How much will an awful freshman year bring me down?

Facepalm
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Joined: Wed Apr 21, 2010 8:28 pm

How much will an awful freshman year bring me down?

Postby Facepalm » Wed Apr 21, 2010 9:15 pm

Hello everyone.

I attend a university ranked top 20 in the world. During the first semester of my freshman year, I slacked off and attained a GPA of 3.4 including a B+ in intro physics (which isn't bad I suppose). I did this mainly by cramming for a couple of days before midterms and finals. I vowed to take my academic career more seriously after that first semester, but I quickly fell into the same trap with results far worse. I failed two math courses and the E&M intro physics course, passing only General Chemistry with an A-. It was a hell of of a reality check for me - my GPA was barely above 2. I retook the two math courses I failed during the summer as well as a computer programming class (out of interest) and got an A in each of these. I self-studied the physics class I failed (properly this time) and took a supplemental exam for it, also receiving an A. Since my GPA was roughly 2.6 at that time, I had to ask departmental approval for entry into the joint honours program in mathematics and physics I was eager to take. I explained the entire situation and fortunately I was allowed entry because of my improved results.

My first year in honours I received A's across the board. My second year in the program I also received straight A's and joined a research team where I helped mainly with some tedious programming/algorithm work. In my senior year I had a 4.0 GPA my first semester, including a graduate-level course in physics, continued research, and published a paper as first author. My second semester has just concluded and I expect similar results (including another grad-level physics course). I decided not to apply to grad school this year, but to take a year off from school to boost my grad school admission chances with continued research. My GRE and PGRE scores were both in the 99th percentile, and I'm certain I can get great LOR's from two professors from research and one from the first-semester graduate level class.

However, my CGPA after all this is roughly only ~3.6 (expected), and my Physics GPA is only ~3.3, mostly courtesy of that introductory E&M class. Am I hopeless of getting into a top graduate school because of my freshman year, or will admissions committees pay little attention to it due to my success in upper division courses?

Thanks for reading (if you did). Any insight is very much appreciated. :)

twinb87
Posts: 35
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 12:11 am

Re: How much will an awful freshman year bring me down?

Postby twinb87 » Wed Apr 21, 2010 10:02 pm

Other than your freshman year, your record seems very impressive. I would say you should have no problem getting into a top school and I would be surprised if you didn't. Therefore, I would say don't sweat what happened 4-5 years ago. You have more than made up for it. Good luck!

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grae313
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Re: How much will an awful freshman year bring me down?

Postby grae313 » Wed Apr 21, 2010 10:13 pm

nobody cares what happened your freshman year. if the application doesn't have a spot for it, mention your upper division gpa and physics gpa in your SOP and your first year mistakes won't have any ill effects. it could even count towards you if you spin the story right and talk about what you learned and the maturity you gained and blah blah blah...

so you know I'm not spouting this out of nowhere, I had a 1.4 gpa after my first year in college and got into Stanford, Berkeley, Cornell, etc.

Facepalm
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Joined: Wed Apr 21, 2010 8:28 pm

Re: How much will an awful freshman year bring me down?

Postby Facepalm » Sat Apr 24, 2010 3:29 pm

Thanks for the responses, twinb and grae. :)

Hmm...I've noticed in some places that when a course is repeated, the original grade is not included in the calculation of GPA up to a certain number of credits. I'd have a 3.9 GPA if my school had that policy. Although when applying to those programs, I'd assume I'd still use the GPA given at my current university rather than use their system, right?

kroner
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Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 1:58 am

Re: How much will an awful freshman year bring me down?

Postby kroner » Sat Apr 24, 2010 4:53 pm

Right, if they just ask for your undergrad GPA at your school, you would give them the official GPA that the school calculates. Sometimes they ask for GPAs calculated other ways or only including specific courses in which case you would do that.

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Quantum Triviality
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Re: How much will an awful freshman year bring me down?

Postby Quantum Triviality » Wed May 19, 2010 11:03 pm

had to ask departmental approval for entry into the joint honours program in mathematics and physics I was eager to take. I explained the entire situation and fortunately I was allowed entry because of my improved results.


I would add that you usually have to write a personal essay. Whatever you did to convince the department should also be useful for that.

Also, does one of your letter of recommendation writers know you through the whole time period? Can they write about your transition?




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