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Programs What are my options with a 2.54 physics major GPA?

  1. Mar 14, 2016 #1
    HI,

    So I am graduating this Spring 2016 with an overall gpa of 2.91 and a major physics gpa of 2.54. I have talk with some of my physics professors about the possibilities of going to grad school, and they told me that it is up to me if I feel prepared, but based on my physics upper division courses being mainly all C's I should consider studying really hard for the GRE, and work on my English.

    I know that my professors would write me very strong and positive letters of recommendation, since most of my career I've been working as a physics lab aid, doing extracurricular activities such as research , and during my senior project I got the highest grade in the class with a perfect score on my paper and presentation, to which my senior adviser was very pleased. Also, I came to this country in 2009 from Venezuela, got my GED in 3 moths in 2010, and got accepted to Weber State University with SAT's scores of 580 in math and 540 in English, and all of that while in the process of being a naturalized american citizen. My English according to one of my professors is not so good since I was not able to grasp some of the concepts from intro courses, EM, and Quantum Mechanics quite well. He said that because my English is not the best, it is one of the reasons I've been so crippled in my career. Another thing he suggested, is that if I decide to go to grad school in a year (2017), I should consider reviewing all the material from Gen physics I&II and prepare for my GRE physics subject test, while hopefully having a job with my physics degree. However, considering that I get accepted into a graduate program, I should retake some of my undergrad courses to be able to move forward with the grad program.

    I know all of that sounds like a real horror movie, but what do you guys think? is he right? is he wrong? should I consider looking for a job at a McDonald's and since dreams are for free, than dream about grad school at night? Any thoughts about that or any other options would greatly help. Thanks!! :)
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2016 #2

    micromass

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    Unfortunately for you, most grad schools won't even look at applications with less than 3.0 GPA. So your chances of getting into grad school are pretty much nonexistent right now. Even strong letters or a good GRE won't solve this GPA issue.

    You need to get your GPA above 3.0.
     
  4. Mar 14, 2016 #3

    Choppy

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    I agree with Micromass. Most graduate schools require a 3.0 GPA before the application will even get to the admission committee. Even a "perfect" GRE won't fix this. The only route to graduate school is to raise that GPA, I'm afraid.

    But that said, it's not like you have to get a job at McDonald's. You have a university education in physics. It sounds like you've gained some valuable experience, demonstrated that you can successfully complete a demanding project. And you've done this in a language that's not native to you. You might want to start thinking about how you can market this or if there's a way of combining your education with further education that's more career-specific.
     
  5. Mar 15, 2016 #4
    @Choppy what do you mean by combining my education with further education that is more career specific??
     
  6. Mar 15, 2016 #5

    Choppy

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    A degree in physics is an education, but aside from preparation for graduate school it hasn't prepared you for a specific occupation. Some physics graduates who don't go on to graduate school end up enrolling in occupation-specific programs afterward. Examples include: radiation therapy or MRI technology - neither of which you *need* a degree in physics for, but they synergize well with a physics background and lead into a specific career. Similarly you could look into trades like machining or electronics. I only have anecdotal evidence for this, but from my observations, people who jump into technical careers with a physics background climb tend to climb the ladder quickly and often end up in well-paid, leadership positions. The downside is that this path requires more school, which usually isn't free.
     
  7. Mar 15, 2016 #6
    @Choppy so that means that eventually I will have to consider to go to grad school? but if I have such bad "major GPA" to which every university i this country will decline me. Why did I even consider getting a degree in physics if I could of gone to a technical school for the jobs you mentioned above??? It just doesn't make sense. ... idk. I thought starting salaries for physics bachelor's wrre at 40K/year. I just feel like I could do so much more with my degree than "technical jobs" . Like coding, for example. I have no clue maybe @micromass knows more about this.
     
  8. Mar 15, 2016 #7

    Mark44

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    Some of the trades, like the ones Choppy mentioned, pay pretty well, more than the $40K/year you cited.
    Do you have any programming skills? Developer jobs pay very well, but they usually require that you have at least a couple of years of work experience before they'll consider you for an interview.
     
  9. Mar 15, 2016 #8

    Choppy

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    I'm just saying that technical jobs are an option. And just because you could have entered that area without having done physics first, doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it now. Sure, it's not ideal, but limiting your current options because of previous choices is the result of a psychological phenomenon often referred to as the sunken cost effect. Consider either entering the workforce now for $40k per year or entering it a year or two later at $60k per year.
     
  10. Mar 15, 2016 #9
    @Mark44 I've taken scientific computing and advanced scientific computing which accumulated to 1 year of experience learning Python, plus in my senior seminar I had to write code for my project which took me about 6 months to get it done, and I am currently working in campus research doing more coding to interpret data gathered from atmospheric measurements. Say I would say I have quite the experience in python programming. I had my atmospheric measurement technician job from campus over 7 months now. I don;t know if that would count towards work experience in the developer field.

    @Choppy I see what you are saying, is not a bad idea, but I till need to pay for school.... Bernie 2016. However, I just came from a meeting with my physics department chair, and he looked at my transcripts and he said that most universities will look at your overall gpa, not your major's gpa. I asked him if i had any options and he said that I could give it a try since my over all gpa is at 2.91. He showed me a website named grad school shopper, and from there I should email the universities that don't require a gpa cut off, which believe it or not I was baffled of some of the universities that did not have a 3.0 cut off. He also said, that I must not be discourage for grad school since is not all about the GPA, but letters of recommendation, research, and good GRE scores would do to those universities that aren't that competitive. To me, based on the information gathered from you guys about technical jobs, and technical school, plus information gathered form my department, I don't know if it will be better to do the technical job first while I gather some work experience, as I study for my GRE and to take them durin spring 2017 and start grad school during fall 2017 if a miracle down a masters degree happens, if not than since I already have a job the next logical thing would be like you guys are saying, is to go to a technical program and go up the ladder. What do you guys think?
     
  11. Mar 16, 2016 #10

    Student100

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    Can you get your overall GPA over 3.0 with the classes you have left?

    What's your GPA in upper division classes? Is it worse than overall major GPA if most are C's?

    Don't let the professor you talked to get your hopes up too much, even if the cut-off isn't explicitly stated, you still have an uphill climb ahead of you.

    Let's talk about why you didn't do so hotly to begin with though. Why do you think you'll do better in graduate school?
     
  12. Mar 17, 2016 #11
    @Student100 Not really, sadly my GPA won't oscillate much at this point even if i get straight A's, and that is what I will graduate with. But to answer your question, I think I'll do better because when i got into college I came with no knowledge of how college was going to be. I got accepted with a GED and the only school background that I had was working full time in a kitchen. When I got here to WSU, I started from developmental math and worked my way up the ladder all the way to the point where I am graduating as a physicist when most of my life I was a cook. I didn't do so hot in my upper division classes because I had all the toughest professors for classes that by it self weren't easy, I mean some of my other physics colleagues took the same classes with professors I have taken upper division courses with, where i did not do so well, and these colleagues got worse grades in same courses with professors I had that I thought they were less hard. So sadly, my C's were because the great majority of my upper division courses, were with really hard professors, but I think it has to do because not every professor will make more sense for every student, yet I learned tons more with the harder professors because they were a lot more interesting , another reason was my English, when I came to this country I had to re learn the very basic English I knew from back when I was 16, had to take the TOEFL to get into college and scored high enough to get admitted, another reason was going full time plus working 2 jobs to pay for rent, because not only going to college was already an investment to which I swore to pay back once graduated, yet I still needed more money to survive. Let's not forget I don't have an excellent high school background like many of the students here, and let's keep in my mind every student here has been in the American school system their entire life, I just barely started college at age 25 coming from another country. I believe that this past 4 years have given me experience to recognize that grad school will be harder, is not like i don't feel prepared or unmotivated for it, I feel like I can do it with extra hours of work, and extra of extra logical thinking and determination, is not that I believe is not going to be tough, i know is going to be tougher. I know that if i get into a program, I will for sure re-take some courses I did not do so hot in UG, like EM and waves to which i got C's on both, just so I can understand these a lot better and get a much higher grade to be able to do grad school EM.

    The other thing I noticed, is the fact that there has been ex students from my university coming to campus to give talks about considering grad school even if you did not do so hot as an undergraduate, and even if your GRE scores were as low as 540 you could still do it, he listed a number of things that will help, such as papers, REU experience, etc. Best part though is that this guy is working at Los Alamos and got a PhD in nuclear physics. Even better was that his GPA as undergraduate was below my 2.91. Now i don't expect this forum to explain why/how he made it. But he is an example for those who want to get into grad school who really think they deserve they should go, even if they didn't make the cut off of the 3.0s, there are options, but like you said, it will be harder for us than for the 3.0s. However, I have also heard of cases where a guy who got accepted into grad school with below 3.0 got a PhD, and a guy who clearly was competitive because of his 3.0 did not get a PhD. So i guess it has to depend mainly on the person. In any event, I plan to find a job first and work for a few years before considering grad school, since I have loans to pay. But totally will be considering going back to school and get a PhD after that.
     
  13. Mar 17, 2016 #12
    I say this as someone who is getting ready to go to graduate school so I'm by no means an authority, but a GPA is just one aspect of your application. As long as it is high enough to get your application through the auto-rejection filter, you have a chance. What is the rest of your application looking like? How many publications/conference presentations do you have? How many letters of recommendation from research advisors do you have?

    What makes you better than all of the other people who are applying who have 4.0s?
     
  14. Mar 17, 2016 #13

    Student100

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    I would highly recommend against doing that, not only will you have a lower GPA than most candidates, but you'll also be a few years removed from your education. You're never going to be more prepared for graduate school than when you graduate.

    Apply as soon as possible.
     
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