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I got kicked out of graduate school. Can I ever get back in?

  1. Oct 3, 2011 #1
    I got kicked out for failing classes (I passed my quals though). This happened last year. Since then I tried to find a job as a programmer or engineer (I'm was a physics graduate) but ended up at the lab I was working for at the time because I just couldn't find anything. It's a year later now and it's almost time to apply to grad school again and I'm wondering if I have a shot at this point. I'd get a letter of recommendation from my current professor and I'm almost ready to submit my very first article to a journal. I doubt this will go to a very good journal, but whatever. I plan on retaking the GREs to get a better score as well.

    I just don't know if this is enough to convince people that I have grown up and will take my classes more seriously. I really have grown up and am willing to do anything, but my word obviously isn't enough.

    Should I work for a few years as an engineer or programmer (whatever job I find)? Would that give an admissions board a better idea of how much I've changed?

    Moreover, I'm not hell bent on it being physics grad school. I've found I really love the engineering aspect of experimental physics and engineering and physics are very hard to separate. Should I try and get a Master's in EE instead? Go for a Ph.D. in EE? I'm just not sure of my options at this point really.
     
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  3. Oct 4, 2011 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I would not vote to accept you for a physics graduate program no matter how much work experience you gain. In my mind, you've demonstrated that you cannot handle the material, and I would instead go with someone who has not demonstrated that. Sorry, but that's how it is. There's always one more application in the pile.
     
  4. Oct 4, 2011 #3

    eri

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    You'd still have a shot at getting into another program. I know someone who failed the quals at once school twice (in physics) and still managed to get into another similarly ranked school for physics, get a PhD, get a great postdoc, etc. It helps if you have someone on your side, a faculty member at the other school willing to vouch for you, and if you're not applying to a great school. But it sounds like you might be happier in engineering than physics. You'd only need a PhD in engineering if you want to teach.
     
  5. Oct 4, 2011 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Right, but there's more than the qual. There's the minimum GPA, and that's usually a university requirement, not a departmental requirement.
     
  6. Oct 4, 2011 #5

    G01

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    The point of PhD level graduate work is research, and it seems you have that on your resume. However, if you can't make it past classes, you will not be able to get to the point where you are doing research for the department, so that is a moot point. The admissions committee will see your resume and say "Well even if he can do research, he won't be able to make it past his first year." Honestly, I think that, at this point, serious consideration of your other options would be prudent, especially considering Vanadium's point about minimum GPA requirements.


    If there is a grad school with a physics program near you, that would still consider you as a candidate(given your previous grades), perhaps you can audit a few graduate courses or take them as a non degree seeking student. Take the exams and do the homework. If you do well, then you have a professor who can write a letter and attest to your ability to succeed in graduate level coursework.

    But before you do this, you need to ask yourself why you want to go to grad school. It did not work out last time. Why? Did you like being there? What is it that makes you want to go back? Is that reason a valid reason to consider putting more time into schooling? What has changed that makes you think this time will be any different?
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2011
  7. Oct 4, 2011 #6

    robphy

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    What was the reason for the poor performance in the classes?
    Was it one class? or more?

    Were you not academically prepared?
    Or were you not motivated? Or distracted?
     
  8. Oct 4, 2011 #7
    What would someone need to do to gain your vote to accept him or her back into a physics graduate program after being kicked out?
     
  9. Oct 4, 2011 #8

    Vanadium 50

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    Nothing. The risk is too great. It's less risky to reach back in and take one more applicant from the pool.
     
  10. Oct 4, 2011 #9
    Is it a risk if he's paying or on some kind of probation where he has to pay till he proves he can handle the course work?
     
  11. Oct 4, 2011 #10

    Mapes

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    I had a similar problem, though with poor undergraduate performance in my past. However, I made it into grad school and am a couple weeks away from my PhD defense. Part of the remedy was taking a self-funded, one-year MEng program at the same school and excelling in the classes. That way they had nothing to lose.

    The best way to minimize previous poor performance is to delivery exceptional performance in the same area.
     
  12. Oct 4, 2011 #11
    Without getting too sidetracked, how does failing one or more courses mean "you can't handle the material"? I know a pretty brilliant person from my university with a pretty much flawless academic record that failed undergrad QM and analytical mechanics (grad level courses by US standards), the latter twice and the former 3 times. Also failed a senior course. He graduated and got into the grad school/phd he wanted.

    Granted this situation is different, but extending the cold judgement you're using to an undergrad, wouldn't someone who failed undergrad courses be worth even less than a grad student that fails?
     
  13. Oct 4, 2011 #12

    robphy

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  14. Oct 4, 2011 #13
    We have a professor that failed out of MIT because he refused to do coursework and only wanted to work in the lab. He was subsequently snatched up by Duke and wrote a paper that is now one of the most cited in his field.


    Just do well in your courses. At this point I just think of them as almost worthless formalities to jump through. Let's be honest here, you a REALLY in grad school to do research in a lab, make the university money, and to improve your PI's resume.
     
  15. Oct 4, 2011 #14
    What's the point of the qual if not to demonstrate that you know the material? I passed.

    It was two classes. I failed them my first quarter due to various factors. My parents were going through a divorce and I had never lived alone before, so that took some time to adjust. On top of that, I underestimated the difficulty of the classes and just didn't put in the required effort.

