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Admissions Upper Division Courses

  1. Dec 27, 2017 #1
    I am starting my senior year this spring semester. I have been looking at Applicant Profiles and Admission Results on physicsGre forum, and it honestly made me a bit depressed and anxious. I am an international student at a large state school known for its physics program. I have no research experience yet. I am thinking about going into experimental condensed matter physics or material science and engineering graduate school. However, since I started school in the spring, I will be missing some physics courses. Theses are not included in the core courses required for graduation, but they seem very important since it is included in the sample schedule on the department website. The courses are:

    Physics (Advanced Electricity and Magnetism II)
    4 credits. Plane waves, plane waves in matter; physical optics; coherence, interference, diffraction, and dispersion.

    Physics (Theoretical Mechanics)
    4 credits. Development of Lagrangian mechanics, inertia and stress tensors, rigid body rotations and introduction to the mechanics of continuous media.

    My options are:

    1. Not take these courses, but get into research + math minor+ couple of material science courses +take a 4-credit graduate course in condensed matter. However, I am not sure how much graduate school favor graduate classes.

    2. Take an extra semester where I can take these courses + option one. But I heard graduate school don’t like it when you stay over 4 years.

    3. Take the Theoretical Mechanics+research and drop the math minor. This is kind of reckless since I am not sure how hard 15 credit hours of advanced physics courses in one semester is going to be.

    So, which one would help the most in graduate school admission?

    A little bit about me:

    I took the first part of upper division QM and the first part of upper division E&M. I also took 2 upper division mathematical methods+classical mechanics where I learned about relativity angular momentum Moment of Inertia Tensor, rotational motion 4-vector ..etc. but only briefly covered Lagrangian mechanics. So I am not sure if not taking theoretical mechanics will be a disadvantage in CME. I will be taking the second part of QM this year.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 27, 2017 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Really the best option here is to consult with someone you trust in the Physics department, your academic advisor. You should try to get some contacts at the school you'd like to attend to see what they think is important. Perhaps some prof at your school has some connections with the grad school and could help you get the advice you need.

    Every grad school knows students are coming in with varying degrees of understanding. Of course, the grad schools try to choose the best and they will also try to make sure you have the background in the field you plan to get a PhD in.
  4. Jan 4, 2018 #3
    I agree that you should speak to an advisor, but I don't think you should worry. Lots of people take the physics GRE and go to graduate school having only had one semester in E&M/quantum/classical mechanics. Many universities also only offer one semester.

    Also, in my experience the applicant profiles serve no purpose other than to cause anxiety for undergrads.
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