also begin in second year in university because I am older and europe works that way. But I am scared that I will have to spend all my time studying garbagety stuff and get like 9,9 to get into those schools. I do have the money for schools. And I really want to study physics... well Next year I go to a physics course in school so I wont have the same hard language courses, than I can really Start studying hard, My grades for last year were in average 6,5/10 probably gonna be same this year. And also I want to have a personality, If I study to get 9,9 I will literally be all the next years doing nothing else, That will leave my brain ruined, without creativity and the ability to think independently. I personally think studying useless things and getting huge amounts of useless facts, Is not what I want to do in life. I want to focus in what I am good at.
  5. Oct 10, 2011 #4
    There's no reason you can't get into a good school, you're just going to have a lot of competition if you apply to places like MIT. Work to improve your grades while you're still in high school and don't feel like you have to go to the Ivy Leagues or places like MIT and Caltech. Not attending MIT isn't going to hurt your chances at grad school/job in academia if you attend a good (not necessarily great) school and do well.
  6. Oct 10, 2011 #5
    Well, but I have seen MIT's videos on youtube and I really like the school, I think Im just gonna go for it. I figure I can get in the school with 8-9/10 in average and that is not impossible, Also I am in the hardest college in my country so It's alot harder to get good grades here, that counts They must look at that, I mean some schools here are studying basic algebra for 19 year old people. I know a girl who went to my school and went to harvard. But it's my goal now to get into MIT. If Im gonna do physics as my carreer, I might as well do It well. If I will not make it into MIT, I will probably study in europe.
  7. Oct 10, 2011 #6


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    What's with all these people trying to get into MIT?? There are much cheaper universities around that offer basically thesame education. It's not because it's not MIT, that it's bad. In fact, I think that European universities are more advanced than american universities with respect to undergraduate studies. There's no need to go to MIT, it's a waste of money...

    Apply to a cheaper university that's closer to home. Your education won't suffer.
  8. Oct 10, 2011 #7
    Well it's just that always when I hear about technological advances or breaktroughs in science, it all seems to come from stanford,MIT, it's like they are the ones doing all the important work. And also it's probably better for your future to go to a good school. Also this http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2010-2011/physical-sciences.html but i do realise that the schools are pretty similar, it's just probably good for your future to have gotten to a famous school.

    Altough this thread shows way different results http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2011/subject-rankings/natural-sciences/physics [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  9. Oct 10, 2011 #8


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    Technological breakthroughs do not come from undergraduates. I agree that doing your PhD at MIT is probably better than at an unkown university (but even this depends). But on the level of undergraduate degrees, there is absolutely no difference. There is only price.

    And that poll is bogus. It's criteria are things like "number of papers published by professors" or "size of classroom". It tells you nothing about educational value or about how good the education really is.

    For your future, it matters very little if you go to a famous school or not. You'll only lose a lot of money. (again: for a PhD, the situation is slightly different).
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  10. Oct 10, 2011 #9
    Ofcourse, your right at this age it doesn't really matter where I learn, but I will probably just go to another school to finish my education, for example oxford or mit, and it's also always nice to get a change. I am pretty shure I will want to get a phd when the time comes. And than I can just move over to the school I want to finish the job. Thanks for the help.
  11. Oct 13, 2011 #10
    I really wouldn't apply for a university in a country which doesn't speak your native language. You'll find the lectures hard to understand, even if they do a course in your native language, because of their accents. This takes away the entire benefit of going to a "good" uni.(Unless you are from UK or Ireland of course, but it doesn't sound like you do. If you are, I suggest Edinburgh or St Andrews. They are usually high in the league tables, and free to all EU nationals except from england, I think.)
  12. Oct 13, 2011 #11
    I rather suspect that this is partly a misconception of yours. Like a self-feeding attitude in that you know these two names and therefore realize when they are mentioned in some scientific context (possibly even by giving a scientific result more merit if it came from there), and not associating the mentioning of other universities or research institutes with "not MIT/Stanford" (which of course would indeed be a strange way for a brain to work). It's a bit tiresome, but since I find the question somewhat interesting myself I have checked the origin on a few of the last years' Nobel prizes (all information from Wikipedia, location refers to location of scientific discovery that was awarded the Nobel prize):

    2011: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Saul Perlmutter), Mount Stromlo Observatory Canberra (Brian Schmidt, Adam Riess)
    2010: Manchester Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology (Andre Geim, Konstantin Novoselov)
    2009: Standard Telecommunication Laboratories in Harlow, England (Charles K. Kao), Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey (Willard Boyle, George E. Smith)
    2008: University of Chicago (Yoichiro Nambu), Kyoto University (Makoto Kobayashi, Toshihide Maskawa)
    2007: Research Center Jülich, Germany (Peter Grünberg), Université Paris-Sud (Albert Fert)
    2006: NASA (John Cromwell Mather, George F. Smoot)
    2005: Harvard University, US (Roy J. Glauber), National Institute of Standards and Technology, US (John L. Hall), Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, Garching, Germany (Theodor Hänsch)

