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Help? I dont know if I can make it to grad school with my gpa?

  1. Dec 23, 2011 #1

    I am currently in my third year of Mathematical Physics. I was in biology in my first year and in Engineering physics in my second year. I knew my interest was in physics but tried the former just to please my parents. Upon getting into a depression in my second year due to lack of interest or care for engineering, I switched into the third year of Mathematical Physics. I completed all the pre-reqs during the summer, so its not like I am missing out on anything.
    The problem is that, my cumulative gpa from my first two years (Taking into account the physics and math courses that will count for credit) is only 3.5 on a 4.0 scale. I just finished my first semester of third year, and I am getting just an average gpa (3.3-3.4). I am very concerned at this point. I was really hoping to raise my gpa this year. I spent a lot of time trying to keep up with the assignments and did not pay as much attention to learning the theory in depth. I was wondering what kind of a gpa is required to do grad school in quantum physics in a local university. Also, will my undergrad gpa affect my ability to get a job in Academia in the future? What should I focus on to improve my gpa and my chances to get into grad school? I am very depressed and cannot focus anymore because I am very scared of ending up not getting into grad school (and/or not being able to do research). I really want to do this. I will put any effort required. Please help physics forum friends =[ I appreciate any and all advice from you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 23, 2011 #2
    you are better off than most people, tbh. make sure you do research at your school now, and stick with it. it should be easy to find someone at your current school to do a masters with, and you can kinda use that as a "safety" option -- meaning, that if you apply to other programs, and don't get in, then do a masters, making sure you do well and get good grades, then apply again for the other schools / programs.

    dont worry about grades, but do the best you can. the important thing now is research, and showing that you have a love for it -- since that is all you do in graduate school.
  4. Dec 23, 2011 #3
    I also wanted to ask, if I do well in my masters, will I be in a better position to get into academia, regardless of my undergrad gpa? Does it all depend on the research you conduct during your masters, or the grades?
  5. Dec 23, 2011 #4
    the idea with grad school and gpa is that places want to see that you are able to do the work and pass everything -- otherwise you burn time, and cost money -- money that could have been spent on other students who are able to do the work.

    so, having a good ugrad gpa lets schools know that you SHOULD be able to complete the grad work in a timely manner (as well as show you are able to do it), and a good masters gpa shows that you are able to complete the grad work and already do well at that level, so if you want to do a phd somewhere else, you should be ok.

    but as far as academia goes, i think your research and what you work on is the basis for a lot of that.
  6. Dec 24, 2011 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    I think Highway is giving you poor advice. I'll ask him again - have you ever been on a search committee?

    First, you have the whole problem backwards. The problem is not "low GPA". The problem is that you're not acing your upper division courses. The low GPA is one consequence of this, but another is that you are not laying down a good foundation for graduate work. Also, these are the classes most like graduate classes, and if you are struggling with them, it sends up a red flag.

    Grad schools want their students to survive their classes and move on. If it looks like you might not, your application becomes a lot less competitive.

    So you need to start getting good grades in your upper-division classes: mostly A's, with maybe an occasional B. Do that, and the GPA will take care of itself.
  7. Dec 24, 2011 #6
    To say the above perhaps just slightly differently, if you show yourself capable of handling the courses "that matter," particularly given you have switched fields (thus rendering somewhat irrelevant a fair portion of your classes from early on), you will be fine.

    The Master's degree might help you if you really prove that you made a come-back and show that your foundations for graduate work are not lacking. However, it is quite essential that whatever you do be at a high level of rigor - otherwise, it is not adding anything.

    Yes and no. It will affect your ability to get into a good graduate program, although when we say "undergrad GPA," I strictly mean the GPA in the higher level physics courses.

    As someone with an interest in mathematics, I would say if you do a master's degree, do not do it for a GPA boost; mathematical physics is at the crossroads of two very difficult fields, and you had better be up to speed in both of them.

    Also: are you in your third or first year of Mathematical Physics? If you did one year of biology and another of engineering, then? Mathematical Physics is not a subject whose body of knowledge overlaps so easily with biology and engineering that you could be in your third year now. If you were doing a degree in applied mathematics, I could understand those two years having counted towards your degree.
  8. Dec 25, 2011 #7
    Thanks very much for the advice guys. YesI am in my third year of mathematical physics. I was in engineering physics and thus had a lot of courses in common with the physics program. I then took the required math courses over the summer. The thing is, I've been spending all my time on completing assignments and have not been paying attention to getting a good understanding. I think I will henceforth focus my time on getting a good understanding of the material first, the marks should follow, I assume?
    DeRham, most of my engineering and biology courses dont count, however, my math, physics and arts courses do count, and two of my biology courses contribute to the additional science courses (that are not physics) requirement. I have all the prerequisites for doing the third year of math phys. Vanadium 50, I understand your point. I still have 3 semesters to go, I guess I'll have to put in a lot of effort and try to get mostly A's. I do hope however, that if I do so, they consider it an improvement from my first semester grades and treat that as a good thing. I am really afraid of not being able to get into grad school. Also, do you guys have any advice on what I should focus on to prepare myself for research (grad work)? Thanks a lot.
  9. Dec 26, 2011 #8
    Also 3.5 in physics coursework is decent. It's what I got, and I managed to get in somewhere.

    It matters more what you are getting the GPA in than the actual number. If you are getting 3.5 in graduate level physics courses, that's great! If you are struggling in simple math courses, that's bad. One problem with being obsessed with grades, is that it encourages you not to try to take harder courses, and that ends up being bad.

    That's something that you need to work on. The problem is that it's very easy to end up in a death spiral where poor performance -> high anxiety -> even worse performance -> even higher anxiety -> even worse performance. If you are not enjoying the classes to the point that you are willing to do the work even if it doesn't help you in graduate school, then you really need to rethink whether or not you want to go to graduate school at all. The emotional pressures are even worse, and at the end of it all, you probably won't get an academic position anyway.

    Also, you really need to do some undergraduate research. This is not so much because it will help you with your graduate school application, but if it turns out that you just don't like science research (and many/most people don't), it's better to find out sooner rather than later.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2011
  10. Dec 26, 2011 #9
    I don't think this will work.....

    1) most schools don't automatically admit undergraduates into masters programs. You have to go through a separate application process. Now you can (and if you can you should) take masters courses as an undergraduate, but that's different

    2) physics isn't set up do to masters->Ph.D. transfers.

    It's not that you shouldn't worry about grades, but rather that you need the right amount of worry. It can hurt you in some ways to worry too much about grades. If thinking about grades makes you actively depressed, this is just going to hurt your performance.
  11. Dec 27, 2011 #10
    Thanks twofish-quant. I appreciate your advice. Its not that I dont enjoy my courses, nor is it that they're easy courses. I was taking two fourth year courses and three third year courses this semester even though I am in my third year, as these courses are more relevant to my program than other third year courses. I think I just lost my focus somehow, and instead of trying to get a good understanding, ended up thinking that I would survive on just solving problems. It seemed to work for my friend, as I studied with him the whole time, and he got much better grades than me. I also think that I tend to panic during the exams. I did fine on the assignments (even though they were the same level or harder than the exam questions). I do want to go to grad school and am motivated about it, but I just worry because I am afraid that I will do bad again and will end up lowering my gpa. Also, although I am in the third year of Mathematical Physics, its my first year in the physics program, so I am not that familiar with what I am supposed to do to get into research, to get better at it, and to improve my chances of doing well in grad school. I'd love some advice on that.
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