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Admissions Graduating in May, Have Some Questions

  1. Aug 7, 2017 #1
    Hello all, I’ll be graduating in physics with a concentration in mechanical engineering in May 2018, and I’ve been stressing a lot about what I’ll be doing after I graduate. I just recently discovered this forum, and I figured it would be a good place to ask some questions and get some advice.

    I want to go to grad school to study something in the realm of applied or engineering physics (North Dakota’s space studies program also seems very interesting to me). I’m not sure if I actually want to go all the way to PhD, so I’m currently planning to just apply to MS programs and then maybe look into getting a PhD after that. What really has me worried about applying to graduate school is my GPA, which is currently a 2.9. I know that's low for grad school, and it's no one's fault but my own for it being that low. Even though I have good work/research experience and I have some professors that I know will give me strong recommendations, I’m really worried that my sub-par GPA will prevent me from getting in anywhere. If I do really well next semester, I can get it above a 3.0 again, but that will be challenging. What are my chances of being accepted with a 2.9 GPA? Have any of you guys here been accepted to grad school with a sub 3.0? Should I talk about my GPA in my statement of purpose, or should I just not mention it at all? Also, in regards to the GRE (both general and physics) what are the best ways to prepare for the tests?

    I also want to apply to a few industry jobs as well, just to keep my options open, but I’m having some trouble finding jobs for physics majors. What are some typical jobs for a BS in physics, and where should I look for these jobs?

    Thanks in advance for any responses, and if any of you guys have any general advice for someone looking to go to grad school, I’ll be really grateful for that as well.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2017 #2


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    A 3.0 cutoff is fairly standard across the table. There are always exceptions, of course. And when you're close like that, a lot can depend on how the GPA is calculated. Some schools, for example only consider your most recent two years, for example. So students who have a low overall GPA because of a bad first year, but have done very well in their senior courses can do a little better when this is the case.

    That said, the 3.0 tends to get you to the point where the admissions committee will look at your application. It's not a guarantee of admission. You'll still be competing against peers with much higher averages. From the point of view of an admissions committee, while GPA does not define a person, there's only so much objective, quantifiable data they have on each student. When there are a limited number of positions in the program, it's difficult to justify an offer to a 3.0 student while leaving someone with a 3.5 out in the cold. So that's the argument that you'll have to build in your application.

    And if you are successful, remember that you're going to be in graduate school classes with those same people. GPA doesn't define the person of course, but you'll be at the starting line ready to take classes with people who have done very well as undergraduates in similar programs. So you'll have to think about whether or not you're capable of doing anything any differently.

    That depends on what you have to say about it. In general, unless you have positive things to explain about it, it is what it is and there isn't a lot of point in dwelling on it.

    Positive things to say:
    - I struggled in my first year of university, but I corrected several problems and/or overcame some adversities and have performed much better in my classes since.
    - I was first author on a paper that won the X Recognition Award from Y Journal. Unfortunately my dedication to this work took a toll on my GPA in my third year. I have since reoriented my efforts to concentrate more on my classes and can point to a 4.0 in some very challenging classes.
    - This is my second degree. My GPA has been 3.9 since I've been studying physics for the last three and a half years.

    Negative things to say (or imply):
    - I took a lot of hard classes and my GPA would have been better if I would have managed my time better, taken fewer classes, spread the degree out over more years, or some other hypothetical scenario that you actually didn't do.
    - My professors were really horrible and my GPA is their fault.
    - I'm applying to this school because I figure you'll let me in despite my GPA.

  4. Aug 8, 2017 #3
    Thank you for the reply!

    It definitely cleared some things up for me, especially regarding my statement of purpose.
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