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Passive punishment for multiple interests

  1. Dec 21, 2015 #1
    I am looking to go into physics for graduate study. In so doing I need to get a four year degree with a moderate gpa and test scores so I can have a choice. I end up with the problem of taking extra math courses for my physics degree to the point of almost double majoring. Because I find it interesting and feel like it would help me in the long run.

    By taking courses that might be more difficult than simple 'fillers' I run into the risk of having a low gpa for graduate work. Then even at the end of the day would a double major merit anything for graduate work in physics? Or does having a double major matter more for a bachelor degree holder going into the private sector? Though it might be compensated by having higher scores in graduate exams like the GRE/Subject GRE.

    Am I missing something or not looking at it right?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 21, 2015 #2


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    Physics graduate admissions committees aren't mindless number crunchers. They can take into account course difficulty when weighing an applicant's GPA as part of the overall package.
  4. Dec 21, 2015 #3
    If you take very easy courses with the goal of raising your GPA, this will have a negative effect on your application.
  5. Dec 21, 2015 #4
    So they look at the entire curriculum? So it is much more different than undergrad admission?
  6. Dec 21, 2015 #5


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    I agree with what's been said.

    One thing that I've observed is that the most successful graduate students are not the ones who played a game of trying to take the easy electives to elevate their GPA. I've seen that strategy backfire often - people take courses they aren't interested in or find that a particular subject is a little more challenging than they thought it would be, or simply avoid doing any work in the course because it's relatively easy and then get caught up in a time crunch, etc.

    The most successful students are the ones that pick courses based on genuine interest. They accept that getting a high GPA is going to be a lot of hard work, and try to get in by buckling down and doing it. That said, they are also quick to identify their own limitations and avoid over-extending themselves too often. So it's definitely not a case of blindly trying to take on the world either.

    As to the double major, where this really matters is in terms of qualifying you for graduate school in different fields. If you double major in math and physics, at the end of your program you should be qualified to go into graduate school in either area. It won't really give you a leg up on the competition in most cases. In most cases it's not going to qualify you for that many more jobs if you leave academia. What the "real" world is interested in is largely skills and certifications. Having a degree will often meet a specific and common tickbox for certain jobs. The double major tickbox is a lot less common. I'm sure it's out there. But I've heard lots of glass ceiling stories from people without degrees. I haven't heard any from people without double majors.
  7. Dec 21, 2015 #6


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    Undergraduate admissions, depending on the school, are dealing with hundreds, if not thousands of students. They are systematically processed. Some schools and some specific programs will be a little more tailored to individual assessments, but for the most part it's a case of meeting a series of thresholds.

    That's there for graduate admissions as well, be there the applicants are quickly narrowed down into a short-list and assessed by an admissions committee. Individual professors will have the opportunity to see your application in its entirety and be invited to make a call on whether they would like to supervise you. So if they are interested, they will read through everything - reference letters, transcripts, your personal statements, and then make a call. Often candidates will be ranked against each other too. If there are N positions, they take the first N applicants in the pool. And taking a bunch of unrelated courses is unlikely to rank you above the guy who did.
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