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What can I do with a very low GPA?

  1. May 13, 2012 #1
    I am finishing my physics Bachelor's of Science degree.

    I got 50-70% grades in every course from first year to fourth year. Also, I never got any research experience. I have neither academic or non-academic distinctions. Nothing special at all - I was just a thoroughly mediocre student.

    I guess no one in the physics field would want to hire me. What specific careers in what fields should I try to pursue instead?
    Or should I enrol in a technical program at a community college, in order to get some practical skills?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 13, 2012 #2
    Hmm well what's your GPA? Don't be scared, you're anonymous :uhh:

    Anyway, I have a low GPA too, 2.9. But according to my calculations, I'll have a 3.6 by December so it's not that bad. (I did horrible my first year)

    I guess my real question is, what are you looking for in the community college exactly? I ask because I'm currently at community college.
  4. May 13, 2012 #3
    I don't know precisely because some of my grades aren't in yet. Also, I'm finding different GPA scales depending on the university so I don't know. Suffice to say, I have a 60something average.

    Who would hire me?
    So I'm thinking I'd need something extra, and that would be a community college diploma in some practical field. Is that the best option? Is that the only option?

    However, I'm kind of overwhelmed by the number of different programs at any particular school, and I don't have a particular leaning toward any single one.
  5. May 14, 2012 #4


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    Have you thought about teaching? as in high school or elementary school.
  6. May 14, 2012 #5
    I tend to prefer practical advice so I would suggest technical programs. There are many companies that prefer degrees even if they do not relate to the business, but a Physics degree may not be considered as useful.
  7. May 14, 2012 #6


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    Before I offer you any advice about what you could do career-wise with your current degree (with a low GPA), you need to ask yourself why you had done so poorly in university. Is it because of poor study habits? Or lack of studying? Lack of motivation during your studies? Or is it simply due to the difficulty of the material (in which case physics was not "right" for you)?
  8. May 14, 2012 #7
    Yes. And I do not want to teach. It would be painful for me and painful for the students.

    A combination of ALL those reasons.
    But it most definitely the last reason too: by the third year I realized that physics wasn't right for me. I was in over my head. But I felt like I had to perservere because I couldn't afford to change my major so late. And, I have no idea what else I should've been studying.
    I'm not a hands-on person, but I've been feeling like maybe I should've enrolled in community college from the first and not bothered with the super-academic life of university.

    Now I'm gonna get my bachelor's of science degree and I don't know what I'll be able to do with it!
  9. May 14, 2012 #8


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    First of all, the problem with you is not that you had made a mistake in attending university -- the problem IMHO was persevering in a field that simply wasn't right for you, and therefore have earned a degree (barely) that is not right for you.

    Now, moving forward, you must make some basic decisions. What are you actually interested in doing? What motivates you? Only you can answer that question for yourself. Once you decide that for yourself, then consider applying to community college, either to study to complete a practical skill set in keeping with what you want to do, or as a first step in working towards a second degree.

    Once you are in community college, then you must work on improving your study habits and be prepared to work extra hard (otherwise, you will only be wasting more time in community college). It is vitally important that you take your education extra seriously from this point onwards.
  10. May 14, 2012 #9
    I'm going to have to figure out what I'm interested in. :/ there's so many options for college programs.

    So is this basically the only avenue open? I really have to invest another 2-3 years studying?

    Thanks for the advice, StatGuy2000.
  11. May 15, 2012 #10


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    Don''t invest more years of your life in college programs, unless you are willing to turn your academic performance 180 deg. Lots of potential employers wouldn't care anyway. Just my opinion, but that's my experience.

    You can learn a lot and find niches by getting out and working. Try to get better and better at your job, and pretty soon you'll be a pretty valuable asset. A college degree is not an "end". It may be an asset, but it is not an "end" to be attained. There are lots of people in high-end positions that do not have degrees... They have lots of experience and the smarts to apply that experience.
  12. May 15, 2012 #11
    Just to add that those people do have long tongues too. "Lies" can be white and black. Truth is never always true.
  13. May 15, 2012 #12
    If you don't know your GPA, then this is a problem because I can't tell from this discussion whether you really do have a problem or if you are just panicking over nothing.

    A 60-something average tells me nothing about your GPA. I probably have something like a 60-something test average, but I went to a school that is notorious for hard tests.

    A 1.3 GPA is very different than a 3.1 GPA. Anything below 3.3 and graduate school looks bad. However, if you have anything above a 2.5 than outside of graduate school, no one is going to care about your GPA, and that's not a constraint.

    Also have you tried to make use of career services (i.e. try to get interviews with someone).
    Last edited: May 15, 2012
  14. May 15, 2012 #13
    Just apply wherever you want to work and see what happens. Do you lose much by applying? No, not really. In other words, until you verify you're in trouble (i.e. employers regularly reject you due to your GPA/resume), there is no reason to ask for help getting out of trouble.
  15. May 15, 2012 #14


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    In some countries (including a number of universities in Canada, including the University of Waterloo unless they have changed their grading system since my friends graduated) do not use the GPA method -- only a percentage and a letter grade.

    To the OP, are you a student in the US, or elsewhere?
  16. May 16, 2012 #15
    Yes, but I'm afraid that my mediocrity academically will keep me from getting hired in the first place

    You know, there are a bunch of on-line university-affiliated GPA calculators, but they all seem to give a different result. And there doesn't seem to be a "universal" GPA to percentage chart.
    But I don't wanna go to grad school. Are you saying that physics employers won't ask to look at your transcript? I find that hard to believe. Especially since i have no research experience and it's not like my professors will be singing my praises in any reference letters.

    Not yet. but I plan to asap. :)

    Yes well, I'm looking ahead ;S The prospects look grim so i'm bracing myself... by asking questions first..

    Canada. I used the term "GPA" just because I thought GPA was basically a way of describing your weighted average.
    Mentally weighing things out, I'm saying I have a high-50/low-60 average.
  17. May 16, 2012 #16
    Here's a statistics from AIP http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/reports/emp2010.pdf
  18. May 16, 2012 #17
    I really have no idea how your system works, but one thing people often do in Europe is get (another) master's degree. The cool thing is that (at least here) you can more often than not do as an MSc something quite irrelevant to your first degree. If there is something you believe you can be really good at, it might be an option. It's much easier to convince an employer that looks at your transcript, if you have good MSc grades. Plus, if it's going to boost your confidence, maybe it's worth it.

    That said, my experience is also that employers tend not to look so much on your grades, as in other things you may have done in your life, in order to get an idea of what kind of person you are. If your CV suggests that you are an active and creative person, they won't worry so much because you got 60 in every exam and not 70.

    The only thing were your grades can really matter is grad school, and that is not always the case. Even though I had good grades, my supervisor wanted all applicants to do a qualification assignment in order to see what we could really do in a real-world problem, and that is what mattered in the end :wink:

    Just keep in mind that the only thing that good grades tell an employer is that you know how to study. Most employers don't care too much about that attribute though :smile:

    Edit: One more thing, you said that noone in the physics field would want to hire you, but I'm getting the impression that you do not wish to be hired as a physicist either. Is this the case?
  19. May 16, 2012 #18
    ^^ Exactly

    There is a sad gap between academic excellence and professional excellence. When people are in the uni they link good grades to doing their job well. When they graduate, they naturally think that good grades will make employers hire them, because they were "good in their previous job (the university)". This is only one part of the story however, the other being the ability to prove what sort of person you are. You would be surprised by how carefully people look at what you wrote in the "personal interests" part of your CV! Don't get me wrong, saying that you like rock climbing doesn't get you hired to model superconductors, people still want you to be qualified for the job. If you are however, and the only thing stopping you is bad grades, you can overcome that by just getting across as a good professional.

    Edit: Ummmm there was another post up here lol
  20. May 16, 2012 #19
    From the information provided, it's not clear to me that you are mediocre academically.

    That's because different schools grade differently. If you are getting 60's when the average scores in your university is 90, that's bad. If you are getting 60's, when the average score in your university is 40, that's good.

    No they won't. The only thing that employers will typically do is to contact to school to make sure that you aren't outright lying on your resume. Employers usually will not look at your transcript, because it's a waste of time. Even if they did, it wouldn't mean anything.

    I don't know how grim there are.

    Nope. Canadian dollars are different from US dollars. Canadian GPA's are different from US GPA's. US schools will give you a letter grade for each course and the GPA is calculated from those letter grades. Raw scores aren't included in the transcripts.

    It's been remarked that people from other countries often consider US GPA's to be extremely inflated.

    Which tells me nothing.
  21. May 16, 2012 #20


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    twofish-quant, what you say may be true in the US, but in Canada (where both the OP and I are from), it is not unusual for employers to request transcripts to screen potential employees, in part no doubt to determine whether you are being honest about earning your degree, but also to assess the academic performance of the candidate. This is particularly true of entry level positions for students coming straight out of university (I know, as I had to provide my transcripts for a number of positions I applied to).

    That being said, many employers do not request transcripts so the OP can focus his/her attention on those positions (if he/she is considering seeking employment fresh out of his/her Bsc degree).
  22. May 16, 2012 #21
    So you mean doing a master's degree, either in physics or in something "irrelevant"? But that's grad school isn't it? So do you recommend getting an MSc over going to community college?

    And do you think it's more useful to get an MSc (or community college diploma) in a "technical" physics-related subject or a very non-related subject? Because I'm thinking the latter might give me more options, open up other career paths.. ?

    *sigh* Further to being a bad student, I also had no life. I didn't join any clubs, play varsity sports, or do any volunteering.
    So I am not an active and creative person. Though, I've recently been starting to change that...

    I suppose so. :/

    I want to be a physicist as far as someone can be a physicist with only a bachelor's degree. I want to use my undergrad degree -
    but I was feeling like I won't be able to because employers will prefer to hire the guys on the "Dean's List"/honour-roll.

    In a way, that is encouraging. I can say that I'm an avid reader and go hiking now and again. However, can't everyone say something similar - or boast something way more impressive? Or even lie??

