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Is GPA that important?

  1. Mar 14, 2010 #1
    I mean I know people who take Calculus in their High school and they repeat it again in college for "easy GPA", but is GPA that important? I mean I know it is necessary for GRad school, but should I do it?

    I am heading into Theoretical Physics and I am deciding whether I should do this or not; personally, I am not very comfortable with repeating stuff that I already know, but I am a terrible test-taker in high school.

    I got a 5 on my AP Calculus BC Exam, but I did very poorly in all of my previous math classes (all 70% averages).

    I only got one A in all my High school career and that was Pre-Calculus (95%) and that course was online (but it is equivalent to a classroom curriculum).

    I am just wondering, do all the renowned physicists that go into famous grad schools repeat courses just to get their GPA up? I know it is more than just GPA, there are letters, researchs and a lot of things that matters.

    EDIT: Thanks I should also add that I actually self-studied AP Calculus and I know that there are some applications of Calculus that applies to Physics that aren't on the exam, but I personally went through some of them. I am probably going to have to self-study AP Physics C in the summer to prepare First-year Physics

    EDIT: The Mathematic Department in my University recommends that people with a 5 in their AP Calculus BC or 6 in their IB Math Hl should take higher-level courses. But I am not sure why if whether that is in good attention or not...
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2010 #2
    I have a mild interest on my GPA. I understand it is an important factor but at the same time I'm not in college to get the highest score. I focus more on learning the material properly; hopefully, that focus should reflect itself on my GPA, somewhat.

    I also think that in many occasions, is probably better to have a B- on <insert challenging class here> than an A on <insert easy/GPA booster class here>. More than likely, it varies across universities, courses, etc.

    Of course, top institutions will more than likely accept students with high GPA more often. Personally, that does not concern me much. I prefer to concern myself with what I learn and how well I learned it over where I learned it. Others may be different from me. Hope this helps.
  4. Mar 14, 2010 #3
    Don't retake 'cause you may not get an easy A and then you've just wasted your time and hurt your GPA.
  5. Mar 14, 2010 #4
    If you got a 5 on the calc BC exam, you should move on to calc 3.
  6. Mar 14, 2010 #5
    That's what I did, but I wasn't quite ready for the schedule I took on freshman year. It definitely hurt my GPA. Having said that, for what I wanted to do, I still am glad I started in calc 3 and was able to double major. I'm not applying to any math or physics PhD programs though :smile:.
  7. Mar 14, 2010 #6
    I think you should think about this a little differently. If you skip this course, what benefit will you gain? It's not like you can graduate a semester early in the end just because you are a class ahead. If you are interested in Physics, it absolutely can only help to just take the class. A strong foundation in calculus will be of great benefit to you; surely more beneficial than skipping over some stuff to get 'ahead.' Now, I might be wring here since I have been out of high school for quite some time, but I feel like the Calculus that you will learn for a physics degree in college will be a bit more rigorous than that of a high school course, AP or not. So though you might be ready for 'high school' calculus 3, you might be at a disadvantage with respect to the demands of your university's calculus 3 curriculum.
  8. Mar 14, 2010 #7
    I found that I was actually pretty well prepared for multivariable calc after taking AP calc BC in high school. What I missed was some of the calc 2 that wasn't taught in high school but that was used in physics courses. I was behind on math in my physics courses, even though I was fine to take calc 3.

    The benefit of skipping calc 1 and 2 is that it opens up space for 2 additional upper level courses. You are able to replace 2 100 level courses with 2 upper level courses. This can allow for more depth in the major or for an opportunity to branch out and double major or minor without adding any time to the degree.
  9. Mar 14, 2010 #8


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    With respect to graduate school admissions - GPA is VERY important. Professors will ask for it when considering you for research positions or when writing letters of recommendation. It can also mean the difference between having to hold down a part-time job and getting a scholarship (and thus freeing up time to concentrate on your studies). It is, unfortunate that so many things come back to it with such weight, but that's that way the system works in my experience.

    I have to agree with Saladsamurai about the dangers of assuming a high school course will adequately prepare you for university. This seems to be the popular thing to do these days, and I don't know much about the whole system. Does the school system require the teacher to have an advance degree to teach such a course or can a phys-ed major who needs the extra cash teach it? Of course, maybe I'm just sour because I didn't have that opportunity.
  10. Mar 15, 2010 #9
    My experience is that as long as the GPA is decent, it's pretty not terribly relevant for graduate school admissions. But we just have different experiences. One thing that you should not do is to try to pad your coursework with easy courses, a decent GPA with hard courses will look a lot better than a great GPA with fluff courses.

    Also, you will note that whenever someone asks what graduate schools care and don't care about, they get different answers, because different committees and different people will care about different things.
  11. Mar 15, 2010 #10
    GPA is very important.

    Just don't give up though if you get a bad grade in one class. Keep working hard no matter what.
  12. Mar 15, 2010 #11
    My biased, anecdotal, unscientific impression is that it's quite the reverse and the big name physics schools will look less at GPA and more at things like recommendations and undergraduate research than GPA. I think part of the reasons is that there is *MUCH* more grade inflation in undergraduate courses at the big name universities, so that when people look at GPA's this is discounted.
  13. Mar 16, 2010 #12
    Hey flyingpig,

    I don't know in general, but I have a garbage GPA (~3.15) and have gotten 2 acceptances w/ funding for grad school in math, and 1 rejection (and a waitlist). I explained my GPA in my personal statement by noting that in many classes the work degraded to pointless busy work, and devoting a lot of time to that was contra to my goals. It's risky though, and I would have slept a lot better for a few weeks waiting for the applications if I had a nice 3.7 gpa. I did have exceptionally good references and some research experience, so that certainly played a part.

    Since you're in high school, I think I should emphasize that if you absolutely want to get into grad school, you should assume a high (>3.5ish) GPA is required. There was a significant risk of me not getting in that I consciously accepted. It's a much safer bet to aim high and not leave things to chance.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2010
  14. Mar 18, 2010 #13
    What sort of goals? I'm just curious.

    Also to the OP, yes GPA is pretty important in college. Make sure you do well and don't be afraid to ask questions or go to tutoring or the professors' office hours if you don't understand. I had to learn the hard way.

    Also, GPA is important for internships and research. So it does play a role.
  15. Mar 20, 2010 #14
    How so? I thought professors seek labor no matter what.
  16. Mar 20, 2010 #15
    The same reason universities demand grades from high school - there are enough applicants that they can afford to be selective. GPA is one of the factors that is considered when finding the best candidate.
  17. Mar 22, 2010 #16
    I didn't switch to math til 15 months ago so was really focused on learning as much as possible as quickly as possible. I do not have the ability to just blow through, say, a computation heavy PDE exam the way some math/physics people can. Ditto for any course where you need to memorize a vast array of definitions/proofs. Those sorts of things just require too much of an investment of time to justify the return in learning I get from it. So I more or less did the bare minimum in those sorts of courses. I did very well in a few important classes (real analysis) that helped me probably.
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