To take a PDE class or not

  • #1
I am a junior physics major trying to decide if I should squeeze in a (extra) PDE class in my semester which is not required for my degree but obviously can be useful. Though I am only taking 3 (all technical) classes otherwise, I should be quite occupied with GREs and research. Is it worth taking it (probably pass/fail) now from a grad school admissions perspective or do they simply not care and I should focus on other things instead? Thanks!
 

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  • #2
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It’s always good to have more math under your belt but in this case when you are prepping for the GRE I don’t think it’s wise to spread yourself too thinly. Good marks on the GRE is the first indicator for grad committees followed by your course grades and anything else you provide like awards, papers published...

however, if you feel you will only squander the free time then go ahead and take the course but the homework and study may cut into your GRE review and you will feel pressured from both sides.
 
  • #3
It’s always good to have more math under your belt but in this case when you are prepping for the GRE I don’t think it’s wise to spread yourself too thinly. Good marks on the GRE is the first indicator for grad committees followed by your course grades and anything else you provide like awards, papers published...

however, if you feel you will only squander the free time then go ahead and take the course but the homework and study may cut into your GRE review and you will feel pressured from both sides.
Yeah that makes sense. So you'd think that grad school really won't notice/care that I took a heavier load, especially if I were to take it pass/fail? However on the other hand would it be an issue that I am taking a somewhat below average load without it?
 
  • #4
Dr. Courtney
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The extra PDE course is not worth a reduction in GPA , PGRE score, or the value of your research experience.

The courses that weigh heavily in grad school admissions are the ones required for the BS in Physics.

Picking up some extra math courses like PDE can be of value, but it is less valuable than programming in many cases, and is less valuable for most than spending the same time on research, PGRE prep, or rocking the GPA. I tend to recommend picking up those extra math courses in semesters where they don't create an additional squeeze.
 
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  • #5
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I'm still not clear why you want to take this class. Is it solely to impress an admissions committee?
 
  • #6
I'm still not clear why you want to take this class. Is it solely to impress an admissions committee?
Well I am interested in it and think it will be useful. However I’d also like to be a bit more impressive if possible by taking it now.
 
  • #7
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Well I am interested in it and think it will be useful. However I’d also like to be a bit more impressive if possible by taking it now.
Well, here is your answer: No. No graduate school committee is going to be impressed that you took an extra course on PDEs your junior year. No graduate school committee would be impressed if you took 5 PDEs course in your 1st two years.

Does your school have any poster sessions for undergrads? Get yourself in those. Practicing your presentation skills and getting your research habits up to par will impress them. Additional courses will not. Graduate school (for physics) is about research, not about idealized mathematical theories that you'll end up forgetting, and end up self studying once again when you actually need to use them.

Now that we got that out of the way... Do YOU want to take the course? Then go ahead! If you think it might be too time consuming, just go sit in on the course (ask the professor before hand if it's ok). Knowledge, for the most part, can never hurt. Take the course for knowledge sake, not to impress anyone.
 
  • #8
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"He took one extra math class (and had to take it pass/fail)" wil not impress anybody. There may be good reasons to take it, but impressing people is not one of them.
 
  • #9
Joshy
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I took extra classes, tried a bunch of things like study abroad and internship programs, worked during the academic terms and a heavy workload as an electrical engineer. I was unable to manage it very well and it shows on my GPA. I have to say... I am absolutely thrilled that I was able to be conditionally accepted into a less selective graduate school after two years of work experience.
 

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