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Courses Triple vs graduate courses

  1. Aug 24, 2006 #1
    greetings everyone,

    I'm doing a triple major in Physics BS, Math BA, and Optical Engineering BS. I plan to enter graduate school for physics after I graduate. Here is my question:

    which is more appealing to graduate schools:

    Someone who has a triple major in Physics BS, Math BA, and Optical Engineering BS with no graduate courses taken.


    Someone who has a double major in Physics BS and Optical Engineering BS with graduate courses taken in physics.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 24, 2006 #2
    What year are you in?
  4. Aug 24, 2006 #3
    second year

  5. Aug 24, 2006 #4
    have you even checked to see if you even can do a triple major at your school?
  6. Aug 24, 2006 #5
    I do not see how an engineering degree with a physics degree is going to look anymore appealing to a physics department than just a physics degree by itself. My best guess: option less education for more lab work and good recommendations from your professors and faculty.
    Double majoring in engineering is hard enough and most schools recommend trying to pursue a masters (usually and extra year) or internship over a double major.
  7. Aug 24, 2006 #6
    yes, I know two people doing triple majors and also the dean has talked about a student who has triple majored.

    my original question is still neglected.

  8. Aug 24, 2006 #7


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    What specific field in physics are you planning on for graduate school? And where?
    Your answers will probably affect my answer to your question.

    Some questions that no one has brought up yet:

    How many semesters will it take to finish this triple major? or this double-major with Grad courses?

    How competitive is your school? Implicitly, how far course-wise does one get in each major?

    What are your grades like?
  9. Aug 24, 2006 #8
    particle physics.

    top 10.

    8 semesters.

    8 semesters.

    one of 25 schools named a "New Ivy" in the "2007 Kaplan/Newsweek "

    physics: Thermodynamics, Statistical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, classical mechanics, Quantum Theory, E&M I&II, Experimental Techniques

    Last edited: Aug 24, 2006
  10. Aug 24, 2006 #9


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    theoretical or experimental particle physics?

    If theoretical, Mathematics (and not Optical Engineering) and graduate courses (in Quantum Mechanics) will be more helpful.

    If experimental, then Optical Engineering might be helpful.

    In either case, it would be good to get some summer REU experience.

    My $0.02.
  11. Aug 24, 2006 #10
    so if I took the experimental route, would you recommend taking graduate courses?
  12. Aug 24, 2006 #11

    Dr Transport

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    A person taking a triple major might look as if they didn't know what they want to do and was searching for a best fit. I have not hired a person with more than a dual major in over 5 years and they don't even get a second look if they have gone to school and changed majors more than once.
  13. Aug 24, 2006 #12
    I know what I want. and that's physics. from your advice, I should take graduate level courses. correct?
  14. Aug 24, 2006 #13
    Taking graduate level courses (in the same discipline that you will be going into in grad school) is something you need to think carefuly about.

    the Two senarios that I can think of are:

    1. You take graduate level courses at your undergrad college, ace them all, and pass out of course requirements in grad school.
    -->This could be a wow factor, but no more than that. Seeing how you are aiming at top 10 schools, it is possible that your potential grad school would have better-taught grad level courses. In this case you'd miss opportunities to learn grad level courses from the big name profs. I've heard that passing out of course requirements can be beneficial for aspiring theorists, but not experimentalists.

    2. You ace your grad level courses, but decide to take them all over again in grad school.
    --> why waste your life learning the same material twice?

    What you are potentially trading off by doing grad courses is getting extensive research experience.
    I can say with pretty high confidence that given two applicants with otherwise identical qualifications, if applicant A aced a year's worth of grad level courses but has no significant research experience, and applicant B has not taken any grad level courses but has stellar research experience, B would get in.

    Everyone please comment if I am wrong on this. I could be.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2006
  15. Aug 25, 2006 #14
    why is that?

    what if I had both? would it then be worthwile to take graduate courses?
  16. Aug 25, 2006 #15


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    In my opinion, it's always a good idea to take graduate courses that you are [somewhat] prepared for. To me, it would show that you are ready for the challenge. If you do well enough to satisfy the grad-school requirements, great.... but you certainly retain the option to selectively take them over for whatever reason [to review, to learn more, etc..].

    Concerning undergraduate research, it's a good experience... but, in my opinion, it is not a substitute for doing well in advanced courses. In addition, one should look at the big picture and ask how much research am I, the student, actually doing. I've been disappointed to learn of students who neglect their coursework because they feel their "research [experience]" is more important. Certainly, there are exceptions where the research is exceptional... but that is not the typical undergraduate research experience.

    A related question is: is your graduate school specialization directly related to your undergraduate research experience? If not, then, in my opinon, graduate coursework would score more points.
  17. Aug 25, 2006 #16

    Dr Transport

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    That is what I am saying.....
  18. Aug 25, 2006 #17

    Dr Transport

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    No you are correct, I have said before that it is my experience, that when you change schools most likely you will have to take THEIR courses and transferring in course work is usually not an option no matter how well you did before. A friend of mine took graduate QM as a senior, he had to take it again on his way to a masters then had to retake it for a third time when he went to a third school for a PhD, none of the schools he went to were slouch programs, top 25 all of them.
  19. Aug 26, 2006 #18
    I have heard of foreign students who elect not to take courses such as mechanics or E&M, given that they are confident enough about being able to pass the quals. However, it seems reasonable that most schools would be more strict about passing out of Q.M.

    The grad students I have talked to seem to agree that for experimentalists, 1st yr course work is just something you get B's in and get out of the way.

    Theoreticians would want to either ace grad level course work or pass out of them altogether so that they can be recruited by the theory groups right when they get to school. Competition for getting into theory groups is much steeper because they don't have money. and it gets tougher after every year you spend taking courses and working your ass off to get A's

    I dare disagree that devoting a lot of time for research in college is not worth it if the field is different. I have seen quite a few cases where ppl with awesome research experience and good letters, but no grad level course work get into top 10 schools and decide that they want to switch fields. They got into their dream schools and they have the luxury of being able to switch fields and still work with top-tier PIs.

    Please remember that I am taking about the trade off between taking grad level courses and doing research. Of course getting A's in all of your undergrad major courswork should be anyone's first priority (my advisor agrees on this). But I am talking about after you are done with your major requirements and have time to think about taking grad level courses.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2006
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