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Triple majoring

  1. Aug 16, 2005 #1
    I am just not able to settle with two between physics, mathematics, and computer science. I like them all. Would it look bad to graduate schools having earned three bs's, when you're going into say....mathematical physics or other physics/math/computer science fields? I can understand why it would look bad having three majors with no overlap whatsoever, but these three are intertwined. Any suggestions?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 16, 2005 #2
    hey Andrew,

    first off, make sure your school even allows you to triple major.

    also, triple majoring is pretty hard, you might have to spend another semester or even a year in school. why not double major and get a minor in the other one??? that looks fine to grad schools.

    one last thing, you can always learn on your own. download the course syllabus's and perhaps over the summer or something, start introducing the concepts and doing practice problems, etc.

    good luck
  4. Aug 16, 2005 #3
    That's what I'm hoping to do, the second/thirdsyear physics courses here have no pre-reqs so one can study the first year physics over the summer and pick them up next year. It depends on how the majors are constructed at your college.

    Good luck.
  5. Aug 16, 2005 #4
    the amount of math that is required for my physics major is like over 75% that of the math program. So I don't see why it would hurt to take some extra courses and earn a math bs. I think I'll just go with physics and csci, take some extra math courses, and at the end see what I have.
  6. Aug 16, 2005 #5


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    My degree requires only like 25% of the math degree for a physics bs so I think this is something that really varries between colleges.
  7. Aug 16, 2005 #6
    I might have overestimated what I just said. I do know that it's atleast 50% or more.
  8. Aug 16, 2005 #7
    Just do 2, and minor in the third. 3 majors is ridiculous.
  9. Aug 16, 2005 #8


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    Hell get a masters. Whats 3 BS's? 3 lower-end job opportunities? Even doubling is pretty iffy. Triple isnt a good idea because undoubtably, you will be pushed into probably a good 6 or 7 years of college which could just as easily be put into a more meaningful masters degree.
  10. Aug 16, 2005 #9
    So even one semester extra makes everything look bad? I wouldn't plan on making my undergraduate bs's carry me through life. I know that getting an advanced degree basically makes the bs's disappear.
  11. Aug 23, 2005 #10
    Stop thinking it looks bad, it doesn't. It is just that your time, energy and money could be better spent on a graduate degree. Decide what you want, take electives in your interests.
  12. Aug 23, 2005 #11
    Yout can complete the requirements of the two other degrees in on extra semester? How is this possible? By taking 22 credits a semester?
  13. Aug 23, 2005 #12
    I've been taking summer courses and an average of like 18 credit hours a semester. At the most, I would give myself 1 to 2 extra semesters. But if it would take longer than that, forget about it, I'd settle with just physics and math or just physics.
  14. Aug 23, 2005 #13


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    Here's what I thought is an obvious question that everyone forgot to ask: Are you finding that your classes are that easy that you are getting straight A's?

  15. Aug 23, 2005 #14
    Thats not the case. The classes aren't totally easy, but they're not hard either. My GPA is around 3.1. I hope to improve that of course.

    I know some people just couldn't handle taking so many credits a semester because they want other things to do. But I'm the kind of guy thats usually either always on his computer, reading, or studying something.
  16. Aug 23, 2005 #15
    Jesus, just do one major and a minor then work really hard to truly master the concepts (not just get As). Spend your summers doing REUs and then put your time into grad school. If you are truly interested in the other two subjects then just study them independently.
  17. Aug 23, 2005 #16
    I don't think mathematics keeps one from mastering concepts in physics. I would think it might help. And it doesn't hurt a physicist to be a decent programmer. I just happened to be obsessed with the three areas.

    One other thing. Mastering the concepts is what I look to do more often that get A's. It makes me sick when you talk to students who are only worried about the grade and not what they are actually learning and what it all means.

    Thanks for all the advice though.
  18. Aug 23, 2005 #17
    YES! I agree wholeheartedly! Learning is much more important that getting As. I am a B+ student, but I know more than most A students. Pisses me off. :mad:

    Well, as long as you can truly master the concepts in all majors in only an additional semester, and can do good REU work during your summers then go for it.
  19. Aug 23, 2005 #18


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    Then consider this since you are obviously planning on going to graduate school:

    1. You are offering "quantity" over "quality". You will end up with three degrees with mediocre grades.

    2. What kind of competitive graduate program do you think you can get into with such grades?

    3. The classes (especially in physics) WILL get more difficult and more demanding, especially advanced E&M, as you progress in your undergraduate program.

