Will top graduate schools look down up a light courseload?

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  • Thread starter Oriako
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  • #1
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Hi there,
I'm doing a double honours degree in Pure Math and Astrophysics right now and I'm finding taking 5 courses a semester, normally 5 science or 4 science and 1 humanities, a ridiculously draining challenge. A typical semester next year would be like:

-Honours Real Analysis (PMAT)
-Quantum Mechanics I (PHYS)
-The Interstellar Medium (ASPH)
-Honours Abstract Algebra II (PMAT)
-Epistemology (PHIL)

So, I have no time to do any free reading on other stuff I would want to learn or prepare for summer research (one year I had to spend all of Christmas break reading a Calculus of Variations textbook because it was the only chance I had to prepare for summer research). So, if I was to extend my program by an extra year and take only 4 courses each semester for the rest of my degree would it look bad on my transcripts for Graduate School? I'm sure I would get a higher GPA taking 4 courses, and I think my quality of life would improve because I would have more time to pursue extracurricular studying and also spend more time with friends and family.

tl;dr: If I only took 4 courses a semester and took an extra year to graduate with a double honours in astrophysics and pure math, would it look bad on a graduate school application to top graduate schools (like top 25 range) that I only took 4 courses each semester?

Thanks.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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So, if I was to extend my program by an extra year and take only 4 courses each semester for the rest of my degree would it look bad on my transcripts for Graduate School?
Good grades with fewer courses looks a lot better than bad grades with many courses.
 
  • #3
Vanadium 50
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Good grades with fewer courses looks a lot better than bad grades with many courses.
True. But if 4 science + one non-science undergrad courses is "ridiculously draining", how do you think you will feel about 3 (sometimes 4) graduate classes plus a TA-ship?
 
  • #4
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It is true that doing well in fewer courses almost always beats doing not great with many.

Vanadium's concern is something I will go ahead and express too - in graduate school, a lot of classes are much, much faster paced. The difference though is that they'll often also be more flexible, and hopefully not test you too often (the exception being the ones that help you pass your quals, which are basically as inflexible as undergrad courses but also a lot more fast-paced). Another factor is that you might be more accustomed to physics in general and thus spend less time just utterly clueless with that coursework (even though your clueless phase will return with a vengeance at times during research).
 

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