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New here-grad school admission question

  1. Oct 15, 2014 #1
    New here, been enjoying reading around. Sorry I don't have much to give in the knowledge department.

    My question is probably the 100th like this in the last month, but it's kinda a special situation. So here goes:
    (I don't know how pertinent this is, but that's part of the question.).
    Technically, I'm a freshman, I applied as one, have one of the 2018 class t-shirts and all, but actually I've got 33 transferable credits from a community college. I did not attend high school And for the most part any other school, but I have always had a passion for science and knowledge about the universe, so I went to community college. Unfortunately, a lot of my grades early on were not good. My first 2 semesters I had to teach myself how to study basically.
    So my grades are basically:
    English 1 and 2 = both C's
    Gen chem 1 and 2 = C and B, respectively
    Organic chem + lab = A(actually I got close to a 98 in this class, but an A is an A. Correct?)
    Bio 1 = B
    Silly international relations class = A

    I'm a chem and physics double major, and I'm still taking pre calc because of my lack of math background.
    I was planning on getting an A in ochem 2, And got an A on exam one, but there was a death of someone close to me and I have an exam tomorrow I know I am going to fail quite badly, so maybe an A isn't possible.

    I hear all the pre-meds talking about how important the ochem grade is to medical school. Is it as important to graduate school in some area at the intersection of physics and chem? Or is it not as big of a deal because this is not a terminal class in my chemistry education?(Im also taking advanced organic chem, And of course all the other requirements.)

    I'd really like to go into a PhD program in 4 years that interests me strongly, and move up the "prestige latter" a bit(my understanding is that going to a "prestigious" university doesn't really matter until grad school. Is this correct? I go to a fairly run of the mill big public unuversity.)

    How much effect will these early classes effect my academic standing in four years? Will these low grades be seen little better Because I took them all at community college before I was 18, or does that not matter? Does it go into my gpa? Finally, how important is GPA to grad school? Say I got an A in every single major class, but my electives and gen-eds were all C's. How would that look? What would be my chance of getting into a grad program at Stanford, Berkeley, cal-tech, etc?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 15, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Can you get a delay for your test due to a death in the family?

    I would think the prof would cut you some slack here.

    Your admission to grad school depend on your undergrad grades (not anything earlier) and your ability to take the GRE or some related exam depending on what you want to do.
  4. Oct 15, 2014 #3
    There is no such help avaliable... "people could cheat".

    I understand that grad school admission is based on grades and test scores, my question is assuming I get straight A's moving forward, how much of a scar will some community college classes and o chem 2 leave after I complete much high-level classes in both of my majors?
  5. Oct 15, 2014 #4


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    Generally speaking medical school admissions require that students take a number of prerequisite classes - usually a first year science curriculum including organic chemistry. So the pre-med types will of course be obsessed about the importance of that grade.

    With regards to graduate school, different schools will calculate your GPA in different ways. If you want to assume that you're going to do awesome from every course from now until your finish, then of course that will look good to admission committees. Generally speaking a few low grades do not cut you from the running. The only concern is that in highly competative cases, you won't outrank students who have those same high grades in their upper level classes AND high grades in their first year.

    When you took them and what age you were when you took them won't matter - with the possible exception that some schools might weight the GPA in favour of the three most recent years (this is something more common for professional school admissions than graduate school admissions though).

    Prestige of your undergraduate or graduate institution doesn't really matter all that much. What matters a lot more is how you perform where you're at.

    The big thing though is going to be figuring out how to go from a mediocre performance to a stellar one.
  6. Oct 15, 2014 #5
    No, that is only part of it. Recommendation letters are probably more important.
  7. Oct 15, 2014 #6
    I wouldn't think that grad school for physics would particularly take note of Orgo 2. Med school absolutely would though.
    Orgo 2 is more of a mindless memorization class IMO. I've found that people who loved Orgo 2 tended to not care for physics or get physics as easily and vice-versa.

    They probably would take GPA and GRE and recs into account. It is VERY difficult to get into the grad programs that you mention, especially if you planned high energy theory. I mean beyond crazy difficult. Unless you have some major paper written you'd need a totally top GPA from a good school, top recs (from someone they know and know has dealt with top talent in the past and this person needs to say you are like one of the single best they have ever encountered if you are not at Princeton, Caltech or MIT or such) and sky high GRE I'd think.
  8. Oct 15, 2014 #7
    I'm not so sure about that. I mean it's trivial to get 4.0s in physics at a low level local state school in many cases, but much more difficult to do the same at Caltech or MIT. I know that for some jobs and even lots of government positions they might just go by flat GPA cut-offs and not care where the GPA came from, but I think grad school admissions would. A 4.0 at some schools simply is on another level compared to at others. I once took a few classes at local state school and I got 4.0 in everything and I didn't have to study. At a top university it was a completely different ball game. There is just no comparison. Lots who got A's at the one school would've been hard pressed to survive some of the classes at the top school.
  9. Oct 16, 2014 #8


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    The problem is that you can't quantify prestige. Instead you rely on a standard exam (GRE) that all students have to take to account for differences in institutional rigour. It's not perfect, and maybe there are some graduate committees that do give weight to places on extreme ends of the spectrum, but I think that students seem to place more weight on prestige than they should.

