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Is my schedule "lightweight"? Hurt me for Grad School?

  1. Jul 24, 2015 #1
    < Mentor Note -- two similar threads by the OP merged into one >

    Senior. Thermal Physics, Nuclear Physics, Lab class = 10 credits. Debating to take either: PDEs, Vector Analysis, Mathematica class, but I hear Thermal is hard and I want to ace all my upper level courses. I'm also working 20 hrs a week. Would this hurt my grad school application?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 24, 2015
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  3. Jul 24, 2015 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    A. Yes. So will doing poorly in Thermal.
    B. Life is about tradeoffs.
  4. Jul 24, 2015 #3
    Is it common to take 4 or 5 upper levels?
  5. Jul 24, 2015 #4
    3 physics classes per semester in last 2 years. Due to work
  6. Jul 24, 2015 #5


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    It depends on a few things.

    I came through a program where a standard course load was five classes per semester or 15 credit hours. Most commonly four of those classes would be related to one's major and one would be an elective that was often used to explore topics outside of the major.

    Taking less than a standard course load because you need to work to pay for school is completely understandable. But graduate applications are competative. You don't want anyone assessing your application thinking "here's a candidate who only does the bare minimum."
  7. Jul 24, 2015 #6
    3 classes is nearly full-time, and you're also working. It's not like you're slacking off.
  8. Jul 24, 2015 #7


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    Sure it may look bad, or it may not. There isn't enough information here to conclusively determine one way or another.

    There is a lot more variance in just what you want to study in grad school. Are you planning on doing something esoteric like string theory or are you looking at experimental condensed matter, applied physics, or accelerator physics?

    How's your GPA and undergrad research experience? Is your current job related to engineering/physics in any way? What's your GRE scores? Did you complete the pre-graduate school physics track? Have you taken graduate level classes?

    Really need more information to help you.
  9. Aug 23, 2015 #8
    So I work to pay for school and I don't have the weekends or much time to study. My commute to school is up to 90m each way. Would only taking 3 courses: Thermal Physics, Quantum, Lab look poorly on my transcript? Would a grad school care that I had to work to pay for school and thus take less classes? I don't think I can ace these upper levels with any less time to devote to each one: Probably will have to skip Math Methods in Physics (it's optional). Let me know what to do
  10. Aug 24, 2015 #9


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    So long as you do well in your courses, I seriously doubt that it will matter how many courses you take per semester or how long as it takes to finish, so long as you explain your situation in your cover letter or personal statement (wherever it fits).
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