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Do I have any chance of becoming a physicist?

  1. Jul 25, 2007 #1
    Hi gang,

    As a rising senior, I'm very worried about what the future holds for me. Like most of my class mates, I would like to attend grad school for physics. Unlike most of my class mates, my academic history leaves much to be desired.

    I am graduating two years late due to a change of schools (Tiny Liberal Arts College to Big 10 Research University), majors (English to Physics), and a withdrawn semester. The major issue, however, is my GPA. Currently, my cumulative is a 2.29. I spent my first two years in english and my first year in physics drinking all the time, and then working constantly to support both my partying and academic career. Basically, I was too immature to be in school. The semester I withdrew was used to get my head on straight and ask for help from friends and family, because I needed it.

    I do have some positive aspects to my story, though. My in-major GPA is a 3.5 right now, and that is essentially from my junior year in physics. I did well in E/M, QM I, Thermal Physics, a computational physics course, a writing intensive lecture course (My English credits finally came in handy :P) Theoretical Mechanics, and two upper division maths. My in-major GPA is only going to go up, as I hone my study skills. I'll also be able to get one more semester of coursework on my transcript before I apply to schools (QM II, Optics w/ Lab, Senior Lab, Solid State, and Numerical Analysis.) I will also have strong recommendations from multiple professors, with all of whom I've done research. Also, I've worked to put myself through school by working as the senior Unix administrator in a small Engineering sub-department, which is one of the reasons I've been able to get so much research work (the professors here love programmers and *nix gurus!) Also, according to my advisor, my involvement in a nationally ranked rugby team is important. Not sure I believe him on that one, but I'm proud of it so what the heck.

    I know my cumulative GPA is a huge set back for me, but I really can't get a clear idea of just how far it will push me back in applications. Will I be able to get into school at all? How about a semi-decent school? I'd very much like to work in either theory or computation (I've been studying for the physics GREs for a bit now, to get my score high enough so this is a possibility) if possible, but as long as I'm doing physics I'm happy. I really don't want to go back to IT work after I graduate.

    I know this is long, but I would very much appreciate any input.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 25, 2007 #2


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    I say stick with it since physics seems to be your passion. Assuming that you turn in A's the first semester of senior year, and get a high score on the GRE, I think you have a good shot. Somewhere on your applications I'd address your early academic history. Don't go into huge details, but say what you did here--that you weren't ready for college, weren't happy with your initial choice of major and college, but once you got it together you've done really well.

    Work hard and make it happen!
  4. Jul 25, 2007 #3
    At the very least I would consider applying to your current university's graduate program. Pretty much all of the Big 10 schools have decent graduate programs in physics, and your current university will probably be more sympathetic to your situation. You can always transfer to another school later if you decide that's what you want to do.
  5. Jul 25, 2007 #4


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    it will be tough and you must work very hard. choose your discipline carefully too: eg. expreimental, theory, data analysis etc. with your computating skills computational physics may be a good choice.
  6. Jul 26, 2007 #5
    Thanks for the advice so far, everyone.

    I've thought about staying put, as it is a great school in a very nice town, but I know my advisor highly frowns upon it. I may talk to him about just staying for a year or two, assisting the same professors I do now, just to show that I can do the work before trying to apply else where. I didn't realize that you could still transfer schools if you were going for a graduate degree! Thanks!

    Also, I would -love- to do computational work. I enjoy programming to solve problems, I just hate the IT work that is normally associated with Unix administration. That's also why I'm taking a two course series on numerical analysis, to help give me a leg up compared to other candidates (that, and it is both a math and programming class which sounds great!)

    And, I just want to throw out there that -any- advice is welcome, even if it is telling me I don't have chance of getting in anywhere. I'd rather know where I stand than be naievly optimistic.
  7. Jul 26, 2007 #6
    I don't think you'll have any problem getting into grad school. You've got a year of great marks which demonstrate you've mended your ways and you have research experience and great computer skills. You only have to convince one program to admit you!
  8. Jul 26, 2007 #7
    Just Push yourself and don't look back because that won't help you now. Your destiny is still in your hands if you keep it there.

    Try? There is no try....just do.
  9. Jul 26, 2007 #8
    Stop stressing out dude. You will get into a good school. Maybe not Berkeley or MIT, but a good school to launch your career.

    Thankfully reccomendations are the most important thing schools look at. I knew a kid with 40% on the Physics GRE who got into Columbia passed his quals on the first try and is 3 years away from getting his PhD, only because he got awesome reccomendations.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2007
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