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GPA Problems

  1. Nov 27, 2012 #1
    Sum it all up:

    Cumulative GPA: 2.8 (so far, I only take science courses seriously, anything else I don't care if I get a D, which has been most of my general courses. I should not have to be forced to take classes that I don't need and certainly will forget about 3 years later.)

    Physics B.A. (3.8 GPA)

    Chemistry Minor

    Research: 2 year chemistry, about 9 months physics by the time I apply to grad schools.

    Hopeful pGRE: I am hoping I get above the 85 percentile (what I scored on the sample).

    With my GPA now, I am thinking of applying to an MS program in materials physics (I have a few engineering and computer science classes under my belt), hopefully get a great gGPA and apply to grad schools for a PhD.

    I don't think any grad school would accept me with a 3.0 cGPA/3.8 mGPA and placed in 85 pGRE. I want to go to a top 15 not a mid-tier.

    Would grad schools be more lenient seeing as I will only be 19 when applying? I graduated high school early and went straight to college.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 27, 2012 #2
    Nobody will be lenient, why should they? Yes, it is impressive that you graduated early, but you are graduating with a 2.8. Given the information you have provided, if I was a professor on an admissions committee I would feel that you have a lot of potential but are not mature enough for graduate work. Again, this assumption is based on the information you provided.

    The feeling of "who cares about this class" totally understandable, however it does not justify negligence. There may be times in graduate work where you will "not care"; negligence with this type of work will result in poor research.

    On the positive side. If you have done extra curricular work do not forget to include that in your application. Also, when I applied to grad schools many of them made a distinction between cumulative and "major" GPA.
  4. Nov 27, 2012 #3
    I'm very curious on how an attitude like this looks like to potential grad schools. If I were to be in an acceptance committee, then this would be very unfavorable to you. Then again, I have never been on such committee, so I don't know how they think.
  5. Nov 27, 2012 #4


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    The thing about a 3.0 is that many (most) schools use it as a magic cutoff. If your transcripts don't meet the cutoff, the registrar won't even send your application to the admissions committee. It doesn't matter that you did okay in your major courses, but bombed basket-weaving 101.

    It's also probably worth adjusting your attitude a little towards general courses. Assuming you attend university in a "first world" country, no one forces you to take anything. You chose your program. In fact you probably paid a lot of money to enroll in that program. Also, you said you're 19. How do you what you won't need in 3 years?
  6. Nov 27, 2012 #5

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    I would not vote to accept you. Harsh, perhaps, but that's how I see it. What this tells me is that if you aren't interested in something you will do a crappy job. Much of science is dull and boring, and what you have written makes your application look risky.
  7. Nov 27, 2012 #6


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    It's difficut to see an "attitude" on an application. But in general this would serve as a flag - at least for me. I would be concerned that the student would have trouble with self-motivation if a particular task did not fit his or her definition of what they "should" be doing. That's not to say I expect a student to simply accept everything I say as a supervisor as the ultimate truth and to dive right in. Hardly. But closed-mindedness is not a desirable trait.
  8. Nov 27, 2012 #7


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    An interviewer in industry would probably take the same view in my experience. You never end up hiring too few "prima donnas", despite your best efforts to weed them out.
  9. Nov 27, 2012 #8
    I took most of my generals back when I was a freshman and sophomore. Of course, I will simply lie and say I couldn't keep up with everything and was taking 5 classes/semester (that is true).

    please be objective. Also, for people that know those on committees could you give me some advice? There is not much I else I can do at this point, I can only get a 3.0, or try to get a higher pGRE which I am aiming for by the way on practice tests and studying. So any advice is welcomed here.

    If you could give me a strict percentage, sort of like 45% chance top 20, 55% chance mid-tier, etc...

    So, "future-tense" (keeping things constant)

    3.0 cGPA
    3.8 mGPA Physics
    Minor Chemistry
    2 years Chemistry research
    1 year Physics research
    85th+? percentile pGRE
    19 years old

    The reason I put the age in there is because I will mention that I did poorly because I was out of high school early and took more classes than I should have, so I was quite overwhelmed during those years. Now I know what I can handle and try to do great at any task I am given.
  10. Nov 27, 2012 #9
    Wrong attitude, bad attitude. I advise you think think very carefully about your decision. You are trying to convince a group PhDs, not kindergartners, that you are grad school worthy. If you think lying will get you ahead, think again. There are cases where it may, but one thing you will never acquire is a good reputation and respect. Even if you get accepted, they will know right away that this is your attitude. I cant tell you what to do or what will happen. I can assure you that it will catch up to you.
  11. Nov 27, 2012 #10


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    You're asking the impossible. No one here can say you have a 55% chance to get into this type of school or not. From my experience, you don't have a good chance at any top 15 school simply because of your GPA. That's unfortunate. Sadly, the fact that you are young and made mistakes does nothing to help you. There isn't a special place in grad school for young kids who acted immaturely and learned. You are put against all other applicants, including those who are older with higher GPA's.

    Your saving grace may be your research if it's 'interesting' enough.

    With all that said, it isn't the end of the world to go to a mid-tier grad school for masters or PhD.
  12. Nov 27, 2012 #11
    Do you think if I go to a mid-tier for a masters and have great grades, research experience, etc..., if I then have a higher acceptance chance to a top 15 for PhD? Have you heard from anyone going that route? I know you said it's impossible to know, but I have been thinking about it for a while now. So a rough estimate would help as well.

    I just do not want to be held back by general courses, so I felt a white lie would not affect my ethics. I do love physics and my grades reflect it. I just don't have good general courses.

    I did say I only take science courses/work seriously. I didn't really need biology, but I took it seriously and made out with an A. It's just non-science courses like history, psychology, ethics, that I did not care for. But those courses are behind me now.
  13. Nov 27, 2012 #12


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    I can only give you personal stories. Here are two: First, I graduated from a small college with no graduate level courses (except in stats). I had a friend who was rather brilliant but couldn't get accepted into any top graduate school for a PhD because he didn't have much in regard to research and in advance classes. So he got his masters in mathematics at a well respected state level school, and then proceeded to do a PhD at Yale. Secondly, there is me, who did a masters in Biononsenses, and got accepted into some top 10 school for a PhD (but due to family obligation, I turned down.) So, yes, it's possible.
  14. Nov 27, 2012 #13
    Thanks, that is what I am thinking of doing now. It seems a bit wiser seeing that I do not want to apply to schools twice.

    But, has your friend graduated with his PhD from Yale? Are you planning on trying to go for a PhD again after you are able to settle things out with your family?
  15. Nov 27, 2012 #14


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    Honestly, I have no idea. He went off to do mathematics, I settled and started to raise a family. So we've grown out of touch. His facebook profile still says he attends Yale, so I assume he's working on it still. As for me, the answer is no, most likely not. I have a little girl and wife to support, living on bread crumbs again is nothing something I particularly want us to go through again.
  16. Nov 28, 2012 #15

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    First, MarneMath is right - even if we had your application in front of us we could not predict how any committee would decide. He's also right that honesty is important in science - and IMO, a lie that benefits you by deceiving others is not a "white" lie. It's just a plain old lie.

    That said, I think you need to be realistic. You aren't shooting for top-tier. You probably aren't even shooting for mid-tier.

    There are three things that are considered and weighted heavily in the admissions process: test scores, grades and letters.

    About twice as many people take the PGRE than enter grad school. So an 85% means you are in the top 30% of those admitted. This sounds more mid-tier than top tier. And historically, students tend to guess on the high side when guessing their scores.

    Second, at 3.0 many schools won't even consider you. The school ranked at the bottom of the list of PhD programs requires the provost's permission to accept a student with less than a 3.0.

    Finally, there are letters: we don't know what they will say, but do you really think they will say things like "mature, honest and hard-working"?
  17. Nov 28, 2012 #16


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    Okay, so you're in this situation. You really want to get into graduate school, but you're stuck with a low overall GPA. Let's say you mature somewhat and realize that not caring about certain courses that you chose to take was a mistake. Here are some things to consider:

    (1) Forget about this idea of tiers in graduate school. This is an artificial ranking that means nothing. Instead, you have to focus on specific programs and figure out the projects that you would be most interested in.

    (2) Five courses per semester is a standard courseload at many universities. Complaining that you took too much on when you didn't is not going to win you any sympathy. In fact even if you took six or sever courses per semester, it's still not likely to win you any sympathy, because that would have been your own choice.

    (3) If you really want to get in, apply, but if you're not successful, you may want to look at spending an additional semester or year taking undergraduate courses and upgrading to get your overall GPA up to a place where you'll be considered.
  18. Nov 28, 2012 #17


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    You did what you did, now you face consequences. Judging from your thread about making a lab partner cry, you have more to think about than your gpa. Apply to a wide range of schools.
  19. Nov 28, 2012 #18
    I suggest working retail/fast food to mentally mature yourself. If you cannot even work retail or fast food what hope do you have of doing research? If you cannot even deal with high schoolers wanting a burger, how can you possibly deal with sophisticated professors? I believe that doing a year of work, then going to grad school, will be more beneficial to you in every way than trying to apply now.
  20. Nov 28, 2012 #19
    The fact of the matter is that if you did put in a reasonable amount of time into those classes you would have done better over all, maybe at the expense of an A or 2 in your science classes. In a sense, your statement is like saying:
    "Well I took two classes and got A's but when I took 4 I got two A's and two C's, but the C's don't count because they are two more classes than two."
    Which is nothing more than an.....excuse.

    I knew a girl who had a similar mindset to yours in undergrad. She was very smart, really loved aircraft structures, but was very stubborn and sacrificed her elective classes resulting in a few semesters with bad GPAs. In fact, she actually wasted some time retaking them to get better grades. She didn't go to grad school but she got a good job in industry.

    From a more positive standpoint, putting a reasonable amount of time in these classes may turn out to be enjoying. You may also learn a thing or two and improve your creativity - an essential problem solving skill.

    It is very unfortunate that you have such a close minded attitude when you are very smart. From my experience, opening your mind will only improve your thinking ability.
  21. Nov 28, 2012 #20
    Not sure if this was said already but for some places (UW), the 3.0 GPA cutoff only applies to the most recent credits.
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