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Returning to Grad School after time off

  1. Feb 5, 2009 #1

    enc

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    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
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 5, 2009 #2

    Choppy

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    Re: Returning to Grad School after time "off"

    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.
     
  4. Feb 5, 2009 #3
    Re: Returning to Grad School after time "off"

    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.
     
  5. Feb 5, 2009 #4
    Re: Returning to Grad School after time "off"

    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.
     
  6. Feb 5, 2009 #5

    j93

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    Re: Returning to Grad School after time "off"

    In my experience the bar is not set very high by most graduate TA's
     
  7. Feb 5, 2009 #6

    Gokul43201

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    Re: Returning to Grad School after time "off"

    Not frowned upon at all. Doing one quarter/semester of senior year EM + QM + CM might not be a bad idea at all.

    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.

    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.
     
  8. Feb 5, 2009 #7
    Re: Returning to Grad School after time "off"

    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.
     
  9. Feb 6, 2009 #8

    enc

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    Re: Returning to Grad School after time "off"

    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
     
  10. Feb 7, 2009 #9

    JasonRox

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    Re: Returning to Grad School after time "off"

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