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Admissions Possible to get into a Masters or PhD program with some C's?

  • Thread starter Chris16
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I am currently a double major pursuing a double major in BS mechanical engineering and a BS in applied physics, also two certificates in coding and lab instrumentation. I work as an engineering intern while going to school full time and have had research experience with a professor working on a cryostat for a semester and working at CERN for a summer. Also I am going back to CERN for more research this summer. Now these are just my "good traits". The only things I would put on my academic record, however... I have C's (*starts crying internally*). I have 4 C+, 1 C, and 3 C- (1 in art, 1 in eng., 1 in physics) with an overall gpa of 3.15. I have taken 136 units total and have another 33 to go. I can either A) accept the courses I have now and really try in the next two semesters or B) take an extra semester and make up the 3 C-'s ( currently raise my gpa about 0.15).

I talked to a professor and he thinks I should still apply and I should get in somewhere. Just not the top 10 schools in the country. I am strongly considering schools in Europe such as Delft University (#1), Lancaster University, University of Hull, Kings College, University of Munich. Also there is a chance I can get into Stanford because my mentor at CERN is a professor there and seems to like me (she gave me a present on my last day there).

Maybe I am worrying for nothing or I need to adjust expectations. Any words of encouragement or advice would be extremely helpful :)
 

symbolipoint

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I'm not any kind of expert on this... but can you get at least two supervisors or someone's higher-up's letters of recommendation? If so, good; otherwise, maybe your goal is to get a job after undergraduate degree.
 

Vanadium 50

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Well,. eight C's is more "kind of a lot" than "some". In graduate school, a C is considered failing - and grad school classes are harder. Also, a 3.0 is the usual minimum to stay in grad school, and a 3.15 is close to that edge. And like I said, grad school is harder.

I'm not going to second-guess your advisor, but I think you need to seriously think about why you are applying to top tier schools, especially in light of his advice. I think you also need to seriously consider if you have adequate preparation for grad school Those C's didn't just sprout up like mushrooms. They are there because you didn't demonstrably learn the material.
 

StatGuy2000

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Well,. eight C's is more "kind of a lot" than "some". In graduate school, a C is considered failing - and grad school classes are harder. Also, a 3.0 is the usual minimum to stay in grad school, and a 3.15 is close to that edge. And like I said, grad school is harder.

I'm not going to second-guess your advisor, but I think you need to seriously think about why you are applying to top tier schools, especially in light of his advice. I think you also need to seriously consider if you have adequate preparation for grad school Those C's didn't just sprout up like mushrooms. They are there because you didn't demonstrably learn the material.
@Vanadium 50 ,I think it's worth taking into consideration the following:

1. In which courses did the OP earned the C grades. I think both you and I agree that a C- in art is not particularly that important (as it likely is an elective course and not pertinent to graduate studies in either engineering or physics). However, a C- in an engineering or physics course is potentially much more serious (not to mention in which courses the OP earned the other 5 C grades).

2. When did the OP earn those C grades. If those C grades were based on 1st or even 2nd year courses, then even though the overall GPA may be impacted, the fact that the OP had earned much higher grades in later years may well demonstrate that the OP has learned the material to a sufficient level that he/she can qualify for further graduate studies (I would assume that the OP's professor may well have made that assessment).

However, if the OP earned C grades on senior level courses (3rd or 4th year courses) on key material in engineering and/or physics, well that's a different matter entirely.
 

russ_watters

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Why do you have yourself so heavily loaded? Could that be affecting your grades...?
 

Vanadium 50

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However, if the OP earned C grades on senior level courses (3rd or 4th year courses) on key material in engineering and/or physics, well that's a different matter entirely.
Well, 8 is still a lot. Two of the C-'s are in technical subjects, and a 3.15 after 136 units is not very high. While I agree that a couple C's early on in non-technical subjects is a better place to be, that seems not to be the situation at hand.
 

StatGuy2000

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Well, 8 is still a lot. Two of the C-'s are in technical subjects, and a 3.15 after 136 units is not very high. While I agree that a couple C's early on in non-technical subjects is a better place to be, that seems not to be the situation at hand.
I agree that a 3.15 after 136 units is not very high.

At the same time, the OP didn't specify whether that 3.15 GPA is based on the overall cumulative GPA, as opposed to the subject matter GPA or the GPA in the senior years of his/her double degree. If the C grades in the technical subjects were based on first or second year courses, but the OP demonstrated significant improvement in his/her grades (say, earning consistent A's in 3rd or 4th year courses), that is a very different situation than earning C grades in his/her final years of the degree. Because the former demonstrates that he/she took the time to strengthen his/her weaknesses and showed understanding the material at the level needed for further graduate studies, whereas the latter situation demonstrates weakness in the fundamental subject at hand.
 

Vanadium 50

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The problem with that increasingly complex hypothetical is that you need a good chunk of A's to balance out a C-. And it's possible by GPA he didn't mean "GPA" but meant "GPA for some subset of years and/or courses" but that wouldn't be my default interpretation. I'd instead take what he said at face value.

But it's kind of moot since this was just a drive-by posting. The OP hasn't been here since he posted, so we all have just been wasting our time.
 
Well seeing your GPA is above 3.0 (which is the minimum required for grad school), you could compensate it by getting very strong recommendation letters and highlighting your experience in CERN (which is not very common at bachelor's level), so I think you should give it a try if you're interested. After all, you've got nothing to lose and everything to win, you could both apply to those schools. This is particulary true if the C's you got where in your first years or in very specific subjects (I finished with a 3.9 GPA while having a C+ in my 2nd year statistics course).

Worst case scenario, you can apply for a Master's to recover your GPA (at least 3.5) and then apply for a PhD.
 
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Your best shot is to:
1.) Absolutely ace the Physics GRE (as in near-perfect score). This will help to cover for your less optimal grades since it will show that you've mastered the basics.

2.) Get a letter of recommendation from a professor who can vouch that your grades aren't reflective of your true abilities

3.) If you can afford to delay graduation for a year, take an extra year to do some research and maybe retake some upper level physics courses.

4.) Apply to lower-tier universities for a Master's degree. If you do well in your Master's then no one will care about your undergraduate grades when you apply for a PhD spot.

And most importantly by far:

5.) Contact someone in a department you plan to apply to ahead of time to explain your situation and discuss your options. At the very least, you'll save money on application fees. You might for instance be able to arrange a situation in which you can take a single course for a chance to demonstrate that you can handle graduate-level work.

Unless your academic profile is truly feeble (as in, multiple Fs, or you did something horrible like set fire to a lab or plagiarize a paper) then you shouldn't have any trouble getting accepted if you follow those action items. Getting financial aid for your first year might be a struggle, however, but at least you'll be able to get in.

Source: Got into graduate school with an absolutely dismal 2.35 GPA and nearly straight C's in upper-level courses because I had a lot going on in my personal life. Got my s*** together in my first semester of grad school and got straight A's and doing fine now. It's possible, you just have to be smart about it.
 

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