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Should I go to Graduate School?

  1. Dec 19, 2011 #1
    To help understand my dilema I'll give a little background about my bachelor studies:

    I decided to do my bachelors degree in Germany, and was totally unprepared for the level of rigour demanded of me. Even during the first year Lectures were typically on the graduate level (landau-lifschits, Jackson for electrodynamics etc). We often found solutions to our problem sets were taken from PHD qualifying exams. I was not used to this, coming from America and became really depressed at my lack of success in physics. To survive I gave up trying to understand theoretical physics as deeply as I wanted to, and focused simply on grades. I know this is not the correct attitude to have, and it depressed me to “settle” with myself like this, but I realized at that point that I would never be the best physicist in the world, and now I had the choice between being a mediocre physicist or no physicist at all. So I decided to put my head down and keep going.

    Now my degree will soon be finished. I have a GPA of roughly 3.0 – 3.2 which seems to be the lower limit for most graduate schools (but in Germany is not as bad, the grading here is a little more strict). I have a couple of recommendation letters that will be positive. My professors watched me struggle initially and saw that I did not quit and tried my best to make up the gaps in my knowledge. They said they will focus on that aspect in my letters, not simply my final grades.

    My two questions are now:

    1) Are these qualifications enough to be admitted to a graduate program back in the United States or Canada. What schools should I be aiming at applying to?

    2) More importantly, is it even worth it to go on in physics at this point when I don’t find physics “fun” anymore. When I first entered physics I was really excited about everything I was going to learn. But now, for me it’s work. I do love looking back on my progress though, and seeing everything I’ve learned and accomplished.
    If I do go to grad school, it will most likely be more of me just furiously working away, while others seem to accomplish much more with less effort. I have no doubt that I could manage the stresses and work load of graduate school after completing this program in Germany, but perhaps I have the wrong attitude about it all and my energy should be focused elsewhere. I’m in the prime of my life and good at a lot of things - physics is perhaps the thing that I’m the worst at. Unfortunately I find it the only subject worthy of intellectual attention. Nevertheless, I am drawn to physics by a sense of duty rather than an aching need to go to class every day.

    I know this was long, thanks for reading my rants and any feedback is greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
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