Grad school help

Hi I have a serious problem and I need some serious advice. Right now my gpa stands at about a 2.73. This semester I anticipate it will drop further because I dont think I will pass complex variables. I still think that if I can buckle down I can raise it up to above a 3.0. It has been really difficult for me to keep focused this semester. My father has kidney failure and it is causing much hardship for me and my family as he is dying. The stress from that coupled with worrying about my grades contributed to my failure this semester. Right now I go to a top tier school but I am really worried now about grad school. I mean, I think I can get a 3.3 by the time I apply, but that is going to be really hard and leave me with no margin for error. I have research experience and thats about all I have going. I feel like this semester has ruined my life and I am not sure what to do. I am a good student and I cant believe this has happened to me. I could transfer to another school where I could use my gpa there for admission into grad school, but that school is nowhere near as good as the one im attending (UT Austin). Is a 3.3 from UT competitive for applying to grad school with research experience and good gre scores? Any advice would be welcome and help me plan what to do.


I can relate to what you're going through. I graduated from a top tier school and my gpa suffered as well (I had health issues at the time). Rather than take a leave of absence I decided to try and plug through my classes. I ended up getting c's in all my math classes (7). In retrospect I should have took a leave of absesnce. If you can I'd recommend taking one and just continuing your education during a future semester. That way atleast you'll have a clear head next time you start


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Here's my suggestion:

Go ahead and apply for graduate schools. Don't set your sights too high. I'll be blunt by saying that your chances of getting into CalTech, MIT, Stanford, etc. are almost nil. However, this does NOT mean you still can't go to graduate school. In fact, you may find that going to a less-competitive school may be the best thing that could happen to you, because it may allow you to catch up on what you haven't fully understood.

So apply to "non-brand name" school. By saying that I am not saying that these are poor, no-value schools. Again, you'll be surprised by the fact that these schools can provide you with the opportunities even when they are not considered as top-tier schools.

A variation to this option is that, while you are continuing to pursue your Ph.D at one of these schools, if you still have an aspiration to go to a particular top-tier school, I suggest you keep your grades up, and stay till you get a Masters degree. Then try to apply to the school that you may not have a chance with your undergrad degree alone. If your grades are significantly higher (all A's will not hurt), then you can prove that you have improved significantly and you may have a chance to go to that school.

However, my philosophy in all of this is that you do NOT need to go to those brand-name schools to get an excellent physics education. There are many smaller schools that can offer as much, especially if they are located close to a US National Laboratory. Example: How many people know that Iowa State University has one of the most respected physics program in the country? It runs the DOE's Ames National Lab, has many students also doing research work at the nearby Wisconsin Synchrotron Center, and has one of the strongest program in condensed matter physics.

So don't be disappointed if you do not get into the top tier schools. Often, things have a way of working out and you're given an opportunity that you would not have had you chosen a different path. One door closes, and another one opens. Life sometime works like that.


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