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Requirements for Grad School

  1. Oct 30, 2011 #1
    Hey guys,

    I'm a physics major and in my freshman years. One of the things I keep hearing is how competitive grad schools can get. So, I ask you lot "What are the requirements to get into a grad school for physics"? Well, I mostly want to hear things other than a good GPA (which is obvious).

    Also, to study theoretical physics, which math courses are a MUST? In my university, physics majors take Calculus, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, Complex Analysis, Numerical Analysis and Fourier Analysis. Moreover, we get Group Theory, Tensor Analysis and Mathematical Physics in electives. (On contrary, can these topics be covered by merely self-study?).
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 30, 2011 #2
    I'm curious: what do you cover in "mathematical physics"?
  4. Oct 30, 2011 #3


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    The requirements are a bachelors in physics with a GPA of at least 3.0 and usually the GRE and physics GRE. To have a shot at some good programs, you'll need a higher GPA and some research experience. Look into working for someone at your school over the summer, and after that, other schools or national labs. It doesn't matter if it's not in the field you think you want to specialize in; any research experience helps. Top grad schools want students who have shown a great deal of skill or potential when it comes to doing original work. Remember, theoretical physics is a way of approaching physics, not a field of physics itself. Depending on the specific field you're interested in, taking computer science/programming classes might be more useful than a lot of math courses.
  5. Oct 30, 2011 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    I disagree somewhat with eri on the importance of research.

    If you are at a small teaching school with no research to speak of, that's not the end of the world. Grad schools understand this. That isn't to say it isn't a good idea to try and get some experience, perhaps during the summer, but it's not a deal-breaker. Where it becomes more problematic is at the big research universities: there the question will pop into everyone's mind "If he wants to get a research degree from us, why didn't he take advantage of his opportunities as an undergrad?"

    Second, I would say that a 3.0 knocks you out of the running pretty much everywhere. A B is for all intents and purposes the minimum passing grade in grad classes, which are harder than undergrad classes. You see the problem?

    Finally, letters of recommendation are extremely important. Obviously, research is a good source of letters. The deal-breakers are the ones that say "He got a B+ in my class" and little else. I can tell that; I have the transcript. If your professor could find nothing else positive to say, that is not good at all.
  6. Oct 30, 2011 #5


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    It's certainly true research isn't required to get into programs. But you're talking about earning a research degree - the biggest thing they'll be wondering is whether or not you're going to be able to do research, and if you'll be interested enough in it to bother. That's something you really should determine before heading off to earn a PhD, even in you're at a school where professors aren't doing much or any research themselves (which is hard to find these days - research is expected pretty much everywhere).
  7. Oct 31, 2011 #6
    Where I live and study (certainly not in USA and Europe), there isn't much to talk about when it comes to research. I'm quite sure about maintaining a very good GPA, I don't think that's a problem. Moreover, I've also heard that publications in journals helps a lot getting into grad schools. And thanks for your help guys. I'll definitely look into finding some scopes for research.
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