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How out of luck am I for graduate school?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hi Guys,

So I am in a pretty peculiar pickle, by the end of my junior year I will have completed all graduation requirements for both my majors (Physics and Mathematics) and all graduation requirements for the university to grant me my degree.

I want to emphasize that I am not overloading on courses, I am simply following my department's recommended course sequence, it's very rigid.

So the problem is when this time comes, the state will stop paying for me to go to university and I cannot afford to do a 4th year. I really want to go to grad school, which means that I need to start applying fall 2015 (I just finished my first semester of Sophomore year).

I like to think that I go to a pretty good state school (my school's graduate nuclear physics program is top 5 in country, I know rankings don't really mean much)
but my GPA isn't great, 3.31 on 4.0 (mostly due to having to constantly deal welfare for my mom and I)
I have got a research position in an AMO lab and my PI and along with another physics professor of mine is writing
recommendations for me for REUs that I am applying for this summer.

What I am most stressed out about is that I need to start studying for PGRE now. When I take the PGRE, I will be enrolled in E&M I and mechanics and I still wouldn't have taken quantum mechanics since that's only offered in the spring with E&M and Mechanics a pre-reqs. So I won't even be formally prepared for the PGRE. I know a lot of grad schools do not weigh PGRE scores very heavily, but they like to see what courses you've taken (info from my school's faculty) which takes me to my next concern, courses.


At my university, the 4th year is usually for taking more advanced undergraduate courses, like undergrad GR, solid-state physics, QM more advanced than Griffith's book, etc. None of these courses count toward completion of my major, not even elective requirements (my advanced mathematics courses satisfy these).

I have come up with 3 "solutions" but not really...

1) Apply to grad school fall of my junior year and pray that I get into something...
2) Graduate spring(2016) of my Junior year and apply during my theoretical 4th year for the fall 2017(This way I have more time to raise GPA, study for PGRE, do more research, and meet more faculty) but still no advanced courses.
3) Apply and pray for 20k worth of scholarships to pay for a 4th year.

I have spoken to my schools undergrad director and he said he would get back to me, so I'm looking for outside help while I wait.

It seems like I really screwed my self over in high school when I decided to take two years worth credit transferring courses and being able to start mathematics major a year ahead, ooooooh the irony.

What do you guys think? Am I screwed? Any advice for me?

Here are some of my stats:

Hispanic Male citizen
double major Physics and Mathematics
GPA 3.31/4.0
Physics GPA 3.51
2 semesters work in AMO Lab (by may 2015)
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
jtbell
Mentor
15,518
3,352
So I am in a pretty peculiar pickle, by the end of my junior year I will have completed all graduation requirements for both my majors (Physics and Mathematics) and all graduation requirements for the university to grant me my degree.

I want to emphasize that I am not overloading on courses, I am simply following my department's recommended course sequence, it's very rigid.
Did you have a boatload of AP or transfer credit? Most universities require about 120 semester hours (or equivalent) for graduation.

When I take the PGRE, I will be enrolled in E&M I and mechanics and I still wouldn't have taken quantum mechanics since that's only offered in the spring with E&M and Mechanics a pre-reqs.
What physics will you have you taken through the end of this academic year?
 
Last edited:
  • #3
Did you transfer in a boatload of AP credit or something? Most universities require about 120 semester hours (or equivalent) for graduation.
Yeah, I'll have 124 by that time. My school requires 120.
 
  • #4
jtbell
Mentor
15,518
3,352
Wow, you're fast. I was adding my second question while you posted. :oldsmile:
 
  • #5
Wow, you're fast. I was adding my second question while you posted. :oldsmile:
Haha, I'm really anxious...
 
  • #6
What physics will you have you taken through the end of this academic year?
I will have taken introductory physics sequence, modern physics (survey course), waves and optics (upper division but still a survey course)
 
  • #7
GPA UPDATE
GPA 3.32/4.0
Physics GPA 3.58
 
  • #8
jtbell
Mentor
15,518
3,352
So basically you're taking all the "heavy hitter" courses in your third and last year. That's an unusual situation which I expect any intelligent graduate admissions committee would take into account when evaluating your GRE score. As I recall, most of the material on the GRE actually is based on the intro sequence plus intro modern physics, anyway. If you've had a solid intro modern course that spends a decent amount of time on the Schrödinger equation and some application areas (atomic, nuclear, etc.), you should be able to get a decent score. Probably not an ace, but decent.

Many people who take the GRE have not taken all the core upper-level courses yet, even seniors.

You might want to point out in your cover letters that because of financial constraints, you had to squeeze your entire undergraduate physics curriculum into three years.

I hope you're taking a thermo / stat mech course, too. That's one of the "core four" courses that grad schools look for, along with CM, QM, and E&M.
 
  • #9
If you've had a solid intro modern course that spends a decent amount of time on the Schrödinger equation and some application areas (atomic, nuclear, etc.), you should be able to get a decent score. Probably not an ace, but decent.


Many people who take the GRE have not taken all the core upper-level courses yet, even seniors.
I didn't know that, my university basically sets it up so that you take EM and CM fall of the third year and QM and thermo/stat mechanics spring of the third year.

.You might want to point out in your cover letters that because of financial constraints, you had to squeeze your entire undergraduate physics curriculum into three years.


Thanks for the advice, so your saying that I should go ahead and apply for graduate school fall of my third year? I do not like to think of it as squeezing my curriculum, more like cutting it short.
 
  • #10
radium
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
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I would focus on the physics major if you want to attend grad school for physics. Unless you really enjoy it, there's not need to double major.
 
  • #11
I would focus on the physics major if you want to attend grad school for physics. Unless you really enjoy it, there's not need to double major.
I understand that, but I have 3 courses left to complete the major. If I drop the major now, I won't be a full time student for subsequent semesters.
 
  • #12
radium
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
750
228
Yes, but you could use those courses to get ahead in physics, if you have a good foundation in math, I don't see why you could'nt take e & m, classical mechanics or quantum mechanics next semester.
 
  • #13
Yes, but you could use those courses to get ahead in physics, if you have a good foundation in math, I don't see why you could'nt take e & m, classical mechanics or quantum mechanics next semester.
CM and E&M are only offered in the fall. QM and Stat mechanics are offered in the Spring, but it conflicted with modern physics(which is a pre-req for both courses). The undergrad director for physics said and I quote "Will not tolerate a time conflict. you cannot enroll in the course" Instead what he did for me was waive the modern physics requirement for Junior Lab which I am taking next semester. Taking Junior Lab next semester allows me to take E&M II spring of my junior year.

Also, if I were to take Cm or E&M I next semester, I would not be a full time student fall and again, I'd be screwed. I have realllllllyyyyyyy tried to find a solution to this problem, still no luck :(

The math major allows me to stay a full time student till the end of my Junior year, at my university the math major is only 33 credits and I skipped 11 of them and 3 of them satisfy a general university requirement. So really, I am only taking on 19 extra credits which is less 3 credits a semester if I consider a 4 year(8 semester) degree.
 
  • #14
jtbell
Mentor
15,518
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The math major allows me to stay a full time student till the end of my Junior year
Are there no other physics courses that you could take as electives?
 
  • #15
Are there no other physics courses that you could take as electives?
Yes, there are. Those courses are the advanced courses that I mentioned in my post. They require all the core classes as pre-reqs but even if I could take them, they wouldn't count toward completion of my major. All required elective courses have been satisfied by my linear algebra course, abstract algebra course, pde course, and analysis.
 
  • #16
jtbell
Mentor
15,518
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They require all the core classes as pre-reqs
I suspected that would be the case, but just wanted to make sure.
 

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