Major GPA Calculation & Class Rank

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HappyQuark
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Major GPA Calculation & Class Rank

Postby HappyQuark » Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:07 pm

I graduated in August of 2009 (Physics Major and Math Minor) from a decently ranked (Top 20) liberal arts college and I am taking a year off before going to grad school. I should probably note that this wasn't intentional, but after being laid off from my job in the months that I needed to apply for the PGRE,GGRE, pay for application fees, etc I simply couldn't afford to go to Grad school at the time. I should also note that I ended up making the best of a bad situation and got a job as the primary systems engineer for a ballistics program with one of the the largest government aerospace contractors (Contracted by the DOD and Air Force). I'm hoping this will be a good mark for my grad school profile.

Anyways, I have two questions pertaining to my GPA (in major) and Class Rank. Specifically, my school doesn't bother to calculate either so what the hell should I do.

For the GPA in my major, I figured I could calculate it myself and I've done this but I always run into a few problems. How does one go about properly measuring the GPA for only Major related classes. Do I only include classes that are specifically called out in my major requirements? If so, do I include the two Spanish courses I took as part of my "Foreign Language" requirement which are specifically called out in the requirement? Do I include courses which my requirement labels as "Not required but recommended" and for that matter, should I be including courses which I would argue are related, such as discrete math, probability statistics, abstract algebra, advanced calculus, etc or must I leave them out because they aren't specifically called out? And what about courses which are declared as physics courses, but again are not specifically called out in my program req. The reason I ask is because my GPA in major can fluctuate anywhere between 3.30 and 3.7 depending on what I am allowed to include.

For the Class Rank, my school just doesn't bother to calculate it. I imagine this is likely the case because the student population is, as to be expected, significantly smaller than a state school or research university. For example, there were only 5 physics majors that graduated in 2009 (including myself) but I happen to know that even with my GPA (3.5) and My GPA in major (3.30-3.7), I was ranked 2nd out of the 5 in terms of grades. I suppose my point in all this information is that it was legitimately difficult to do really well, in terms of grades, at my school and without an actual class ranking (in department or of the entire school) I don't know how to express to admission committees that my lower GPA is not a product of an inability in physics but a result of the faculties grading style. Am I allowed to simply declare in my applications that I was ranked second in my department or am I not justified in putting anything since it isn't officially declared by the school?

mobytish
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Re: Major GPA Calculation & Class Rank

Postby mobytish » Thu Mar 18, 2010 1:56 pm

I think everyone calculates major GPA slightly differently. For me, I included any and all courses which were offered by the Physics Department (course number starting with PHYS), but no other courses. I wouldn't worry about being a little inaccurate because schools do tend to calculate some of these things themselves. In terms of your class rank, the only place I ever found that was on my final transcript (which I had to pay to get sent to myself). If you don't know it, you don't have to fill in the information unless its a required field on the online application. I think it'd be better to leave it blank than tell them it's much higher than it is because you don't really know it.

I wouldn't worry too much about your GPA either. Universities tend to understand the different levels of difficulty at different schools (as long as your school is fairly well-known) and know that lower GPA from a small private school might be better than a higher GPA from a big state university. I've also never seen any of my rec. letters, but I imagine profs might comment on this in their letters about you.

matonski
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Re: Major GPA Calculation & Class Rank

Postby matonski » Thu Mar 18, 2010 2:08 pm

With regards to major GPA, I found three different explanations.

1) All grades in all Physics courses only (this would exclude math courses)
2) Only grades in those courses that were required for your major (this would exclude extra upper division Physics courses that were not required).
3) Any course that's related to Physics.

Tosh
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Re: Major GPA Calculation & Class Rank

Postby Tosh » Fri Mar 19, 2010 12:24 am

can we include physics research credits into physics gpa?

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HappyQuark
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Re: Major GPA Calculation & Class Rank

Postby HappyQuark » Fri Mar 19, 2010 6:19 pm

Tosh wrote:can we include physics research credits into physics gpa?


I've been thinking about it further and have convinced myself that most likely the GPA in major is supposed to be, and I imagine more importantly, will be calculated by admissions committees as only physics classes (typically called out as PHYS in most course catalogs). As to whether or not it includes additional but unnecessary physics classes or research credits, I don't know and I can think of one reason it would and one why it wouldn't. I imagine incorporating physics classes that were not required for the major would be good because it may give the school an idea as to how you did in all the physics classes you took, including the less common or standard physics courses. On the other hand, it may be the case that what they are especially concerned with is how prepared each student is with the standard undergrad repertoire and may want the major GPA to only reflect this.

In any case I imagine I'm over thinking it, but I'm still curious if there is a standard method by which those schools that do calculate a GPA in major do this or if each institution does things differently.

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quizivex
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Re: Major GPA Calculation & Class Rank

Postby quizivex » Fri Mar 19, 2010 6:55 pm

There should be a standard method, but I've been on this forum a long time and went through the whole application process and I never heard of any school stating what they actually mean by "Major GPA". As you guys noted, there are plenty of reasonable things it could mean, the most restrictive being physics department classes only, and the most liberal being every course officially required for you to graduate with your physics major degree... thus things like English and Language would end up in there too.

I'd imagine almost all applicants are confused by this question every year, so I'm glad there's finally a thread with its name...

For everyone in this boat, you can just use whatever interpretation of "Major GPA" makes it the highest. Seriously. It's the school's own fault for not saying that they mean. The schools aren't going to check your arithmetic or they wouldn't have asked for the number in the first place. Even if they did and came up with a number 0.02 lower, you couldn't possibly get in trouble because any of the interpretations discussed are reasonable.

If you have two majors in math and physics, do the math classes get counted in the "major" too? I always wondered that... and that was my main incentive for trying to keep a 4.0 and not have to worry about it. But let's just say if I got a B in a physics class, my "major GPA" would have included math and physics, and if I got a B in a math class, only physics classes would've been counted :wink:

As for HappyQuark, your plan to only count PHYS courses sounds fine and that may be what some schools expect. But IMO it doesn't make sense for courses like PDE's and Calc 3 to not count, especially since they'll be more useful in your physics career than many of the specific physics classes you took. For instance, in plasma we've barely used any quantum, optics or pure non-stat-mech thermo, but the stuff I learned in complex variables has shown up everywhere. So anyway, the point of this is, don't hesitate to take advantage of the ambiguity of "major GPA".

mobytish
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Re: Major GPA Calculation & Class Rank

Postby mobytish » Sat Mar 20, 2010 8:20 am

On one of my applications, they asked for Physics GPA and Math GPA separately, which is what gave me the idea that I should give them my GPA for each based only on the classes I took within that department. Of course, I only actually took Calc II in the Math department (the rest of my calc was all wrapped up into a course taught in the Physics department) and I'd gotten a B, so I left that blank when I filled out my application, since I thought it would be an unfair representation of my math abilities. Still, it didn't seem to affect my chances of getting accepted.

Tosh
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Re: Major GPA Calculation & Class Rank

Postby Tosh » Sat Mar 20, 2010 8:57 pm

So say I do physics research and get a credit for it.. say a good grade.. can I include in the major GPA?

Also, as a math-physics double major with lower math GPA.. I can definitely just calculate major GPA to include only physics classes?




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