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Grad School dilema

  1. Jan 9, 2014 #1
    Ok, so I am in a pickle. I attended a University which will remain anonymous right out of high school. I double majored in Biology and Electrical Engineering and lets just say that I was not prepared to be in college nor should I have been double majoring in anything. I did not take school seriously, because I was immature and decided other things were more important, i.e. working 50 hours a week as a construction worker to make money and going out and partying with coworkers 5 days a week. Well, I paid for it, I did receive my degree in biology however I FAILED miserably in the EE. I spent 8 years chasing two degrees and only ended up with one, I have EIGHT or NINE semesters in a row where I received nothing but D's, F's, W's and the occasional C. I ended up graduating with EXACTLY a 2.0 GPA and the only reason I was able to pull that off is because I had established a good enough buffer with the biology grades to stay in school. Had I only been pursuing a EE degree its safe to say that I would have been put on academic probation and then kicked out of the university. So, after this atrocious attempt at college I decided it was time for me to do something I always wanted to do which was travel. So that's exactly what I did, I left on my own for the next 5 years just really became a nomad and bounced around doing odd jobs here and there. It was fun and it was an experience but during that time I guess you could say I grew up and had a Eureka moment. I wish I could say that I was like many of you guys on this forum who are motivated and knew what you wanted early on but I can't. It took me quite a bit longer to figure that out but I finally decided to go back to school and do things right the second time around. I will be graduating this next semester with a BS in physics with a 3.97 GPA and 1 summer of internship experience along with 1 year of research experience with faculty in the materials area from a completely different university. Honestly, I was lucky enough to get into this university as a second degree seeking student given my prior academic record but I did so I won't complain. I was a member of SPS for 3 years, and I have good letters of recommendation from the faculty. I am sorry about this long post and really giving you my life story here but I need people to be honest with me when I ask, what are my chances now of getting into a grad school to pursue physics given my SHOTTY academic career prior to this? I have done some "shopping around" for grad schools and it seems apparent that they all want every academic transcript from every institution you have attended. I was thinking about playing the statistics game and just applying to as many universities as possible and hope that I get a bite from a couple of them however, I don't want to spend $800.00 to $1000.00 on applications given that the cost for application is on average $80.00. From what I understand, the UC system will allow you to apply for all 9 schools at once for undergrad but I have found nothing comparable to this for the grad system. Has anyone else had any luck finding something like this? And I was curious whether grad schools compute an OVERALL GPA from all universities attended? Because if that is the case then I am still SCREWED. Any advice or opinions is much appreciated and don't worry about being harsh, I can accept it. I would rather place my eggs in another basket i.e. pursuing potential jobs in government or industry that look surprisingly promising if the grad school scenario is futile. Thanks for your guys input.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 9, 2014 #2


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    Gold Member

    Typically when you apply to grad school you will write a statement of purpose. In that statement of purposed explain what you explained to us (but clean it up and condense it). If you do that you should be fine for applying to grad schools!
  4. Jan 9, 2014 #3


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    All that education and yet the use of paragraphs seems to have escaped you.

    Anyhow, I don't think you need to be too worried. Every school has their own unique system for figuring out GPA. Some actually just use the most recent two or three years. Some use the most recent degree only. They will still want all of your transcripts though so that the admissions committee will have a complete picture of you. And ultimately you have in your corner the simple fact that you've recently completed or will complete a physics degree with a high GPA and valid extra-curricular contributions.

    Probably the best way to proceed is to contact each of the schools you're interested in and simply ask them what formula they use for calculating GPA - if that isn't already available on their admissions page.
  5. Jan 9, 2014 #4
    I'm sure you aren't the first or the last student to make mistakes when you where young assuming a time gap between the 2 degrees the admission committee profs will be likely to infer a situation like what you described. You could try adding a small comment about it in your SOP but I would worry more about the things you can control like the PGRE
  6. Jan 9, 2014 #5
    I am applying this year myself, so consider my comment to be just my point of view. But, filling the applications and contacting with departments (I am applying to Physics PhD programs), I got the impression that only the latest university's GPA is really important. GPAs from previous universities, of course, will be taken into consideration, but if you really are going to have 3.97 GPA and given your other records, I don't think your past failures will prevent you from entering the program, provided you can clearly explain in your Statement of Purpose why this happened.

    I've had a similar experience. I had a GPA below 4.0/5.0 in my school diploma (VERY low grade for top Russian universities; usually people have 4.8+). I entered one of the top Russian engineering schools (my high school was supervised by the university, so it was not difficult to enter, even despite my terrible academics) and quit it during the first term since I decided that engineering was not for me. No extracurriculum activities, no olympiads. In other words, my records were just terrible.
    However, the last few months I studied like crazy. In the end, I got the highest possible grades on both Physics and Mathematics entrance exams to the top technical university in Russia. During the interview, I explained that, in high school, I did not study hard enough since I didn't know what I wanted to do after the school. I tried engineering and didn't like it. After that, I decided to go in Physics since I thought I had a talent in this, and this, dear committee, you can observe in my grades on the entrance exams. I was admitted right after I finished my monologue.
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