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Concerned about my grades this term and future grad school

  1. Jun 2, 2015 #1
    I go to a university that operates on a three quarter per year system, with 10 weeks per quarter.

    This quarter started out fine, but my dad's condition suddenly deteriorated and he passed away (I was led to believe he had at least 2 years left from doctor expectations about the development of is cancer, so this came as quite a shock when I heard the news). This happened around halfway through the quarter right before midterms.

    His death also created some family instability, I suffered depression and my already bad sleeping habits became worse to the point of chronic insomnia and day-time fatigue. All my classes are morning classes and I was missing most of them (including ones in which quizzes were taken).

    I dropped one class to focus my energy on the other three plus my lab. I could nto take a quarter off (I'm a 3rd year and my grades/time spent before this year were all passing/adequate but nothing to brag about, and I needed to stay in school as a full-time student to maintain scholarships and graduate on time next year. Without scholarships its a done deal for me).

    I managed to pull myself together in physic and biochemistry and will probably get anywherre from a C+ to A- in those courses depending on how the finals I just took went.

    Calculus III is my worry. I might legitimately get an F in this class. I missed most of the quizzes after I heard news of my father (20% of my grade). My homework category is sitting in the low B range (30% of grade). My first midterm, taken right after I heard the news, is 56% (curved upward to D range), and I might legitimately fail this final meaning I"ll get an F on my transcript.

    I'm no stranger to failure and bad grades. I get mostly Bs but have gotten C's as well a lot, and even got a D in Calculus II but retook it and got a A. I also have a lot of Withdrawals on my transcript. My family life is garbage and a lot of times I get sucked into depression and will have to drop classes.

    I'm worried about how all this will look to a grad school. I don't immediately plan to go. In one year, after I graduate, I plan tot each English in Japan for a year since I studied abroad there and am quite fluent in Japanese, after that I plan spending 2 years getting an astronomy degree (will be graduating here with biochemisry) from a cheaper public university since I want to shift my focus to physics. After that I want to do Peace Corps for two years. So I'll be looking at applying to grad school when I'm like, 27 or 28 years old.

    My question is if, even after doing all the above as planned, I have already eliminated some of hte best grad schools as possibilities for applying, simply due to grades (and possibly receiving an F this late in undergrad).

    Any answer is appreciated. And I don't mind brutal honesty. I'd rather live with the truth than have someone tell me a comforting lie.


  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 2, 2015 #2


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    You need to let your course administrator for Calculus III what your situation is. With a doctor's certificate and a copy of your father's death certificate, you ought to be given an exemption for the quizzes that you missed. That may put you into a position where you might be able to score reasonably in your final exam. In any case, you ought to speak to your course administrator and to your student advisor to learn what your options are according to the rules at your University. Once you have more information on this, you will need to reconsider your options.

    While 1 gap year is not always a bad idea, 3 gap years will not help you to forge a career for yourself in a field such as astronomy and astrophysics. These are tough fields and you need to embark on a proper career path as soon as possible.

    Remember that, working as an astronomer, you are a citizen of the world and you will have plenty of opportunity to travel and to work elsewhere. After graduating from grad school, you will probably do one or two post-docs before you become employable as an astronomer. That is the time when you can spend a few years abroad. Also, joining the Peace Corps is very nice, but you can get as much satisfaction and do as much good work by teaching and mentoring younger kids who need assistance to make their way in life. Your influence and help with difficult subjects like math and physics can do an huge amount to uplift kids that otherwise might be in a rut for the rest of their lives. You can do all of that while at grad school and during your post-docs.

    These are a just a few suggestions. No doubt, others will have better suggestions for you. Weigh them up, and then decide sensibly. One word of caution: it is commendable to want to serve others in something like the Peace Corps, but you should never do those things at the expense of your career. In the end, you will eventually need to look after your own family and secure the future of your kids. You won't be able to do that adequately if you are not securely in the job of your choice.
  4. Jun 2, 2015 #3
    You can always retake the class.

    I would have taken the medical withdraw after the news of the loss, I would talk to your doctor and get a note saying the loss caused you mental stress and see if they can work with you for the calculus class on the material you missed.

    The grad cafe has a large thread on sub 3.0 GPAs getting accepted to grad school. Its never over, but if your goal is to go into the military after school then maybe grad school isn't for you.
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