    Nobel prizes are of course not awarded for recent research activities, but I hope this short list still gives you an objective impression that the scientific world does not exclusively rotate around the few famous universities that the fantasies of teenage nerds seem to revolve around, and that there's quite a few more places where proper scientific research is being conducted.
  13. Oct 14, 2011 #12
    Just like to weigh in here. Unless you're very intelligent don't bother trying to get into MIT or Stanford as undergrad (also money is a factor). Look at it when you're a post-graduate. There's no point saying you can get better grades if you try, put in the effort as an undergrad and see how well you cope. MIT and Stanford will push you hard.

    @Jarfi - As you know, Brian Schmidt won the Nobel prize for 2011. He lectures at ANU, I'm pretty sure.. I will be attending his lectures once I reach university as an undergrad.
  14. Oct 15, 2011 #13
    OP, you should note that studying in a US college involves non-science requirements for graduation. You won't get to focus as much as you *seem* to want and for these purposes, doing your undergraduate study in a European university would be a better idea. You will also be transitioning into a similar educational system when doing your studies, not trying to get into a new one. In the US, students typically start their undergraduate study at eighteen.

    Don't bother living unless you're very intelligent...
  15. Oct 15, 2011 #14

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    They sure don't look for that. "I'm lazy and will only put in effort on what I feel like when I feel like it" is a big red flag. None of the highly competitive schools want to see that.
  16. Oct 15, 2011 #15
    Do you fancy studying in the UK?

    British students at 18 require A levels in Mathematics and Physics, and one other subject (which can be Further Mathematics...) Ask around to see what Danish exams are deemed equivalent to UK A levels.

    I'm British, failed French completely and just scraped a pass in German. It didn't matter at all - so if you fancy studying at a UK university don't worry about being bad at French and Danish - better have reasonable English though, but even there 'proficiency' rather than passing academic exams is all that is required!

    From the way you are dealing with this thread I guess you would be considered proficient enough - physics lecturers in the UK are used to dealing with foreign students who reveal less proficiency in English than you are showing. But your English isn't perfect, so run any application letter past your English teacher.

    Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society and Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute, failed French O level six times! He never passed it, but he got into University, and did quite well :)

    The point about Scottish Universities is well worth checking out - I knew a lot of Norwegian students at Strathclyde University, also Glasgow University is good.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2011
  17. Oct 15, 2011 #16

    Well, I am actually icelandic, but I can easily improve my english, and im ok at french, I will just work on improving my math's and physics/chemistry grades. I have 3 years until I finish college. I might consider beginning my studies in the uk, If they have good schools for physics and technology, altough all the sources tell me that the us is the price winner in most science education. At first I was thinking I would maybe study in france but for that I would need to speak perfect french. It's either uk or usa.

    I Know that one guy in my school went straight to MIT last year, his grades were 9,6/10 and he competed in the olympics in maths. My grades last year were 6,5/10 so It would be very hard to pull my grades up so much(I am not perfect in school), but if I would first study in uk or usa in a less know school, than I would probably just finish my education in MIT or oxford or something.
  18. Oct 15, 2011 #17

    That's true, It's not like MIT and those famous schools are teaching different physics for undergrads. I will just go to the best school for me that I can when I get my grades. But still here in my country we finish college at 19-20 years old. So the systems are very different.
  19. Oct 15, 2011 #18
    The list of Nobel prize results origins quite clearly is not supposed to be a statement about the quality of undergraduate courses. I would actually expect that super-rich universities can afford to offer a very good education. The short list is about groundbreaking research, and in response to your idea that all good research in the world happened at MIT and Stanford.

    I do not see the relevance of this statement. What do you mean by "college", anyways? University or upper school levels?
  20. Oct 15, 2011 #19
  21. Oct 16, 2011 #20
    By 'price winner' do you mean cheaper to study there? Might be true, the UK just got real expensive this year because we had to prop up a lot of banks, and can't afford to subsidise students any more - at least according to our new right wing government... Scotland may be the exception, as mentioned above...

    Of course the UK has good schools of physics... We're the land of Newton, Maxwell & Dirac, so we get upset when people even feel the need to ask such a question...

    You'll find Iceland -> UK equivalences on UK university sites, like:

    http://www.liv.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/applying/eu/Iceland.htm [Broken]

    Is that the Studentsprof exam average that you quote? If so, 9.6 is way above AAA=7.25, which would get you into most UK universities - maybe not Oxford/Cambridge! If you can get 6=BBC in Maths/Phys/Chem then that should get you into many good places...
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
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