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Transferring from Comm to Physics

  1. Dec 12, 2011 #1
    Hey everyone, well I was originally writing a big long story about this but it was getting really bloated and over the top so here is my condensed version, I think you'll get the general idea.

    -Really lazy throughout school, carried by intelligence
    -Originally going for business/econ, decided I did not know what to do and went into communications for the hell of it
    -Decided this year to suck it up and do something I am actually interested in, decided to take my interest in science further
    -2 months ago wanted to do chemistry, realized 2 weeks ago that my true interests lay in physics
    -Planning on applying to the University of Waterloo and University of Toronto physics programs
    -Doubtful of the impression I make, my marks for my program really arent very good, they are average but that is the result of no motivation, laziness, and a bit of a mental breakdown
    -Need a 65% average minimum to be considered at Waterloo, I am really 50/50 about making that (lost 10% right off the bat because my school caters to the idiots in this program and gives out 5-20% of marks in classes just from attendance and participation)
    -Dropping out to complete high school prerequisites next semester, hope to achieve marks all in the 80s, should even out my university marks
    -I hope to make a better impression on my supplemental application, really want to drive home the point that I am serious now and this is something I have passion for, will an admissions committee even care about that?

    Basically I want to go to schools with as many research opportunities as possible. I want to start research ASAP and really just fully dedicate myself to this, usually when I get passionate about something I go balls out and it pays off. With enough research, good recommendations and grades I hope to do a PhD program in Europe somewhere (Cambridge? :D), but obviously it is too early to tell if Ill even stick with the undergrad.

    Other thoughts: I figure that the admissions committees for these 2 schools will hopefully focus more on the relevant science/math marks I will be sending them, since my university program is so irrelevant. Still, I feel like they will take one look and think "This kid couldnt even get a 70 in a communications program and he thinks he can do physics?" I am really confused about this, I want the relevant marks to send the message that when I am interested I excel, but obviously there isnt much I can do. A very general consensus from what I have read though is that university marks > high school marks, regardless of how relevant they are, but I have read of reverse scenarios.

    Actual main question: What is my best option if I do not make it into Waterloo or U of T? I think I will be applying to some backup schools, but nothing else is really going to present the same research opportunities. Keep in mind my main goal of getting into a good PhD program, straight out of my undergrad. Thanks for any input.

    That was really long, sorry. I always have a lot to say...
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 12, 2011 #2

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    You are in trouble, I'm afraid.

    First, there are bushels of applications that say "my previous record of accomplishments is weak, but if I were really motivated, I would have done much better". Woulda, shoulda, coulda. These go right into the circular file. If you want to show you can accomplish something, accomplish something.

    Second, if you only do well on things you happen to like at the time, you will not survive a career in science. Scientific work can be incredibly tedious. Measuring the tension on a couple thousand wires is mind-numbingly dull. But we did it because it needed to be done.

    Third, you are trying to get into some very competitive places, and you are competing against people who have accomplished more and are better tempermentally suited. If there is some reason they should accept you and deny admission to one of them, you best be able to clearly articulate it in your application.

    Fourth, the excuse that you did poorly because many points were handed out for no good reason may not fly. Usually "points are too easy" explains high scores, not low ones.

    Finally, your plan to drop out in order to help meet your academic aims seems very, very counterproductive.

    Sorry to bear bad news, but you have a really, really steep uphill climb, and I don't think your plan is going to get you where you want to go.
  4. Dec 12, 2011 #3
    Well you see, I have to drop out. I really dont have a choice, and staying at this university serves me no purpose either way (I will not gain any transferable credits) and I dont have $8000 to waste on another semester of communications. I did not take science courses and high school, and did not take calculus either. In order to complete all the courses required to get into a university science program, I need to complete these.

    In reality I am not actually that bad off, I asked the admissions officer at Waterloo some questions and was told that with a 65 average for university marks and 80% overall for my high school marks then I would have a competitive advantage. That left me feeling pretty optimistic.

    Also, I dont mind doing tedious work so long as I am able to keep the goal in mind. I run into problems when the work seems completely pointless with no direction. It's obviously not something good that I slack off so much when I lose interest but it's just immaturity that I will grow out of within my first year in a science undergrad.
  5. Dec 12, 2011 #4
    Your goal is going to be incredibly difficult to reach.

    U of T does not acknowledge other schools academically, unless they are top tier as well.

    So unless you are at another good university like Mcgill or UBC transferring, is going to be hard. If you have bad marks it might be impossible.

