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Fourier jr's monologue

  1. Dec 8, 2005 #1
    since it's december & last year i left it too late (not that it mattered at the time anyway) it's time to start thinking about grad school applications, which i've been doing lately. my problem is that my grades totally sucked & i think my only hope is probably to get 3 profs to write me awesome references. i've read other threads on here about people who have done history degrees & want to become physicists (not just ed witten), etc etc & the usual responses say that the bottom line is you have to be able to work very hard autonomously & to know how to study. while i was in school i didn't know how to study properly (effectively?) and i think that affected motivation since i didn't know what i was doing wrong & didn't know how to fix it. it also probably didn't help to work at a restaurant during my last year & be surrounded by people who thought school & 'booklearning' in general was plain stupid. at the time though i needed a job to pay my tuition & would have taken anything since i thought i had no oter choice but looking back i think it was a mistake to have so many people with that attitude around me. anyway, since i graduated in june i've figured out how to read properly & it's much more encouraging & easier to do it myself & i can feel the difference. so i'm doing things way differently than even 6 months ago & i have to find a way to get good references from the profs who must have thought i was wasting my time & theirs (at that time). i've talked to one of them who was all proud of me, etc that i had 'figured it out' but i did ok in the courses i had with him & i've gotten along with him ok all along. i don't know what i could possibly say to the others since i think they'd probably have little patience for me & i doubt they'd even take me seriously.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 8, 2005 #2
    Are you asking a question? Do you need advice or are you just venting?

    In the off chance that you are looking for some advice:
    Sounds like you are up a creek currently. Well, go back and take some classes now... You say you have changed, but you need proof. That sounds like great proof to me. Take some undergrad physics classes since that is what you are trying to get into anyways right? Make sure from the beginning to get in good with the professors. That will help. If one of the students taking my class who is bombing out asked this of me, I would have to decline.
    Also, you will have to take the GREs. Take them- do really well on them. That will help your case a lot.
    If you are still worried, apply to smaller, less prestigious schools. That will help by bringing down the "genius factor".
  4. Dec 8, 2005 #3


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    I would just go back and take more courses.
  5. Dec 9, 2005 #4
    i don't know what the point of taking more classes would be since i've already graduated & i did just about all the math courses the dept offers. i'd upgrade my 4th-yr ones if i had to but the university doesn't allow that as far as i know. it wouldn't improve my grades anyway. some of the courses i did in my last 2 years covered most of the phd candidacy exam stuff (algebra, topology, analysis) so i can do math at a pretty high level already, except i didn't do very well because i didn't know how. now that i do, and (out of necessity i guess) i'm more than capable of working by myself. in fact, now that i remember i was working through patrick suppes' set theory book where almost all of the problems say "prove theorem x.y.z" which is left unproven in the text, and noticed that every book is full of problems whether they're given explicitly as problems or they're just theorems in the text. nobody even had to tell me that; i figured it out myself. that's a massive breakthrough in my studying since my 2nd year when i started taking real math courses w/proofs, etc & everyone who knows me would agree. i don't know what the point of doing more courses would be, unless maybe they're the 2nd halves of topology & analysis, or i upgrade the halves that i've already done. i've been wanting to study harmonic analysis ever since i took my first course that covered some fourier series back in fall 2002 (hence the handle fourier jr) & it's hard to find people who do that. the one prof i talked to didn't know much about it & said it might be like going to california in 2006 & panning for gold, but not much is known about harmonic analysis on noncompact or nonabelian groups & he didn't know that. since it's not something that most people want to do (unlike say functional analysis or a growing area like dynamical systems) it could be easier for me to get in somewhere. i'd probably have to go to a bigtime school like waterloo (hopefully w/profs hare &/or forrest) or ubc (w/fournier, hare's teacher) which i don't think would be a problem for me since i like the idea of being in a big wal-mart-sized place that's hopping with activity, where everybody has a common goal unlike the restaurant i worked at. i guess my old school has gotten new profs & a lot more grad students & in the last few years but nobody there does harmonic analysis. every so often the subject of a history major doing physics comes up & the typical response is that it's unlikely to happen but still possible. if all i have to do is change the way i learn i'm way ahead of someone like that. i don't think i'm "up a creek" i just need a couple more people to back me up.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2005
  6. Dec 9, 2005 #5
    So it is a Math Ph.D. you are looking into?
    Either way you must prove to the admissions people that you can make it in their program. By your own admission, the grades you have gotten will not do that for you. But you claim to have changed and are able to do better. You must prove that to them somehow- they will not simply take your word for it. This is the point of taking more classes. You have to give them a reason to let you in. I have a friend who did her undergrad at UBC in math, I can ask her about the program if you like. I don't mean to sound cruel, but you seem to be making a lot of excuses for why it might not work instead of atleast trying.

