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Is it too much worse to graduate in 5 years, instead of 4?

  1. Feb 24, 2009 #1
    Hey everyone,

    I happen to be at an interesting juncture in my education thus far. I am a third-year undergraduate student studying physics, mathematics, and astronomy at my (somewhat small) university, and the notion of attending graduate school is quickly approaching.

    I'm having trouble, however, because I'm debating between graduating on time (May of 2010) or taking an extra semester or two. There appear to be pros and cons to both, and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    The scenario is as such: I'm quite young (19), and I would very much like to complete three majors, in Physics, Math, and Astronomy. It isn't quite as bad as it sounds, because the dual degree in Physics and Astronomy is nearly the same as a Physics degree with an Astronomy minor. I've also found that, through my college career thus far, I really really like math - and the amount of math I'd like to take can amount to a major. However, I would need to take an extra semester (or maybe an extra year, if I stretch it out a lot) to complete all three degrees, as opposed to only pursuing a dual degree and graduating on time.

    The (possible) Pros:
    -Would allow me to pursue significantly more research before grad school
    -Would allow me to lighten my course load a little bit and stretch things out, leading to good grades
    -Would allow me to have a more thorough understanding in each of the three fields before attending grad school

    The (possible) Cons:
    -Would look unnecessary, and taking so much time might reflect poorly on my grad school applications (biggest concern)
    -Graduating in Dec. 2010 would give me that spring semester (Spring 2011) without much of anything to do

    Really, I would like to finish all three majors, and being as young as I am, I don't mind the prospect of staying longer as an undergraduate. However, the thing I am extremely concerned about is jeopardizing my chances to get into a good graduate program.

    I have a few graduate schools in mind, and so I've considered contacting their application committees directly for advice, but I thought I'd check here first and see what the general consensus might be. :)

    I appreciate any and all feedback! Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2009 #2
    No grad school admissions office is going to look poorly on you for taking 5 years, why would you think otherwise? How could it even conceivable reflect poorly on you, what you are proposing is a non-sequitor.
  4. Feb 24, 2009 #3


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    Just my humble opinion ;-)
    If you are intending to go to grad school (presumably in some area of physics) you can pick up the extra maths you need as part of your PhD - either by your own study or taking classes. The point of grad school is to learn to be MUCH more focussed, eg. I need to learn enough about area X to get on with the research as quickly as possible, rather than spend a year taking classes on X,Y,Z.
    Undergrad research before grad school I tend to discount - it tells me more about the setup at your school than about you. I can't really know how serious it was and how much of it you did as opposed to being 'helped'.

    I (personally) wouldn't care if you had taken an extra year, eg if you had switched majors or taken a year out for personal reasons.
    Some grad courses also hire in spring - it depends on the funding round.
    Anyway being 20 and having a spare semester shouldn't be too much of a problem!
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