Returning to Grad School after time off

In summary, returning to grad school after time off is a good idea. It can be easy to take remedial classes to ease into the rigors of graduate school, but it's not likely to set your long-term schedule back significantly. Research interests can vary from school to school, but if you're not sure what you want to do, discussing your interests with people in the department may help. Being a good teaching assistant is important, and having experience in a variety of fields will help."
  • #1
enc
3
0
Returning to Grad School after time "off"

Hi everyone,

I graduated with a B.S. in physics in 2007, after which I became a high school teacher. I am thinking about returning to grad school in physics this fall. It'd be great to hear about the experiences of someone who was in a similar situation. I have a couple of specific questions:

* Are remedial classes looked down upon? I'm reasonably confident about my ability to remember much of my undergraduate work, but am wondering if I'm ready to dive directly into graduate-level courses. (I think E&M and Classical Mechanics would be alright, but Quantum worries me a little.)

* How much longer can I expect to be in graduate school if I choose to take remedial classes? Does remediation set your long-term schedule back significantly?

* How certain do I need to be about my research interests when I enter grad school? I have experience in a somewhat eclectic bunch of areas and am not sure what I'd like to do in the long term yet.

Any other information would be helpful as well. I've read several guides about what to expect in grad school, but am wondering if there are any other surprises in store since I've been away from college-level physics for a while.

Thanks,

e
 
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  • #2


I don't think you've been out of the game for that long that it should be a concern to you. And since you've been teaching, albeit at high school, you've probably at least been thinking about physics on a conceptual level - which is better than if you would have ignored it completely for the last two years.

I don't think remedial classes are looked down upon. Lots of grad students have to take a senior undergraduate class, especially if they are getting into an area of speacilization not offered by their former school. They can add time to your overall studies as compared to other students who don't have to take them. I doubt that it would really add that much time though - maybe a month or so. I say its not likely to make a difference because time to graduate has a resolution of, at best, semmesters.

As for not knowing what exact field you want to get into, I think this can vary from school to school. Where I did my graduate school you didn't have to make a decision until you had at least your first semmester of course work under your belt. The down side is that you can be seen as less competative for a position in the first place if you're not sure what you want to do.

Maybe you should contact people in the departments you're interested in and discuss opportunities for graduate work.
 
  • #3


As a plus, your teaching experience may be looked on favorably. It should be an indication that you'll be a good teaching assistant... which will be critical if you need some time to find a research group and can get research assistant status.
 
  • #4


What she said. There's a grad student in my year who taught high school for a year before grad school. He's easily the best TA in the department.
 
  • #5


In my experience the bar is not set very high by most graduate TA's
 
  • #6


enc said:
* Are remedial classes looked down upon? I'm reasonably confident about my ability to remember much of my undergraduate work, but am wondering if I'm ready to dive directly into graduate-level courses. (I think E&M and Classical Mechanics would be alright, but Quantum worries me a little.)
Not frowned upon at all. Doing one quarter/semester of senior year EM + QM + CM might not be a bad idea at all.

* How much longer can I expect to be in graduate school if I choose to take remedial classes? Does remediation set your long-term schedule back significantly?
That depends somewhat on the school, and how the course sequences are structured and offered. In the worst case, it will be an extra year, which is time that can be gainfully optimized by spending spare hours with one or more research groups - more than one if you are not completely happy with the first - to see where you might fit in best.

* How certain do I need to be about my research interests when I enter grad school? I have experience in a somewhat eclectic bunch of areas and am not sure what I'd like to do in the long term yet.
There are positives and negatives to wanting to exactly XyZ work. The positive is that you show the admissions committee that grad school is not something you just thought about for the first time yesterday. The negative, of course, is that, more likely than not, you won't end up doing exactly the XyZ that you so badly wanted to.
 
  • #7


Don't worry about it. I had 20+ years off between undergrad and graduate school. I did ease back in by taking only one class at first. In any case a mathematical methods class, a classical mechanics class and a grad EM class and/or a TA ship are plenty of work all on their own - you don't have to dive into QM the first thing.
 
  • #8


Thanks everyone. This makes me feel a bit more at ease. I have a couple of visits/interviews scheduled in the coming weeks, so we'll see how they go.

e
 
  • #9


j93 said:
In my experience the bar is not set very high by most graduate TA's

Haha, I find to be true also. I've seen graduate TA's not understand the material of their own course.
 

Related to Returning to Grad School after time off

1. What is the process for returning to grad school after taking time off?

The process for returning to grad school after time off will vary depending on the specific institution and program you are enrolled in. Generally, you will need to contact your academic advisor or the admissions office to discuss your plans for returning. They will likely have you fill out a re-enrollment form and provide any necessary documentation, such as transcripts or letters of recommendation. You may also need to reapply to the program if you have been away for an extended period of time.

2. Will I need to retake any classes or exams if I return to grad school after a break?

This will also depend on your specific program and institution. If it has been a short break, you may not need to retake any classes or exams. However, if it has been a significant amount of time, you may need to retake certain courses or exams to refresh your knowledge and skills. It is best to check with your academic advisor to see if there are any specific requirements for returning students.

3. Can I receive financial aid or scholarships if I return to grad school after taking time off?

Yes, you may still be eligible for financial aid or scholarships if you return to grad school after a break. However, it is important to check with your school's financial aid office to see if there are any specific requirements or deadlines for returning students. You may also need to reapply for financial aid or scholarships if you have been away for a significant amount of time.

4. How can I balance returning to grad school with work and other responsibilities?

Returning to grad school after a break can be challenging, especially if you have work and other responsibilities. It is important to create a schedule that allows you to balance your schoolwork with your other commitments. You may also want to consider part-time or online programs that offer more flexibility. Additionally, don't be afraid to reach out to your professors or academic advisor for support and guidance.

5. Will my previous coursework and credits still count if I return to grad school?

In most cases, your previous coursework and credits will still count if you return to grad school after a break. However, it is important to check with your academic advisor to ensure that your credits will transfer and count towards your degree. Some institutions may have restrictions on how long credits from previous coursework can be applied, so it is best to confirm this before re-enrolling.

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