B's in upper level undergrad physics classes

thesoulreaper
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon May 13, 2019 9:38 pm

B's in upper level undergrad physics classes

Postby thesoulreaper » Mon May 13, 2019 9:50 pm

I am doing a double major in Physics and Computer Science with a couple of minors. Currently, I have B's in Quantum mechanics and E&M. I do plan to take advanced courses such as grad level QFT, Solid State, and other condensed matter courses in the two years I have remaining and hopefully get A's. I should end up with >3.85 GPA cumulative. How much of an impact would these B's have considering they are from sophomore year and the rest of my application (such as PGRE, research, LORs, etc.) turns out to be decent enough?

jdvynk
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2019 6:58 pm

Re: B's in upper level undergrad physics classes

Postby jdvynk » Wed May 15, 2019 12:27 pm

It sounds like you're doing really well for having tons of coursework, so congrats on that!

First, re: grad courses - as other people have said on here before, you want to get A's in those courses. If you take a grad class and get anything less than that (maybe an A- is okay? Idk), then it'll look worse on your transcript than not having taken them at all. Unless you have a very specific reason for taking them (maybe you're really advanced in your research?), I wouldn't necessarily do it. I would focus on your required courses and ace those, and spend your free time getting into research as much as possible.

To answer your main question, it depends on what kind of program you want to get into. I don't think your B's will be that bad if you continue to improve your grades the rest of your time in school. Though, if they were upper-div, that might be a different story (someone else should be able to answer that better).

Actually, it'd probably help people viewing this to know what kind of program you want to get into. Physics? Applied physics? Engineering but with a focus on basic physics? Top 10? Top 20/30/40/50? I'm doing the engineering with a focus on basic physics route - my PGRE was awful, I got C's in a lot of my core physics classes, but I had a ton of research during and after school and strong LORs. I'm guessing you want to probably do the Physics route?

jabennett2194
Posts: 57
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:54 pm

Re: B's in upper level undergrad physics classes

Postby jabennett2194 » Wed May 15, 2019 1:57 pm

jdvynk wrote:It sounds like you're doing really well for having tons of coursework, so congrats on that!

First, re: grad courses - as other people have said on here before, you want to get A's in those courses. If you take a grad class and get anything less than that (maybe an A- is okay? Idk), then it'll look worse on your transcript than not having taken them at all. Unless you have a very specific reason for taking them (maybe you're really advanced in your research?), I wouldn't necessarily do it. I would focus on your required courses and ace those, and spend your free time getting into research as much as possible.




Can you you explain this? I've heard this several times before but I'm unsure of why....? Is the initiative of taking grad courses not impressive enough? They are grad courses and thus much harder than undergrad, is a B in a grad course not laudable for an undergrad???

jdvynk
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2019 6:58 pm

Re: B's in upper level undergrad physics classes

Postby jdvynk » Wed May 15, 2019 4:57 pm

It'll be good if someone reading this who also knows can contribute a bit of knowledge. I'll give my bit below, and this is from what I know of friends in undergrad who took grad courses, graduates who finished or are still taking their classes, and post docs. All from a variety of physics and engineering programs (I'm in fusion, so the engineering programs span about four to five different disciplines).

Basically, when you are a graduate student and are taking a classes, a B is like getting a C in undergrad. You barely passed. If you get a B- you essentially failed and should retake the course. Most people get A's.

From this, I gather that if you're taking a grad class, no matter who you are, you would be held to the same standards as anyone else in the class. So if an admissions committee sees that you got a B or so taking a grad class, even if you are capable of doing better and probably just needed more time to mature or do better in your required courses, they might become biased and be afraid you won't be able to do better when you have to take those classes come your graduate career.

I hope this helps. I'm happy to keep talking about it.

chris314
Posts: 16
Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2018 8:44 pm

Re: B's in upper level undergrad physics classes

Postby chris314 » Wed May 15, 2019 6:16 pm

jdvynk wrote:Basically, when you are a graduate student and are taking a classes, a B is like getting a C in undergrad. You barely passed. If you get a B- you essentially failed and should retake the course. Most people get A's.


I agree on this part because most graduate programs see a C as failing, so a B is barely passing. Also, if you plan on applying to a school that is more competitive than where you are at now, a B would hurt even more. If your school allows you to enroll in a class and then drop it without transcript notation, I would do this to get a feel for the class and the homework/exams. If it seems like too much, maybe just sit in on the lectures and try again next year since it seems like you have at least 2 years left.

jabennett2194
Posts: 57
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2018 6:54 pm

Re: B's in upper level undergrad physics classes

Postby jabennett2194 » Thu May 16, 2019 8:04 pm

jdvynk wrote:
Basically, when you are a graduate student and are taking a classes, a B is like getting a C in undergrad. You barely passed. If you get a B- you essentially failed and should retake the course. Most people get A's.


Wow this is unfathomable to me (I'm an undergrad who went through the grad application process this past year but got the Fulbright so I'll reapply next year). How in the world does everyone get As....? Are the classes not hard? Do the profs make sure you all understand (seems unlikely)? Does everyone do the HW together?! This is crazy to me. Can you elaborate?

jdvynk
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Feb 09, 2019 6:58 pm

Re: B's in upper level undergrad physics classes

Postby jdvynk » Fri May 17, 2019 4:49 pm

No, as far as I know the classes are still hard. And the professors don't necessarily make sure everyone understands the material. People probably do study together so they can commiserate. But basically, if you're in graduate school, you're taking your work and classes seriously. You don't just fool around. You want you and your peers to do well. So if the professor feels you have earned your understanding and have done well enough in the class, you'll likely get something like an A. The tests might still be very difficult, but everyone will be studying really hard and probably achieve about the same level of understanding. It's not like undergrad where the final grades are in a bell curve just like the exams.

chris314
Posts: 16
Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2018 8:44 pm

Re: B's in upper level undergrad physics classes

Postby chris314 » Tue May 21, 2019 8:12 pm

jabennett2194 wrote:
jdvynk wrote:
Basically, when you are a graduate student and are taking a classes, a B is like getting a C in undergrad. You barely passed. If you get a B- you essentially failed and should retake the course. Most people get A's.


Wow this is unfathomable to me (I'm an undergrad who went through the grad application process this past year but got the Fulbright so I'll reapply next year). How in the world does everyone get As....? Are the classes not hard? Do the profs make sure you all understand (seems unlikely)? Does everyone do the HW together?! This is crazy to me. Can you elaborate?


Having taken graduate classes, I did find that the standard deviation of grades was tighter and most people performed about the same. It's also more common for graduate students to work closely together on the homework and studying for exams. The classes are definitely hard, but people put in the work. People who scored average or better got an A, people just below average got a B, and clear outliers got C's and below. It's basically like two bell curves, one for A/B, and another for C/D/F.




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