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Grad school advice

  1. Nov 22, 2011 #1

    kho

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    Hello,
    I'm hoping to receive some advice on boosting my chances to get into grad school. I'm planning on apply for either geophysics or atmospheric sciences.

    I'll explain a bit more but In addition to any advice I'd also like to know if it would even be feasible for me to apply. Currently my gpa is really low. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.6ish. I'm currently a junior and if I get a 4.0 every semester until I graduate my gpa will
    still only be about a 2.8 or 2.9. I'm currently sitting on a 4.0 for this semester and don't plan to get any low grades from here on out.
    I've also been doing research and plan to continue that until I'm done.

    So in short will it be possible to get looked at with a low gpa but a really strong gpa for the
    Two years and doing research. Also note I wouldn't be planning on applying to ivy leagues or anything but have been looking into places such as psu, Illinois, SUNY, and similar schools. Thank you for any advice you can give.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 22, 2011 #2
    if you literally get a ~4.0 from here on out, and good scores / recs / ECs you might have a shot, but the key will be getting amazing grades from here on out. . . the upward trend is what they will be looking for.
     
  4. Nov 22, 2011 #3

    kho

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    Thank you. It wasn't that couldn't do the work but rather chose not too and had some other crazy stuff goin on. I have had one prof already offer to write me an lor and I think I would be able to get at least two more strong letters. I've heard letters of rec are perhaps the biggest thing grad school admissions look at. I'm not sure how true that is however.
     
  5. Nov 22, 2011 #4
    it is, because they can vouch for you and say that you are capable of doing the work etc, and that you show a strong interest in the material etc.

    but you really do have to have strong semesters from here on out, because if you cant pass your undergrad classes, what will change when you get to grad school? and that would literally be a waste of their time / money / place for someone else who can do the work. . .
     
  6. Nov 23, 2011 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    If you have a 2.6 from your first 2 years and a 4.0 from your second 2 years, they don't average to 2.8 or 2.9.
     
  7. Nov 23, 2011 #6

    kho

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    That's good news. I will get good grades from here on out. Like I said it wasn't that fact that I couldn't do it but mainly that I would never go to classes. Also a family medical emergency didn't help things. I'm hoping that being in the more advanced classes and doing well will also help. Would studying a subject independently and then being evaluated on it look better than say just taking the class? For example, in order to take differential equations I'd have to tack on an extra semester to get it to fit, however, I plan on studying the course this spring and then having the prof give me some tests on the material and get it added to my transcript for credit.

    You're correct. That was my mistake. My gpa isn't 2.6 but rather 2.3. I just looked and realized that the 2.6 will be my gpa in a couple weeks at the end of this semester...2.56 actually.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2011
  8. Nov 23, 2011 #7
    don't try to do too much, i was in a similar position and made that mistake. talk to your professors and get into a lab. you will need strong letters of rec, and showing that you currently do research well will be HUGE for grad school apps.

    also, if you had a family emergency, mention it in a statement of purpose -- it's a legit excuse and shows that you weren't just sitting around, getting high, and playing xbox.
     
  9. Nov 24, 2011 #8
    One thing is that the standards for the schools that you mentioned aren't much lower (and in some cases are higher) than the Ivies. Graduate admissions works very differently than undergraduate.

    Something else that no one has mentioned is that you can look very carefully at the policies of your current schools. Some schools have academic forgiveness policies.
     
  10. Nov 24, 2011 #9
    I'd also just worry that a lot of graduate schools have minimum GPA requirements of generally a 3.0 or higher... so if the department admissions committee wanted you, they'd have to petition the graduate school. While that's certainly possible (probably an easy "stamp" process to get, and perhaps requiring you to enter on some probationary status), in my limited experience I haven't seen that happen.

    Like twofish-quant, I'd highly recommend looking into course forgiveness policies. At my present institution, students can have course forgiveness THREE times (if the grade was C- or worse)... in our case both grades appear on the transcript, but only the last is used to calculate the GPA.
     
  11. Nov 24, 2011 #10

    kho

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    Thank you all.
    I looked up rankings and saw that psu was quite high on the list for both meteo and geoscience. I will have two letters of rec from alumni from there so perhaps that will be to my advantage.
    The 3.0 gpa cutoff is what I'm worried about the most. I saw some schools only calculate the gpa based on the last 60 undergrad courses.
    So in short what would optimize my chances to get in? Get great grades from here on out, kill the gre, continue to do research (hopefully get published), and start talking to department faculty At the programs I want to get in? I'll be graduating next fall so would it be too early to start talking to faculty at prospective schools?
     
  12. Nov 24, 2011 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    Graduating early is a bad, bad, bad idea.

    People are being kind, and that may be doing you a disservice. You have screwed up badly. Given a choice between you and someone who has no screwed up, many places are going to take the person who didn't screw up.

