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Schools Will transferring solve anything?

  1. May 22, 2016 #1
    I'm a physics undergrad with a year's worth of credit remaining to complete my degree, all 300 and 400 level courses as I've already done gen eds/ humanities. After graduating high school, I attended a noncompetitive state school for a year and was very alienated, the school lacking support for undergrads (advisers disinterested/unavailable, no orientation or study skills courses) and student organizations failing to turn into significant connections. For the four years since, I've taken community college classes and in the last year returned to the same school (in the mentality of "get it over with, your attitude was the problem") and have had the same experience. For mental health reasons, my academic performance is heavily impacted by a lack of regular social interaction, and my GPA disturbingly low, so despite the local research opportunities, I'm tempted to transfer to a liberal arts college where advisers will be more accessible and campus life easier to get involved with. Or even just another state school, to get out from under my GPA and start over with a different community.

    So my question is: 1) Was social life important to you as a physics major, or did it hurt rather than help? Am I overrating the importance of community and faculty support? (i.e. could the problem still be me and not the school?) 2) Is attending a school with fewer research opportunities/graduate programs likely to be a bad idea, especially as a senior? 3) With my low level of achievement thus far, should I consider changing my major? Would a high GPA in economics or history be more employable than a low GPA in physics or chemistry? My ambition was always to be an academic but I suspect that's no longer possible.

    I come to the forum with this because I think my situation is the result of poor advice (or good advice ignored) throughout HS & college, and so am seeking people who know what they're talking about, and aren't just trying to get me out of their office in time for their next appointment.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 22, 2016 #2


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    Some kind of social life is important for most people. Part of maintaining a healthy life is having constructive down-time and sharing your experiences with others. Obviously too much partying is not a good thing, but having a social life isn't just partying. Sometimes it can just be about going for a walk with someone or going to a movie and talking about it afterwards. Sometimes it can be working out, or playing some kind of sport. Social interaction acts as a buffer for dealing with stress or anxiety. And it can normalize feelings that you have. It also help you to learn in more subtle ways such as offering different perspectives on material that you're learning. So yes, some kind of social life is very important.

    Whether your problem is still you and not the school is difficult to answer. I would suggest that if the school is generally graduating students that are going on to successful graduate school positions and careers that are in line with where you want to go, then the problem is unlikely the school. But a lot can depend on why you're feeling alienated. It's possible that this just isn't the place for you and whether there is anything objectively "wrong" with the school is irrelevant. If you're not feeling like you fit in and you can change that by going elsewhere, it might be worth trying.

    I think what's important is not the overall number of research opportunities, but whether or not you get to be involved with something that you like. If the school only had one option, but you can get involved and it's something you excel in then great. All the cool research in the world doesn't matter if you're not a part of it, or unsuccessful when you try.

    Well, realistically getting into graduate school more-or-less requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 and meeting the bare minimum would put you on the lower end of the spectrum. The average GPA of your peers in graduate school is likely to be north of 3.5, and most of them won't end up in academia.

    Employers tend to care more about the skills, experience and work ethic that you bring to the table over your GPA. So in that sense, I'm not sure a major in economics or history is going to give you the solution that you're looking for. The other issue is that even though conceptually another major may seem a little easier, you won't know how you wll perform once you get in. If you're doing something you hate, there's a good chance your GPA will suffer there too. And if it's the alienation issue that you figure is the source of your problems - is that going to change with a different major?
  4. May 22, 2016 #3
    I honestly don't see how transferring before your senior year could help you at all. It's not enough time to get a good letter of recommendation from a professor - only a "he/she got an A in my course and was a good student" letter, which won't get you anywhere. Unless the other school you are considering specifically offers courses that you need that your current school doesn't offer, I'd say it's not worth it. Not all of your credits will transfer unless the schools are very closely linked, and I think you'll find that your social life while taking a full schedule of 300 and 400 level physics courses will be stunted anyway.

    I also went to a school with poor advising as an undergrad, so I sense your frustration, and I also wanted to transfer after spending a summer at another school. You mentioned wanting to "get out from under your GPA", but you have to consider that if you attend graduate school, you must send all transcripts with your application (which means your community college years, current school, and also future school if you transfer), so there is no getting out from under it.

    This is my opinion. Transferring will not help you, and may likely hurt you. Have you spoken to each professor in your department about research opportunities? That is the best thing you can do that will help your resume for future graduate school endeavors.
  5. May 24, 2016 #4
    My thought was the GPA I'll graduate with, which is what I can put on a resume. But you're right.
  6. May 24, 2016 #5


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    Transferring to another school and another program will help you up your GPA at the new school (if you get in). But that comes at a price. The price being any low grades (that would have been acceptable electives and count towards graduation at your current school) will be dropped. And you may have to take other low level courses that are considered prerequisites in your new major. AND nearly every school has a 64 credit Maximum credit acceptance, even if you had GOOD grades and coursework. However, most schools only accept transfer credits of C or better. So, any C- or worse, won't transfer.
    You are certainly setting yourself back one year, possibly more, by transferring. If you like your major, I suggest for you to stick it out. Perhaps take a class or two over, if you have a low grade if you feel it is a needed class or for your own betterment.
    If you have lost your love of physics, then I suggest you look at another major at your same school. The other department at your same school will be far more generous in keeping your current classes on your transcripts and keeping you on track. If you want to patch up your GPA, you can then retake a couple of classes and often times a department will literally let you replace the one class with another (this is done on a case by case basis, most of the time they DO NOT do this, but some professors are known to be more harsh on their students and if you were in that professor's class, the school might provide you this courtesy). Doesn't hurt to ask.
    Of course, if you are in a toxic atmosphere ie you were a John Belushi of Animal House and wanted to transform into a respectable student, a change of colleges would be the only real solution.
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