Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Rnth12
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Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby Rnth12 » Mon Aug 29, 2011 9:30 pm

In short I'm a junior transfer now senior with 1 year to do my undergrad degree (constrained by time but mostly $). The physics major was too spread out for me to complete (even as a BA since I got to mechanics/EM last year); I chose chem because of the possibility of taking pchem. So I'm on a chem track... For better or for worse.

I'm interested in grad physics, and I guess I have mainly fundamental theoretical/math interests: quantum (mech+EM) and 'what comes after', and nuclear/particles.

1. Now with this major, is an applied math BS (chem becomes BA) useless?
2. Another option for me is to do a minor in physics (modern physics, and 2 electives) and a minor in math (proofs, linear algebra, 1 elective) with the chem BS. Is this better or worse?
3. Last option is a Chem BS and Physics BA... How about this?

My schedule deadline is Wednesday :oops: so any advice is appreciated.
Last edited by Rnth12 on Tue Aug 30, 2011 12:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Minovsky
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby Minovsky » Tue Aug 30, 2011 10:18 am

If your main interest is theoretical/math, I would choose math over chem. Also, I tend to see more physics degrees combined with math rather than chem, so maybe that indicates something? (I don't really know, its just my impression)

1. Are you saying that you could get both applied math and chem bachelors? I don't think that an applied math BS is useless.

2. I think this is a good option, but I can't say whether or not its any better or worse than 1.

3. If you're going to go ahead with the Physics BA, why even keep the chem degree? Is there a reason why you can't drop it if you pick up Physics?

I would suggest doing just Applied Math and filling any elective spaces with physics courses. I'd also try to keep your options open, maybe you'll find something in chem that you want to study in grad school.

Rnth12
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby Rnth12 » Tue Aug 30, 2011 12:36 pm

Minovsky wrote:If your main interest is theoretical/math, I would choose math over chem. Also, I tend to see more physics degrees combined with math rather than chem, so maybe that indicates something? (I don't really know, its just my impression)

1. Are you saying that you could get both applied math and chem bachelors? I don't think that an applied math BS is useless.

2. I think this is a good option, but I can't say whether or not its any better or worse than 1.

3. If you're going to go ahead with the Physics BA, why even keep the chem degree? Is there a reason why you can't drop it if you pick up Physics?

I would suggest doing just Applied Math and filling any elective spaces with physics courses. I'd also try to keep your options open, maybe you'll find something in chem that you want to study in grad school.



The thing is I'm not sure if I can do applied math with the physics BA on time. And if I do a math and physics BA, I feel like this will make my app/foundation come off as weak/spread thin. I think pchem is nice, but I ultimately do want to go physics and maybe touch on math later on, but to be honest, don't the two go hand-in-hand to an extent?


I feel that getting only a physics BA after 4 years is also kind of uncompetitive. Or is it better to do that with math, regardless if I get a BA/BS/no full degree???

Minovsky
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby Minovsky » Tue Aug 30, 2011 2:20 pm

I'm a little confused on your situation. Why is it that you need to have two degrees? It doesn't matter if your degree is called BA or BS. Its a bachelor's degree. They're both viewed as the same. Many people only get a BA in 4 years, its the norm. In your first post you said that you couldn't do a BA in Physics. Has something changed? If your goal is physics, I don't understand why you're clinging on to a chem degree and not attempting a physics degree. Is there a reason why you can't drop the chem?

You need a full undergraduate degree to go to graduate school. Does a BA at your school not count as a "full degree" for some reason? It should, it is a Bachelor's degree after all. In my experience, there is very little difference between a BA and a BS.

What ever your degree is, try to get as much research experience as possible in your remaining time at school. That is generally considered the most important thing in grad school applications. What your degree is called isn't really that important as long as you have at least some of the basic upper-level physics courses.

Rnth12
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby Rnth12 » Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:10 pm

Minovsky wrote:I'm a little confused on your situation. Why is it that you need to have two degrees? It doesn't matter if your degree is called BA or BS. Its a bachelor's degree. They're both viewed as the same. Many people only get a BA in 4 years, its the norm. In your first post you said that you couldn't do a BA in Physics. Has something changed? If your goal is physics, I don't understand why you're clinging on to a chem degree and not attempting a physics degree. Is there a reason why you can't drop the chem?

You need a full undergraduate degree to go to graduate school. Does a BA at your school not count as a "full degree" for some reason? It should, it is a Bachelor's degree after all. In my experience, there is very little difference between a BA and a BS.

What ever your degree is, try to get as much research experience as possible in your remaining time at school. That is generally considered the most important thing in grad school applications. What your degree is called isn't really that important as long as you have at least some of the basic upper-level physics courses.


The BA is less rigorous than the BS curriculum, which is why I'm afraid of getting 'just a BA. I feel that I need a BS with it to show competence, and that as it stands I don't have enough math. The other problem is getting into courses at this stage; if I don't I need chem for a full degree.

When you say core courses which do you mean? I can only take modern physics and maybe math methods this semester only. I'm not sure if I can get into mathematical methods. At best I can take a physics research elective but I'll be doing research in the chem dept.

And re: math, I have only up to multi and ODEs. No linear, analysis, or proofs. I won't be able to take analysis at all. If I do go into math later on, I'm afraid I won't be prepared or considered.

Minovsky
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby Minovsky » Tue Aug 30, 2011 4:11 pm

Getting a more rigorous BS in chem isn't going to help you get into a physics program. If you can make it work, I would go for a Physics BA rather than a Chemistry BS. Core physics classes are Quantum/Modern, E&M, Mechanics, Thermo/Stat. Mech., and Lab. Having modern, e&m, and mechanics for only transferring into a physics program your last year isn't bad.

Math Methods should give you enough math for physics if its a physics course. You don't need analysis or proofs for physics, even for fundamental theory. You should take linear algebra if similar stuff is not covered in your math methods course, but its not the end of the world if you don't. If you're looking more at math than physics, not having analysis would be a handicap. In any case, grad schools do say that if any of your background is lacking, you have a chase to make it up by taking advanced undergrad classes. All the upper level physics classes at my school indicate that grad students are allowed to take them if they need to make up for any deficiencies.

What courses can you take next semester? It is not uncommon for students not to take some key advanced courses until their last semester. You can tell the admissions committee which courses you plan to take in the Spring if they don't already show up on your transcript when you register for them.

I think the key for you is to look into less competitive schools, you are right to be concerned about your background if you're only looking at top tier universities.

Rnth12
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby Rnth12 » Tue Aug 30, 2011 6:03 pm

Minovsky wrote:Getting a more rigorous BS in chem isn't going to help you get into a physics program. If you can make it work, I would go for a Physics BA rather than a Chemistry BS. Core physics classes are Quantum/Modern, E&M, Mechanics, Thermo/Stat. Mech., and Lab. Having modern, e&m, and mechanics for only transferring into a physics program your last year isn't bad.

Math Methods should give you enough math for physics if its a physics course. You don't need analysis or proofs for physics, even for fundamental theory. You should take linear algebra if similar stuff is not covered in your math methods course, but its not the end of the world if you don't. If you're looking more at math than physics, not having analysis would be a handicap. In any case, grad schools do say that if any of your background is lacking, you have a chase to make it up by taking advanced undergrad classes. All the upper level physics classes at my school indicate that grad students are allowed to take them if they need to make up for any deficiencies.

What courses can you take next semester? It is not uncommon for students not to take some key advanced courses until their last semester. You can tell the admissions committee which courses you plan to take in the Spring if they don't already show up on your transcript when you register for them.

I think the key for you is to look into less competitive schools, you are right to be concerned about your background if you're only looking at top tier universities.



I can do the BA and will not get thermo (pre-reqs) but I also haven't got into another class I need yet (analytical mechanics). But if I do by some chance get in, I'll take modern, analytical mechanics, and methods in the fall. Spring will be quantum, EM, and some other elective. Complementing this with math, I won't have a major but several classes above the minor (proofs, linear algebra, PDE, probability+ statistics are some choices). FYI there is a course that condenses analytical mech and EM alternatively, but a prof I talked to advised against since it's less depth.


If I stay with the BS in chem, I will take pchem which does covers quantum, some thermo, and of course kinetics. One elective will unfortunately be biochem, the other instrumental analysis (learning about instrumentation, spectroscopy, a bit of optics). My last elective for chem I've asked if it can be a physics one so still waiting for a response. I will take modern with this, but analytical is blocked out (and I'm not even in yet). I could still take methods if it matters that much, or a math class (linear algebra, proofs, or stats+probability).

The rest of my physics courses under this track are EM (or less rigorous classical physics class), and quantum. Like I said before, I hope to have my last chem elective as a physics course, in which case I may be able to take something else like a grad course (polymers or electrodynamics). And if time permits, another math.

Essentially:
BA only - modern, analytical mech, EM, quantum, methods, elective, some math
BS chem w/ BA - modern, classical (the less rigorous mech/EM combo), quantum, elective. Not much room for math
BS chem with 'close to a BA' - modern, EM, quantum, methods if it's important (but I can now take stats/prob, linear, or proofs instead) and up to 2 electives. I won't have analytical mech, and I will have pchem I and II.

End goal: particle/nuclear, what comes after quantum, basically what I said before. I suppose talking more about math isn't useful at this point. It'd be great to go to a top school, but I do need to be practical. Any suggestions? I have only an unedited list.


Really, thanks a TON for your help thus far. It means a lot.

Minovsky
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby Minovsky » Tue Aug 30, 2011 10:00 pm

Rnth12 wrote:Essentially:
BA only - modern, analytical mech, EM, quantum, methods, elective, some math
BS chem w/ BA - modern, classical (the less rigorous mech/EM combo), quantum, elective. Not much room for math
BS chem with 'close to a BA' - modern, EM, quantum, methods if it's important (but I can now take stats/prob, linear, or proofs instead) and up to 2 electives. I won't have analytical mech, and I will have pchem I and II.

End goal: particle/nuclear, what comes after quantum


OK, I still think there's no real reason to stay with the chem unless you really enjoy it. Otherwise you're clogging up your already tight schedule with classes you don't even want to take (biochem). Why take pchem if you can take the physics QM? If you want to study fundamental physics, you should learn QM from the physicist's perspective. Different disciplines often view the same subject from very different view points. As an example, I took thermo in both the physics and mech engineering departments and it was essentially like taking two completely different classes. Pchem will definitely help with thermo/kinetics, but I don't think that's reason enough to choose BS Chem over BA Physics. Your physics grad school may even think you need to be retrained in QM if your background was chem based.

Since you're primarily interested in theory, I really don't think the chem program has much to offer you. If you were more into experiment and condensed matter physics, it might be better to do the more rigorous chem with physics on the side, but not so much for quantum and particle theory.

I'd still try to keep your chem research going if you don't have any physics options. For math I would suggest the more "applied" courses: linear algebra, pde, stats (roughly in that order of importance). Pchem and instrumental analysis could be useful as electives, but don't use them to replace physics courses.

Be sure to talk through these options with your advisors/professors, they're probably in a much better position to give you sound advice than me. I'm only an undergrad with pretty much no knowledge of chemistry, so your professors/advisors may see your options differently than me.

bfollinprm
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:17 pm

Physical Chemistry doesn't cover quantum the way you need it to for physics grad school. You need to understand bra/ket notation, loads of operator theory, derivations of the uncertainty principle, and loads of other things. The methods learned in a physics QM course are applicable in almost any field of physics theory, and without a proper undergraduate background in it there's no way I would accept you into a graduate physics program (you'd never pass the quals).

Drop the chem major. It's useless unless you want to do chemistry or something like energy physics. I tried to take pchem as an undergrad to beef up my thermo, it was a waste of time (and our chemistry program sent way more students to grad school than our physics program, so it should have been a pretty rigorous example of a pchem class). We spent a month doing derivatives at a point, and the quantum was a total joke (not to mention that chemists use a different basis than physicists for their spherical harmonics).

The most important classes (the ones that adcoms want to know the book you used, etc) you take in undergrad are (in rough order):

1. Upper Level Quantum
2a. Statistical Physics
2b. Upper Level Electromagnetism
4. Hamiltonian Dynamics/Advanced newtonian dynamics


After that, it really helps to have thermo, optics, nuclear physics, and special relativity, but not required. Make sure you take classes that fill these 4; if you aren't sure a class will, post the book the class uses and it'll be easy for someone here to make the call for you. You should also be banging on doors begging to be let in to every class you need to graduate, if you're a desperate enough senior they'll pull in an extra chair, or even set up an independent study to fill a requirement (i mean, they have finals made up to give you, and you can learn on your own).

Rnth12
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby Rnth12 » Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:30 pm

bfollinprm wrote:Physical Chemistry doesn't cover quantum the way you need it to for physics grad school. You need to understand bra/ket notation, loads of operator theory, derivations of the uncertainty principle, and loads of other things. The methods learned in a physics QM course are applicable in almost any field of physics theory, and without a proper undergraduate background in it there's no way I would accept you into a graduate physics program (you'd never pass the quals).

Drop the chem major. It's useless unless you want to do chemistry or something like energy physics. I tried to take pchem as an undergrad to beef up my thermo, it was a waste of time (and our chemistry program sent way more students to grad school than our physics program, so it should have been a pretty rigorous example of a pchem class). We spent a month doing derivatives at a point, and the quantum was a total joke (not to mention that chemists use a different basis than physicists for their spherical harmonics).

The most important classes (the ones that adcoms want to know the book you used, etc) you take in undergrad are (in rough order):

1. Upper Level Quantum
2a. Statistical Physics
2b. Upper Level Electromagnetism
4. Hamiltonian Dynamics/Advanced newtonian dynamics


After that, it really helps to have thermo, optics, nuclear physics, and special relativity, but not required. Make sure you take classes that fill these 4; if you aren't sure a class will, post the book the class uses and it'll be easy for someone here to make the call for you. You should also be banging on doors begging to be let in to every class you need to graduate, if you're a desperate enough senior they'll pull in an extra chair, or even set up an independent study to fill a requirement (i mean, they have finals made up to give you, and you can learn on your own).


I wil have upper level quantum after modern physics in the spring, and EM in the spring too. The reason for sticking to pchem is that I will not be able to take thermo either way. The syllabus also covers statistical mechanics, and our Physics department believe it or not has none of the following classes:

1. Stat mechanics
2. Quantum past quantum 1
3. Undergrad EM past EM I
4. Thermo past a generic thermal
5. Any nuclear physics or special relativity-specific course.

An optics elective is doable with the math methods course. The department is very small, which is what made scheduling a pain. I will have 2 from your list plus an applied math methods course, and definitely some thermo and stats from pchem, and I have no qualms supplementing with Fermi+an advisable stat mech book along what is used (Mcquarrie).

Taking pchem only inhibits my ability to take the upper level mechanics course, since it overlaps with pchem. I will have a separate quantum course, and I unfortunately won't be able to take thermo anyway. Doing a BA covers me for no stats or thermo. Ultimately I'm trying to figure out a schedule that maximizes the covering all the topics you listed. What I'll be missing between these two is what's troubling.

As far as math goes, is no (formal) linear algebra course going to make or break me? I'm trying to get overloaded into open math classes but our dept is a huge stickler about doing this. The methods course covers: partial differential equations, boundary value problems, special functions, integral transforms, functions of complex variables, contour integrals, the residue theorem, Hermitian and unitary matrices.

Minovsky
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby Minovsky » Wed Aug 31, 2011 4:47 pm

Notes about classes:

1) Not all schools call their classes the same, so it is not necessary to have taken a course specifically called "Electricity and Magnetism II." Sometimes schools have a course called "Modern Physics." This is generally equivalent to QM I at other schools. Generally schools with a Modern course only have one course called "Quantum Mechanics." This would be equivalent to QM II at other schools. It is not uncommon for undergrads to only take one E&M course past intro/freshman physics. I would find it very very hard to believe that your school offers a BA in physics with only freshman level E&M.

2) Most undergrads only take one thermo or stat mech class. At my school (and at many others) both topics are covered in the same course. Sometimes the title is just "Thermodynamics/Thermal Physics" or just "Statistical Mechanics/Physics" even if the course covers both topics, they're very closely related. I don't think it is the most important subject you study as an undergrad. I would choose the upper level mechanics course over pchem.

3) If you want to study physics, take physics classes; PChem is not a physics class! Just like how advanced mechanics is not an engineering class, you'd be surprised at how many engineers at my school take mechanics for physics and then complain at the overload of theory and the lack of applications... Also, math classes are not physics classes. Analysis/proofs is generally too "pure math" to be relevant to anything a physicist would care about. I took Real Analysis and it did absolutely nothing for my physics ability.

4) Special Relativity is not usually its own course, it is usually lumped together with Modern, QM I, and/or E&M. Sometimes it is covered in the 3rd semester of an intro physics sequence. Nuclear physics is not a typical requirement for an undergraduate degree is physics, it won't hurt you not to have it.

5) Lack of formal linear algebra is not a deal breaker, you are going to grad school for physics and not math after all (correct?). Whatever linear algebra you need you can pick up in QM (btw, its perfectly normal for physicists to learn the advanced math they need in their physics classes). The math methods course probably covers all you would need for physics.

6) Like bfollinprm said, if you post the texts your classes are using or at least post the course descriptions, people here can tell you if you're covering things at the proper level.

