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I dont feel prepared for grad school

  1. Jan 19, 2014 #1
    Hello all, I am about to start my senior year as a physics undergraduate. Besides the fact that I dont know what graduate degree I wish to go for (engineering or physics), I am fearful that I am unprepared for graduate school and wouldn't mind some advice.

    1) What are some good ways to go about experiencing different fields? For example, without experience in solid state physics, nuclear physics, condensed matter physics, etc, how can I make any decision?
    2) My current GPA is 2.9, with a 2.8 in my Math and physics courses. Are there graduate programs that accept students with GPA's that low?
    3) If so, how do I go about picking a graduate program?
    4) Is it my best interest to take some time off to improve my knowledge of the material?
    5) Is it worth it to spend the money for an additional semester or so to attempt to boost my GPA? (NOTE: Finances are a big issue for me right now. I am all out of money for undergraduate school)

    I understand some of these may have many answers depending on the circumstances, but I would appreciate all opinions, whether biased or not because I have much insecurity about my readiness for grad school Thank you in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    How did you do taking the GRE? This is used as the first indicator of getting into a graduate school.

    Find some grad students in the areas of interest and talk to them about what they do and what they need to know.

    Talk to your advisor or trusted professor who may be able to steer you to the right program based on your interests.

    Many students take time off to decide what to do in the future. One thing that can happen is getting a full time job and getting used to the paycheck, another is getting married and having kids. All good things in the long run but they will make it more difficult to go to grad school.

    And then there is the time limits, GREs are good for five years, your academic skills start to get rusty. The longer you wait the less desirable you are to graduate departments as younger candidates are viewed as sharper.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2014
  4. Jan 20, 2014 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    A 2.9 is very low indeed. In graduate school, where classes are harder, a C is considered failing. One cannot get a 2.9 without "failing" (by grad school standards) a large fraction of your courses. Many - probably most - schools will not seriously consider you with a GPA that low.

    If you stay another year and get all A's, that will raise your average to around 3.1. Better, but not by a lot. You really need to be getting all A's now. Then you have an application that at least shows that you've turned things around: 3 semesters of all A's will cause some - not all, and perhaps not even most - places to take your application seriously.
  5. Jan 20, 2014 #4
    I agree with vanadium. Do you even feel like you understand physics? With your grades I think the more probable route would be non science engineering.
  6. Jan 20, 2014 #5
    Speaking of gpa I have a gpa of 3.05 right now though my gpa in major May be higher. Is that ok for grad schools?
  7. Jan 20, 2014 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    A 3.5 is a competitive GPA. As you go lower than that, other elements of the application (GREs, letters) need to get better and better for you to remain as competitive.

    Below 3.0, and at many places university rules come into play and it becomes very difficult to get accepted there.
  8. Jan 20, 2014 #7


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    My advice to you is to find a smaller school that, say, offers a terminal Masters degree. There are many such schools here in the US in which the highest physics degree awarded is a Masters degree. What this allows you to do is to have the opportunity to re-take some of the advanced undergrad classes that you may not be strong in, and then give you a few courses at the graduate level. At the very least, it will take only 2 years of your life for you to figure out if you are cut out to continue on towards a PhD degree.

    If you do well and get better GPA, and if you do decide to continue on for your PhD, then at least the admission committee sees an improving grade to base their admission on, rather than your weak undergraduate GPA. I still don't think you'll be able to get into Stanford or Princeton and the likes, but you should have a fair consideration for smaller, less well-known schools for your PhD.

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