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Graduating in summer or fall, what are my options for grad school?

  1. Jul 19, 2014 #1
    I switched majors after my third year to physics. As a result, I have an unordinary schedule. I will be graduating either in summer of 2015 or fall of 2015. I haven't taken the GREs yet, and I am not planning on taking them this coming fall since I am doubling up on physics courses and don't want to stress over the GREs just yet.

    I want to know what my options would be, and which ones would be optimal.

    Since I have not had a full four years as a physics major, I will be unable to take all the mathematics courses I want to take, and can only take the minimum if I want to graduate on time (even with a graduation extension).

    I was thinking I would self learn the mathematics as necessary (beyond the introduction to the math provided during the physics courses), receive my BS in either the summer or fall, then take the mathematics courses post-baccalaureate (1 or 2 at a time through summer of 2016) while studying for the GREs for fall 2015. I would plan on attending graduate school in the Fall of 2016 then.

    As far as when I am graduating, I am planning to take thermal, undergrad quantum mechanics, EM2, and classical mechanics 1 in fall 2014 (we have 2 courses for EM and classical mechanics here, as do most US universities it seems). Then take stat mech, classical mechanics 2, and possibly quantum 2.

    Now we also have 2 required labs. I could take lab 1 fall 2014 and lab 2 spring 2015, or lab 1 spring 2015 (less courses in spring - 3 as opposed to 4 in the fall) and lab 2 fall 2015. Which would be advised?

    If you read all this and can help me out, thanks.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2014 #2
    My studies followed a similar route, except that I was pursuing a BA and not BS, which may have given me an easier time insofar as requirements were concerned. When all was said and done I had taken the bare minimum of mathematics and not much beyond the minimum for physics (I think I had two electives). I got into grad school without taking any post baccalaureate classes (and will be attending my first semester this fall).

    So my point is this, I suppose: as to your classes, do what works best for you with respect to timing/finances/your interests. Don't worry about what grad schools will think of your classes - you will be well beyond the minimum preparation. I guess if you have the opportunity to spread them out more at no cost, then do it. Otherwise weigh your options.

    DO worry about getting research experience and making sure you have strong relationship with a few professors who could (would) write you recommendations. I think you're wise not to worry about the GRE or PGRE yet.

    I should also say I'm a US citizen, so my experience is based on that. If you plan on applying to schools in the US, you've gotta do everything you can to make yourself competitive, so what I said about not worrying about coursework may or may not apply. International students have a much tougher time.

    I hope that was at all helpful.
  4. Jul 24, 2014 #3

    I am in the US, but considering going out of country for graduate school.

    Were you able to find research even after receiving your BA? Was it at the same university you attended or a different one? I am worried research positions would be filled by undergrad students only.

    Also, I would be taking post baccalaureate classes purely out of interest and personal development.
  5. Jul 24, 2014 #4
    I should clarify - I worked in an industrial lab to get my research experience (and this happened after school). It was in R&D. The grad school application process is a total crap shoot and I took a shotgun approach (do not recommend) and only got in to a couple of places, so I cannot say how this affected me.

    I have heard that there are ways to get academic research experience after graduating (find a professor with money!) but I did not do that and cannot speak to its difficulty. REUs are NOT available to graduated students, so I would say it's definitely worth it to try to get research experience while you're still in undergrad (and not only because it's easier to get).
  6. Jul 26, 2014 #5
    How did you go about finding industrial lab research? Where did you look to find open positions?
  7. Jul 26, 2014 #6
    Large tech companies often have internship positions in R&D (and I'm sure many small companies could, too). I was fortunate because my school actually had already sort of established a relationship with one, but I still had to interview and apply and all that jazz.

    So my advice to you would be to just poke around on the web. If you see advertised positions, apply as directed. If you don't, call and ask if they have open positions. Be prepared to discuss any lab work or projects you've done (don't be too intimidated, but being able to clearly describe the nature of the work and your role in it, as well as relevant technical details, is a definite advantage). HUGE HINT: Some Masters programs in applied physics will advertise the companies that you can potentially intern at during the program - obviously these companies take interns! The company I worked at (sorry, not disclosing) took interns from all over the damn place.

    And like I said, in the working world, your phone is your friend. Only use e-mail if you have to. NO ONE feels obligated to respond to an e-mail, so a phone is a much more efficient way to get people's attention.

    Good luck.
  8. Jul 28, 2014 #7
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