Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

arwright3
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Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby arwright3 » Thu Sep 01, 2011 4:14 pm

Hi,

I'm a senior at the University of Wisconsin and I will be applying to grad school in physics soon. I'm currently majoring in Math, Physics, Nuclear Engineering, and Astronomy. I have 6 credits left to finish my astronomy degree and I'm seriously considering not finishing it out. As it stands now, I'll finish all 4 degrees, but will miss out on taking a bunch of math courses that I really want to take (Differential Geometry and 2nd semester Abstract Algerbra).

My question is: will anyone care whether I had 3 majors or 4 when considering my grad school application? I would imagine that it's not a REALLY big deal, but it sets me appart quite a bit because lots of people have 3 majors, but almost no one has 4.

I am hoping to get in to Stanford, CalTech, or Berkeley, so I don't want to do anything that could weaken my application.

Bottom line: is anyone going to care whether or not I have a degree in Astronomy when applying to grad school?

Thanks for your time,
-Adam

P.S. Also, I'm one lab away from getting honors in physics, will anyone care if I get honors? (I'm doing the honors thesis either way)

CarlBrannen
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby CarlBrannen » Thu Sep 01, 2011 6:11 pm

Definitely go for the honors and all 4 degrees. Awesome collection. How many years did it take?

arwright3
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby arwright3 » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:45 pm

it took 4 years

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Dorian_Mode
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby Dorian_Mode » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:53 pm

Honors might be nice, but nobody is going to care if you have 3 or 4 major. I'm not even sure why you would consider getting that many in the first place, when a single major will serve just as well.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby HappyQuark » Fri Sep 02, 2011 1:39 am

Dorian_Mode wrote:Honors might be nice, but nobody is going to care if you have 3 or 4 major. I'm not even sure why you would consider getting that many in the first place, when a single major will serve just as well.


I disagree. I got 8 bachelor's degrees and when Hawaii accepted me, they told me that my knowledge in African American studies, Theological Seminary and underwater basket weaving were, by far and away, more important to my application than my silly physics degree. After all, how many physicists do you find that refer to African American body radiation with the appropriately sensitive terminology? Only I do and that, in their eyes, was an important determining factor.

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Dorian_Mode
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby Dorian_Mode » Fri Sep 02, 2011 1:50 am

Well yeah, but you have to remember that Hawaii is a very demanding and prestigious institution. The average student needn't concern himself with such matters.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:16 am

arwright3 wrote:I'm currently majoring in Math, Physics, Nuclear Engineering, and Astronomy.

arwright3 wrote:it took 4 years


I think they will take note of the extra majors but I highly doubt it will be a determining factor. Did acquiring these 4 majors hinder you in doing more research? How well will you be doing on the Physics GRE? These are the more important questions that should be asked about this situation.

Honestly, if you're getting a physics bachelors, a Math (and Astronomy) degree can "almost" be implied. I'm sure there are a few extra courses needed for the Nuclear Engineering, but still not a huge departure from physics either. Not that any selection committee would agree with me, but I would find someone with two fairly unrelated majors to be interesting. Say physics and art or criminal justice or history(Of course, doing this would more than likely take 5+ years).

-Riley

CarlBrannen
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby CarlBrannen » Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:50 am

arwright3 wrote:it took 4 years


Ignore the (probably envious) doubters. The Nuke program is probably a very specialized program without a lot of room for choosing electives. Only getting it done in 4 years is a sign of a hard working student. The other degrees have more leeway, but definitely, 4 degrees in 4 years is an amazing academic achievement. And getting honors in physics would be just more of the same.

With that sort of transcript, no reasonable physics school can doubt that (a) you have the intellect and ambition, (b) you have the education in math and physics, and (c) you've got the engineering talents to contribute to any experiment in the country.

Good job. Go for it.

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grae313
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby grae313 » Fri Sep 02, 2011 11:58 am

CarlBrannen wrote:
arwright3 wrote:it took 4 years


Ignore the (probably envious) doubters. The Nuke program is probably a very specialized program without a lot of room for choosing electives. Only getting it done in 4 years is a sign of a hard working student. The other degrees have more leeway, but definitely, 4 degrees in 4 years is an amazing academic achievement. And getting honors in physics would be just more of the same.

With that sort of transcript, no reasonable physics school can doubt that (a) you have the intellect and ambition, (b) you have the education in math and physics, and (c) you've got the engineering talents to contribute to any experiment in the country.

Good job. Go for it.


I agree it's an impressive achievement that won't be unrecognized by admissions committees. However I'm pretty confident that if given the choice between a student with four majors in four years and no research experience and a student with only a physics degree and excellent research experience and publications, all other things being equal, graduate schools will go with the research experience. Classroom smart does not always translate into research smart.

Good luck Adam, and congratulations on your academic accomplishments.

arwright3
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby arwright3 » Fri Sep 02, 2011 3:55 pm

Thank you everyone for your comments and encouragement.

