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Enough to get into a decent grad school?

  1. May 30, 2013 #1
    Hello PF community, I've used this site for quite a while for references on self learning and just plain entertainment. I figured it was time for me to make my own cliche "Can I make it?" thread. Thanks in advance for any responses.

    I'm going to skip the long part about my history with school, but I am now completely motivated and desperate to start school. (I'm 21 now) My current situation is that I couldn't afford going to my large state school for many reasons. (Mostly the cost of being married young) However I am now working a private university working in the chemical engineering laboratory. With my current benefits I will be be able to go to school tuition free.

    The catch of the whole deal is that I am allowed only 9 credit hours per semester, if I can make it fit in my work schedule. Since it is a medium sized private research university, they offer close to no evening classes, but do have a good selection of summer classes.

    Now to my question... Will I be able to get into a decent grad school (for physics) if I have little physics related research? Seeing as I have to work 40 hours a week to be able to get my tuition waiver, participating in a large amount to my university's physics related research is unlikely. I unfortunately am not interested at all in chemical (petroleum focused) engineering; however, I am currently participating in the research (as a technician and to some degree data analyzer) that is at the top of its respective field.

    Fast forward 5-6 years and I'm hypothetically graduating after acing all of my courses and have a respectable GRE score, will my lack of physics related research work against me? Maybe the converse could be true, maybe having a good background in research of any kind would be a good thing?

    I don't know! Sorry for the long road of text, but I am at the current crossroads between deciding on going to some sort of engineering or staying with my love that is physics. By the way I do understand the horrible job prospects post graduation, but I am not adverse to working in industry or programming.
    Last edited: May 30, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2013 #2
    People that have worked in physics labs and majored in physics definitely have an advantage. I'm not sure what schools you consider "decent." Research what kinds of people get into the schools you want to go to.
  4. May 31, 2013 #3
    I guess I'm going to have to start looking at other options. My wife is going to be graduating soon and has a job lined up that could pay support me while I finish school, as I did her.
  5. May 31, 2013 #4
    Are you majoring in chemical engineering? I don't see why you couldn't get into a decent school unless you're only considering schools like MIT or the such to be decent. I've seen people get engineering degrees with no physics research at all get into good schools for a graduate degree in physics. One of my friends graduated with a nuclear engineering degree from South Carolina State University and she is currently at the University of Wisconsin for graduate school.
  6. May 31, 2013 #5
    No, I'm majoring in physics. I was just wondering if the lack of physics related research in my undergrad would be a detriment to my graduate prospects. By Decent I mean top 20-30. I know the chances of getting in to MIT, Caltech, Princeton, etc are a long shot to those with even the most stellar of transcripts.
  7. Jun 5, 2013 #6
    Will your lack of physics related research count against you? Compared to what? If you mean, would your application be stronger if you had worked full time, completed your physics degree, and somehow found time to add in extra research, then the answer is obviously yes. If you mean, would your application be stronger if you did research in lieu of working, the answer is not so clear cut.

    Admissions committees will take into account your circumstances when you apply.
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