What are my chances of getting into physics graduate school with a 3.00 GPA?

In summary, the individual has recently graduated from UIUC with a 3.00 GPA in physics and plans to apply for graduate school this year. They are currently working at a research institute in the field of nano materials and intend to publish papers before attending grad school. They have also done research in both physics and computer science at UIUC. Their weakest points are their current GPA and poor determination, while their strongest points are their research experiences and ability to learn. They are seeking advice on their chances of getting into a decent master's program and how to improve their chances for better programs.
  • #1
Jinglxx
3
0
Hello everyone!

I graduated from UIUC with a 3.00 GPA in physics last year. (I managed to get this exact number) And my GPA of physics courses are not much higher than my overall GPA as well.

I plan to apply for grad school this year and go to grad school next year. And currently I am working at a large research institute in the field of nano materials.

I have not published any papers yet. But before submitting my graduate school application, I am likely to publish at least a review-type paper about nano materials in a journal with an impact factor from 5 to 20, but I will not be the first author. And Before I attend grad school, I am likely to publish even more papers, including papers with actual experiments and new discoveries. Also, I can probably get recommendation letters from my colleagues, although my colleagues are not very well known in the US. Additionally, I have done researches in UIUC, both in physics and computer science. But I forgot to ask for recommendation letters.

(This paragraph is less important so skip if you want) The reason I had such a poor GPA was largely because that I was distracted by many other things, like computer science, bio science and sometimes philosophy. I don't feel that any courses or researches is hard for me. For example, I took a computer science course designed for grad students to write a thesis, without taking any other computer science courses beforehand. And I got an A. Plus, I am currently working full time at a very productive research group in a very large research organization (Chinese Academy of Sciences) to do researches normally only done by people at least having a master degree. Thus, my GRE could be much better than my GPA if I try really hard

To sum up, my weakest points are my current GPA and poor determination, and my strongest points are research experiences and the ability to learn.

What are my chances to get into a decent master degree program? (Of course I would choose a PhD program directly if I can) How to improve my chances for getting accepted to better programs?
 
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  • #2
Hi jinglxx and welcome to PF.

Your weak points (GPA) can be balanced by strengths elsewhere. I am not sure what you mean by "poor determination". One of your self-identified strengths is research experiences. OK, is that documented in your "candidate's statement" that comes from you, or in the letters of reference written by those who supervised your work? What others say about you counts more than what you say about yourself.
Jinglxx said:
Plus, I am currently working full time at a very productive research group in a very large research organization (Chinese Academy of Sciences) to do researches normally only done by people at least having a master degree.
Find the most important person in this very productive group who knows what you can do and who will write a letter for you.
Also, if I were evaluating your application and read that you were "distracted" by "many other things", I would wonder how likely it will be that you will again be distracted by yet more things while in grad school. You will have to weigh the need to explain your low GPA against the promise that your graduate student career will stay focused in physics. In general, keep in mind that any claims you make in your application must be backed by hard evidence that you can point to.
 
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  • #3
The good news is that UIUC is highly regarded so most folks evaluating your application will not regard the 3.00 GPA to have resulted from grade gifting, and will likely see it as earned. The bad news is that it's on the lowish side, so other factors in your application will get more scrutiny: GRE scores, research accomplishments, recommendation letters. Recommendation letters are always hard for students to assess. You should talk to those writing them about your odds of getting into specific graduate schools, and they need accurate info on other aspects of your application to assess your potential. And for PF folks to assess your situation, we would need more concrete info on your GRE scores and research accomplishments.

But the bottom line is that there is room to strengthen your grad school applications by earning excellent GRE scores, resarch accomplishments, and recommendation letters.
 
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  • #4
kuruman said:
Hi jinglxx and welcome to PF.

Your weak points (GPA) can be balanced by strengths elsewhere. I am not sure what you mean by "poor determination". One of your self-identified strengths is research experiences. OK, is that documented in your "candidate's statement" that comes from you, or in the letters of reference written by those who supervised your work? What others say about you counts more than what you say about yourself.

Find the most important person in this very productive group who knows what you can do and who will write a letter for you.
Also, if I were evaluating your application and read that you were "distracted" by "many other things", I would wonder how likely it will be that you will again be distracted by yet more things while in grad school. You will have to weigh the need to explain your low GPA against the promise that your graduate student career will stay focused in physics. In general, keep in mind that any claims you make in your application must be backed by hard evidence that you can point to.

Thanks for your reply, Kuruman

Sorry about my bad English. By "poor determination" I mean low determination or that I was not sure what I should be focused on. I talked to the person guiding me in my current research group, and he said that I could probably publish a paper about reviewing others' work in a journal with an impact factor ranging from 5 to 20 before I submit my grad application (not likely as first author though), and several more papers with concrete experimental data and new discoveries before I attend grad school. Therefore, together with my full-time work experience in a research institute, I assume that my advantages include strong research experience.

The most productive person in this group is probably going to write a letter for me, and I already told him the plan that I am going to attend grad school next year. I think convincing grad schools that I will be focused on my program will be a little bit hard, and it will be a big issue as you pointed out. Maybe that I continue to work in the field of physics after graduation can convince them a little.

By the way, for papers that are still not fully published yet, including papers that are still being reviewed by journal editors, do these paper have any significant effects on my grad school application?
 