    Based on these, how realistic do you think are your chances of getting into a good graduate program in ANY of the areas that you are planning to major in?

  20. Aug 23, 2005 #19
    mediocre grades will get you into plenty of good schools, assuming you have great GRE scores, lots of letters of recommendation and good connections, and lots of research experience (which he won't have time for if he takes classes every summer) and a TRIPLE major. And yes, the classes do get more difficult, but that doesn't mean he can't improve his grades.

    Get the GPA up to at least a 3.4 and you'll be fine.
  21. Aug 23, 2005 #20


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    Aren't you making a lot of assumptions here for him?

    GRE scores? I know of many good schools that don't even look at GRE scores! Letters of recommendations? What would make an excellent letter of recommendation that would trump mediocre grades when he's busy with all those classes and trying to "improve his grades"? I see a generic letter of recommendation when one doesn't have time to distinguish oneself with extra work. Where and how do you see this happening?

    Consider the fact that some of the easiest classes one would encounter in an undergraduate program are during the 1st two years. If you have to do ANY kind of assumption here, how do you think the most likely trend would be based on what has already transpired?

  22. Aug 23, 2005 #21

    If he goes to a smaller school, with class sizes in the 20-30 student range, some professors might see that he is highly knowledgeable and talented in his courses, despite his somewhat poor grades and will discuss this is their letters of recommendation. I know many B students who are far more knowledgeable and skilled than many A students. A good admissions committee will realize that grads are not an all encompassing benchmark of a student's capability.

    Also, I know many people who did poorly in their easier lower level coursework, but improved drastically in the tougher upper level coursework. During the beginning, students might have trouble adapting to the college world and this might hurt their GPA, despite the fact that it is easy (relatively speaking). I am sure that he is aware of the increasing difficulty of the coursework as he progresses into his upper level classes when he says he can improve on his GPA.

    I am just speaking in terms of feasibility. I am not saying that he will definitly be able to get great letters of recommendations and improve his grades. I am just giving him the benefit of the doubt.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2005
  23. Aug 23, 2005 #22


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    OK, in your observation, is this the exception or the norm?

    Last summer, we hired an undergrad summer intern who had a lower GPA than 3 other candidates mainly because he had the skills that we were looking for based on the projects that he did. But I'd be lying big time if I say that this happens frequently. This will give a wrong impression to people going through this process. And in trying to write the essay series that I have posted, I have always tried to explain the "normal" process and then include unusual anecdotal cases simply to illustrate that in SOME instances, unusual things can happen. But to depend on those "what ifs" and unusual circumstances, would one want to put one's future on just the right allignment of the stars and planets?

    If this person can do a triple major, hey, more power to him. I am not going to advise otherwise. At this stage in life, one has to be responsible for one's own decision and live with it.

  24. Aug 23, 2005 #23
    If you are really interested in all three, do all three. But, if at some point your interest drains in one or two of your majors, don't hesitate to drop it. I did a spanish and physics double major as an undergrad. Basically, I did the spanish major because I thought it would be easy (I had already lived in S. America). It was easy, but I wasn't interested in it, and it turned out to be a total waste of time (I don't think any grad school really cared that I had a BA in spanish to go along with that BS in physics). In retrospect, I wish I had double majored in physics and math, or physics and chemistry, because both math and chemistry actually interested me. Basically, do what interests you. You won't close any doors by doing so. But, don't kill yourself for the sake of doing something you think others might find useful. Also, you might want to consider actually having some fun in college.
  25. Aug 23, 2005 #24
    Lets just put it this way. I really like all three of these areas, math/csci/physics. Right now I'm taking courses in all three areas. I'll be a sophomore this fall. I wouldn't say that I'm completely committed to all three of them. If there's one that I would feel committed to right now I would say physics. If I start to see that I cannot handle the load and my grades don't rise, I'll lessen up. This semester should test me well. I'm taking a physics course, two computer science courses, one which is just discrete math, partial differential equations, and an easy course from The History and Philosophy of Science deparment.

    I've never really been a strait A student, no matter how easy the courses that I currently take are. I don't know why. I make stupid mistakes on tests I guess....IDK...something. Hopefully I can change that, if it's true that all that is ever looked at by graduate schools is the students GPA.

    One more question, maybe a stupid one. In this past century, have great discoveries in science ever been made by people that did not complete a masters or phd but had atleast a bs? It doesn't happen these days I know.
  26. Aug 23, 2005 #25
    Remember I'm not majoring in all three to impress. It is just out of interest. Obsession I should say. Also what is the turning point between mediocre and good grades? Thats something I might want to know.
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