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Top 15 School with 3.02 GPA?

  1. Aug 6, 2015 #1

    N83

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    Hello, all.

    I feel like I'm in a tough spot and wanted some guidance. I've used this forum over the years for kinds of info but this will be my first time seeking help. I'm looking to go to grad school to obtain a Masters in Physics. I graduated from GW in 2012 with a 3.02 GPA in Physics and have been working for the government ever since (not as a scientist, however.)

    Recently I've decided that I want to get a Masters degree since there's a great scholarship program at work that will fit the bill for a school with in-state tuition (I'm in Maryland.) I would really love to get a Masters in Physics as it's something I'm still passionate about and would love to further my education. However, the only school I can reasonably attend (location-based) is U of Maryland - College Park. They have a great program (I think I saw that they were #14 currently) so I feel like my chances of getting in are nearly non-existent.

    I haven't taken the PGRE yet but I've started going back over my text books to prepare. However, is my GPA so low that there's no way I could possibly get in? I figured my only chance would be to get a great score on the PGRE but I worry that even that wouldn't help me. Any guidance? Thank you in advance!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 6, 2015 #2
    A GPA 3.02 in physics is not strong for graduate study. probably very weak for a top 20 program. However your PGRE will be very important. U of M at least several years ago required an 800+ score on the PGRE but did accept some students with scores as low as 750 probably depending on GPA , research experience, and letter of recommendation.
    Good luck.
     
  4. Aug 6, 2015 #3
    The University of Maryland - College park, according to their website for physics, doesn't accept Master's-only students, so a Ph.D would be the only option. With a ~3.0 GPA, you should probably make sure the other aspects of your application are stellar.
     
  5. Aug 6, 2015 #4
    My GPA is in the same range as yours just right on 3.00 I'm also very worried about getting into graduate school. I was thinking of biochemistry or microbiology programs though so I'm hoping that would make it easier....I don't know I'm worried.
     
  6. Aug 6, 2015 #5

    N83

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    That's odd, their page https://umdphysics.umd.edu/academics/graduate.html says:
    I don't mean to nit-pick but I want to make sure we're all on the same page in case someone else with a similar question finds this thread later.

    Regardless, thank you for all the guidance so far. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried. I think I'm also frustrated with the fact that I didn't try harder in school (I didn't plan on attending grad school so I was Ok with B's). I know I have the aptitude...
     
  7. Aug 6, 2015 #6
    Funny, the first entry on their FAQ page says students aren't admitted to a Master's program.
     
  8. Aug 6, 2015 #7

    micromass

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    What kind of research experience do you have? Can you get very strong letters of recommendation?
    Would you entertain the possibility of getting back to undergrad to level up your application?
     
  9. Aug 7, 2015 #8

    N83

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    My research experience related to physics is very limited. My undergrad research project was theoretical astrophysics, so I didn't have any lab time. "Strong" letters? I would say no. I have kept in touch with two of my physics professors, one of which was my academic adviser, but I can't imagine them writing anything spectacular. The professor that was my academic adviser knew of some struggles I had with Physics 2 (had a D in the class up until the final, in which I got a 98%). Other than little tidbits like that I don't know what else they could say.

    As far as going back to undergrad, I would absolutely consider that if I could swing it financially. The wife and I have a rather tight budget, so unless I find a scholarship that's offered to federal or DoD employees I don't think it'd be feasible.
     
  10. Aug 7, 2015 #9

    micromass

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    That looks very bleak. In this case, I don't think it should come as a huge surprise to get rejected from most grad schools you apply to, especially top 15 schools. Doesn't mean you should try though, but I'm sorry to say that you should prepare for the worst.
     
  11. Aug 7, 2015 #10

    CalcNerd

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    The UMD program will likely allow you to sign up for their Graduate program on a provisional basis as long as you are funding your education through private means or your own departments funds ie not expecting scholarship money or stipends from the school itself. Many here assume that you would be riding on at least a partial scholarship. Those are reserved for the better students with better GPAs. Students like yourself can usually attend and for 2-3 classes without actually being in the program, then if your grades are acceptable, you will be formally accepted, and maybe then get scholarship money if you are willing to leave the private sector. Considering that you are probably earning $25-50K over a grad student on scholarship, I suspect you will always elect to pay for your education rather than jump back into the academic arena even if you do obtain a 4.0 in graduate studies.
     
  12. Aug 14, 2015 #11

    N83

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    I really appreciate the honesty. Thank you.

