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Programs How to recover GPA in order to apply to Master's programs?

  1. Jun 29, 2017 #1
    I'm an undergrad aspiring to be a candidate for a MS in Medical Physics. I came into freshman year as a physics major, did poor in my first physics class, and changed my major to business. After realizing that was a mistake after a year, I switched back to physics. My Major GPA is a 2.0 after 10 credit hours (a D freshman year and B in the repeat junior year). Cumulative is a 2.68. I didn't know how to study because I never had to in high school. I got a 780 SAT and 35 ACT in math, so I know I'm capable.

    I still have to take Calculus 2, 3, and Differential Equations, Modern Physics (relativity, particle physics, photoelectric effect, blackbody radiation), Theoretical Techniques, E&M, Analytical Mechanics, Optics, 2 physics labs, and a programming class. Is it realistic to raise my GPA high enough to be a competitive candidate for Medical Physics with the undergrad coursework I have remaining? I go to IU-Bloomington, and have the option to take grad credit Medical Physics classes as an undergrad too, and I very well may since I already have my general degree requirements out of the way.

    If not, is it a possibility to take more classes after graduation to raise my GPA in order to find a program? I put myself in a hole, but I would stay in college as long as it takes to get accepted into a program.

    Thanks in advance for any advice you may have!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 29, 2017 #2
    I'm in a far worse situation academically than you are with way less time remaining before graduation, from the calculations I've done I can still do it, but for you, I would say continue working hard. You're gonna need to keep getting 3.5's and 4.0's in your physics classes. Keep work hard though, you can do it.
  4. Jun 30, 2017 #3


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    Medical Physics programs tend to be competitive with respect to admissions. Typically admitted applicants have GPAs of 3.5 and above. Some programs will strongly weight the GPA towards the most recent years of study though. So I wouldn't say it's impossible to get in at this point. But it will be a major uphill battle.

    One important thing to consider is that you need to be doing something differently. Buckling down and simply working "harder" at the undergraduate level usually doesn't transform a student from struggling to successful.

    Some thoughts on how to improve:
    1. If you've struggled up to this point, there's a good chance you have some holes in your understanding of core material. It's critically important to fill these in. Physics tends to be cumulative - the foundations you build in your first and second year classes will be drawn on in your third and fourth year classes, as well as graduate school. So take the time to review the fundamentals and practice working with them.

    2. Take a serious look at HOW you study. What's worked? What hasn't worked? Does your school offer any study skills workshops for STEM students? A big part of studying in physics is problem solving. This should really account for the majority of your study time.

    3. Read ahead in the lectures and come to class with questions in mind. It's hard to get the most out of lectures when you're seeing everything for the first time.

    4. Spend constructive time with other students who are doing well in their courses. You tend to pick up habits from the people around you - good and bad. So to the extent that you can, try to choose your friends wisely.

    5. Take a hard look at your exam-taking skills. Do you need strategies to deal with anxiety? Are you allotting your time effectively? Are you effective at predicting the types of problems that will be asked and preparing for them?

    6. How effective are you at managing your study time? Some students can get hung up on one problem, putting everything else on hold until they get it. While a certain amount of stubborn resilience is a good thing, it can also reach a point of diminishing return.

    7. Identify your time sinks and do what you can to reduce them. Would you have an extra two hours of study time every day if you moved closer to campus? Do you spend more time than you'd like playing video games or internet surfing? Putting more time into your studies in many cases comes with a cost, so while it's important to maximize your study time, do it wisely.

    8. Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Eat well. Get lots of exercise. Socialize. Engage in constructive and mutually supportive relationships. Take time to explore your own ideas.
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