Going back for second degree in Physics with some questions

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Hello all. I am a long time lurker and I have recently run into a snag in my academic career. I was wondering if y'all could be of some help. First the background:

I attended a very small university in Georgia and obtained a degree in mathematics last May (2011). I graduated with a 3.8 GPA (entirely due to the fact of adapting to college freshman year. After freshman year, I had a 4.0). Anyway, I feel entirely ripped off by the institution and feel my degree is essentially worth nothing. I mean, my program didn't even have complex analysis or consistently offered any analysis courses past Real 1! I realize I should have transferred but I let a woman influence my decision on staying at the school. We broke up 3 months before graduation so that was obviously a bad decision. I did very little research because it was not required by the university. I wrote a few papers but none were published. I now realize I should have been more assertive and gone out of my way to do some research. This leads me to where I am today. I want to obtain a PhD in either mathematics or physics. With the mathematical courses I have completed, I realize that the mathematics route is becoming less attractive. I did not like Abstract Algebra at all, Analysis was boring and hard to grasp the point of the subject material, and the only interesting courses were ODE/PDE. This is why I am leaning more toward physics and also because I have always been interested in space. While my university didn't require more than two Physics classes, I do have a mathematical background. Obviously it would be impossible to succeed in/be accepted into a graduate program for physics at this point. This is why I have decided to go back and take some undergarduate courses in physics.

Most people I have talked to have told me to just apply to graduate programs and see if I get in. I have looked at qualifying exams and I am no where close to being able to pass them. I have already been officially accepted into the University of Texas as an undergrad. Originally I was planning on taking only a few courses to try to apply to a few grad schools but then I thought about just getting a second degree. It would require 60 credit hours at the university and would give me another opportunity to do research. I am only 22. Taking two additional years is really not an issue to me if it's in a field that I love. So here are my questions:

1) Is this the correct path, for someone in my situation, to take to obtaining a PhD in Physics? Is there an alternative/easier path? I realize most will say to just apply right now and see if I get in, but I don't feel like I am prepared for that
2) Does having a second degree from a prestigious university make me a more attractive candidate? It can only help, right?
3) Is there anything over the summer that I should do to more prepare myself? I am having shoulder surgery (torn rotator cuff) and will be out of work for 6 weeks. This is the perfect time to do any preparations.
4) Does anyone have any more comments/suggestions?

As mentioned, I feel cheated. I want a quality education so bad and my institution did not provide that for me. This change is not based on making more money. I simply want a better and more in depth education. I understand the difficulties ahead but I am looking forward to the challenge.
 

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  • #2
lisab
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Here's a thread that may give you some answers (yes it's long but it has some really good points):

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=64966

IMO: Your math grades are great, but you really need to focus on the PGRE. Without a physics bachelor's, your score will be very important.
 
  • #3
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Here's a thread that may give you some answers (yes it's long but it has some really good points):

IMO: Your math grades are great, but you really need to focus on the PGRE. Without a physics bachelor's, your score will be very important.
I actually have done a Practice Physics Subject Test (last year I believe) that he suggested and I didn't do too well. I found my problem was that I didn't know formulas or the theories behind the questions. This is why I was more leaning towards getting a BS in Physics first rather than trying to get straight into a grad program. I understand I could probably find a place that will accept me but I am unprepared. I feel that is once again cheating myself and the university.

One option I do have is to take a years worth of Physics classes and then applying for grad school. I am sure I will do a lot better on the exam but I still run into the problem of a lack of research. Would it be wise to just stay another year to complete a second degree or just try for programs after a year?
 
  • #4
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But if you only need to do 60 credits, why would it take two years intead of one?
 
  • #5
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But if you only need to do 60 credits, why would it take two years intead of one?
60 credit hours is about 20 classes, give or take. Are you saying to take 10 classes a semester? In my experince, 18 credit hours a semester is quite a task and my university actually wouldn't allow you to take more than 21 credit hours in any semester.
 
  • #6
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Oh, then an American credit is different from in Europe. Here one year corresponds to 60 credits (standard).

EDIT: indeed, one American credit corresponds to two Europerean credits, so since 60 credits takes one year here, it indeed takes two years in America. My apologies.
 
  • #7
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Oh, then an American credit is different from in Europe. Here one year corresponds to 60 credits (standard).
oh.. gotcha. Ya at University of Texas, they require at least 60 credit hours (which is two years for full time students) be taken at the university. I assume this is because they don't want people transferring in with only 3 classes to finish and getting a degree.
 

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