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Need Advice on Graduate School

  1. Aug 3, 2011 #1

    So, here's my story:

    - Went to state school
    - Majored in a quantitative subject
    - Got a GPA in the range of 2.6 - 2.7 (literally never went to class, literally just scanned texts before exams =( god i was a ****ing idiot.)
    - Noooooooooooooooooooo

    OK, so, when I went to undergrad, I was an immature ***. Now, I want to follow my dream; I've wanted to be a physicist since I was a little kid.

    Exactly right now, I'm working a job in government-contracting finance. I want to get out of this and follow my childhood dream after I save some $$$.

    I've read through some advanced level physics books and re-read math texts to make sure that I want to do this. I most definitely do.

    My plan is to go back to school and major in physics, and do what I should have done in undergrad in the first place: make top grades, research, etc. The whole package.

    I want to go to 4 years undergrad again even if I can earn a degree in 2 years because I want the most comprehensive understanding of undergrad physics, and a bit math + a little less bit computer science/ ai, possible + time to do research, etc.

    So, my options are:
    - Do it at a state school and go into debt
    - Go to undergrad in China for a fraction of the price and have $$$ saved after (currently learning Mandarin at an acceptable rate to enter undergrad in China in 1 yr!)

    My questions are:
    - Does going to a school in China put me at a disadvantage when applying to grad schools relative to a state school? By how much?
    - What are my chances of getting into top 5 and top 10 grad schools if I get 3.7+ (in new degree<physics>), 950+, good research?

    So, I put myself into a total hole with my 1st degree. I'd like to pretend it never happened and start fresh! But, that's not the case. If I create the profile of a top applicant from here then how much of a negative will my 1st profile prove to be?
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 3, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 3, 2011 #2


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    Top 5 or 10? Not very good at all. Also it seems like you are counting your eggs before they've hatched. To be brutally honest, I see no evidence that your goal of 3.7+ is attainable in the first place given your previous academic experience. Physics is also a "very difficult quantitative subject."
  4. Aug 3, 2011 #3
    I'm asking it as a 'what if'. If it will take a 1%ile profile built up to reach a 20%ile school, etc., I might just give up. But if my goal schools can match the profile that I build up, I may give it a go.
  5. Aug 3, 2011 #4
    If you do start on another degree there could be a chance that your GPA will start over for the new degree. I can't speak for China's schools, but I know several schools in the USA that reset GPA's. If you're looking at schools in the USA I would ask about that because it's a great feeling to start over especially after you've matured. Good luck.
  6. Aug 3, 2011 #5
    This doesn't make any sense to me.....

    1) Chinese universities admit via the National Entrance Exam. You take a test, you get a score. Based on that score you are in or not it. If you don't know Mandarin now, then you aren't going to get a decent score on the NEE in one year. Also there are age limits on who can take the NEE.

    2) The Chinese government is really cracking down on foreign visas. They have a ton of Chinese nationals going home looking for work, and a ton of people that are graduating from local schools. If you aren't a Chinese national, then it's going to be very, very difficult to get a student visa. The US is a national of immigrants. China isn't.

    3) Outside of the big name schools, the quality of Chinese schools can be dreadful.

    If you have a particular school in mind, I'd appreciate it if you send the URL. One thing that you have to understand is that when it comes to education, China is in the "wild west" phase and so there is a good chance of getting scammed if you don't know what is going on.

    Also given a choice most Chinese would (and are) spending $$$$ to make sure their kids to go school in the US/UK/Australia, and US schools are viewing this as a money maker.

    If you graduate from Beida, Qinghua, USTC, or the other big name Chinese schools, then no. However, I don't think that Beida will admit you. Something you have to realize about China is very, very, very few Chinese people end up going to college. Now you end up with a lot of Chinese graduate students because a small fraction of 1.3 billion is a huge number.

    Also Chinese graduate students are willing to do grunt work at Noname University for a shot at a green card. Something about the US is that the best schools in the US are merely slightly better than the best Chinese schools, but the *average* US school is better than the *average* Chinese school. Also, if you take the *worst* physics department in the United States, I'd bet that they are doing something useful, whereas the worst physics department in China is likely to be an outright scam of some sort.

    It doesn't matter. You are doing something unusual, and you are going to have to bust your rear end to get in *ANYWHERE*.

    Also, the important thing to ask here are your chance of getting 3.7+, 950+, good research. Once it's obvious that this is going to happen, then we talk some more.

  7. Aug 3, 2011 #6
    I think you should give up. If the reason for going into physics is to get the glory of a big name, you aren't going to survive the hell that you have to go through.

    If your main interest is to learn about the universe, and you are willing to put yourself through hell to discover something new even if no one else in the world cares or even knows that you did it, then it might be doable, but in that case you won't be concerned about school rank, and you'd be willing to go to any school that would take you.
  8. Aug 3, 2011 #7
    To follow your dream, you need to look at reality.

    First of all, being a graduate student is a full time job. Like all full jobs, it has it's share of "job related nonsense" and if you are trying to get away from your job because you find work annoying, then it's going to be bad when you find that you've jumped into the same thing.

    Second, there is no real job market in academia, so after you spend a decade of your life being an academic serf, you are likely to end up more or less where you are now only with fond memories.

    Also the fact that you are looking at best case scenarios, which worries me. It is very likely that the best case scenario will not happen, and you have to think about the worst case scenarios.
  9. Aug 3, 2011 #8
    To be a bit blunt, I think you only have a superficial interest in physics. You claim to have read through advanced-level texts, but I can't see a mastery past lower division courses. An appreciation for the wide-ranging concepts in physics is necessary to become a good physicist, but it is not the only thing. Have you taken upper division physics courses before? I highly suggest you go to a school and audit a course to see if you like how the physics is presented and mastered. Learning QM in lectures is quite different from learning QM from BBC as a kid.

