1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Poor grades - graduate school

  1. Aug 20, 2012 #1

    I am entering my last year of the undergraduate physics degree program at a small school called Delaware State University.

    I initially enrolled in University of Delaware and after 3 years I was dismissed for the 3rd time with a 1.9x GPA. After refocusing I transferred to the previously mentioned university. I retook many classes and my current GPA is a 3.85. I expect it to stay above 3.80 upon graduation. I have taken the revised GRE and scored 156/163 on the verbal and quantitative, respectively. I have so far score A in all of my upper level physics classes. I will be taking the GRE physics in October (I realize this plays a roll in my question).

    I have had wonderful opportunity to do research at my new school, my current prof was a postdoc at several very strong universities in USA (Caltech, MIT). I can get a recommendation letter from him.

    That is the background information, my question is..

    Will the first 3-4 years of poor grades hurt my chances of being admitted to a PhD program (say, back at the University of Delaware). I am applying to several schools such as UConn and Maryland.. Some in the UK. I just want to know if this is reasonable or if I should expect to stay here for a PhD as admission is not competitive. Lastly, i feel compelled to ask about the chance of being admitted to one of the top prgrams such as MIT... Thusfar i have considered these schools to be a wasted application fee. Thanks ahead of time.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 20, 2012 #2


    User Avatar

    Bottom line is that yes, it will affect your candidacy. How much depends on too many factors to give you a definitive answer, but top programs are probably out of the question even if you had maintained a 3.8 GPA throughout your 4 years.
  4. Aug 20, 2012 #3
    Thanks for your answer. I agree with you. I just do not know how far down the list I should begin looking.
  5. Aug 20, 2012 #4
    Pretty low probably... Getting published would really help. Just make sure to apply to the bottom of the list as well as some schools you really want.
  6. Aug 20, 2012 #5
    I have published once as a secondary author and another is to be submitted. Also secondary.
  7. Aug 20, 2012 #6
    I have read posts from 2 forumers here that also did poorly early in their degree and were dismissed, later attended a different school and after having substantially improved their GPA (such as you've done), managed to get into good grad schools. Publishing is an extra point in your favor. I don't think your chances are bad at all, just don't limit yourself to top 15 schools because everyone with a half-decent application wants to get in, when schools only have funds for 10-30 new students, if not less.

    Look into thegradcafe and physicsgreforums admissions results pages and AIP's physics grad program roster (and the data at gradschoolshopper) to get a feel of the applied:accepted ratio and the stats of those admitted.
  8. Aug 21, 2012 #7
    I followed this route nearly to the letter - if anything, perhaps even more extreme. When I was dismissed from the University of Houston, my GPA was something along the lines of a 1.7. I took three years off, and then went back to finish up at Sam Houston State University. I spent two years there, earned a GPA of 3.97, and was accepted into the graduate physics program at Wake Forest University (where I just recently finished my PhD, and am now starting down the postdoc route).

    So, it's entirely possible. Don't plan on getting into Princeton or MIT, but don't convince yourself it's impossible, either.

    Two caveats, though: first is that, coming from a small (and presumably less rigorous) school into a graduate physics program, expect yourself to be unprepared for graduate level course work. My first year at Wake Forest was hard, and there were a couple of graduate courses I was woefully unprepared for; Stat. Mech. in particular, which I wound up taking twice because I didn't have a clue what was going on the first time around.

    The second caveat is that, if you plan on staying in academia (which I am trying), you will be at a competitive disadvantage. Pedigree matters in the academic job market, and the only way to make up for it is publications, so publish your rear off (and any other body part that you think might make good copy).
  9. Aug 21, 2012 #8
    I added the line about these schools at the end as curiosity. I am not aiming for a top 10 program. I appreciate all of the advice, and the links provided have given me a lot of information.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook