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Personal Chances at Grad Admission

  1. Sep 6, 2012 #1
    I am an senior ready to start applying to grad school. Hopefully, you guys can look at my following circumstances:

    In my freshmen year, I did not study hard or provide myself with the proper motivation to do well. I poorly in my science classes (which composed of two biology class, general chemistry, and Calc II - no Physics) and got a 2.5 GPA as a result. My non science classes were all B's and A's that year. I then switched from Biology to Physics and took the appropriate physics, electives, and upper-level math courses during my Sophomore and Junior year. I buckled down and literally only got A's in these class and expect to do so again this upcoming semester. Due to my first year, my current GPA is about a 3.50 and I expect it to rise to 3.53/3.54 or so in the next semester. I have good extracurriculars and about a year or so of lab experience.

    Do I stand a chance against all the other applicants who didn't have a terrible first year as I had? Will those initial bad grades prevent me from getting into a good (Not necessarily at all TOP, but good - a Grad school I can be happy and proud of attending) graduate school program, even if I did amazing on all of my physics classes?

    On that topic, what do physics graduate schools look for in a applicant? What would you say are the important qualities they look for and how I can demonstrate them? For instance, oftentimes, grad schools say that although one my not have as high a GPA as another student, it can be offset by other qualities. Is the required marginal change in these other qualities for a certain amount of GPA lower (relative to another applicant) very large i.e. having a 3.5 compared to a 3.6 requires a much larger amount of lab experience or standardized test score to compete? Even if my non-GPA qualities are good or excellent, realistically, are there "too" many people with similar non-GPA credentials and higher GPAs that, in reality, my (freshmen) GPA is the thing holding me back?

    Thank you all for your help. I really appreciate it. Any advice for me in general is also welcome.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 6, 2012 #2
    physics grad school is more competitive (by far) than that for almost any other science/engineering with the possible exception of EE and CS.
  4. Sep 7, 2012 #3
    Well, first off I'm not an expert on this sort of thing. Secondly, I'm in a similar situation.

    Probably going to be really tough to get into Harvard; it's tough whether you're a perfect student or not, but they've got more than enough excellent students to take up all of their spots.

    However, everything I know about graduate admissions profiles tells me that you've got a perfectly fine shot at a more ordinary school, although getting in is still hard for everybody.
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