    I will state that my experience is based on the Canadian system though.
  10. Oct 16, 2014 #9
    It is not trivial to get 4.0's at a state school, in fact in some cases it's easier to get high grades at some of the institutions you'd call prestigious vs some state schools. I do agree that to say prestige or ranking of the institution means nothing is patently not true, but it's within context. For instance Michigan State University is just as good if not more so at Nuclear Physics than MIT. It's not like a stellar student from a lower ranked undergrad schools can't get into top ranked grad schools.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2014
  11. Oct 17, 2014 #10

    1) I agree 100%, much of organic is just shoving rxn mechanisms down your throat so you can say you could figure out how to synthesize xy and z, which you couldn't because they don't teach the actual lab procedures(They may do 1 friedel crafts alkylation or whatever in lab for some of the major mechanisms, but actually being able to go from mechanism to finished lab procedure on your own is much more difficult.).

    I think ochem 1has a lot of important info, but ochem2 is just memorizing mechanisms (which isn't very hard if you spend a little while pushing arrows, because you can derive it yourself.). I think ochem teachers should a

    Yeah, that doesn't sound right to me. My experience as well as what I've been told many times is that they are basically the same. I see a huge variation teacher to teacher, not school to school. It's not physics(at least technically), but I've compared my O-chem tests to MIT and others(just did again, observed same thing) and they're very similar. Actually, the first question on my ochem 1 test and the mit one I just looked at where the same, yet my brother's ochem 1 teacher was way harder than both mine or mit(he goes to vcu, I go to gmu).

    About grad school programs-that is all interesting. I was under the impression going to "big name" schools for grad school wasn't as vastly difficult than undergrad, because they have giant research departments with lots of funding. I really commonly hear my professors saying "I went t xyz college, then princton". My advisor went to Cornell, and my ochem prof went to Princeton, for example. Is this incorrect?
  12. Oct 17, 2014 #11


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    One would imagine that Organic Chemistry is less important for Physics study than for Chemistry study/major. arrowpusher96 has described an inferior course on Organic Chemistry and would have a much different appreciation for it if he could study at a different institution. Further, any investigation of understanding theories of reaction mechanisms, including for organic reactions, would have essentially depended on knowledge of Physics, combined with the appropriate equipment designs to be able to measure, control, and record and help to observe things.
  13. Oct 17, 2014 #12

    "Inferior course in organic chemistry". Thanks for the help. I appreciate it.
    Yes-I completely, 100% agree ochem is taught wrong, is mostly simplified versions of more complex physics and I would/will appreciate it more when I learn more physics. Please, don't attack my "institution" however, where presumably you've never been. My university teaches ochem just like every other university in the USA. Attack the overall system, not me and my knowledge and my school.
    I am a double major, and after this semester I am focusing on math so I can later focus on physics, in order to more fundamentally understand the universe: which we divide up into the mostly historical definitions of "physics, chemistry and biology.".

    There is also use to what I learn-want to make phenyl methyl ether? I can figure out how. Let's try 1,2-methyl propyl benzene, I can do that too. I walk into a pharmacy and can predict the properties of compounds based on their names. Don't tell me that's "Inferior". Inferior to what? To what every other chem major learns in their sophomore year? No, not really. Inferior to what I will learn over my 6 year chemistry and physics career-absolutely. "Other institutions" teach the same ochem as mine(and I'll be taking advanced and physical ochem later on, which will give me the deeper understanding you're describing, in conjunction with CM,EM and QM which I will be taking after I finish my 3 semester physics sequence).
  14. Oct 17, 2014 #13


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    Not sure where you learned your Organic Chem. Just as you described it, things must have been omitted from your course. Maybe you just do not like Organic Chemistry and feel like it was not as good a course because you like Physics better. Physics ideas are certainly important in fundamental understanding about chemistry but Physics alone WILL NOT give you thorough enough understanding about Organic Chemistry.
  15. Oct 17, 2014 #14

    Things were committed based on what exactly? I love organic chemistry; did you see my username? I have as good an understanding of orgo as anybody half way through second semester ochem. That doesn't detract from the fact that there are many, many things they sort of gloss over because most people taking it aren't chem majors. Ionic bonding, complex formation, etc(Basically just inorganic stuff in general). They just talk about organic stuff, then they throw a sodium or something at you and basically say "IT JUST SEPERATES IN WATER. DONT ASK QUESTIONS!"

