1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Admissions Graduate School resume/guidance please

  1. Jun 29, 2017 #1
    HI everyone,

    I am currently a senior at a big university who will be finishing up my BS in physics in either Fall of 2018 or Spring of 2019. I would like to go to graduate school after undergrad, but as of this moment there is no way I would get accepted to any school at all. To give you some background, I currently have a 2.2 GPA and no science related extra-circulars. Up to this point I have had some emotional issues that have turned into me switching majors 3 times and having some poor grades stem from that. Now, the good news is I'm not someone with no extra-circulars or the drive to do better. For example, I just took an accelerated calc 4 class and recieved a 3.5 (my school does our grades in increments of .5), and I also am a part of a greek organization that raised $10k worth of filtration straws for the children of Flint Michigan, I played a leadership role in that project. Now to continue from that, I plan on spending my next year to two years doing as well as I possibly can in classes, I realistically believe I can hold a GPA north of a 3.0 over that time period as I have quit my part time job and taken a step back from my greek organization. To add to that I have also spent the past two weeks applying to research jobs at my university in hopes of getting involved in that this fall, I unfortunately have not heard anything positive besides "try back once school starts".

    Besides the above, I plan to take the general GRE this August and then the Physics GRE next summer. I believe that if I do relatively well on those two tests I can give myself half a chance of getting accepted. Plus, I believe that I am relatively well-rounded as I have been able to prove on several occasions that I can be social, but also can give back through community service (over 800+ recorded hours), some of that time was spent tutoring children in low income areas in math and science.

    This upcoming year I plan to take Quantum 1, electricity and magnetism 1, thermal physics, an electronics lab, and intro to nuclear physics (capstone requirement). In fall of 2018 I plan on taking stat. mag, linear algebra, then a masters level classical mechanics course. I can graduate after that semester, but I am thinking about spreading it out into that spring semester and adding quantum 2 and another graduate level course.

    I know the chances of me getting into even a low end masters program out of undergrad is very unlikely, with everything I have said above is there anyone who can help me out in additional skills or resume builders that will help me land a spot at a graduate school? At this point I have plenty of soft skills, but not a lot of hard skills.

    Feel free to be a little brash, I can handle it. I would rather receive help in a critical way than no help wrapped up in a nice bow, if you get what I mean.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 29, 2017 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    It's truly remarkable how sensitive are to some folks to helpful criticism on this site. I had to take a break from responding for this reason alone. You're in a tough spot, but the biggest thing you have going for yourself is contained in your last statement
    The path to success would be quicker for many if they adopted your attitude.

    A lot will depend on how you do this Fall (and perhaps Spring). This is your chance to prove your critics (mainly your inner voice) wrong. You absolutely have to do very well in the remainder of your classes, not only for self confidence, but to prove that physics is the right choice for you and to bump up your GPA. A lot of programs will look favorably on a sudden reversal of fortunes - everyone roots for the underdog - but you have to be careful not to overload yourself with too much work and thus shoot yourself in the foot.

    The second task before you is to try to find a research spot well before you submit your applications. Due to your schedule this Fall this may have to wait until the year following the one in which you graduate. There is no harm and, in your case, perhaps only benefit, from devoting a 5th year to research.

    Others will have more to say but, in closing, I propose you post again with an update after you get your Fall grades.
  4. Jun 29, 2017 #3

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    Let me amplify what DrSteve said.

    1. Grades - this is the most important thing to work on, because it's what will be holding you back. Your target needs to be a 4.0. "North of a 3.0" won't cut it, and to be honest, if that's the best you can do in undergrad, you won't make it in grad school, where the courses are harder and the GPA requirements are stricter.

    2. Research - this is important, almost as important as grades. Again, given where you are, "getting involved" won't cut it. You need to excel. My advice is to a) listen, b) ask questions and c) don't complain that any task they give you is beneath you.

    3. Extracurriculars - nobody in grad admissions cares about them. That isn't to say you should avoid them, but you should do them because you want to, not because you think it looks good on your application.
  5. Jun 29, 2017 #4
    Thank you both for taking the time to respond. As of about an hour ago I've sent off three more emails looking into more research positions throughout the physics department. If those don't work I'll start looking into the engineering department.

    As for what you've said vanadium by north of a 3.0 I absolutely agree with you. 90% of my classes I see as a chance at a high 3.5/4.0, but I look at the master level courses I'll be attempting to take and stat mag and see those as 3.0 candidates. The stat mag here is known for being one of our toughest courses with exam averages in the high 20%'s. But absolutely, 4.0 is the goal and I'll do nothing short of everything I can to attain that.
  6. Jun 29, 2017 #5
    Also, vanadium, thank you for pointing that out on the extra circulars, I honestly felt like those would've helped for a resume, but maybe I should leave those as something for an interview as I want to make myself sound as well rounded as possible. I have an advisor who's on our graduate admissions board (I can't apply to my own school for grad school) and he says it's a good talking point but obviously grades and research are paramount here.
  7. Jun 30, 2017 #6

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    Then you have a problem. Most graduate schools require a 3.0 to graduate or even continue. If you can't get above a 3.0, a single C will end your graduate school career. And the admissions committee will know this.

    Basically, a plan that has you doing a little better isn't going to cut it. You need a plan to do a lot better.
  8. Jun 30, 2017 #7
    We advise all the undergrads we mentor that a cumulative 3.0 is the absolute minimum if they hope to go to grad school.

    Do the math. You need to earn a lot of As to pull a 2.2 up to a 3.0. No more Cs or C+s. Period.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted