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Need advice on Academic Future

  1. May 27, 2015 #1
    Hey guys, I would really, really like to go to graduate school for PhD in either Electrical Engineering or condensed matter/semiconductor physics. I will be graduating in December with two degrees from two different universities (yes, simultaneously), one a BS in Electrical engineering and the other a BA in physics. The school the EE degree will be from is a highly ranked engineering school (top 5 or so), but my GPA is dirt (2.03... I am actually doing much better now and it seems as if it will be around 2.4-2.5 around graduation but what does it matter?). The school the BA in physics will be from is a little known liberal arts university, and my GPA was a 3.47 (I may be able to bump it up to a 3.5).

    Sorry for the wall of text, but I am wondering what my best options are for perusing a PhD. Should I mention my engineering degree when applying? Will they care about the physics degree being a BA and not a BS? Will they require a transcript from my engineering school (I will have some transfer credits from it on the physics transcript) and see the mile long list of courses I failed earlier? If I wanted to get into a top 30-20 or so school for PhD would I be better of getting my masters from a "lower ranked" school first? I was thinking of working for a while and letting a company pay for it. I wouldn't mind continuing at my current institution but there's no way I would be accepted with such bad grades, even despite a turn around. I'm not concerned about being able to handle the PhD workload despite some poor past performance, I am doing fine now.

    If it matters, I have a decent research background. Been on a few projects at school, did 2 NSF REUs, and have 2 4-5th author publications. Thank you for any advice you could offer, I don't think my situation is desperate but I would certainly like some guidance.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 28, 2015 #2


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    I will be frank: forget the PhD in EE option. I'll defer to others regarding the Physics option.
  4. May 29, 2015 #3


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    To be honest, I agree. It would be very difficult to get into a graduate program in EE with the undergrad GPA you have for your EE degree. I'm sure you realize this. I'm less familiar with graduate admissions than I am with undergraduate admissions, but it's likely that you would have to provide transcripts and degree information for all of the colleges you have attended, regardless of the program to which you are applying.

    That being said, your GPA for the physics degree is pretty good. It might be better to focus on that. The distinction between a BA and a BS shouldn't really matter. Some schools don't even offer a BS, but their programs are virtually identical. Some schools have -both- a BA and a BS, in which case the BS is geared more toward graduate prep. However, the difference isn't likely to have a huge impact. You have a decent amount of research experience and such, which certainly counts for a lot.
  5. May 29, 2015 #4
    One issue is whether or not your EE GPA will affect your chances of getting into physics grad school. I have a friend who flunked out of engineering school, went back to school for physics, got a 4.0, then got screwed over with graduate admissions because of how he did in school in engineering. And you are obligated to report ALL schooling that you've had.
  6. May 29, 2015 #5
    Thank you all for the replies. While I knew that I was in a bad situation, it didn't occur quite how much of an up hill battle I had going forward for admission into basically any type of graduate program. It is good to know that the BS/BA distinction is not generally regarded as being important though.

    Samnorris, can you tell me any more about how things worked out for your friend? His situation seems close enough to mine.
  7. May 31, 2015 #6
    Sure, though it may not be exactly similar. He flunked out of engineering Purdue at age 21, worked for a few years, then went back to physics at age 26. The fact that he is older may also have made a difference. Anyway, in physics he was phenomenal - two or three papers published, 4.0, dual degree in physics and math, blah blah blah.

    He applied to I think 13 or 14 grad schools (all state flagships, though... he aimed pretty high, which also made a big difference I think). He got into one (the University of Nebraska) and was denied from all the others. Many other students with a similar profile were much more successful getting into grad school, which leads me to believe that it was the poor engineering record from Purdue. Again, just a guess... but I don't know what else it could be.

    My advice, I think, is to definitely give it a shot. You'll never know if you don't try. Apply to some lower-ranked schools, and be sure that you can adequately explain what went wrong in your EE undergrad.
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