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Thinking about returning for my degree, I have some questions

  1. Oct 18, 2009 #1
    Sorry if this is something of a re-post.

    Let’s start out with a little background information, shall we? ?

    I attended an out-of-state university and did piss poor (1.1 gpa with over 60 credits) for two years before being kicked to the curb. During my stay I switched majors about three times trying to find a direction for my life and was generally out of sorts with reality. The only classes that I could claim to have any type of passion for were math and physics. I finished Calc I and II with a C and took Statistical Thermodynamics, getting a D, while attending less than half the lectures and only studying a few hours before each exam. After getting kicked out I moved home for a while and have been doing odd job since the economy went bust (I’m currently working as a farm hand). Over the last few months I’ve been seriously thinking about how I want to spend my future, realizing that working on a farm isn’t what I dream of every night or think about when I wake up. I don’t want to half-*** it this time and I took a long time to decide that physics, specifically materials science and nano-technology, is what I want get into. The local community college here offers math up to Linear Algebra and Differential Equations, and I’ll be able to get my Associates in Mathematics within the year (including credits I already have). There is also a feed-in program for my in-state University (University of Maryland, College Park, which is pretty kick-butt for physics from what I hear) that I’m eligible for if I get all A’s. My acceptance to College Park isn’t guaranteed because of my bad grades, but advisors there have told me that I’ll likely pass muster if I do well at the community college.

    What I’d really like to know is:

    Is it even worth it to try for a physics degree after f-ing up so bad?

    Whether 23 is too old to go back for an under-grad degree in such an intense field knowing that I need to follow up with a graduate degree for it to be worth anything.

    Will I even get into a graduate program given my history, assuming that I’m able to finish my under-grad?

    What will future employers think of my gap in education? Will I only find jobs in podunk nowhere for dirt pay?

    How hard will it be to get back into the swing of things after a 2 year hiatus?

    Any advice if I do decide to go back?

     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2009 #2

    Is it even worth it to try for a physics degree after f-ing up so bad?


    Definitely! Is there really any downside?

    Whether 23 is too old to go back for an under-grad degree in such an intense field knowing that I need to follow up with a graduate degree for it to be worth anything.

    I am 23 and have about two more years left in my program, nobody is going to care.

    Will I even get into a graduate program given my history, assuming that I’m able to finish my under-grad?

    I don't know, I have a rather poor history myself back when I started college at 18 I tooked f'ed up. I do know that I have since refined my interests and became passionate about it and I will try to address that specifically in any future applications. You probably aren't the same person as you were then, if you can prove yourself with the grads, I think, hope, both of us have a good chance of getting into a pretty good grad school.

    What will future employers think of my gap in education? Will I only find jobs in podunk nowhere for dirt pay?

    I don't they they would really know if you don't tell them. A few places ask for transcripts but they seem to be rare.


    How hard will it be to get back into the swing of things after a 2 year hiatus?

    A little, depending on how much you've forgot and which sorts of classes you are taking, but since you are starting in CC and doing some easier stuff seem like you'll be ok.
    Any advice if I do decide to go back?


    Good luck I think you will be fine if you are really committed to doing well and working hard. Listen, you aren't going to MIT but I think you will be on a pretty even playing field with your peers if you get top marks from here on out.
     
  4. Oct 21, 2009 #3
    If you want to do it, go for it.

    Again, that's up to you.

    Most likely yes. The thing about graduate physics programs is that they need vast amounts of cheap labor to teach undergraduate classes and to do research, since these are the things that bring in money for the department. Also with a physics undergraduate degree, there are a lot of different directions you can go. Engineering, law, med-school, etc. etc.

    Employers about skills. They don't care about history. As far as jobs, that depends on the overall state of the economy. The one thing that you need to remember here is that I can't think of a scenario in which you would end up *worse* off.
     
  5. Oct 21, 2009 #4
    Since you did mention MIT. One of the things that I've been trying to get MIT to do is to completely rethink how physics education is done, because personally I think the educational model that they have right now is simply not sustainable, and it's going to have to radically change in the next decade if the Institute has any hope of long term survival.
     
  6. Oct 21, 2009 #5

    MacLaddy

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    Gold Member

    Ha, I wish I had gone back when I was as young as 23. I will be starting my four year stint in January, and I am 31... Now I realize that I'll be 35 whether I go back or not.

    Take my advice and do not wait.
     
  7. Oct 21, 2009 #6
    I went through almost the same thing as you, I flunked out of two semesters after I transferred from a CC to a University. I was unmotivated and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. After a year and a half out of school, I've retaken what I could back at the trusty C.C. and was accepted into another University that had an articulation agreement with my C.C. Although my GPA is pretty low now because of my flunk-out, I am still pursuing my dream of completing my Physics degree. I have made many sacrifices to make sure that I focus now on school, including living on campus (I'm 25), getting an on-campus job, and dedicating myself to my studies.

    So be prepared to make sacrifices, such as social life (although living on campus seems to be helping me in that).

    I think as long as you can show a major change in your grades, good GRE scores, and letters of recommendation, you can get into a pretty decent grad program.

    Just know that you are not alone, and people have recovered from stupid s$%t they did when they were young.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2009
  8. Oct 21, 2009 #7
    Tatiana, I'm not so sure living on campus would help avoid a social life. I'm a commuter and I have a lot less trouble avoiding my social life than some of my buddies from high school who are living on out-of-state college campuses and are partying pretty much all the time.
     
  9. Oct 22, 2009 #8
    One of the strongest students in physics at my university is 25 with a couple years to go. He's been very involved, doing research, tutoring ect. I'd be very surprised if he didn't get into a good grad school. Going back to school and doing well shows that you can pick a goal and commit to it. You aren't just going on autopilot like some of the younger students.
     
  10. Oct 22, 2009 #9
    It sounds like you've grown up a good bit. If you got the passion, MAKE IT HAPPEN.

    As someone who got started a physics PhD at 52, my opinion is that the only difference your age will make is if you want to use it as an excuse. You got a long ways to go before you're "too old" for something, believe me!


    If you love what you're doing, and work hard enough to become good at it, you will make enough money and where you live won't matter.


    It will be hard. But then again, accomplishing something important is NEVER easy. It was hard for me after a 30-year hiatus, I'm working much harder than I intended, but I'm loving it! If you have the passion, go for it. If you don't, go get a job doing something else.


    If you decide to go back, immerse yourself in it. Listen very carefully and consider the opinions of those you respect, and then make up YOUR OWN mind and go for it. And if you make the wrong decision - do something else! If you can get past what other people think, there are only a very few things you can do in life that cannot be undone. And you have a lot of living ahead of you. Good luck!
     
  11. Oct 23, 2009 #10
    Thanks for all the advice everyone! While I do feel old right now I'm terribly excited with the prospect of going back to school and meeting new people, doing research and moving forward with things.

    I've been in contact with the College Park Physics Dept, and will hopefully be there within the year (after CC) if I play my cards right. The way their program is set up I'll have to take a year of physics prereq's before I get into upper levels, so I may double in chemistry with the intent of getting into a materials science program after undergrad.

    Anyone know if phys/chem double major is worth it for materials science or even doable in 3 years (with math prereqs out of the way and core classes finished)? I'm going to meet with the physics advisers next month but I want to be as prepared as possible so that I can get the most out of it.

    Thanks again everyone!
     
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