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Graduating in 3 years - less competitive for graduate school?

  1. Jul 3, 2009 #1
    Hi PFers!

    I'm physics major in a big state school and I plan to go to graduate school.

    Due to some financial difficulties, I'm seriously considering graduating in three years. I can finish the classes required in three years pretty easily, but I won't have chance to take some more advanced / challenging / graduate classes. I guess applicants to top graduate schools usually complete far more than required, right? Plus I will have less time to do anything productive / meaningful in research, which is very important to grad school application. I feel like I will be less competitive for graduate school if I graduate in 3 years. What do you guys think about it?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 4, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I graduated in 3 years, and I was certainly less competitive (and less prepared) than had I gone 4. But financially I had no alternative.
  4. Jul 4, 2009 #3
    I graduated in three years and got into all of the EE grad schools to which I applied. Still, I do feel like I would have been better-prepared had I gone the full four.
  5. Jul 6, 2009 #4
    Yes, it will probably hurt you in competing with others if you don't have enough advanced coursework, especially if you have not completed any type of research activities. When would you graduate if you graduated in 3 years? What courses will you take, and which ones will you miss out on? Since it will probably hurt you, you will need to find some way to compensate and show an admissions committee that you are worth accepting and have the ability to survive and succeed in their program.

    I would recommend looking at some graduate schools and to go ahead and apply to some. If you get turned down, then you have to either decide to graduate and learn on your own while working or just spend another year in school and then in either case apply the next year. Graduate schools give funding to almost all the students they accept (at least in math and physics from what I know) and some will be okay letting you take some advanced undergraduate courses to catch up the first year. I would detail your situation in your application.

    I would also start trying to get with a professor to do some type of research based activities. Look into applying to a summer http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/reu/reu_search.cfm" [Broken]. They are great opportunities for undergraduates to get to do research and they pay well, usually between $2,000-$4,000 and sometimes more for a two month period. They also usually pay for your housing and give some money for food and travel.

    Find a professor you like and ask them to do independent studies or summer projects with you. Since you have financial restrictions, maybe they would be willing to work with you even though you aren't enrolled in a class so that you are able to learn more advanced material.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  6. Jul 6, 2009 #5
    I could have graduated in 3 but I stayed on an extra semester to do some research. I'm very glad I did.
  7. Jul 7, 2009 #6
    You will indeed be at a disadvantage.

    I have a friend who was in the same situation (although he was a Chemistry major.) He finished all of his required courses in three years, and then during his fourth year, took two or three upper level Chemistry classes per semester (basically he became a part time student and payed per credit hour, saved about 50% vs paying full time tuition), did a TON of research, busted *ss for the Chem GRE subject test, and applied to grad school. He's now at UChicago. I'm guessing this may be a possibility for you.

    Maybe you could look into something like this?
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