    You're making me think that the hiring process is as follows:
    1. Check that they have a degree at all.
    2. Determine from their CV whether they have interesting hobbies and wholesome interests.
    3. Read their reference letters to see what their professors thought of them.
    4. Interview them and try to decide whether they're mature, intelligent and reliable as the professor may or may not have said.
    5. Decide to hire this person - over another person who went to MIT and got all A's but has a bit of a difficult personality, and has marginally duller interests than the other guy.
    Actually... that doesn't seem too far-fetched... Though I know, there's probably a bias towards the big-name prestigious schools...
    I suppose you've given me a little more hope, meldraft...

    I don't know how to give you a better idea.

    Well, I can say that my school is a small-sized university and it doesn't have a reputation for science or math. It has very easy undergrad admissions. And there's only one first-year physics course (i.e. there isn't one freshman class for majors and another for non-majors; the freshman year starts at the very basics)
    And besides those facts, all the other physics majors around me seem like they're knowledgeable and skilled with physics.... while I do not feel like one-half of what they are. (And that's not insecurity talking - it is a very clear observable fact that they're intellectually and academically thriving in the system while I'm just hanging on by my fingernails.)

    So they're just happy that you got a degree? Really? All other things being the same ("ceteris paribus"), the guy who barely passed is just as likely to get hired as the guy who got A's in everything?

    And what positions might those be?

    So it seems I should either move to the US or just keep on job-searching?
    lol it might be faster for me to get a US green card than to find a (Canadian) employer who'll hire me for an entry-level position!


    Look, maybe I'm being far too pessimistic or maybe my grades wouldn't be considered that genuinely awful. But okay, in terms of advice, please just assume that I'm being realistic and accurate.

    Thanks for everybody's advice so far.
    Last edited: May 16, 2012
  23. May 16, 2012 #22
    One option if you have bad marks on your transcript is to consider moving to the US. I know that it's easy for Canadians to get a NAFTA work visa.
  24. May 16, 2012 #23
    I think that may be seriously hurting you in this situation. One way of finding out what jobs are out there is to talk to people that have gotten jobs. Also, universities have career services centers, that handle this sort of thing.

    As far as getting work, being socially inept or being painfully shy is going to be a much bigger handicap than having a bad GPA.

    Because HR people and employers look aren't idiots. If you say you are an avid reader, that means nothing. If you can write something *testable* (i.e. you have organized book conventions and that you have written reviews for a major magazine) that means nothing.

    Saying that you hike means nothing. Anyone can say that. Not everyone can say that they've won a national hiking award or that they've walked the length of Alaska.

    1) People don't do fact checking until late in the process. It's assumed through the interview process that you are telling the truth, because you are dead at the end if you weren't.

    2) Reference letters are useless. No one cares what other people think of you. If your professor hated you, it might be because you had a personality conflict. Also because people sue each other, even if someone hated you, they aren't going to write that in a letter.

    3) Personality matters a lot. I sit next to the same people for 12 hours a day, and if I interview someone and I think I'm going to go insane sitting next to them for 12 hours a day, that's not going to work.

    Also, the school in which most people get 60's on tests is MIT. MIT's teaching philosophy is to make the tests killer, so that you never get anything close to 100. They curve everything so that most people get decent GPA's.

    All other things are never the same. I know people that barely passed my university that didn't have too much difficulty getting jobs.

    The first thing to do when you are in a bad situation is to figure out how bad the situation really is. It makes a big difference whether you failed all of your classes, or if you are just having a difficult time. Also, I don't know whether the problem is that you really have knowledge issues or if the problems are unrealistic expectations or social skills.
  25. May 17, 2012 #24
    And it all boils down on how well you know your stuff. I barely passed mathematics in uni, but the things taught in that very course are feeding my belly right now :smile: So, no, it matters much more whether you know something in contrast to having a good grade at it (and you can always prove that in your interview).

    The suggestion to do an MSc would be applicable if there is something you would rather be apart from a pure physicist. It is a good way to specialize yourself in something you find interesting (now that you have already had 3 years to see what you like and what not), and the bonus is that once you have an MSc, even if an employer looks at the transcript, he will probably look at your most recent (and relevant) one (the MSc).

    I have always thought that people can do very well academically if they are interested in what they are studying, so this is my suggestion really. Find something that really interests you and go for it. You might as well take your time and spend a couple of years out there working in order to make up your mind in what you want to specialize in :wink:
  26. May 17, 2012 #25


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    twofish-quant, this is not as simple as you make it sound. From my understanding, Canadians typically only get a NAFTA work visa (of which there are several types) only if the following conditions apply:

    (1) Their profession must be on the NAFTA Professional Job List

    (2) The US requires a NAFTA professional

    (3) The Canadian applicant will work for a US employer

    (4) The Canadian applicant is qualified for the NAFTA profession (this involves showing proof of professional employment as well as qualifications, including degree, transcripts, etc.)

    The information on applying for the NAFTA Visa can be found in the weblink below.

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