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Admissions Two C grades on transcript, options for grad school?

  1. May 18, 2017 #1
    Hi all, I'm an undergrad Physics and Mech. Engineering major (possible astrophysics as well). This past semester I've been dealing with some personal issues and I ended up with sub par grades as a result. I now officially have a C and a C+ on my transcript (along with a few B/B+). I'm a rising junior and my current GPA is 3.586. I think I will be able to pull it up to around 3.775 by the time i apply to grad school and 3.798 by the time I graduate. I've always planned on going to grad school for physics right after graduating but now I'm not so sure it's the best option. (I've also been debating going to grad school for engineering as well) I would like to know, realistically, what are my options of getting into grad school and what "rank" should I be aiming for (i.e. top 10, 10-50, >50 etc.). I know it seems a bit silly to assume my future is ruined because of 2 classes but I also know that C's on my transcript will not look good to grad school admissions. Any advice is welcome! (sorry for the essay)

    The two classes I received C's in were Fluid Mechanics and Mechanics of Materials.

    Edit: Just to clarify, I'm looking for advice on applying to grad school, but also any advice on my other options would be welcome too (i.e. taking a gap year, working somewhere for a few years and going to grad school after that, etc.). Also I have yet to take the GRE, but I will be studying for it this summer and I anticipate getting good scores (hopefully).
  2. jcsd
  3. May 18, 2017 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Let's not get ahead of ourselves. You have a year. Let's see where you are then.
  4. May 18, 2017 #3


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    People ask similar questions to this on these forums reasonably often, and it always strikes me when the students' primary concern is what rank of graduate school they can managed to get in to - even ahead of what they want to study in graduate school or concerns about how a shaky understanding of the course material might impact their future endeavours. This may not necessarily be what you intend on conveying, but that's how it comes across to me.

    Anyway, a few thoughts:
    1. Take care of those personal issues that resulted in your sub-par performance - at least to the point that you can. It's hard to offer any specific advice on this, not knowing what they are, but it's not uncommon for personal issues to get a "band aid" solution only to have them flare up later and have the cycle repeat. If you need to take time off of school to do this, it's generally better to do so then push forward and not get the education that you want.
    2. It's also a good idea to spend some time reviewing the material on the courses you struggled with. A lot of people are happy to put bad experiences like this behind them, but remember that in STEM fields, this kind of coursework tends to build on itself. As much as possible you want to set yourself up to do well in the courses that are coming up.
    3. Now might be a good time to start thinking about what you want out of graduate school. First, you'll need to decide on a field. Then you'll need to figure out what sub-field you want to go into. What problems are you interested in working on? What kind of work do you want to do? What kind of skills do you want to develop? What kind of people do you want to work with? What kind of mentors do you learn the best from? The rank of a school is one factor to consider in this decision, but it shouldn't generally be the driving one.
  5. May 19, 2017 #4
    If your PGRE, research accomplishments, and recommendation letters are good, there will be some grad school opportunities. How high will they be ranked? Dunno. It depends on the details: reputation and ranking of undergrad school is one issue. A 3.6-3.8 at a top 50 school suggests a more highly ranked grad school than a 3.6-3.8 GPA at a school ranked closer to 150. Any GPA looks better when paired with a 90% percentile GPA, and multiple Phys Rev Letters and strong recommendation letters from someone famous.
  6. May 31, 2017 #5
    Thanks so much for your reply, I know its been a while and you probably wont read this but I appreciate the advice. I realize the way I phrased my original question made it seem as if I cared more about the prestige of the grad school than the work I would be doing. This was not my intention. I was just worried that being restricted in what grad schools I could get into would restrict the area of research I could specialize in. As for the personal problems, I have not yet found a permanent solution, however I think after this semester I will be able to prevent them from affecting my grades. I made the original post right after the grades came out so I was still in a bit of a panic. I realize that it probably seemed a bit silly, but I appreciate you taking the time to reply.
  7. May 31, 2017 #6
    Thank you for your reply. I appreciate you taking the time to give advice. I will certainly focus on doing research and getting a good score on the PGRE. I currently have one paper accepted for publication and hopefully will have another 1-2 coming this summer. Hopefully this and good rec letters will be enough. I was in a bit of a panic when I wrote the original post, and I realize now I was probably being a bit silly. But, anyway the grades are permanent now and all I can do is make everything else as good as possible.
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