    Just make sure this is really what you want to do, without doubts, because you'll be sacrificing both time and money on something you may not get (a Physics Ph.D., that is).
  10. Aug 4, 2011 #9
    And what happens even if you do get it. :-) :-) :-)
  11. Aug 4, 2011 #10
    If you're willing to study abroad on the cheap, consider India. Check out the JEE website. If I'm not mistaken, they do have an age limit but still, check. The JEE is an entrance exam to India's most selective engineering and science universities/institutes. Note that even if you are allowed to take it, you will be taking it with 600k other students, many of which, went to special classes (throughout the last few years of high school, iirc) to drill for the exam.

    Then, there's also the Chennai Mathematical Institute, who have their own entrance exam. As far as I know, they don't have an age limit. The amount of students they take in are very few as well.

    Anyway, see if you can ace the following two tests. You will be competing with a bunch of 17 y/o Indians who can...


    To give you an idea of where there students ended up:

    If you're interested in doing mathematics or statistics, there's the Indian Institute of Statistics as well. The are probably other good colleges as well, but they are few and far between and trying to figure out which is going to give you a better Physics education over another can be a real pain. Trust me, I tried.

    And as applies with Chinese universities, if you don't score better than the others, you aren't in. Period.

    The interesting thing with CMI is that it is bloody cheap (I doubt you'll be spending more than a thousand dollars per year) and you are actually given a stipend if you deserve it. They are flexible enough to allow you to take other courses, like graduate courses or courses from the other departments.
  12. Aug 4, 2011 #11
    You should not go to China. You can learn in some of the US pub university, or if you know French you should go to France to learn the physics. The cost is low in France, and the life is wonderful. Maybe you can go to Vietnam, learn in Vietnam national university( School of natural science) Here you can go to honor program, or normal program in physics where all of the subject teached in English.
  13. Aug 4, 2011 #12
    Studying Physics in France is not like having a picnic by a lake with a bunch of happy dwarves and other happy things. It's ultra competitive and there are weed out courses, from what I gather. The problem is that universities should admit anyone having passed their French scientific baccalaureat into the program and often, what happens is that there are just too many students, which is why there are weed out courses in law, science and medicine. I have heard of cases (albeit in law), where there was one whole lecture theatre filled, with a second (also, packed) theatre which showed a live VIDEO of the lecturer in the other room. The costs for education, however, are minimal.

    Further to that, if you want to pursue higher studies within science, doing a magistere or going to a grande ecole (ENS, Polytechnique, UPMC, Strasbourg to name a few) is what you'd want to do. It's a three year long course taken after two years of post secondary study. You are admitted to these after sitting for very long entrance examinations and passing that and the oral component of the exam, which takes place after the written part.
  14. Aug 4, 2011 #13


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    Staff: Mentor

    I thought dwarves were a German thing. :confused: :smile:
  15. Aug 4, 2011 #14
    I want to study Physics in France after BS. So now i'm going to sophomore year, but i forget all of my English now because i learn French all the time. So should i do Master in France or back to English to do Master in other country( I love nuclear :) )
  16. Aug 4, 2011 #15
    Curiously, their female counterparts are largely of French origin. Odd gender distribution if you'd ask me...

    /I'll get my coat.

    Are you studying in French now? Or are you saying that you will *forget all* of your English when you do study in French? French universities/ecoles have Master's programs taught in English, depending on where you're going and which course it is. If you're in your second year of study, go for the concours aux grandes ecoles ASAP. I'm assuming you're in a 3-year Bachelor's program, right?

    http://www.ens.fr/spip.php?rubrique103&lang=en [Broken]

    Here, figure out what you gotta do.


    Be aware that I am only just about to finish my secondary education and I am just someone who happens to have read a bit about tertiary education in France. I would suggest you look for more information on your own, if you're interested in studying there. Try the websites of universities you're interested in. If you can't find what you're looking for there, e-mail whoever's in charge of the program you're interested in.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  17. Aug 4, 2011 #16
    No, but for simple the questions is:
    Should a student from the country do not speak English, learn French for study in France in physics or learn English to study physics in other country?
    Sr for my poor English.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  18. Aug 5, 2011 #17
    I don't know. That's your call entirely. Where would you rather study? France? Or anywhere else? From what I gather, there is an increasing number of postgraduate programs being taught in English. (Germany, Netherlands, probably a few other places as well) What languages can you speak *now*? Is that language spoken in another country where you might want to do further studies? Again, your call.

    Good luck!
  19. Aug 5, 2011 #18
    I'm a student in sophomore year in Vietnam, When i entered university, i choose French as my foreign languge because i want to do Master & PhD in France in the future. Because i learn French all the time, so i forget all of my English now. Should i back to learn English? France physics is good? Thank you very much!
  20. Aug 5, 2011 #19
    As I said, I am still in high school and other people can be better judges of any university's quality of education provided. Furthermore, I don't think there's any reasonable way to find that out unless one is well acquainted with people who teach there or has had first-hand experience with different universities/grandes ecoles there. As a general rule though, one can't go wrong with the ParisTech ecoles or any of the grandes ecoles for that matter.

    Try getting into contact with people on French forums dealing with higher studies in science.

    AGAIN: It's a decision you should take. All I can do is tell you what I know and I'm afraid my knowledge does not go much beyond what I've already said, if at all.
  21. Aug 5, 2011 #20
    This is a great post and should be shown to anyone who thinks they can wing-it into maths or physics just by being ballsy enough to ask.
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