    You need a long string of straight A's. Every B you get, someone on some committee is going to say, "not worth the risk" and will pick someone else. This is a competitive business. Grad schools are picking the best N applicants, and not everyone who is qualified is going to get an offer.

    The B you are getting this term will hurt you. The 4 A's you won't get by graduating early will hurt you. The fact that you could have spent more time as an undergrad learning more and chose not to will really, really hurt you.

    If you stay on your planned path, you will graduate with a 2.99. This is below a 3.0, and most grad schools will not take you. Period. Full stop. As I mentioned in another thread, at the lowest-rated physics school in the country, it is easier to hire a new faculty member than to admit a graduate student with less than a 3.0. That isn't to say that it's impossible. Neither is getting a medal in the Olympics.

    If you instead graduate in spring and get straight A's this term, you'll be at a 3.15. This isn't very good, but it's a lot better than a 2.99. You also will have two straight years of A's, which sends the message "former screw-up who got his act together", which, given your circumstances, is probably the best message you could hope to send.

    Sorry to be so harsh, but I think you have the idea that getting in is easier than it is, which seems to be leading you to make some bad decisions.
     
  13. Nov 24, 2011 #12

    kho

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    It's not harsh. That is pretty much the type of response I was expecting to get. I've done a lot of research on different schools and what it takes but that may not always be the way the "real world" works.
    Also considered staying for the spring 12 semester but but you're assuming I'm graduating early when in fact I'm actually graduating late due to taking a semester off.

    I also do not really expect to get in anywhere but rather I'm just trying to give myself the best possible chance. Unfortunately I know I'm fighting an uphill battle and wish I wouldn't have gotten myself in this situation in the first place but nothing I can do about the past now.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2011
  14. Nov 24, 2011 #13

    Vanadium 50

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    The point is the same - by graduating in fall you are depriving yourself of a) the opportunity to learn more, b) the opportunity of showing the committee you want to learn more, and c) four or five more A's to average in, and d) a longer track record of good grades to show the admissions committee that your past is behind you.
     
  15. Nov 24, 2011 #14
    Agree with Vanadium50.... The more distance you put between yourself and your bad grades the better. Even if you have the credits to graduate, you can take some graduate level courses. If you take a year off after graduation, and work as a lab assistant or do something that will get you recommendation letters, that's also good. Also, I do know people that have gone to work for the oil industry and then ended up with part-time Ph.D.'s at age 50.

    Another question that you really, really, really have to ask yourself is why do you want to go to graduate school anyway.

    You are going to end up working as an academic serf for six to eight years and at the end of it you are going end up finding the same sort of jobs that you would without a Ph.d. For the vast majority of people, getting a Ph.D. in physics makes absolutely no sense at all, so you really have to figure out why you want to go.
     
  16. Nov 24, 2011 #15

    fluidistic

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    To people who own a Ph.D.: what about kho to apply for a Master and see how it goes?
     
  17. Nov 24, 2011 #16

    kho

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    I should have clarified that earlier actually. I do plan to just go for a masters and not a phd at least in the beginning. The thing is in the geoscience field and the meteo field it seems like most of the job openings I've seen would prefer a masters degree.

    And again I really appreciate all of the advice so far.
     
  18. Nov 24, 2011 #17
    you really need to factor in as many more semesters as you can, not less. im in a similar position and want a phd ultimately. i am going to do a year of post-bac. try to finish another ugrad degree, and hopefully a masters before i even consider applying for my main (phd) program.
     
  19. Nov 24, 2011 #18

    kho

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    Yeah that probably would be a good idea. Perhaps I'll stay for that spring semester and just take some engineering classes as I will only need something like twenty or thirty extra credits to get a degree in that. Then that could be plan c if I don't get into a grad program(plan a) or find a decent job with my bachelors(plan b).
     
  20. Nov 25, 2011 #19
    I don't see how this is going to help. In physics programs, standards for a terminal masters degree programs are no lower than those for a Ph.D.

    One thing that's important to realize is that the graduate school does not want you to enter and "see how it goes." For physics programs they want to put you immediately to work as a TA/RA, and if you aren't good that pulls down to the department. This is different from programs in which you pay the department. If you get an MBA or law degree and you screw up, they've got your money (and you've got debt).

    If you are an undergraduate, you are a "face in the crowd" and so you aren't going to have much of an impact on the quality of the program. In graduate school, you are one of at most a few dozen students, sometimes much less, and if you are one of ten students and you mess up, then it's going to impact the department.

    The other thing to realize is that there is a huge pool of smart motivated people from China and India willing to do physics for a green card, so even the bottom physics graduate program can set standards.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2011
  21. Dec 2, 2011 #20
    You might want to check out the terminal masters degree programs in physics at the different California state universities. Some of them require only a 2.5 to 3.0 gpa in the last 60 units attempted. That doesn't mean you will be accepted but at least your application would be considered.
     
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