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I've Butchered my Academic Profile

  1. Apr 30, 2012 #1
    After this semester, I'll be entering my senior year as a physics major cs minor. Looking back I realize my transcript is going to make me appear dull to grad schools. Looking forward, I realize this semester's results may make matters even worse.

    I have yet to take my finals, but it is very possible for me to conclude this semester with an A, a C, and two Fs. What's worst is that one of the Fs is in a core course (2nd semester quantum mechanics). The other F is in a computer course, which I suppose isn't too bad as I will retake it come Fall and its only required in my minor. I know its only one semester, but results like these may deliver the killing blow to an already unwell transcript.

    I haven't done any research (but I have some set up for this summer), my gpa is sitting around 3.5, and I did poorly (C-) in another upper tier physics class in the past. In short, my transcript presents me as a subpar slacker.

    However, I am not in this situation because of a poor work ethic. I work hard, my problem is one of pride. I worry about understanding derivations when problem solving is the emphasis, I take too many difficult classes (18 hours in 400 level technical classes), I end up dropping one too late and then I ride out a semester with grade caps set from failed midterms. This is doubly bad, because dropped courses aren't recorded, so it looks as though I couldn't handle 13 and 14 hour loads. I've repeated this mistake because I blamed myself for not working hard enough, but by now I've learned to scale back: on tiptoe, our stance is most unsteady. My next semester should be manageable, and I expect maybe 1 B and the rest As--this isn't a pipe dream, I plan on teaching myself most of what I need over summer instead of learning more programming languages and soaking up radiation in front of a television screen. My concern is, is it too late? I should mention that I had a 4.0 taking all my gen eds and beginning physics, so my gpa being at 3.5 is the result of performance in upper division (300 and up barring some 200 level cs) courses.

    I plan on involving myself in research next semester, physics and math clubs, etc, but I'm afraid I've gone beyond the point of no return. What should I do to improve my appearance to grad schools? If I've omitted anything useful, feel free to inquire about it.

    P.S. If I nail my quantum final, I shouldn't fail the course, but I only have several days to study for it, and I have a lot of ground to cover, and I'm not good at rote learning (which would be ideal for cramming for a test).


    Thanks, completevoid
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 30, 2012 #2
    One reason graduate schools care about GPA's is that GPA's are less a measure of intelligence than of the ability to navigate bureaucracy (i.e. getting the forms in time) and pace yourself. If you end up overloading yourself and not being able to do damage control, this is going to really hurt you in graduate school, where you have much more rope to hang yourself.

    In the end, what people care about is that you get stuff done. If you work yourself too hard and burn out, or if you miss deadlines and stuff doesn't get done, that's almost as bad as having done nothing.

    Being a "sub-par slacker" is not the only thing that can cause problems. Being someone that doesn't know their own limits, gets in over their head, and then can't do damage control, is just as bad. Maybe even worse.

    You got an two F's, that means that some thing went seriously wrong.

    Maybe you *can't* handle that much coursework. In that case, you would be better off taking fewer courses. If you take fewer courses, then you'll learn the material. If you take too many courses, then you burn yourself out, and then everything falls apart.

    Does it matter?

    You are going to have to complete your degree one way or another, so you might as well go out on a high note. The problem with talking about the situation of 1 B and the rest A's, is that it will be better to have that conversation when you in fact have 1 B and the rest A's.

    If your problem is setting unrealistically high expectations for yourself then putting yourself where you think that you must get X grade is going to make things worse. What concerns me is that you'll find yourself in the middle of next semester, and then when it looks like you are getting "decent but not spectacular grades" you'll fail to pull the ejection seat and that will cause a disaster at the end.

    Convince people that you can survive doing physics for the next decade of your life.
     
  4. Apr 30, 2012 #3
    Something to consider is that you are going to be a lot better off if you take a reduced load and do very well in your courses, than if you go crazy and trying to "make up" for lost effort. If you take a reduced load next semester, it looks decent. If you try to "make up" for everything, then if anything going wrong, then it's going to be unsalvageable.

    Something else that you have to ask yourself is whether you *really* want to go to graduate school.
     
  5. May 1, 2012 #4
    Thank you for reply twofish, I appreciate the help.
     
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