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  1. Dec 6, 2014 #1
    Which is better:

    1) Majoring in physics, minoring in computer science, and getting Bs and some Cs

    2) Just majoring in physics and getting As and some Bs.

    Also, how do you pay for grad school? If your're accepted in gradschool, do they pay for your living and tuition, or do you have to pay for grad school on your own?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 6, 2014 #2
    It depends on what you want to do with the degrees, first of all. If you want to go to grad school for either of them, you'll probably want to do better than Bs and Cs. But if you're making only Bs and Cs in the courses, are you really learning the material or putting in enough work to be successful in the field? What would hold you back from As?

    Many graduate schools, especially in the sciences, offer TA/RA positions to a lot of grad students (I believe usually Ph.D students). This can come with a waived tuition and a stipend of (I've seen) anywhere from 15k to 25k per year.
  4. Dec 6, 2014 #3


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    Just beware of the fallacy that focusing will necessarily translate into better grades. In some cases, it has the opposite effect.
  5. Dec 6, 2014 #4
    The reason I ask this is because I met with my advisor this week. He told me that if I want to go to grad school, taking just the required class and getting As is better than adding a minor or double major and getting Bs. Is this true? The answer to this will determine how I select my classes at UMD college park. If it's true, I'm better off majoring in physics and not adding another minor or major.

    The second issue I have is financing grad school. Previously, I thought that you'd have to pay for grad school by yourself. However, I've recently heard that if you're accepted into a physics grad school, you're tuition will be covered and you'll receive a regular stipend (this'll happened in about 90%-95% from what I've heard). Is this also true?
  6. Dec 6, 2014 #5


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    As far as graduate school admissions go, the higher your GPA in the relevant courses the better. If a second major seems to be dropping your grades, it's true that that second major will not compensate for lower grades.

    You see, in order to be awarded an undergraduate degree you need so many units of coursework. A set amount need to be in a relevant major in order to qualify for graduate school and of course there are rules about how many need to be from senior classes and specific classes are required etc.

    But you still need to take the rest as elective courses.

    Some students will fill up those elective slots in such a way that they are qualified for a minor or a second major in another subject. Others will take the courses they find the most interesting. Some will play a game and try to take the easiest courses they can. The thing is, there's no way to really tell which strategy is going to have the biggest impact on your GPA. I've seen many people take courses that they thought would be easy only to have it come back and slap them in the face with a lesser-than-expected mark.

    So the letter of what your advisor is telling you is certainly true. Better grades are important for graduate school. Grades, trump just about everything else in my experience. What I'm warning you about is the implied notion that taking a minor will lead to lower grades.

    You have heard correct on the second part assuming you're looking at graduate school for physics in North America. The financial support for most graduate students is not a lot. You'll likely be able to go through graduate school without taking on any additional debt (depending on your lifestyle). But you won't make a lot of money.
  7. Dec 7, 2014 #6
    I think your advisor is absolutely right. Mostly A's and B's from University of Maryland an College Park (an excellent physics program) is infinitely more effective in getting into graduate school than mostly B's and C's in a physics major/CS minor. In many programs, physics majors automatically need enough math courses to qualify for a math minor. (In my undergraduate, only three "core" upper division math courses were needed for a second major; and a few of us that went that route). Nevertheless, I think even the "second" major was less important to graduate student selection committees than good grades, test scores and letters of recommendation. I think "minor" is a less important title anyway. My undergraduate transcripts do not even list "minors", as the school presume's the primary major is most relevant.
    I also believe the higher grades will help you get a job if you do not go to graduate school than the CS minor. The CS minor may suggest you do not know what you want to commit your career to; physics or CS. If you apply for jobs in CS, the interviewer may be concerned your physics interest may detract from your CS work which may be more goal-oriented and less theoretical. The interviewer may ask why a physics major/CS minor rather than a dedicated CS major. The higher GPA is also more likely to impress the interviewer.
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