    If I had a shot to attend initially on a provisional basis, that would be great. And you're right, the school would be fully funded from my work- no scholarship needed. I feel like if I had a shot at a few classes I could prove my worth. Thank you for suggesting a provisional admission!
     
  13. Aug 14, 2015 #12

    Student100

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    There is too much emphasis placed on GPA. You can't look at a 3.0 GPA and say "You're going to have a hard time!" It just doesn't work that way. With grade inflation a 3.0 may look more favorable than a 3.9 depending on the undergraduate university. If only students with high GPA's got into grad school there wouldn't be nearly as many physics graduate students. Assuming hes talking about George Washington University as his undergrad institution they have a reputation as only mildly inflating GPA's, which plays to his advantage. Although the school itself is only considered in the top 100 for physics.

    The rest of his application is poor, however, so in this case he should look for ways to strengthen his admission package. Bringing your own funding (or government funding in this case) to the table is certainly one way to do that. Relevant work experience is also a plus. You should temper this with your poor package though, and not be shocked if you're denied.

    As far as DoD scholarships, have you looked into the SMART program? https://smart.asee.org/ Your organization needs to approve it, but you'd get full funding + time off + your salary to pursue your studies. On a case by case basis they may even allow you to take on education out of the area/state. Normally however they expect you to work part time while attending your studies. You probably missed the deadline for this year.
     
  14. Aug 14, 2015 #13

    Vanadium 50

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    GW is ranked about 100. You didn't do well there. It's not very realistic to expect to move up 85 places.

    While some students do overly obsess about grades, there is an important threshold at 3.0. That's the threshold for continuing in most, if not all, programs. A student who can't keep this up with easier undergraduate classes is not a strong candidate for grad school. The department won't want to invest its time and money in a student unlikely to finish. At one school it is easier to hire a new faculty member (takes the approval of the dean) than a student with less than 3.0 (takes the approval of the provost) - and this school is ranked near (and at one time at) the bottom.
     
  15. Aug 15, 2015 #14

    radium

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    I don't know of any top 15 schools with a terminal masters program. You can get a master's on your way to the PhD of you take a certain number of courses but you don't always have to.

    Your grades, research experience, and possibly letters are just not strong enough for a top 15 school. A lower GPA can be overlooked if your application is otherwise outstanding. However, when people say lower GPA in the context, they most likely mean 3.4-3.6 (in your major courses).
     
  16. Aug 16, 2015 #15

    Student100

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    https://umdphysics.umd.edu/academics/graduate.html
    http://apps.gradschool.umd.edu/catalog/programs.htm

    Can we put this silly "They don't have a masters program" to bed? All it takes is one second to Google instead of making assumptions.
     
  17. Aug 16, 2015 #16
    I don't think you can count on being accepted if you come from a different place and tell them up front that you will quit at a MSc.

    I've seen MSc programs limited to their own BSc students only, among other things.

    Also, top 15 is so thin, I don't think you can even put the very best universities in a top 15. There's too many.
     
  18. Aug 16, 2015 #17

    radium

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    I applied to a most of the top fifteen schools and none of them I applied to has a terminal master's program. Also, if you look at the frequently asked questions on your first link, it says the department does not offer an individual master's program which probably means they may offer an unfounded master's to people who did not get into the PhD program (there are cases of this).

    Also, at this point, it doesn't really matter since the applicant is simply nowhere near competitive for top 20-30 schools and likely not for top 50 schools.
     
  19. Aug 16, 2015 #18

    Student100

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    Again, just an assumption. It clearly states that he can contact the physics department and speak with them about it.

    See above.
     
  20. Aug 16, 2015 #19

    radium

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    Yes, well obviously it is not a very common thing even though it may happen in some cases, but the bottom line is that this applicant should not be aiming for top 15 schools because they almost certainly will not be accepted.

    I know there are definitely top 50 schools that offer a terminal masters
     
  21. Aug 17, 2015 #20

    N83

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    Thank you for all the continued guidance, everyone. I appreciate it.

    I'm actually not "aiming" for top 15 schools in general. I wanted to know if I stood a chance to get into UMD, specifically, because due to financial and other restraints, that is the only one that I can potentially go to if I wanted a MSc in physics. I'd apply to go back to GW but our scholarship program is limited to $6,000 per semester (appears to put all local schools other than Maryland out of reach). I can't pay out of pocket at this point in my life due to three young children at home and a wife that isn't working. I suppose that if I wanted a MSc in something physics-like (I don't know what that would be, unless it was applied *something*) it might open a few moor doors?
     
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