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What happens if I cannot get into college for physics?

  1. Jun 16, 2013 #1
    I am currently at a community college, and the only reason I want to transfer out is because the physics department here is absolute garbage. Whenever I have a question for a problem, if I go into the department, walk down the faculty offices and inquire for assistance, 9/10 of the professors are unwilling to help, even during their office hours. The times that professors are willing to help, they provide incorrect information or simply do not know how to solve the problem(s). Also, the general education and pedagogy here is terrible (I am basing the comparison of my school's courses to the lectures I have seen online at other schools).

    The only real help I get are from users on this forum, but sometimes it is difficult to explain/understand a concept through text communication only. Also, the responses on a forum are not in real-time, thus assistance for a single problem is usually spread out over a course of several days. Sometimes it gets annoying to keep track of many problems at once or lose a train of thought during a problem which is why I think I need the help of people in real life for certain problems.

    I applied to some schools as a sophomore transfer since I am very poor and get application waivers, but got rejected by every school. I wasn't surprised as many of the schools were unreasonable for someone of my academic stature and undistinguished track record in high school. Also, nobody at my school was willing to write letters of recommendation for me so I think that was also a factor, though I've heard of people getting accepted to schools that required letters of recommendation but didn't submit any.

    I plan to obtain my associates this upcoming year and transfer as a junior, but some students from my school who are transferring out for this upcoming semester who have a similar GPA to mine (3.8-3.9) have been rejected by schools I had previously considered "safety" schools. My biggest fear is not that I won't get accepted into schools of prestigious reputation or top-tier schools, but that if I transfer to a lower-tier school, I'll face the same issues I am currently having with my school's physics department.

    Furthermore, what if my new school does not have any research for physics available? I understand that REUs are highly competitive, so I would have to rely on those, but I may not get accepted into any. There are students performing research year-round at their schools, so even if I did get accepted into an REU, I would only have about 2 months of research experience tops. If I don't get accepted into any, well then I would have absolutely no chance at any graduate program in the country as a PhD candidate.

    So if I don't get accepted into any schools that have a good physics department, what would your suggestions be at that point?
     
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  3. Jun 16, 2013 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    First, random professors are not there to be helping you during their office hours. They are supposed to be helping their students. You should be talking not to 9 professors, but the 1 whose class you are taking.

    Second, if nobody will write you a recommendation, you need to figure out why. This is very, very bad. Your immediate problem is not getting into a decent college. Your immediate problem is why absolutely nobody you have come in contact with thinks you are ready for it. Getting accepted only to flunk out won't help you.
     
  4. Jun 16, 2013 #3
    The reason why I'm asking help from random professors is because mine won't help. His office hours are when I have another class, but whenever I (or anyone else for that matter) ask questions during class he either repeats the exact same thing he just said, says he's not sure, or says to consult the text. Also, he has given me wrong information on multiple occasions and I didn't know until someone else on this forum explained my confusion to me.

    Usually when I ask my professors for letters of recommendation, the most common excuse that they tell me is that don't have enough time because they are busy with other things. A couple times they just forgot even though I followed up on my request every 2 weeks or so. In the end, they never got around to writing them. So far, I haven't met a professor who has told me that they refuse to write a recommendation because they don't think I'm worth it. It's one of the two aforementioned reasons. I've only taken a year of math/science so far, so I've only had the opportunity to ask about half a dozen professors. I've asked one other physics professor also, but he said he doesn't know me well enough so to e-mail him my resume. I haven't contacted him since then, but it was recently so I'll follow up soon.
     
  5. Jun 16, 2013 #4
    If your CC is anything like mine was, I wouldn't worry about the professors too much, they generally don't care about teaching or the students, and from my experience tend to have little if no passion for physics anymore (old and washed up).

    Apply to several schools and see what happens. Make absolutely sure you apply to two state schools with decent physics programs, you can't bank on getting into a top undergrad program.

    There are quite a few threads on the forums about the benefits of going to a top undergraduate school, and the general consensus is that a decent state school shouldn't limit your chances for getting into a good grad school.
     
  6. Jun 16, 2013 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    If 9 of 10 professors aren't teaching your course, they have no responsibility to help you, and indeed, a responsibility to help their own students before you. You have zero cause for complaint.

    Of course they give you an excuse like "too busy". What did you expect them to say? Nevertheless, you need to figure out why nobody in your present school will write down "Yes, I think he will succeed in a four-year program."
     
  7. Jun 17, 2013 #6
    They don't say things like, "I'd love to write you a letter but I have to wash my hair tonight" (when they're bald), do they? :uhh:


    Edit: I'll tell you what I used to do. YOU write the letter, put Sincerely, then their name, and then just go in and have them sign it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2013
  8. Jun 17, 2013 #7

    symbolipoint

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    PhizKid,

    Spend more time at your community college and build some course credit there, more than just two semesters. Your transcripts and courses will still help you when you apply to universities for admission again. Do well (as you have mentioned, high g.p.a.). Some professors will then know you better and could, maybe, write a letter of recommendation. Even if they don't write any, this should not stop you from getting admission to some university, maybe a state university as undergraduate.

    How is your laboratory section performance? If you do these well, maybe this would be enough to impress a professor, whether physics, some other physical science, or any biological science.
     
  9. Jun 17, 2013 #8

    QuantumCurt

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    When you do go to apply to some schools again, remember what a "safety school" really is. A safety is a school where your stats would be in the upper 50%, if not the top 25%. All of the statistics pertaining to admitted students is always available in the common data sets.

    And remember, a safety is not a safety if you can't afford it.
     
  10. Jun 17, 2013 #9
    Since they won't provide a straight-up response via the direct approach, I honestly don't know what else can I do to investigate the reason why letters won't be written for me. What should I do? How can I show that I will succeed at a 4-year school so that I will stand out?

    I'm not sure what constitutes good lab performance. I get As in my physics and chemistry labs, but most of the time the professors for both the lectures and lab sessions have been the same. Otherwise, how should I go about impressing a professor during labs?

    Do you know of an accurate website I can check these stats/data sets so I can really see where I stand? What do these statistics include aside from GPA?
     
  11. Jun 17, 2013 #10
    Usually the university websites will have admission statistics and often individual departments if they require separate admissions. You might also try www.collegeboard.org. You will still have to do a bit of inference to determine the overall statistics of the upper half or quartile.
     
  12. Jun 18, 2013 #11

    symbolipoint

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    PhizKid,
    You should apply for university admission again as you approach your A.A. degree graduation. Some school, even if only one, should accept you into admission. Take whatever major field that would get you in; you could change your major declaration later, after a semester of university. Do not worry that you have not yet any research experience. You can begin that while you're undergraduate at the university.

    The reason I say, "whatever major gets you in", is that some programs may be overfull and may not have slots for you. As for beginning some research, be sure you do well in your laboratory sections of your courses. This is one way that professors become familiar with how you do things. You might find better luck at some university than you currently find at your community college. Many of the c.c. teachers do not have permanent status where they are and are teaching at other places or are searching for teaching positions at other places/c.c.'s. Any office hours they may have are stressed and they may need to move off to another site for another job, or may have preparations to handle for another class'es lesson. This may still be the case for some teacher/instructors at universities.
     
  13. Jun 18, 2013 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    Did you ask them "In your view, am I prepared for a 4-year college?" If not, I don't think you can say you tried the direct approach.

    At the risk of making a guess, I might also think about asking them "Do you think I can work independently at the level a 4-year college expects?"
     
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