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Possible alternative for getting into grad school

  1. Mar 19, 2013 #1
    My undergraduate degree will be in mathematics and my GPA will be 2.7x when I graduate in May. I only applied to one graduate school and got rejected (only applied to one because its not a top tier school and my living situation is really good for my wife). Not a terrible shocker considering I applied to a physics program and have no physics history except for a non calculus based physics class. I suffered from the laziness a lot of people have at the undergraduate level and didn't try in a lot of my classes except for those that interest me. My ambitious plan is to self teach physics and do good on the physics GRE. I feel this will show my passion for physics and show I'm not lazy when it comes to physics. Its late and just want some tentative answers before I make phone calls tomorrow.

    Edit: This school doesn't require the physics GRE.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 19, 2013 #2
    Er..... why do you think you could get into a physics graduate program if you've only taken one physics course?
  4. Mar 20, 2013 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Are you applying to physics grad school or math grad school. I'm having trouble reconciling this with your other thread.
  5. Mar 20, 2013 #4


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    Most physics graduate programs expect you to have completed an undergraduate degree in physics, or a degree that has otherwise covered the core physics courses such as engineering physics, physical chemistry, astronomy, applied mathematics with a physics minor, etc. Self study won't cut it for most admissions committees because (a) there is no quantitative means of comparing you with your peers, and (b) they have to take you at your word that you've covered sufficient material.

    Then there's the issue of the 2.7 GPA and undergrad "laziness" that you mentioned. Graduate school is more difficult than undergrad. If you struggled at the undergraduate level, what makes you think things will be any different at the graduate level?

    That said, it sounds like you're asking for alternative courses of action for someone who is interested in physics, but doesn't qualify for graduate school. If you really see yourself as going into physics, studying it at an advanced level, then you should enroll in some undergraduate physics courses and see what it's really all about.

    Otherwise, perhaps you just want to become an intelligent amateur. There's nothing wrong with that. Some people are perfectly capable of running experiments in their basements. Many amateur astronomers have made significant contributions to the field. Read. Tinker. Enjoy.
  6. Mar 20, 2013 #5
    If you had the choice between a student who claimed he self-studied physics and who did alright on the GRE and a student who passed formal classes and perhaps did some undergrad research, then who would you choose?? That is basically the choice that the committee's have. There is certainly no lack of applicants.

    And then there is the issue of a 2.7 GPA. This is very, very, very low. You absolutely need to increase this GPA until you have a 3.0 GPA or higher. And even that is pretty low.
  7. Mar 20, 2013 #6


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    Do "good" on your Physics GRE first and then we'll talk. Otherwise, everything else is based on the assumption that you will be able to perform well on the GRE, which is NOT a given.

    Frankly, I have doubts that you will, but you're welcome to prove me wrong.

    I was going to suggest that you pick a school that only offers a Masters degree in physics. Such schools may have a more forgiving criteria for admission, and may also allow you time to catch up on undergrad physics that you need. However, after reading that you had only ONE physics course, and at the intro level, I think even those schools may not admit you into their program. I mean, how are you going to catch up and pass the qualifier even at that level in just 2 years?

  8. Mar 20, 2013 #7
    I do not mean to curb your enthusiasm; I just want to say honestly that you have to be more realistic about your plan to pursue a graduate degree in Physics. As far as I am concerned, upper-level Physics, like other disciplines, requires a high level of abstract thinking coupled with proficient commands of Advanced Calculus, Differential Equations, Real Analysis, and so on. I assume that since you're going to graduate with a degree in math this year, you have taken all these courses. However, to be frank, your GPA is not high enough. You said also that you've taken (I guess) a General Education physics course, but I believe the rigorousness of this course is nothing compared to that of advanced physics. So even if you're admitted to the program, I think you will have a really hard time catching up with the class materials, let alone do independent research. Granted that a superb score in the GRE Subject Test in Physics may offset your GPA somehow and grant you admission, but again there is no guarantee that you will succeed in the program once you get inside it.

    Please consider my recommendations with a grain of salt :)
  9. Mar 20, 2013 #8
    Even with a good GRE score, your chances are low. Most colleges, if not all, require a 3.0 for admission. It is cumbersome for the department to accept a student below this minimum. It is far easier to accept a student with a physics degree, 3.0+ GPA, and research experience; there are plenty of applicants with these stats. If you really want to go to graduate school for physics, you should get a degree in physics.
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