    They gave me a second chance to pass the classes the following year. I had passed my quals already. This time I was determined to not only stay afloat, but to catch up to my peers. I retook the classes I failed as well as another class and I was doing as much research as I could on top of that (finding a group that wasn't flat broke was difficult so I wanted my professor to commit to taking me on). Unfortunately that proved to be too much. The extra class I was taking was much tougher than I expected and overlapped 100% with one of the classes I was retaking. Overall everything suffered. I should have prioritized better. Put research aside for the time being. Not taken that extra class. But that's too late now. That's why I want to know if there's any chance of trying again. Obviously I won't be getting into MIT or Harvard, but I want to know if it's possible to get in to a decent 2nd tier school.
     
  16. Oct 5, 2011 #15

    Vanadium 50

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    Yes, because that's a slot that someone else could be taking.


    I'm sure there are such cases, just as there are people who have spotless records and still wash out. But when admitting students, you have to play the odds. You're better off with a demonstrable track record of success than a demonstrable track record of failure.

    But yet you still were kicked out for bad academic performance.

    The qual is not intended to be a final exam after all your graduate classwork. In many places its the same as a masters comprehensive exam.

    If your academic performance is so bad that the school kicks you out, I think that's a pretty good sign that you can't handle the material.

    I don't quite follow that, but in admitting a class for graduate school, you are trying to get the best students you can. Someone who has tried grad school and was kicked out is a huge risk, and there are plenty of equally good students in the pile who haven't tried and flunked out.

    Why should I deny them their chance?
     
  17. Oct 5, 2011 #16

    symbolipoint

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    Vanadiam_50 said,
    That seems to mean that you should start a new track and maintain it for a while; this may take some time, including at least a couple of advanced courses or something.
     
  18. Oct 5, 2011 #17

    Vanadium 50

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    How does he take these classes if he's been dropped from the program?
     
  19. Oct 5, 2011 #18

    Vanadium 50

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    And if I said "no", would you believe me? And by "possible", do you mean "as possible as winning the lottery"?

    There aren't "tiers" in graduate school. Good state schools have a large number of excellent applicants to choose from. They don't have to take on people who have flunked out elsewhere.
     
  20. Oct 5, 2011 #19
    I'd believe you wouldn't take me. If I saw a resounding "no" from the community here, then I'd probably think you're right in general. If at least one person has had a second chance, then there's some hope.
     
  21. Oct 5, 2011 #20
    Vanadium you are basically saying denying someone the opportunity to get a PHD in physics and being a physicist. I don't see why you would trust someone straight out of Undergraduate over someone that failed grad school but afterward showed they did work above the course work they failed. Doesn't that show character doesn't that mean anything to you?
     
  22. Oct 5, 2011 #21

    Mapes

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    There's always hope. But you're going to need to convince an admissions committee that the same problem could not possibly occur again. Working for a few years in industry doesn't address the original problem, in my opinion. The original problem was getting distracted from classes, along with not getting out of an undesirable situation (i.e., dropping a class or two) before the poor performance got permanently attached to your record.

    Your claim in future applications should be that you are academically qualified and capable, but that you were unable to perform because of unexpected external circumstances. This claim is meaningless without proof, however, and this is why I recommend going through a brief, non-research program like an MEng first and getting near-perfect grades. (That's what worked for me.) Your existing success with research and quals shows that you can handle the other key components of grad school.
     
  23. Oct 5, 2011 #22

    Vanadium 50

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    Twice as many people take the Physics GRE as are admitted to grad school. Every year, schools get N applications for M slots, where N >> M. People are going to be denied an opportunity to get a PhD in physics no matter what we do. The only question is who?
     
  24. Oct 5, 2011 #23

    G01

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    I also think that the OP's best shot at a second chance comes with repeating coursework somehow and getting stellar grades, but I still don't think his chances are that great either way. The university is not going to care about character and maturity at this level. This isn't undergrad admissions. As far as graduate school goes, every applicant is just expected to have good character and maturity. The university's real concern with a grad student will be productivity and proven ability to thrive in an academic environment. Someone with straight A's out of undergrad has better evidence of this than someone who failed out of grad school and when back and passed courses to make up for it.


    I agree. The question that needs to be asked is "Why is the OP a better choice for a graduate student than someone with no blemishes on their academic record?" What does the OP offer the school besides "character" associated with some academic risk on the university's part?

    The OP will need to answer this question in some form if he is going to have any chance at getting accepted to grad school again. This is Vanadium's point. The system is just not able to give a Physics PhD to anyone who wants one. So why should the OP be chosen over a much more qualified, low risk applicant? What has he done to show that he is more qualified and deserving of Physics PhD than all the other applicants. Everyone applying to grad school needs to address this last question, not just the OP.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2011
  25. Oct 5, 2011 #24

    phinds

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    I disagree w/ Vanadium on this point. I don't think you demonstrated that you CAN'T handle the material, but what's true is that you DIDN'T handle the material, and I absolutely agree w/ Vanadium that THAT is what's going to count. Sure this seems unfair to you since you feel that you now could do the material if given a chance, and very possibly you could, but the point he's making is that you are a greater risk than lots of other folks in the applications pile. I wouldn't say you don't have any kind of chance at all but it's going to be really tough slogging.
     
  26. Oct 5, 2011 #25

    symbolipoint

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    Exactly! He is no longer in the program. He needs to build a new and much better track record. Study on his own as preparation to return to school not yet as graduate school applicant, but to build up strong course knowledge, then when ready, attend either university extension or some kind of post-bacalaureate situation to include any useful but not yet taken university level courses and graduate level courses. Other activities, I'm not so sure about. At this point, he would not be a graduate student. He'd be some kind of postbacalaureate student or have entered a different undergrad. program. The goal is to build a new, successful track before trying to apply to a graduate program. All this would take time, only guessing maybe two three four years. Practical? Not practical? Anyone else done like that?
     
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