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Questions regarding possibly transferring spring semester of my undergrad junior year

  1. Aug 18, 2011 #1
    (title continued and if/how this will effect my graduate school acceptance)

    I currently attend a small, private undergraduate college. By small, I mean ~ 2000 students for all four grades with me being the only physics major for my year (there are a few engineering students). This fall marks the beginning of my junior year.

    Now, I'm not that happy at my college for a few varied reasons, the more pressing ones being how my department is extremely small. With less than 10 physics majors in the whole college, and probably only about 20-30 if you include the engineers as well, the physics department is small, underfunded, and doesn't have a wide selection of classes (how could there be with only 3 professors).
    I'm worried about how this will affect my ability to get into a top notch graduate school.
    I am considering transferring to my state's university since it has a larger department and more specialized areas of research (and only costs half as much!).

    I have a few worries about that though.
    First, since I am the only physics major in my year, I have a really great relationship with my physics professors. They know who I am, and I'm not "lost in the face shuffle". By transferring in the spring, I will only have 3 semesters to build relationships with my new professors. Second, I'm worried that I won't be at the same level. This may be a pointless worry, but I'm nervous that if I switch, I'll be so much further behind than other physics majors. I try to take as many physics classes that my department offers (I even am taking extra classes to squeeze more in, but quite honestly, I just love being in school, so the more classes the better), but they really do not offer than many classes for higher levels. Mainly, the only courses offered are the introductory/classical physics, and then engineering and physics sort of smoosh together. I haven't taken any of the engineering orientated classes yet because my interest doesn't really lay in mechanical engineering or anything along that line. Beyond classical physics, I have only taken modern, particle physics (griffith's undergraduate level course), and I will be taking laser this fall. Will I be behind?
    I know I should be more involved in research, but my college doesn't do any! And if the department does any research, it's only available to seniors.
    Also, the degree I am earning is a BA, not a BS. Does this matter?

    I also have a few questions for graduate school. I try to do extracurricular activities, but I'm also busy with work. I have a part-time job, but I also have my own tutoring business (well, I haven't signed the LLC/DBA papers yet, but I've been operating under a different name) for a little over a year now that I operate during the school year to earn extra income. I also helped found and am part of a photography club, and I do two sports outside of college.
    I'm a commuter student, so basically everything I do is outside of my college. I'm more interested in building relationships that aren't going to fizzle after undergrad is over. Because I'm not involved with my college, will this effect me for getting into a graduate school? My college does not have a physics club, so I can't get involved with something like that. If I don't switch to the university, I am going to email the club they have to see if I can join there's (I don't know if that's allowed...)
    Is this enough extra curricular?

    As for my grades... I tanked freshman year due to some family problems. I averaged a 2.9 GPA for the year.
    Sophomore year, I winded up having a fall semester GPA of 3.5 and spring GPA of 3.7 bringing my overall GPA up to about a 3.25. I think I'll be able to raise my GPA up to a 3.5 by the time I graduate (hopefully!).
    For high school, I graduated as valedictorian. I also graduated at 16. (So, I'm going to be graduating undergrad two years younger than most people, will this have any weight in the graduate school selection?)
    Since I am a girl, people are always telling me that I will have an easier time getting accepted to graduate schools. As much as this annoys me (I feel like acceptance should be merit based, not gender or racial), is this true?

    I took the ACT in HS, managing a composite score of 26. I meant to redo it when I had the time, but I never did.

    I also will be doing an REU this summer (2012), and I am planning on taking the GRE this spring (2012).
    What should I aim to get on the GRE to have any hopes of being considered at a top notch graduate school.

    I know this is a lot of information and a lot of questions. I am really grateful to anyone who actually read all of this.
    I hope I was clear enough on my questions. Thank you :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2011 #2


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    Re: Questions regarding possibly transferring spring semester of my undergrad junior

    Most universities accepting transfer students require they spend 4 semesters at the school before they'll grant them a degree, so you'd probably end up being a semester behind if you transferred. But given the small number of physics classes you've taken, that might be a good thing to let you catch up a bit.

    Grad schools don't care about activities that aren't directly related to your major. You want them to think you'll be spending 60+ hours a week on your research and teaching for them, so don't let them think you have any other interests that might take up your time.

    No, graduating early and age don't matter, and neither does anything from high school. Only college grades. Admission depends on GPA, GRE and PGRE scores, letters of recommendation and research experience. With (relatively) low grades, few of the required courses, and no research, you really can't be aiming for a 'top' school (not that that really means anything for physics grad schools anyway). What you'll be looking for is a school that's doing the research you're interested in, where you'd be happy, and that might consider admitting you.
  4. Aug 18, 2011 #3
    Re: Questions regarding possibly transferring spring semester of my undergrad junior

    So I am behind? I thought so. But, I've also taken Computer Science courses along with the required math (I don't know if that still makes me so behind?)
    I've taken Computer Science 1 & 2 (C++), and this fall I am taking Data Structures and Algorithms, and as for math, I've taken Calc 1 & 2, and this fall Calc 3 and 3D Visualization (to go along with the Computer Science since that is my minor).

    Thank you for your advice.
  5. Aug 18, 2011 #4
    Re: Questions regarding possibly transferring spring semester of my undergrad junior

    Transfer asap. I was in a similar situation not long ago (small department, no research, unavailable
    classes, etc) and don't regret transferring for a
    second. Even if you spend more time at your second university, you will be way more prepared to tackle graduate studies and that includes research experience. Your programming knowledge is a great asset for a lab so don't be shy and ask a professor about giving you a shot. After all, the head of your research group will write you the most compelling rec letter.
  6. Aug 19, 2011 #5
    Re: Questions regarding possibly transferring spring semester of my undergrad junior

    It does matter for the transfer process, though. I'd say you're pretty much a shoe-in at any reasonably good school (not necessarily MIT or something, but somewhere like UT Austin would almost certainly accept you). I say transfer. You don't want to be in a school like that, and I'm confused why you even bothered going there in the first place.
  7. Aug 19, 2011 #6
    Re: Questions regarding possibly transferring spring semester of my undergrad junior

    My parents didn't want me dorming my first years in college so I had to pick a school w/i driving distance.

    Thanks for the advice guys! I've emailed the university (tried phoning but no one was in I guess) to set up a tour and to talk with the professors there.
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