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Not Getting Into Graduate School, What now?

  1. Apr 25, 2012 #1
    I went to school for physics as an undergradute. I did well in my upper level physics courses, all A's and B's but I messed up very poorly in a math course and didn't put much effort into elective courses and the result is a GPA around 3.0. This combined with the fact that I bombed the PGRE(570)(How I did this bad I'm not sure. I know the physics but a standardized test is never going to test true knowledge very well). I did not get into any of the grad schools I applied to. The problem is that I love physics and after studying it I know that unless I find some sort of physics related position (research preferably) I will not be happy. I

    I'm wondering if anyone has any advice on how to get back onto the correct path? I know I don't want an engineering job, I would hate that I'm pretty sure based on my summer internship at an engineering business. The field that interests me the most would be astrophysics or cosmology, but i thought I have heard of people getting into medical physics with only bachelors before so I would definitely be interested if that was possible. Any advice? I'm sure I left out some important information but if anyone has anything I would be happy to hear.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 26, 2012 #2
    Spend a year in college again and get your GPA up. Also can't you retake the PGRE?
  4. Apr 26, 2012 #3
    Sorry, yeah I realize that spending another year would give me better chances, but financially I don't think its possible to do so. I can retake the PGRE but I would be applying for another year away and I've heard then that even a better PGRE wont necessarily be enough if i have taken a year off of school since i can't really afford another year of schooling
  5. Apr 26, 2012 #4


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    To me, a PGRE of 570 seems quite troubling. I found that the test was mostly a measure of your ability to prepare and dedicate yourself to something. The physics we all know is not very advanced, and most of the effort I put into it was into coping with the question type, format, and time constraints. Sure, along the way I brushed up on some concepts I had forgotten, but by and large I *KNEW* the answers to most questions when reviewing solutions, but for one reason or another the test format made it more difficult.

    If you know that this kind of standardized test is troublesome for you for whatever reason, you really need to put in the time to fix it, however long that takes. If you were getting 800+ or something on the practice exams and then bombed the real deal that's one thing, but if this is consistent then it shows you didn't really make progress. Suppose you got into grad school and then ran into the same difficulty with the quals?
  6. Apr 26, 2012 #5
    The problem was definitely mostly my fault. I did not prepare as much as I should have and I know it is within my capabilities to go back study harder and get ~800 most likely. Another reason, not an excuse, but still a factor is that I transferred into physics after my sophomore year. I came from Mechanical engineering so it was similar but I was behind on my physics courses. That being said I had not taken any statistical mechanics, I was only a month and a half into my upper level quantum mechanics courses and I was only half way done with E&M. I took the GRE when I did because I had to in order to apply for graduate schools for the following year. Would retaking the GRE and reapplying next year with the same gpa but much higher PGRE make the difference or would the year off reflect poorly against me?

    Thanks for your input!
  7. Apr 26, 2012 #6
    there's an easy way to fix this. lower your school expectations.
  8. Apr 26, 2012 #7

    I did, I applied to very mediocre grad schools, A couple of them I thought even with my credentials would have been sure bets. But for some reason I did not even get admission into those.
  9. Apr 26, 2012 #8
    Damn... I was in your situation too, and I got in. Guess not everyone is as lucky. Best of luck to you... if you have a dream, follow it as long as it isn't a crippling financial ball and chains on your future. Get a job, take the PGRE again, and try again next year... that's about the best you can do.
  10. Apr 26, 2012 #9

    Yeah I am definitely not giving up yet at least. Good luck to you in grad school.
  11. Apr 26, 2012 #10
    as for your job, here's my recommendations: since you hate engineering, can you do programming? if you hate programming, can you sell stuff? if you hate selling stuff, are you willing to do manual labor?

    i personally think that working by itself is pretty beneficial, if nothing more than to give you motivation "if I don't make it that's what's waiting for me outside". i have personal experience with this: i worked as an analytical chemistry technician before, and that's how i knew to stay the hell away from the pharmaceutical industry.
  12. Apr 26, 2012 #11
    Yeah, Without having worked as an intern i would have stayed in engineering which would have been a mistake. I would probably opt for an engineering position to tide me over until I get into grad school. I agree with you that it serves as a good motivator to study for the PGRE and get into grad school.
  13. Apr 26, 2012 #12
    What country are you from. Also if you are in the U.S what state? There are some cheap colleges and you get a job and be a part time student. All you probably need is a A is a 4 credit class upper math/physics or maybe 2 4 credit classes to bring up your GPA.
  14. Apr 26, 2012 #13
    I am from the U.S. from Illinois. There are definitely some cheap schools that I could attend part time to bring up my gpa but I wasn't sure if that would really be worth much since it would not be from a good university. It is definitely an option though
  15. Apr 26, 2012 #14
    Most universities have standardized physics curriculum so that wouldn't be much of a problem the reputation of the school. Grad school cares most about knowing that you will excel in Grad school and the best way to show that is to get high grades in upper tier classes.
  16. Apr 26, 2012 #15
    What upper tier classes did you take?
  17. Apr 26, 2012 #16
    I've taken two semesters of Upper Level E&M, I've taken two semesters of upper level Quantum Mechanics, two semesters of upper level classical mechanics, one semester of thermal physics/statistical mechanics. One classical experiment course, doing stuff like millikan's measurement of the electric charge, etc. I am in an observational astronomy course that covers the types of equipment used now adays. I think thats it for upper level physics
  18. Apr 26, 2012 #17


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    Occasionally physics technicians or physics assistants are hired with only a BSc-level education. You could try inquiring about that. Getting a job as a full medical physicist today is rather competative for accredited PhDs.
  19. Apr 26, 2012 #18
    That does sound like a very competitive list of of classes. If you want to go into cosmology then taking a class in GR would make you very competitive. Or taking a Grad level class would help your application for reapplying to Grad school.
  20. Apr 26, 2012 #19
    The GRE exists because it is in fact a good way to measure an individual's understanding in physics. Nonetheless, that sucks and I wish you the best of luck. Take a year off and review the material. Not sure how good a comparison this is, but I have know some people who had very good results taking a year off of school to study for the MCATs. The 3.0 gpa is very low though (not trying to trouble you, I'm sure you know that).
  21. Apr 27, 2012 #20
    Do it.

    A lot depends on how much you want to get into graduate school. If you do nothing, then you are definitely doomed. If you do something, then you may or may not be doomed.

    One thing to do is to step back, and ask what the decision is. With a 570 PGRE and your current GPA, you are totally doomed. The question is assuming that you managed to hit 800 in your PGRE, then are you totally doomed, and the answer is I really don't know, but you are better off than you are right now.
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