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Very General Request for Advice from Upperclassmen/-women

  1. Apr 20, 2010 #1
    Hi, I am a triple major (physics/astronomy/linguistics) at the end of my freshman year. I haven't really decided on a particular career path, but I have a very strong and genuine interest in these subjects. After reading some of the threads where other physics and astronomy majors posted their qualifications, I realized that I am nowhere near their level; I am worried that, because I go to a very large public university, I won't stand out and will miss some very good opportunities as a result. So, my question is directed towards other, more experienced students: What would YOU recommend a student like me do to appear desirable to research and graduate programs? Is there anything that you wish that YOU had done but didn't when you were in my position? What are the best programming languages to learn, and what year did you get involved in undergraduate research? Thank you very much to anyone who answers this log question.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 21, 2010 #2


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    I did an undergraduate research project the summer after my freshman year with a professor at a nearby university. If you think you're interested in grad school, it's never to early to start research - ask your professors if they'd be interested in taking you on as a research student over the summer. Learning a programming language is almost always a big asset when applying for these programs - C and Perl are good ones to start with, and they're free (and there are a lot of guides online). Once you learn one language, you can apply that to any other just by learning syntax.
  4. Apr 21, 2010 #3
    I'm twice as old as you, and I still haven't decided on a career path. One thing to remember here is that I'm not that old, but when I was your age, the world wide web had not been invented yet, and it would have been impossible for me to chose a career path doing what I'm doing because the job didn't exist yet.

    It's likely that whatever either of us will be doing in twenty years may be something that no one has heard of yet. So rather than "choosing a career", it's better to have basic skills so that you can react to whatever life throws at you.

    I think you are asking the wrong question. The more important question is what is the education that you need to live a satisfying life. Sometimes what happens to be good for you makes you look really bad to research and graduate programs. Something that happened to me was that when I was an undergraduate, I studied a lot of humanities, which honestly made it more difficult for me to get into graduate school, but in the long run it was a really, really good trade off.

    Up until now, you've basically advanced by pleasing other people. There will come a point where this no longer works.

    I don't think I would have done things differently (at least in academics).

    Frubosh. It's the hot new programming language of 2025. Used very heavily in molecular nano-technology and cryogenic quantum computing.

    Now since it's 2010, I don't know what Frubosh looks like. But if you learn lots of different languages, you'll likely find something that is similar to Frubosh. If you get really good, you can invent Frubosh.
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