Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Effect of Withdrawals on Graduate School Application

  1. Mar 12, 2012 #1
    Due to unforeseen circumstances (burnout, depression), I recently had to withdraw from all of my courses (5 courses) and this brings my total number of W's up to 11.

    Am I doomed?

    Even if I went back to school and continue to excel, would my graduate school application ever be given serious consideration? I'm so distraught and I could really use some advice.

    I know graduate schools value GPA, difficulty of coursework and research experience so I if worked to excel in this areas would I still have a chance to get into a decent graduate program?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 12, 2012 #2
    Although I cannot speak to the Biochem field in particular (judging from your username), I'd say short answer: yes. I have a semester with 3 F's out of 4 classes (not in my field though) and will be starting a very good program in the Fall. You must polish the areas of your application that you mentioned and strive to show a positive upward trend in your final semesters (no more W's!).
  4. Mar 12, 2012 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    You need to find out the root cause of all your problem, and fix it. If you continue to struggle with depression, please consider seeing a doctor about getting treatment.

    Meanwhile, you need to make the rest of your application look stellar. Concentrate on getting good letters of recommendation and research experience, as well as a good GPA.
  5. Mar 12, 2012 #4
    I've made the decision to pursue physics rather than biochemistry and I'd like to know what is considered a good physics GPA (right now I have about a 3.6... but I know this will rise). I've hear a good physics GPA is 3.3 and above but I don't about the validity of this statement.

    Do you think it would be a good idea to sit out for the summer and focus on holistically improving myself? When I go back to school I would be taking the most basic courses for a physics major (Calculus 1-3) and I know I can get good grades in these courses if I could just improve other areas of my life.

    In addition, when do physics majors generally being to pursue undergraduate research (i.e. when is it appropriate to begin inquiring about helping with research)?

    I've been studying calculus on my own and I wonder if I should continue to study calculus on my own in preparation for formal courses in calculus? Would it be advantageous to begin studying physics on my own as well?
  6. Mar 12, 2012 #5


    User Avatar

    If you haven't taken calculus, then your 'physics GPA' could only consist of algebra-based intro classes. Which means it's going to change quite a bit before you'll be applying to graduate schools, and not necessarily up. Even low ranked graduate schools can expect a 3.5 GPA (overall and physics) or higher from most of their applicants.

    Many physics majors start to get research experience after their first full year of introductory classes, but some wait until later.
  7. Mar 12, 2012 #6
    I would say study as much math on your own as you can, including Linear Algebra and trig. If they are calculus based physics courses, you will pick them up right away if you have a strong grasp on calc. Unless you have never taken any physics, have NO idea about concepts such as F=ma, forces, etc., or don't have a common sense intuition on physical properties, I'd focus on math. This doesn't mean that you can't one day watch the beginning physics lectures from MIT or Yale on youtube.

    -MIT 8.01 Physics I

    -Yale Fundamentals of Physics
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  8. Mar 12, 2012 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    If your depression is clinically diagnosed, i.e., the medical condition of depression rather than just feeling depressed, then you may be able to get your school to let you retake those courses, remove the W grades from your transcript, and replace them with the new grades. They may call it "academic renewal" or something like that, and I expect they would be much more willing to do that if you have a clinical diagnosis.
  9. Mar 12, 2012 #8
    Don't think about that now. If you are depressed then everything is going to make you feel like you are doomed, which increases the depression, and makes your situation worse.

    Your first priority is to get yourself in good shape. If you can resolve the depression issues, then everything else will work itself out. If you can't then nothing is possible.

    My advice is to take some time off (and do some outside physics reading). If you can deal with the depression, then there are a lot of options. If you try to do anything without dealing with the depression first, then everything is going to fall apart.

    Taking time off does not disqualify you from graduate school.

    Right now, that's just the wrong question to be asking. If it is the case that you have to do X, Y, and Z to get into graduate school, and you try to do X, Y, and Z while being depressed, you won't be able to do it, and that's likely to make the depression worse, and things will just spiral downward.

    One approach that therapists use is insight-oriented psychotherapy, and one question that they'll have you think about is why does graduate school matter so much to you.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook