Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

User avatar
mrrsnhtl
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2011 4:27 pm

Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

Postby mrrsnhtl » Mon Jun 27, 2011 6:47 pm

Greetings,

I am (now) a senior Physics student in a prestigious university in Turkey, seeking a career in astrophysical sciences in US. I will apply for PhD programs for Astronomy dept.s next fall.

I am one of the journeymen who sucked in the first two years and claim an upward acceleration afterwards. Anyhow, my schedule is theorethical physics based. However I have taken some extracirricular astronomy and astrophysics courses. I also have taken a research course in which I have cooperated with my astrophysics instructor. These parts will probably be included in the extracirricular activity and the research experience section of my SOP. All in all, I expect to have some good recommendation from my research instructor and fine ones from others.

The thing is, even though I'm in a better shape in my class, I have a cumulative gpa of 2.9 due to the catastrophy of the first four semesters. Then: 3.25 for the 5th semester and 3.4 for the 6th one.

I have taken 40 credits at total in these two semesters and also have some issues: Classical Mechanics 1-2 are both C+ and Math.methods for Physicists 2 is C (even though I had A- for Math.methods 1). The rest is just fine, including A+ in astro. and research courses.

What I have seen in this forum is generally people are dealing with very high grades and I read sentences like "..well I have a mediocre GPA 3.8..." whereas 3.88 is the highest GPA among my class and this situation is confusing for me..

Now comes the questions part:

I assume a major GPA between 3.2-3.4 and full grades at astro.courses. However, is my research course going to be considered? I will for sure include what I have achieved in this course in my SOP.

I have 420/780/2.5 GRE general grades..I really didnot expect 2.5/6.0 writing score. Is this a major problem?

Core courses like EM, Stat.mech., Q.mech (and an additional astronomy course) is included in my 7th semester (next fall). So I will not be able to send its transcript in the application process, does that bring a problem?

Overall I will have something like 2.9 overall GPA, 3.3 major GPA, nearly strong recommendations and I expect to have 900+ pGRE. I know UCBerkeley, Chicago, Illinois are tough shots but I'll try. Else, I will try Boston, U.of Arizona, UCSantaCruz, Rochester and goes on. Any comments on these shots? Or any recommendations ?? I desperately need some.

If you have read thru this far, I really appreciate your effort. Thank you very much for any reaction..

Best.

User avatar
grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

Postby grae313 » Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:42 am

The absolute GPA is not considered as much as your performance in upper division core courses and your position in your class -- that is, a 3.3 GPA is great if you are second in a large class. Class averages vary from university to university and country to country. It is a good idea to have your letter writers mention the class average GPA and your position in the class. However you'll have a big problem with a GPA of 2.9 as about 99% of graduate schools in the US require a 3.0 minimum GPA to be admitted. With a 2.9 you'd have to apply to the handful of schools that do not have a minimum GPA (search the forums for a list of these), and your options will be very limited.

Another option is to take an extra semester or year and either retake some of the classes you did poorly in to replace your grade if your university allows that, or take and do well in some additional classes (grad classes?). This would also have the side benefit of allowing your core upper division classes to be on your transcript when you apply.

Your core upper division courses are very important, especially if you've done poorly early on. A strong performance in these classes is what graduate schools are really looking for in your transcript, and most people in the US have most of these classes done when they apply. One option is to apply with only 6 semesters on your transcript and then update your application file with your final grades as soon as they are available, but without a 3.0 minimum GPA your application will already be in the reject pile for most schools.

Your research course will of course be considered if it is on your transcript, and research experience is one of the most important things that graduate schools look for in an applicant. If you stayed an extra semester or year you would also have the opportunity to get more research experience which would really help your application.

Your writing score is pretty low, and surprising since you seem to write just fine in your post here. It's not one of the most important things in an application for sure, but when you're competing for spots in excellent schools you'll be competing against excellent applicants. What I'm trying to say is, no one is going to look at your application, see that score, and immediately discount you, but neither are you painting yourself as an exceptional candidate. Someone with a similar application to yours but a much higher writing score would probably be given a slight preference.

I always tell people that if they can afford it, just go for it and apply. You might do fine. If you aren't pleased with the results, stay another year and work on your application, then try again. You need to address the 3.0 minimum GPA requirements though, and remember that if you are aiming for top schools you are competing against candidates that excel broadly. You need to distinguish yourself as an exceptional student at your institution.

pqortic
Posts: 398
Joined: Fri Aug 29, 2008 9:24 am

Re: Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

Postby pqortic » Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:56 am

applying without grades of core courses (E&M, QM ...) in your transcript is just waste of time. besides, with a low grades you will hard time competing with many other applicants with high GPAs. the schools that you are going to apply receive many applications so make sure to add some lower rank schools to your list.

User avatar
midwestphysics
Posts: 444
Joined: Thu Dec 16, 2010 12:37 am

Re: Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

Postby midwestphysics » Tue Jun 28, 2011 2:35 pm

I see your problem with a complete transcript, since you have to send your paper work earlier as an intl. What I suggest is to send a transcript in on time and then send the updated transcript in as soon as it comes out. It may come in after the deadline, but you have the original in there, and this will just be seen as updating material which a lot of students do. Hopefully it will get there in time, which will help because as Pqortic said....

pqortic wrote:applying without grades of core courses (E&M, QM ...) in your transcript is just waste of time. besides, with a low grades you will hard time competing with many other applicants with high GPAs. the schools that you are going to apply receive many applications so make sure to add some lower rank schools to your list.


I think you can be waiting to finish up at most one or two core classes, but not having really any of them leaves a lot to be desired. Those are the hard classes, so they like to see how you fared. So missing E&M, QM, Thermo, etc is problematic. Do you have at least classical mechanics and modern physics complete? Most schools list their expected preparation, in the AIP reports, as modern physics, classical mechanics, quantum, E&M, and many times thermo. You can usually get away with missing one, well, maybe not at top 10's, but say you didn't get thermo in at all that can be fixed easily in the first grad semester.

User avatar
mrrsnhtl
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2011 4:27 pm

Re: Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

Postby mrrsnhtl » Wed Jun 29, 2011 6:52 am

Thank you very much for your kind interests!

@grae313;

So even if I got an excellent grade for pGRE, it would not balance out 2.9 gpa and I would have no chance at all, you say. Probably I will take more than 30 credits for the next two semesters and I'll have 3.0+ gpa already, so do you recommend to wait and hit the 2012 fall applications (after I graduate)? As far as I know, most schools do not accept applicants in the spring season, so this means If I dig the 2012 fall applications and got an acception I have to wait for a whole year 'til I attend the school in fall 2013 (=

Or, I simply take a shot in the next fall. Are you certain that 3.0 gpa is a strong line? Because I've heard of people getting accepted to the schools like Pittsburgh with some strong recommendations, research stuff etc. even though they have below 3.0 gpa..

@pqortic,midwestphysics;

pqortic wrote:applying without grades of core courses (E&M, QM ...) in your transcript is just waste of time.


midwestphysics wrote:I think you can be waiting to finish up at most one or two core classes, but not having really any of them leaves a lot to be desired. Those are the hard classes, so they like to see how you fared. So missing E&M, QM, Thermo, etc is problematic. Do you have at least classical mechanics and modern physics complete? Most schools list their expected preparation, in the AIP reports, as modern physics, classical mechanics, quantum, E&M, and many times thermo. You can usually get away with missing one, well, maybe not at top 10's, but say you didn't get thermo in at all that can be fixed easily in the first grad semester.


Well, I can say each year there are plenty of students got admitted to the grad.schools in US from my school. I'm kinda certain that they apply while they're in their 7th semester (fall) just like me. Actually I have taken thermo. course. Not as a core course, but as a part in the 2nd year introductory statistical physics course. The physics courses I have taken in my 5th and 6th terms are:

Classical Mech 1-2
Modern Phys. 1-2
Math.methods for Physicists 1-2
Electronics for Phys.
Experimental Physics 1 (2nd is to be taken in 7th term)
Classical Astronomy (elective)
Intro.to Astrophys. (elective)
Research in Phys (elective)

and a C programming elective course given by a lunatic physicist which is kinda irrelevant (=

7th semester courses I'll take next term are:

Q.mech 1 (2nd in 8th sem.)
Electromagnetism 1 (2nd in 8th sem.)
Experimental Physics 2
Statistical Mech.
Cosmic X ray Astro. (elective)
and probably another elective Research course..

As midwest. have said, I guess that 7th term's transcript is posted at a later date when it is just ready, for fall applications. Probably that is what I will do (after I have consulted my advisors).

All in all, I have interest in schools like: U.of Arizona, Boston, NYU, UCSC, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Washington, Minnesota, Florida...and other similar ranked schools that I have not scanned yet.

And actually I have a girlfriend who is about to start a Md Math program here, so waiting for the graduation and then apply for fall 2012 seems to be proper for me. Yet, I have done so many preparations for the applications next fall and I somehow do not want to miss it. Do you see no light at all for me? (I will search for 'no 3.0 gpa restriction' schools)

Thanks guys, you're such good advisors!

Best.

User avatar
grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

Postby grae313 » Wed Jun 29, 2011 10:51 am

mrrsnhtl wrote:@grae313;

So even if I got an excellent grade for pGRE, it would not balance out 2.9 gpa and I would have no chance at all, you say. Probably I will take more than 30 credits for the next two semesters and I'll have 3.0+ gpa already, so do you recommend to wait and hit the 2012 fall applications (after I graduate)? As far as I know, most schools do not accept applicants in the spring season, so this means If I dig the 2012 fall applications and got an acception I have to wait for a whole year 'til I attend the school in fall 2013 (=

Or, I simply take a shot in the next fall. Are you certain that 3.0 gpa is a strong line? Because I've heard of people getting accepted to the schools like Pittsburgh with some strong recommendations, research stuff etc. even though they have below 3.0 gpa..


At top 20 schools you are unlikely to have your application considered seriously with a 2.9 GPA, even with a 990 on the physics GRE. They just have too many quality, well-rounded applicants. The problem is that it's not up to the physics department -- the University as a whole sets the 3.0 minimum for the entire grad school so the department would have to somehow petition the university to make an exception for you. At lower-ranked schools you've definitely got a shot, but you're still making things very hard on yourself. There will be anecdotal exceptions, for sure, but it's not the norm.

You are right that schools do not usually accept students for the spring semester. Usually applications are due in the winter (December and January), decisions are sent out in February and March, you finish out the academic year at your current institution, then start at your new school in late August or early September. You don't wait a whole year between applying and going there, you wait half a year.

It doesn't hurt you to go ahead and apply this fall if you can afford it. If you are accepted you will most likely have the opportunity to defer for a year if you decide waiting for your GF is what you want to do, but worst case scenario, you're out some money and you try again next year.

User avatar
mrrsnhtl
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2011 4:27 pm

Re: Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

Postby mrrsnhtl » Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:36 pm

Yeah, the worst case scenario is not a tough bite. But, now I have another thing in my mind;

When I apply next fall, I will have my 7th semester courses on my transcript, but not graded of course. I've checked that the last day for the 7th term courses is dated 31.11.2011. So I give 2 weeks for the finals and say 1 more week for grading (probably my grades would be done before this additional week); this means I'll have my 7-semester transcript within the third week of Jan.2012..What I want to ask is, is there a way for any school to have my 6th-semester transcript first and than have the upgraded one a bit later. I am asking this because I can boost my gpa above 3.0 with a neat 7th term spa..

I understand the 3.0 gpa policy for 1-20 ranked schools, but really where I would love to end up are schools like Boston,NYU,Rochester,Florida etc. that are way below this rank. I just wouldn't give a damn meaning If they reject me just because my GPA is 2.9 .

Talking about deferring, If I am accepted can I defer for 1 year?

User avatar
grae313
Posts: 2297
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

Postby grae313 » Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:09 pm

Yes, we've all been advising you to send in your updated transcripts as soon as possible. Schools don't meet to evaluate applications until after Christmas so if you mail in the completed transcript after it's available and this puts you above a 3.0 you should be fine. And yes, most schools allow you to defer for one year but you'd have to verify this for each school. When you're accepted you'll either be mailed a decision form or sent a link to an online one where the options are typically "accept" "decline" or "defer." If you don't see deferring explicitly as an option you can always call or email the department to ask if it would be possible.

User avatar
mrrsnhtl
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2011 4:27 pm

Re: Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

Postby mrrsnhtl » Wed Jun 29, 2011 2:29 pm

All right then, this fall it is (= Thanks a million! Really, everyone has been such kind and helpful.

Best regards..

User avatar
mrrsnhtl
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2011 4:27 pm

Re: Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

Postby mrrsnhtl » Mon Aug 29, 2011 6:26 am

Hello again,

Speaking to some professors in US, I've concluded that there's a noticable grade inflation in most of the undergraduate schools in US. That means; here (Turkey) you got a B+ and have a party with celebratory gunfire, but in US you shut yourself in your room and weep for a week and at last your body is found floating on your tears, suffocated.

Joking aside, I think mentioning this fact -e.g. 3.0 GPA is honors awarded here- in SOP and letters of reference by professors could be a good point for me..Besides, I've heard that in application process domestic and international students are analyzed in different pools. It seems reasonable to me, to you?

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

Postby bfollinprm » Mon Aug 29, 2011 12:50 pm

You should have at least one recommendation coming from someone who can speak about your academic aptitude for graduate school (as opposed to research aptitude and commitment). The explanations of your grades should be in the contents of that letter, for every student applying anywhere.

When asking for recommendations, you should mention to your letter writers what you hope they can talk about in their letter. For instance, if you ask a course instructor or department chair, you should mention that you hope the professor can affirm your aptitude for physics coursework, and explain the grading system and where you fall in the spectrum of students at your institution.

User avatar
mrrsnhtl
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2011 4:27 pm

Re: Another Brick in the "any chance?" Wall

Postby mrrsnhtl » Tue Aug 30, 2011 4:46 pm

Thanks bfollinprm. I'll talk to my recommenders about this issue. Currently I'm preparing for the PGRE test on Oct.15..I hope the best for all of us.




Return to “GPA and Transcripts”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest