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Admissions Physics PhD chances?

  1. Mar 7, 2017 #1
    Sorry guys going to be a long post.

    I joined the military right out of high school and was in Iraq about 7 months after graduation. This was in 2007, I suffered 3 Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and the military was not screening or concerned about the affects at this time. After I returned home in 2008 I enrolled in college and did horrible, I could not focus on the material or remember anything for tests. If I had 10 pages of notes to study I might of well had 1,000. So needless to say my GPA after 3 semesters was below a 1.0. After My second deployment to Iraq in 2011 I was finally screened and diagnosed with TBI (I have six dead spots on my brain, one is on my hippocampus hence the memory problems). I received treatment at Walter Reed for a few months (basically training my brain to use additional parts for memory) and reenrolled in school. Since I received treatment I am a little over halfway through with my BS in physics, I currently have a 3.86 GPA , not counting the first school (I have made all A's and A-'s except for one B). I know when I apply to Phd programs I will have to submit all transcripts and that will pull down my GPA tremendously. I was wondering what suggestions you had that could help me gain admissions somewhere.

    Sidenote: I now live in California and would like to attend a program that is close to homes since I am married with two kids. However I am well aware of the intense competition.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2017 #2


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    It seems like all the evidence suggests that this was a problem in the past that's been dealt with effectively. From that perspective, I don't see there being any problems. Remember that different schools calculate averages in different ways though. Some may be more automated than others and weighting systems will vary. In my experience (Canadian) the weighting tends to favour the more recent or upper level coursework.

    When it comes time to apply to graduate school, take some time to do some research into how your specific GPA will be calculated. If necessary, you might want to contact whatever office handles admissions and figure out how they handle such extenuating circumstances.
  4. Mar 7, 2017 #3
    Thanks for the advice.
  5. Mar 8, 2017 #4
    Some applications will have a section on their application where you can explain your poor performance.
  6. Mar 8, 2017 #5
    Thank you for your service to our country.

    Some subject areas are harder to relearn after TBI than others. My wife and I have both published papers in TBI as well as served as teachers. We've had some experience working with students recovered or recovering from TBI. Our experience has been that different areas of academic performance may be impacted differently. You should not assume that recovery of one area of your academic abilities implies recovery of other areas.

    One area of skill that we've seen return more slowly than memory in some students is mathematical abilities. Assuming you were good enough in math to begin a program in Physics in the first place, I would revisit that question before proceeding with too much confidence. One tool I like to use for that is the ALEKS assessment in precalculus. You should be able to complete 90% of the ALEKS precalculus pie in a couple of weeks working about an hour per day. If you can't I wouldn't worry too much, just keep working to regain skills until you have 90-100% of the pie completed.

    If it seems impossible to you recall enough precalculus skills to proceed, I would drop back to whatever earlier subject you can make progress on (Algebra 2, Geometry, or Algebra 1). If you are unable to make steady progress in any of the math courses, pursuing degrees in physics may be ill advised until you can. High school math really is critical to success in physics.
  7. Mar 8, 2017 #6
    How do you think the past will effect my chances though?
  8. Mar 8, 2017 #7
    Thanks for your concern I can tell that Math does not come as easy to me as it once did. However I'm able to do it, I'm currently in cal 2 and I have made all A's in college algebra through cal1(I just have to put way more effort into it than I did in high school).
  9. Mar 8, 2017 #8
    Having worked with math students coming back from TBI, I know the struggle is real. Keep at it. You are not defeated until you give up. Calc2 and 3 are specialties of mine (former USAFA Math Prof, though PhD is in Physics). Please contact me via PM if I may be of assistance to you. I'm happy to Skype or make homework help videos to assist you the best I can. (I have a set-up where I often assist students at a distance with Skype and a white board. I've also made hundreds of homework help videos.) Serving those who have fought for our freedom is a very high priority for me.
  10. Mar 8, 2017 #9
    Thanks, I may have to take you up on that. Currently I go to the tutor lab in the library after lecture so I can receive guidance if needed for homework, but the tutor that has helped me the most graduates after this semester so I may have to take you up on your offer in the fall.
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