To reiterate, there is no reason for you to be a chem major given your stated interests. Go with the Physics BA.

bfollinprm
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby bfollinprm » Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:40 pm

If there's no statistical physics, then the thermo class covers thermodynamics statistically. You're best hope here is to beg for an independent study--just buy the book and take the final. They probably use a book called something like Thermal Physics, which is really just statistical physics by another name. You'll need to learn the Bose-Einstein and Fermi-Dirac statistics, the Boltzmann distribution, and a formal understanding of entropy, all of which could be called "thermodynamics" but have no chance of being covered in pchem in any detail (as I can personally attest).

As to how important this is, if you intend to study particle theory (which you have stated is your intent), statistical physics is probably the most important aside from Quantum; the tools you'll learn are really applicable.

Rnth12
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby Rnth12 » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:55 pm

Thanks bfollinprm and Minovsky. I wasn't overloaded into the mechanics class, but I'll post the texts for my current classes anyway, and for the others. I know that pchem cannot possibly cover the same as what a regular physics course covers. The reason why I can't take thermo is that it's only offered in the fall and the prereq is modern physics.

Texts:

Modern Physics by Stephen Thornton and Andrew Rex
Physical Chemistry (not trying anyone's patience :) ; it's for you to look over) by Donald McQuarrie
Math Methods by Mary Boas


I'll post more once I get them all. Feel free to suggest any and all texts you recommend I look at immediately, and ones I should read during down time.

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midwestphysics
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby midwestphysics » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:24 pm

I agree with what has been said by others above. Still, if you're looking for a set of text's that cover material for the PGRE and as a result can be helpful for grad school, aka cover the check lists they sometimes show for "recommended undergraduate preparation". It's always good to stick to the classics since profs with recognize them and respect them. Still, any one of the books in each category below should do, but it's a lot to take in, so don't overextend yourself.

Thermo: "Thermal Physics" Kittel & Kroemer, "Statistical Physics" McQuarrie, "Fundamentals of statistical and thermal physics" Reif, and as something more advanced "Statistical Physics" Landau and Liftshitz.

E&M: Griff, and "Electromagentism" Pollack and Stump(Newer text, same difficulty, but written better and better examples if you ask me) MIT acknowledges and respects that particular text.

Mechanics: "Analytical Mechanics" Fowles and Cassiday

Quantum: "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics" Griffiths

Nuclear and Particle: "Introduction to Nuclear and Particle Physics" Das and Ferbel (A simple book, but most people really like it)

Modern Physics: I think "Modern Physics" Krane, though I can't really remember.

Keep in mind, not all classes cover the entire text, there is a lot of overlap. For instance, my E&M used Pollack and Stump, all chapters which was basically E&M I and 2. While classes like Modern if I remember correctly left out some chapters that were expected to be covered more properly in other classes. Some of the books will cover some of the same material as each other.

But honestly, if you feel like you can tackle things like the PGRE without all that, your time is much better spent trying to do research. Studying a subject is one thing, but nothing says I'm capable like actual research experience. Take that down time and turn it into research time, and that will look much better. Reading these books might prepare you, if you're the kind of person who can actually absorb material that way, but it proves nothing to prospective schools by saying you read something. Research however can show your worth the trouble.

bfollinprm
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby bfollinprm » Thu Sep 01, 2011 12:10 pm

You need mechanics. Maybe you'll be ok if you dont get credit for it, but you have to go over hamiltonian dynamics before grad school.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby WhoaNonstop » Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:18 am

Rnth12 wrote:I'm interested in grad physics.


Forgive me for not reading any of the responses.

Does this not detail what degree you should shoot for?

-Riley

bfollinprm
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby bfollinprm » Fri Sep 02, 2011 5:03 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:
Rnth12 wrote:I'm interested in grad physics.


Forgive me for not reading any of the responses.

Does this not detail what degree you should shoot for?

-Riley


His problem is the grad-track physics degree (the B.S.) is out of reach unless he extends his undergrad by a year (which he can't because of $$). So he can only get a B.A, which he rightfully imagines doesn't look that great on a graduate application. I'm of the opinion anything else (such as a chem BS) will look even worse, so I still advise for the BA, but it isn't cut and dry i suppose. Aim as close for that BS as you can, Rnth, it's your only hope! <key hologram>

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Chem BA+App.math BS VS Chem BS+Math/Phys minors or Phys BA

Postby WhoaNonstop » Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:47 am

bfollinprm wrote: so I still advise for the BA


Exactly. I agree. If you want to do Physics the BA will be better than a Chemistry BS. The BA had very little difference from the BS. I could swear the only difference was like differential equations. o_O

-Riley




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