    Go and take these classes at a different school if your previous one will not let you. Hell, try and take some graduate classes- that would be excellent proof. Have you contacted anyone about doing this yet? Most programs will let you take classes without being accepted into the program (you will have to pay for them yourself then). This will be one way. You will usually be classified as something like a special student, or a returning student. So look into taking some classes. If possible, take them at the school you would like to attend. I don't know how close you are to them, but if this really is your life's goal you need to set the wheels in motion yourself.
  7. Dec 9, 2005 #6
    well ok then i just emailed some sort of u of waterloo math faculty admin person about doing that sometime. i hope it works out. waterloo's master's program usually takes only a year because it's set up more for people who want to do a phd rather than just a master's degree. will they want any application stuff or will they just let me take the courses?

    since most of the courses i've taken in the last 2 years were cross-listed with graduate courses so i don't think it would be much trouble to get into one, as long as there's room in the class. it's always been hard to ask about this stuff because a small number of profs have made me think that all of them are the proverbial 'grumpy old men' who always seem to be annoyed by anyone knocking on their door. a few work in their offices with their door locked & the light off so people don't think anyone's in there.
  8. Dec 9, 2005 #7
  9. Dec 9, 2005 #8


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    What school do you come from?

    If you are planning to go to University of Waterloo from another school, it's going to be a whole new ball game.
  10. Dec 9, 2005 #9
    what does that mean? i was hoping for a 'fresh start' there, which would be good, but i think you mean that in a bad way.
  11. Dec 9, 2005 #10


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    You seem to have really big goals.

    You now know what you're problem is and everything, so now you're confident that you can do great.

    The reality is that it's not that easy fixing this problem.

    I've had the same problem before, and I still work on it. I probably will for the rest of my life.

    Anyways, taking a few classes is the way to go.

    I'm just saying that it's not going to be easy, especially if you're going to Waterloo. They will certainly expect you to remember everything. That won't be easy since your grades weren't the gradest, which implied you barely remembered it for the final exam, not to mention remember it for today.

    Anyways, you'll have to work hard.

    Note: I came back to edit to make sure I don't sound like a jerk. I just want to keep things real. Even for a smart person, this will be difficult. I'm just saying to get real, and take it one step at a time, because if you jump right in, you might fail at it again. Failing again would just make things so much more difficult on yourself. It's a ****ty feeling and I know that.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2005
  12. Dec 9, 2005 #11
    i too dread the same outcome for myself
    is repeating courses really the way to go? I mean if you dont manage to do well in a course on teh first try what says taht youll do good the next time around? i dont mean to be discouraging to Fourier but really...

    sometimes i feel that courses are too limited in the time they give to understand the material. For example i can do my first year material (whcih was hard at the time) in my sleep but my second year material is daunting... at least for now
  13. Dec 10, 2005 #12
    sure why not, if it isn't any trouble

    i'll be back later... now i have to get ready for work
  14. Dec 14, 2005 #13
    i just got a reply back from a u of waterloo person. she said the pure math dept does let people into a qualifying program & i have to apply as if i were applying for any other program. if i get in i'll get a list of courses i have to do to prep for the real thing (likely algebra analysis & topology that i've done before) & as expected i'll have to do really well in them & i'll have to pay for them myself. that's some good news i guess, about all i could ask for right now. :blushing:
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2005
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