1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What does the Math Grad committee think?

  1. May 9, 2013 #1
    When I was in high school, I took Linear Algebra at a local community college (concurrent studies) and unfortunately did poorly (grade-wise, college class first time = nervous and panic results writing dumb stuff on exams). I am a rising fourth year and it's time to think about grad school

    Now I have a problem and I think you already know what it is. When I make my application they all want me to post every post-secondary I have attended. After contacting a few grad schools, some say they feel I should include that Linear Algebra class I once took, some say they just want to see my BSc transcript and nothing else, and there were some grad programs that even ignored my email on this matter which I do not know why.

    Technically on the safe and honest side I should include everything, but if they see my embarrassing grade I cannot imagine what might do to my application.

    Sure I've pretty much aced every Math class I've encountered as far, but I am afraid they might see the Linear Algebra course and think "okay this guy probably knew the stuff before hand, hence we shall treat all the A+ he had in other math courses as rubbish. On to the next application!". In particular I don't have any outstanding research/publication (if any) to boast about, and my cumulative GPA is not 4.0 either. (I should mention my department is really small, so grad classes are all pretty much crosslisted with undegrad classes - called 'special topics' and I am planning to enrol into one noncross-listed course)

    Therefore I feel like the mistakes of my youth are coming to haunt me.

    Of course I have no proof this is the case and this is why I am making this thread. So just give your thoughts, I know every committee is different. If my fears are true I might not even attend graduate school and will go for an education degree instead because I need a job (not to sure mention that I am going have to double my $ for ordering transcripts, yuck!)

    Finally for the schools who says they just want to see my BSc transcript, do you think it will hurt my application a lot of if I tell them about that Linear Algebra class I took? If for some reason the grad committee changes their mind without my knowledge, how are they going to check that Linear Algebra course I once took?

    I should also mention that I am applying to North American universities.

    Thank you for reading
    Last edited: May 9, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. May 9, 2013 #2

    Simon Bridge

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    The schools vary so much it is impossible to tell - you should specify who you are applying to so others who know it can comment.

    I got into grad school because of bad grades earlier ... so you seriously can never tell.

    From your information - you will probably be best to prefer grad schools who responded to your email, particularly if they said they don't care about the bits with the bad grades. Should ease your concerns.
  4. May 10, 2013 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    That is something I've never heard before.

    I'd certainly be interested in hearing more about this.
  5. May 10, 2013 #4
    I don't think you should be worry about grades *that early* in your education. What is important here is to show that you have grown up and matured along the way. That's probably what Simon meant, but maybe he could elaborate.
  6. May 10, 2013 #5

    Simon Bridge

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I managed to beat some people I knew with similar final BSc grades to me because of the way my earlier grades improved from very bad. They said it showed how I responded positively to failure. I wasn't going to argue.

    OTOH: I have heard of grades being examined right back to high school where there is lots of competition from straight A+ students and a policy to select only the highest grades. Some just take the firs N students who meet the minimum standard.

    What I'm trying to illustrate is that there really is no way of telling.

    My gut reaction is that people tend not to check the courses you list unless something really stands out - anything you did at the college already is available to them anyway so the request for other stuff will be for flavor. All the candidates will be BSc/BSc(Hons) with very similar papers and if the grades weren't good they wouldn't be applying - so they want to see who looks like they'll be different or get a sense of your character.
  7. May 10, 2013 #6
    In the US, at least, grades towards the end of your BS tend to matter much more than grades at the beginning. Like Simon, I was accepted into grad. school despite (or, perhaps, because of - I was pretty heavily recruited by the department chair at the school I wound up attending) extremely poor grades early in my undergraduate work. (To give you an idea of how poor, I actually flunked out of one undergrad institution, and was forced to finish up at a second school.)
  8. May 10, 2013 #7
    Thanks friends for replying. I am wondering, Simon, when did you get into grad school? I am assuming competition is much fierce today
  9. May 10, 2013 #8

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    Before I go further, while one can never tell what a particular committee will think, in general they give more recent information more weight.

    That said, I think it's a serious mistake to try and fool the committee, and an even more serious mistake to show any dishonesty whatever. Most schools realize that they can tolerate a student who is not quite as bright better than one who is dishonest - so they won't admit anyone whose application shows a whiff of that.

    If they ask for everything, send them everything. Don't send them part of it and pretend its all of it.
  10. May 10, 2013 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    It sounds to me like you're stressing over nothing.

    A single bad course is highly unlikely to put you out of the running for graduate school, particularly one from four or five years ago that is inconsistent with a record of high achievement since. In general graduate schools ask for your marks from ALL post-secondary institutions. If you do not include them, your application is considered incomplete and rejected. Attempting to hide a poor performance is a risky and dishonest move.
  11. May 11, 2013 #10

    Simon Bridge

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    That was a while ago and in New Zealand. It would have been a lot tougher to get into Oxford for eg.

    Some colleges are in more demand than others.
    Some schools within a college have more applicants than others.
    Who you know can help too - especially if a researcher particularly wants you for a grad student.
    There are so many variables.
  12. May 19, 2013 #11
    The major problem is that I actually repeated my first years because I was so embarrassed. SO I took Linear Algebra again after first years and my first year wasn't spectacular either.

    I will include everything, rest assure.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook