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Should I re-do the BS in physics or get an MS?

  1. Sep 30, 2014 #1
    I have good research and recommendations, and will probably have a good PGRE as well (at least according to what my practice exams have told me), but my GPA is not that great, at a 3.4. I know that the GPA alone makes me uncompetitive for the top schools. I'm not sure if that would be made up even with a 900+ on the PGRE.

    So if I want to make up for the GPA, the best course is to either redo the BS or get an MS. The advantages of doing the MS is that these are obviously graduate courses, so I would be able to show that I can handle graduate work. Plus, if I change my plans and decide not to do a PhD, I can get a job after the MS, especially if it's a more applied field (I think; don't quote me on that). However, the GPA received in MS degrees isn't taken as seriously by the PhD admissions because they are curved higher.

    If I redo the BS, a high GPA in it would be taken more seriously than a high GPA in the MS.

    I am aware that there can be great professors and labs at schools that are otherwise not ranked well, but it's still in my best interests to go to a top one. I'm also not concerned that I will be at least in my early 30's when I get the PhD. I'm not some entitled child who wishes to simply be handed acceptance to a top school, but I do want to know if the doors of MIT and the likes of it are closed forever to me or if my crime of a low GPA can be forgiven by doing one of those two things.

    I'm also not going to go do the BS or MS right away; I'll take some time to figure out what I've done wrong and amend my ways to do well the next time around.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 30, 2014 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    This sounds a bit on the dramatic side.

    If you think you can be a physicist, your goals can be reached just as well at a good state school as an Ivy. Going backward to try and get into an Ivy will be perceived as taking a step backwards.
     
  4. Oct 1, 2014 #3
    Lol yeah, I can get quite dramatic sometimes.

    By the top schools I did mean the top publics as well like Berkeley or Illinois.

    That's a good point. Gotta think forward. So maybe a Master's is a better stepping stone.
     
  5. Oct 1, 2014 #4

    Choppy

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    I think you're making decisions based on some false assumptions.

    Why is that? Unfortunately I think a lot of people are fooled into thinking this way - that somehow going to a school that's ranked well by some external system will bestow some magical advantages on them in academic circles. Even if it turns out there is some kind of statistical advantage, it pales in comparison to other much more important factors such as: the supervisor you end up with, how well you learn from that supervisor, your personal productivity (and all factors that relate to this), and the topic of your PhD project. Worrying about the rank of the school that you get into is a lot like worrying about the shoes that you wear on a first date - there might be a game killer on the bad side of the spectrum, but the best shoes is the world aren't going to make a lick of difference if everything else about the date sucks.

    It's important to focus on the particular topics/projects of interest to you, weigh in your personal strengths, and make the best decision you can based on the factors that are most important to you.


    I don't know about this. Different schools have different systems for weighting GPAs, but in general, a 4.0 in graduate level E&M trumps a 4.0 in undergraduate E&M.


    With respect to your initial question, really it comes down to re-doing something you've already done (or possibly branching out) or taking on a new challenge. If I were on a committee and comparing one guy who raised his mark from a 3.4 to say a 3.8 in a course by taking it a second time against another guy who got a 3.4 and got a 3.6 in a graduate level class, I'd probably pick the second guy because there's a difference between improving yourself and spending a year of your life trying to get things perfect.
     
  6. Oct 1, 2014 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Drat. You mean the bowling shoes weren't the best idea?

    As far as a Masters as a stepping stone, in the US you can get a Masters at one institution and apply to another for a PhD. But when you get to that second institution expect to start from square one. This just postpones the backwards step.
     
  7. Oct 1, 2014 #6

    symbolipoint

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    "Should I re-do the BS in physics or get an MS?"

    How would you "re-do" your B.S. in Physics? The degree was already granted, and imaginably all of the courses transfer. Your new institution may not allow you to choose BS in Physics again. Other options should be possible less than MS in Physics, as reconditioning yourself to enter MS program in Physics.
     
  8. Oct 1, 2014 #7

    e.bar.goum

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    What everyone else has been saying, and also, can you imagine doing first year courses again, after completing 4 years of university? I wouldn't do it if I were paid.

    Doing another BS in the same subject seems like an incredibly large waste of time and money.
     
  9. Oct 1, 2014 #8

    Choppy

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    He's probably talking about taking a year's worth of additional senior undergraduate courses - either redoing ones that have already been taken or taking some new ones to boost his GPA.

    Another bullet under the con side of this course of action is that it could easily backfire. Unless you have identified and corrected a very significant problem with your approach to your studies, there's a good chance that you could end up with a GPA that doesn't move all that much, or worse, moves backwards.
     
  10. Oct 2, 2014 #9

    symbolipoint

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    One way of getting back in shape could be "open university" or "university extension" attendance.
     
  11. Oct 2, 2014 #10
    I doubt that's the case across the board. With a masters you've already done the relevant course work, unless some of your course credits don't transfer there's no need to start from square one minus the taking of the qualification exam and starting up research with a new supervisor.
     
  12. Oct 2, 2014 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    It's probably not true everywhere, which is why I said "expect". Maybe you'll get lucky.

    There are two reasons why one should expect this. One is that universities have residency requirements, and programs are usually set up so that these requirements are met by classwork. At many places, thesis research does not count for residency. The other is that graduate classes are small and not offered every term, so there tends to be a pipeline. Coming in to a place where the course sequence doesn't line up puts the school in a bind, and the easiest way to solve the problem - and the residency one at the same time - just to start everyone at the same spot.
     
  13. Oct 2, 2014 #12

    analogdesign

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    That is certainly true in Electrical Engineering. At my school (and everything I've seen about other schools is similar) people who started the PhD program with an MS from another institution took about the same amount of time to finish as those who started with a BS.
     
  14. Oct 2, 2014 #13

    Rocket50

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    Going back to redo your BS will likely be a waste of time. You also have to note that the resources available at a good school aren't too worse then the ones available at an amazing one.
     
  15. Oct 7, 2014 #14
    Doesn't seem like a bad deal to me, as long as I can get in. I got all my life. Those classes would be way easier anyways the second time around.

    So I'm going to work, pay off the debt (don't have much) and save up some money, then go back for a MS. Then I'll aim for a PhD from there.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2014
  16. Oct 7, 2014 #15

    eri

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    Not many institutions will accept you for a second bachelors degree, and I don't know of any that would allow you to redo the same major. You can't just retake all those courses. You can't retake a class you earned a C or higher in. Any grad school would see that as a huge waste of your time. It's not about how many A's vs B's you have. You're trying to convince them you can earn a PhD in the subject and make them look good through your research. You're far better off doing a masters degree and trying to get published.
     
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