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When does GPA not matter for a theorist

  1. Apr 21, 2015 #1
    When discussing doing theory for grad school with one of my professors, he mentioned not having a 4.0 would be detrimental for top schools in theory. Currently, I have a 3.94/3.95 in physics and will have a 3.9-3.92 in math by the end of my college career. Is there any truth in my professors statement or will getting an A- in two classes or a B+ in one really be detrimental? I've heard theory is incredibly competitive, but to be a perfect test taking student seems to be nearly impossible.
     
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  3. Apr 21, 2015 #2

    radium

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    No, admissions is holistic, even for theory. I am in CMT (interested in exotic strongly correlated systems) some Bs but since I had outstanding letters and research experience (including a first author PRL) I got into 5 top ten schools including Harvard and Stanford.
     
  4. Apr 22, 2015 #3

    donpacino

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    that would depend on the courses and your goals.

    Lets say you get a B+ in quantum mechanics, and your goal is to work on quantum mechanics, then might raise a red flag more than getting a B- in art history
     
  5. Apr 22, 2015 #4

    Choppy

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    I believe the point is that you need to aim for the highest marks you can in a highly competitive environment. Some people won't see much of a difference between a 3.9 and a 4.0, but when you have fifty applicants for one position and they're all outstanding that could be one of the small semi-objective differences that stratifies the top candidates.
     
  6. Apr 22, 2015 #5

    radium

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    Just try to get the best grades you can and do well on the PGRE, but at the end of the day, those are not the things that will make you stand out as an applicant. What matters the most is research and letters so start exploring research early and get to know your professors by going to office hours, asking questions etc.
     
  7. Apr 22, 2015 #6
    Normally research and letters can overwhelm a low GPA, I got into a top school for my interests with about a 3.5 due to excellent research/letters, but for theory in a physics department they are going to need a very good reason to pick up a student into a high demand sub specialty for which there is no funding and very few spots (in order to pay you, you will need to be a TA for most of your graduate career, if what I have heard is true about that sort of thing).

    Further down the road, while getting an academic job in applied physics isn't a cake walk, it is nigh impossible as a theoretical physicist, which is something to ponder. Another side note is to definitely explore experiment and more applied physics since discovering that you are equally as interested or even more interested in that stuff makes your life quite a bit easier. One of the things I discovered exploring both is that working in one or the other is astonishingly similar, especially if you choose a topic which is very close to experiment (and I think you should be extremely suspicious of anything which is really far from experiment).
     
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