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Extenuating family circumstances and graduate school

  1. Apr 22, 2012 #1
    Hello,

    I am a physics student of sophomore standing and I have been having average, sub-par grades during it. I have been very stressed the last few years of my life, due to loss of parents and taking care of a sibling, but thankfully financial aid has been helpful through it. Due to my poor grades, I am worried that I even have a future in becoming a physicist later in life, and the thought has depressed me greatly.

    Leaving school is not an option, I do not have any other family to live off of, and I already have a bit of subsidized loans out, and my part-time job is within the department itself.

    I think I will manage to pass my classes this semester, but my GPA will drop to a sub-par 2.6-7ish, and its been an angrily frustrating experience, despite 40-50 hours of weekly work put in. Hopefully during the summer I can recover and study on my own for next semesters worth of classes.

    So my question is, how much do graduate schools care about introductory class work and math classes, and how much of weight will they put in for extenuating circumstances? I will have a research position over the summer and hopefully network further for more opportunities, but I feel as my grades are a huge barrier to the places I want to be, and I think the BEST I could do, will probably be a 2.9-3.0 in the major by the time I graduate, and that's barely even the cutoff.

    I love the subject matter very much, and I wouldn't trade it for anything else, one of the few things that keep me going in life, barring the poor grades.

    Thanks,
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 22, 2012 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    2.9 over four years is not going to cut it. A C in graduate school is failing. Yes, there may be extenuating circumstances, but four years of extenuation strongly implies that this will continue into graduate school, and this GPA means you will flunk out. Many - probably almost all - departments won't take that risk.
     
  4. Apr 22, 2012 #3
    Ok, barring the estimation, what if my final coursework, the last few classes I take, I do exceptionally well and still marred by the overall major gpa? If I should show significant improvement 3.5-4.0 in overall coursework from this point on, on is that still a non-factor? I have 2 years left, and I want to plan my moves well, be realistic, and I just want to know what my odds are.

    It wouldn't be the end of the world if I couldn't get into graduate school, I suppose many people in my shoes end up in industry somewhere(?) or a suitable job.
     
  5. Apr 23, 2012 #4

    Choppy

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    If you get high grades from this point on that would be a different scenario. In the first one there is no evidence that you are capable of performing at the level necessary for graduate school, so it's unlikely that anyone would extend you much credit for extenuating circumstances.

    In the second scenario, there is evidence that you can do much better than your current marks suggest - particularly in the senior level courses, which is something that graduate school admission committees will look at. In that case the extenuating circumstances you've had to deal with are more likely to be factored in.
     
  6. Apr 23, 2012 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Exactly - that's a whole different kettle of fish.
     
  7. Apr 23, 2012 #6

    ZapperZ

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    The only 2 options that I can see for you are:

    1. Get good grades for the remaining years that you have to show that you have the capability of doing well

    2. When you apply for grad school, also apply to smaller schools that offer terminal Masters Degree. This is one way for you to raise your GPA and also offer further proof that you are capable of performing well. You then have additional support to apply for a Ph.D program using both your undergraduate and Masters degree.

    Both of these explicitly assume that you perform well with school and do not continue to tank with your classes.

    Zz.
     
  8. Apr 25, 2012 #7
    Something to keep in mind is that even if you make 4.0's from now on, ace graduate school, and then get your Ph.D., the odds are that you'll end up in industry anyway.

    Also, just to be realistic, 40-50/hours a week seems a bit low for a physics undergraduate, and it's certainly low for graduate school.
     
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