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Courses Undergraduate coursework

  1. Mar 26, 2016 #1

    I am currently a first-year undergraduate. Do most physics grad schools expect to see grad coursework in your schedule by the time you graduate? If you start earlier (e.g. second or third year) and do well, how much does this help an application? Of course I know that this helps an application, but I am wondering about the extent.

    The reason I ask is that I have two paths I can take. One is to focus heavily on physics and start grad classes early (either second or third year), and the other is to add molecular engineering as a major. If I did that, the amount of grad coursework I had time for would be almost none. However, this would allow me to get some very valuable experience with working with quantum materials. For reference, I will probably try to do work in condensed matter physics, atomic physics, or molecular physics.

    So which approach do you think is better as a grad school applicant? I should note that I realize research is the most important thing and that I will have plenty of experience by the time I graduate.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 28, 2016 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    No. Many students at colleges without graduate programs (and therefore no graduate-level courses) go on to grad school.
  4. Mar 29, 2016 #3


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    I think there can be considerable danger in taking graduate courses too early.

    Like Jtbell said, you can get into graduate school without having taken any graduate courses. In fact, this is the norm in my experience.

    Taking a graduate class and doing well looks good. Taking a graduate class and doing poorly looks bad. You won't be given any extra credit for the fact that it's a more advanced class. If you get a C, you get a C and admissions committees won't adjust that because you took the course in your second year of undergrad.

    Remember that graduate courses typically take more time than undergraduate courses too. When I was a grad student, two graduate courses was considered a full time course load. So you'll have a lot of work on your plate if you're treating those the same as undergraduate courses.

    Finally, remember that if you end up going to a different school for a PhD, you'll likely have to take some of those classes over. Most PhD programs want you to take at least a couple core graduate courses from their department.

    All of that said, I think it's reasonable to take one or two graduate courses in your senior year if you feel you're ready for them. You also have to gauge your own abilities too. If you're an exceptional student and you're finding upper year undergraduate courses too easy, then go for it.
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