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Is it normal for students to have a bad first year GPA?

  1. Nov 5, 2011 #1
    I really do think my GPA is going to be very low as I adjust and change my study habits accordingly. The first set of midterms shocked me and I did very poorly which I attribute to my inefficient study habits. Is it normal for university students to have a bad first year GPA and is my first year GPA really going to hurt my chances of applying to graduate school when the time comes?
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 5, 2011 #2
    It's not a big deal really. The grad committee's aren't idiots. If they see bad grades the first year and if they see solid A's the next year, then they know you are a straight A student. And you will have a good chance of being admitted.

    But be sure to straighten up and change your study habits!!
  4. Nov 5, 2011 #3
    Yeah, t's normal.

    These statistics are outdated, but I was told that gpa goes down by .5 on average.

    Recommendation letters are more important than grades. So, you just want to try really hard to impress 3 profs, so you get 3 good recommendation letters. That's one of the keys. And the most important part is towards the end.
  5. Nov 5, 2011 #4


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    it was not normal, but mine was 1.2 out of 4.0
  6. Nov 5, 2011 #5
    [1] Struggles in first year is "normal" depending on the perspective. But you're not the first who has struggled first year with things like study habits, poor grades so don't sweat it
    [2] As for you last part depending on what people tell you and the type of person you are, can have a good or bad impact. From experience, I would rather tell you that yes it will have an effect on your chances so that you'll work harder the following years. If you buy too much into the "poor grades first year? just show an upward trend" you might take a bit of a break and mess yourself up. Doing good first year can really help you later on so I would say, get it into your head that EVERY year of undergrad counts so that you don't take any part lightly.

    Keep us updated on your situation.
  7. Nov 5, 2011 #6
    That's a tricky spot to draw the line the whole recommendation is better than grades don't you think? Having an overall complete application is rather what to strive for. One aspect isn't more important than the other depending on the grad school, the program, and the subject which the OP didn't specify.
  8. Nov 5, 2011 #7
    This thread is relevant to my interest. I fell from the same trap during my first year in the university, in which I did things there like I was still in high school. I got mediocre GPA during the first semester, but luckily things went a bit well for me the following semesters. Though it took me a while to get things hammered in my head and actually work my myself up into studying.

    I'm quite relieved that grad school committees do consider having a bad grades the first year as part of adjustment.
  9. Nov 5, 2011 #8
    True, but it's just that it's not the grades that matter. The problem is that you don't want to fall behind. It's good to do things like REUs or graduate classes by the time you finish. That sort of thing is much harder to do if you fall behind. But the main thing is that anything that is a prerequisite for something else, you want to learn it really well, so that you will do well in the next classes. So, if you don't learn it well, then, you know what you need to do over the break. What you learn is more important than grades.
  10. Nov 5, 2011 #9
    I agree that you should strive for an overall complete application, but I disagree that one aspect isn't more important than the other. Recommendation letters are more important. As far as which school or program, just apply to a whole bunch of them.

    But the OP is lucky is he thinking about grad school now. That's a head start. I didn't decide to go to grad school or even think about it much until my senior year, so I didn't have the luxury of thinking about what would get me into the best grad school. And so my application was probably weak, with the exception of my recommendation letters and grades in upper division math. And that was enough, although I only got into one school out of 5 (pretty high ranked, but below Ivy League level). The thing is, if you have talent and someone notices it, they will want you. That's what those recommendation letters can do for you.

    But I'm not saying you should just impress 3 profs and just slack off on everything else. No, do your best at all of it. But impressing the 3 profs has to be the top priority.
  11. Nov 5, 2011 #10
    I'm totally with you but the system rather promotes grades over learning. so that puts the individual in a tight position. There was a thread on this earlier about someone who was saying they take a little longer than everyone else because he reads the textbook to try and get the concepts down. He was a little behind. So OP has to get the concepts down during the summer or when school's out of session by going over his syllabus, notes, and using the text as a reference.
  12. Nov 6, 2011 #11
    But what we were saying is that the system doesn't always promote grades over learning, in the sense that if you did badly in a few classes your first year, you still have time to catch up.
  13. Nov 6, 2011 #12
    Med school, grad school for physics, grad school for math, etc., I think I should have been a bit more clear in my initial post. I'm in medicine so I know for med school there's three parts to the application: GPA, MCAT, recom./volunt/ec's. Now 2/3 and 3/3 is what you want to aim for. But the GPA, MCAT are the main. You are required to have letters for rec. That's why I said OP didn't specify. With medical school I wouldn't rule out his GPA or say it's inferior to the letters of rec. Some schools "screen" based on GPA and MCAT so he wont even get the chance at an interview if his GPA / MCAT doesn't get him passed the screen which is computer generated and not by a human.

    Impressing profs, I guess, can in some way be in the form of doing well (grades wise) on the exams. Students have been asked to be TA's for labs based on how well they did (grades wise) in the class. Your grades in upper division math swung in your favor because it says although you had poor grades earlier on in "weeder" courses, you can handle the work in grad school because you did well on upper division courses. Advice given to many pre-med students is to take as many upper division science courses to help make a case for bad grades in the lower ones. Your letters of recommendation and your grades should support one another.
  14. Nov 6, 2011 #13
    I don't get you
  15. Nov 6, 2011 #14
    I mean, grades in the first year don't matter that much. So, it's not a big deal as long as you learned the material well enough to prepare for later courses. So, I say, don't sweat the grades for the first year, sweat whether you learned enough.

    Well, I assumed, since this is physics forums, it was some kind of science or engineering program, and if he meant med school, I would have thought have would have said med school, rather than grad school. What I know about is math, but I expect most science and engineering programs would be very similar.
  16. Nov 6, 2011 #15
    I should have specified: I am interested in physics graduate school.

    Also, does anyone recommend using multiple textbooks for one course when you find your general textbook to be terrible? Even my professor says he agrees that the textbook is terrible, but says it is the best one he could find for the course.
  17. Nov 6, 2011 #16
    Yeah, the library is your friend. And you can look at book reviews on amazon to help zero in on an appropriate one.
  18. Nov 6, 2011 #17
    wtf kind of question is this? are you serious? you need to use any number of books / resources that it takes to learn the material. why would you ever limit yourself to only one textbook? holy ****. . .
  19. Nov 6, 2011 #18
    Be careful not to assume something is common sense just because you've been exposed to the idea before.
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