    Do organic chem classes you've taken cover those topics in depth? Explain what you think was ommitted please.

    Ps: The book "Organic Chemistry as a Second Language" seems pretty ubiquitous, and that is one of our two textbooks. Anybody have an opinion on that book?
  16. Oct 17, 2014 #15


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    I reread much of what you wrote about your experiences with Organic Chemistry in the post number 10. That post is the one you described your dissatisfaction with Organic Chemistry. Maybe you can explain what you meant in post number 10 better. Organic Chemistry should emphasise knowledge for organic synthesis (other subtopics too..) and learning reaction mechanisms, and the laboratory section would (or should) contain exercises and activities to support these.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2014
  17. Oct 18, 2014 #16
    Fair enough. Id say the problem is that learning SN1+2, E1+2, electrophillic aromatic substitution, nucleophillic aromatic substitution, etc is good, learning to define automatically, predict order of acidity, decern basicity and nucleophillicity and what not is good. What much of the book is however, past the beginning of ochem 2, is "to make and ether from an ester do x, to make an epoxide from alcohol do y, etc." Which ends up being extremely tedius and not beneficial for most students in the class who Will alter forget it.

    Too many people Learn it by rote memorization. The professor said "you must memorize this table"(of activating,deactivating, ortho para and meta directors). That's wrong! Learn why they are they are and you'll be able to know just by looking at it.
  18. Oct 18, 2014 #17


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    Now that is a bit hard to interpret. The impression is that you are expecting some parts of the course to be more than what Organic Chemistry introductory courses would contain. If you did well in your Organic Chemistry course, maybe an advanced Organic course will give the topic explanations that you wanted. If it comes with a lab section, then even better. Some of the explanations you found lacking may later come in your Physical Chemistry or Inorganic course. Unfortunately, some or so many of the synthesis pathways for the functional groups, you will just need to memorize. Just not enough time in the term for a laboratory exercise on everything. The number of instructional hours in a term or semester or quarter is limited.
  19. Oct 19, 2014 #18
    Yeah some state school are at a pretty decent level to put it mildly. When I put on the "local" qualifier I meant to imply some smaller, more no-name, regional type state school and not something well known like Rutgers or Michigan State or UCLA or such, those are another ball game entirely from what I was thinking of. Some of those are still somewhat easier, but some are fully up there or reasonably close. But I was talking about the sort of schools that nobody more than 100 miles away would have ever heard of.)

    (although at a very, very few schools such as Cal tech and MIT, they are pretty nuts for physics, they really do zip along at a level that can be tougher than even at many widely known schools and students can be yet a step more capable on average; and when you talk about known to be good at this or that subject in physics that is really more speaking about grad school and doesn't matter too much for undegrad)
  20. Oct 19, 2014 #19
    We used Solomons/Fryhle Organic Chemistry. I liked the start of it and the end of it and hated part of the middle. All the this does this with this catalyst and that catalysts instead makes it blah blah eyes glazing over when it came to stuff you needed for some of the tests (the professor gave pretty decent lectures though, even the boring stuff he tried to keep sort of lively)....

    The latter part of the first semester just got into where you had to memorize so much stuff that you'd just forget a couple months later anyway and would, in the real world, just use some table for (unless maybe it was your life's work to the point it all just stuck permanently). At many schools they make the tests brutally hard and put a ton of questions on so there isn't a lot of time to always logically work through everything (some people at my school actually took it Harvard instead since the grading, while not easy, was said to be noticeably more generous; at some schools they try to literally fail out 1/3 of the class the first semester and give 50% of the class B- or below) and for a big stretch in the middle they just see how much boring stuff you are willing to memorize in bulk since it's a weed out course for med/pharma students.

    We definitely had extensive labs though. Probably the longest labs I've ever had. The lab even was basically it's own course on it's own and counted for extra credits and grades.

    I don't know what to say other than from what I vaguely recall (it's been 14 years or so, I believe I took it in the yearr two-thousannnnnd, in the yearrrrrrr two-thouuuuusaaaaand) I didn't really mind the first half of the first semester too much at all, but wasn't so fond of good chunks of the second half the first semester and some other stuff and all those who were loving those parts and not liking the start and struggling with the start seemed to have trouble with physics and not like physics much at all.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2014
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