    Going back to highschool and applying as a fresh diploma might be a possibility.
    Cut off for U of T's science program is mid 80s. Since they have so many highschool applicants they only look at marks.

    On this strategy it is important to talk to a guidance counselor who knows the system well. Going back and getting good marks in highschool (80-90s) and then applying as a highschool student with no university experience would be ideal. This would guarantee you entry. On your application mention nothing about your previous university or your there marks.

    You have your work cut out for you.
  6. Dec 12, 2011 #5

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    I recommend you do this in the other order.
  7. Dec 12, 2011 #6
    It's hard for me to grow out of it when Im not yet doing anything with my life, I want/need something to push me. This isnt really about my work habits right now, I know they will change.

    As for the U of T application...I am not so concerned about them I guess. I knew from their transfer student policy that I would have a hard time getting in because they require a "solid B average". I feel pretty good about my chances of getting into Waterloo right now though, but I think otherwise I will be going to Trent University.

    The main thing I wanted to know from this thread was what I should do if I end up at a less "prestigious" school (like Trent). I want to get a head start on research and I do not want the academic institute I attend to be the factor that stops me from getting into a solid grad school. I have heard that many grad schools (in the sciences) really do not like prestige from undergraduate institutes, but at the same time these "better" schools present more research opportunities. Will I benefit from a smaller school since I can build a closer relationship with professors and hopefully help them with research? I was also planning on looking into NSERC awards.

    I really regret even coming to university for a semester, I really did not think universities would be interested in what I did for 4 months in a liberal arts program when I am applying for pure science...I figured coming here was better than nothing, but apparently I was wrong.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2011
  8. Dec 12, 2011 #7
    If you end up at a less prestigious school, you should do exactly the same thing that you would do at an extremely prestigious school: study as hard as you can, take the most challenging classes, try to get as involved in research as is possible (admittedly, it may be more possible at some schools than others). Do not let the quality/prestige of your school influence how seriously you take your studies.
  9. Dec 12, 2011 #8


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    I believe the implication is, why wait? You aren't going to grow out of it until you make the decision to change. Waiting for it to happen will ensure that it never does, and you'll continue in the same destructive cycle, even when you're doing something in which you're interested. You'll also have to learn how to push and challenge yourself, because you won't always have the luxury of someone/something else doing this for you.
  10. Dec 12, 2011 #9
    Well right now I dont have much to do that I can use to force the change. I just finished exams and I am starting the high school science courses that I need to complete in order to get into any of these programs. Doing these courses doesnt require me to push myself because I have nothing better to do and usually enjoy the coursework, plus I have a big motivator right now behind me...I mean, what exactly do I do if I find that I enjoy all the work I am doing? I think I can trick the opiate receptors in my brain into activating over science or math related work, good skill to have?
  11. Dec 12, 2011 #10

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    Augustine of Hippo is famous for his prayer, "Grant me chastity - but not right away." As it happened, he got his wish, fifteen years later. You might want to reflect on that for a bit.
  12. Dec 12, 2011 #11
    Ok there I have officially changed, I am now a very hard worker and will never slack off again in my life.

    Now that that part is done with, any more advice on how to make the most of my undergrad if I dont make it into a school with very many research opportunities? Seriously though what do you want me to do about my work habits? I cannot do anything right now apart from what I already am doing, which apparently isnt good enough. I am just looking for someone who can tell me that as long as I put enough into it and look hard enough for opportunities, the school I go to will not have an impact on getting into grad school. I wish there was someone who can say that but I am doubtful.

    EDIT: Let me rephrase what Im saying. Sure, I can decide to change now. But it's not like it will change anything, I do not have anything that requires any hard work or significant effort. I would not be looking into physics if I did not already accept that I would have insane amounts of work to do. I do not plan on getting into the program and then treating it like communications.

    EDIT 2: Ive been looking into other research oriented universities and found a few that I could easily get into based off of my high school marks. My problem is they have university mark requirements that do not really match up with their high school requirements, but anyways. As a result of how applying to university works in Ontario, all universities I apply to this year will see that Ive attended a university this semester. However, is it possible for me to simply not send a school my transcript and tell them that I dropped out before completing any courses? I will state my reason for dropping out, which was that I decided on a completely different academic direction. Then I can be considered based on high school grades and I am pretty much in. Will a university go out of their way to call my school and verify that I did in fact leave before completing my courses? I mean I know it's possible but I think it is too much of a hassle for a university with thousands of applicants to worry about to do that.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2011
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