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  • #5
Dr. Courtney said:
The good news is that UIUC is highly regarded so most folks evaluating your application will not regard the 3.00 GPA to have resulted from grade gifting, and will likely see it as earned. The bad news is that it's on the lowish side, so other factors in your application will get more scrutiny: GRE scores, research accomplishments, recommendation letters. Recommendation letters are always hard for students to assess. You should talk to those writing them about your odds of getting into specific graduate schools, and they need accurate info on other aspects of your application to assess your potential. And for PF folks to assess your situation, we would need more concrete info on your GRE scores and research accomplishments.

But the bottom line is that there is room to strengthen your grad school applications by earning excellent GRE scores, resarch accomplishments, and recommendation letters.

Thanks for your reply, Dr. Courtney.

I could probably get recommendation letters from some associate professors and even professors in my research group. And they have a very good impression about my research ability currently. But unfortunately, they have nearly no idea about how grad schools in the US work, because their past academic experiences were all from China. And although they have similar academic accomplishments like those of faculty members in UIUC, they are not so renowned to be internationally recognized

Is it true that for engineering programs like physics, overall GPA matters a lot more than subject GRE? Does the fact that I worked full time for almost two year and took the subject GRE after my graduation result in less importance of my overall GPA than that of regular applicants? For most of my courses, my tests had very high scores, but my homework points were very low. I took a sample subject GRE test, I got 930. I would study much more before I take the test this year, so it will be more than 970 I think.
 
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  • #6
Jinglxx said:
Thanks for your reply, Dr. Courtney.

I could probably get recommendation letters from some associate professors and even professors in my research group. And they have a very good impression about my research ability currently. But unfortunately, they have nearly no idea about how grad schools in the US work, because their past academic experiences were all from China. And although they have similar academic accomplishments like those of faculty members in UIUC, they are not so renowned to be internationally recognized

Is it true that for engineering programs like physics, overall GPA matters a lot more than subject GRE? Does the fact that I worked full time for almost two year and took the subject GRE after my graduation result in less importance of my overall GPA than that of regular applicants? For most of my courses, my tests had very high scores, but my homework points were very low. I took a sample subject GRE test, I got 930. I would study much more before I take the test this year, so it will be more than 970 I think.

With the 3.0 GPA, I doubt you'll be admitted to a top 20 grad school in Physics, maybe not even a top 50 school, depending on how the GRE scores, research, and recommendations turn out.

But each grad school weighs different admissions factors differently. My recommendation is to strengthen each area the best you can, then, once you know what you are working with, decide what range of grad school rankings you are really working with realistically. If you don't need guaranteed admission on the first round of applications, you may pick only 4-5 to apply to, and you can focus more on the top end of your range. If you need to be admitted on your first round of applications, you need to apply to more schools and include some on the lower end of your range.

Well know or recognized recommendation writers is not a big deal, especially once you are likely applying to schools ranked from 21 to 100. But it is important what they have to say about you and your research potential. But students tend to overestimate how good their recommendation letters will be and are often unrealistic about recommendation letters making up for other factors that are weak, particularly GPA. Since I've never been particularly impressed with students earning a B in my class, I tend to recommend you focus on research supervisors and mentors as your letter writers. My letters for students I mentor in research are much better than those for students in my classes, especially regarding issues most important for grad school. Especially if you are a co-author on a published paper, your supervisor can use the letter to explain in detail how you contributed to the research project, and assess your potential for successful research in the future.
 
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  • #7
Why not try doing a 1 or 2 years masters in the UK and then apply for PhD? You can definitely try getting some good research and recommendation letters while strengthening your GPA (but it's hard in UK schools though). I also did my undergrad in the US but I got rejected everywhere by top20 US PhD programs last year (just got too confident and didn't consider safety schools ). Now doing a 2yrs master at Imperial College in the UK. Will apply again later this year.
By the way, are you Chinese? If so, it's definitely going to be harder to apply to US schools right now. I'll wait until the trade war stuff cools down.
 

Related to What are my chances of getting into physics graduate school with a 3.00 GPA?

1. What is considered a good GPA for admission into physics graduate school?

Generally, a GPA of 3.5 or higher is considered competitive for admission into physics graduate school. However, admissions committees also take into account other factors such as research experience, letters of recommendation, and GRE scores.

2. Can a 3.00 GPA still be competitive for admission into physics graduate school?

While a 3.00 GPA may not be as competitive as a higher GPA, it is still possible to be admitted into physics graduate school with this GPA. It is important to have strong letters of recommendation, research experience, and a strong personal statement to make up for a lower GPA.

3. Will having a lower GPA in non-physics courses affect my chances of getting into physics graduate school?

Admissions committees primarily look at your performance in physics and related courses when considering your application. However, having a lower GPA in non-physics courses may raise some concerns about your ability to handle the rigorous coursework in graduate school.

4. Can I still get into a top physics graduate program with a 3.00 GPA?

It is possible to get into a top physics graduate program with a 3.00 GPA, but it may be more challenging. Top programs often have more competitive applicant pools and may have higher GPA requirements. However, having strong research experience and letters of recommendation can help make up for a lower GPA.

5. Should I retake courses to improve my GPA before applying to physics graduate school?

Retaking courses to improve your GPA may be helpful, but it is not always necessary. Admissions committees also consider the difficulty of your coursework and the trend of your grades. It may be more beneficial to focus on gaining research experience and improving other aspects of your application.

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