On the subject of research vs. classes, majors, and grades; I found out a while ago that having several majors wouldn't be as helpful to my application as research experience, but had a tough time deciding which way to go and ended up with 4 majors (I'm not very decisive, haha). I have finally decided, and know that I want to get my PhD in physics; make no mistake, I am commited to physics now. I have been doing research at the IceCube Neutrino observatory since the spring of my sophomore year, I am currently writing a thesis with IceCube, and I did some research in plasmas for a semester by way of an independent study course. I have done a lot of good research, but because I work on a huge collaboration, I have been unable to get my name on any papers at this point. When the graduate student I work with finishes his thesis, my name will be on it, but that won't be until after I start grad school.

Also, PGRE scores were mentioned a few times. I haven't taken the exam yet, but have been studying for a very long time and hope that it will pay off with very good scores- I'm a good test taker!

On the topic of the astronomy major; I personally know that it is more difficult for someone in my situation to take classes in abstract mathematics and do well in them than it is to "tack on" an astronomy major to my physics major. The allure of the astronomy major comes in the fact that I think it will help my case for getting in to graduate school. I don't believe that the math classes will do that, but I know that I would enjoy the classes more, and I think it would help my research in the future (I'd like to work in HET).

What I'm really wondering is if it is really going to help my case for getting in to graduate schools (competitive schools on the level of Stanford and Berkeley) if I have that astronomy major or not.

bfollinprm
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby bfollinprm » Fri Sep 02, 2011 4:44 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote: Not that any selection committee would agree with me, but I would find someone with two fairly unrelated majors to be interesting. Say physics and art or criminal justice or history(Of course, doing this would more than likely take 5+ years).

-Riley


I got majors in physics (cosmology) and philosophy (epistemology), with minors in math, religion and history. I can vouch for the sentiment that no one cared. If you want to help your application, go for computer science. God knows the physics community needs some more proper coders (anyone care to guess what I've been mostly doing during my research this summer? Hint: Involves very sore eyes, and an extremely sore head).
Last edited by bfollinprm on Fri Sep 02, 2011 4:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

bfollinprm
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby bfollinprm » Fri Sep 02, 2011 4:58 pm

arwright3 wrote:it took 4 years

Just wondering, was this due to a mass of AP/IB credits, or does Wisconsin not put a cap on the number of courses you take? I came in with the maximum number of AP's and took the maximum allowed number of courses all but 1 semester. I could have had 3 majors, though at a liberal arts school where majors are relatively small and double majoring is extremely common. 4, though, would have been really hard (though we didn't offer things like Astronomy which, as Riley said, is pretty much implied in my physics transcript).

Just poking around, you need what, like 25 classes, not counting gen ed requirements and freshman prerequisites? I decided not to finish my math major because I had the chance to do an independent study in physics instead of Abstract Algebra II--I think it was a good choice. The same probably applies to you; go for the classes you want, not the majors you get.

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Fri Sep 02, 2011 7:02 pm

arwright3 wrote:I am currently writing a thesis with IceCube


Image

I use to listen to his music when I was younger.

-Riley

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HappyQuark
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby HappyQuark » Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:43 pm

WhoaNonstop wrote:
arwright3 wrote:I am currently writing a thesis with IceCube


I use to listen to his music when I was younger.

-Riley


I'm glad I wasn't the only one that read the sentence that way.

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Dorian_Mode
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby Dorian_Mode » Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:51 pm

Today was like one of those fly dreams
Didn't even see a berry flashing those high beams
No helicopter looking for a murder
Two in the morning got the fat burger
Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp
And it read "IceCube is a neutrino telescope constructed at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica."

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HappyQuark
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby HappyQuark » Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:55 pm

Dorian_Mode wrote:Today was like one of those fly dreams
Didn't even see a berry flashing those high beams
No helicopter looking for a murder
Two in the morning got the fat burger
Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp
And it read "IceCube is a neutrino telescope constructed at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica."


Chickity check yo self before you wreck yo self.

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Dorian_Mode
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby Dorian_Mode » Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:02 pm

You'd rather see me in the pen than me and Lorenzo rolling in a Benz-o.
Last edited by Dorian_Mode on Mon Oct 03, 2011 5:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

bfollinprm
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby bfollinprm » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:01 pm

No chance of publishing with IceCube, but Brian May (lead guitarist for Queen), sure. His PhD dissertation was on measuring dust velocities in plane with the solar system (published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, just like me!)

arwright3
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby arwright3 » Sun Sep 04, 2011 12:19 am

bfollinprm wrote:
Just wondering, was this due to a mass of AP/IB credits, or does Wisconsin not put a cap on the number of courses you take?


I had 33 AP credits coming in and took summer classes once. This took care of all of my liberal arts requirements. Every single credit I have otherwise is a math, science, or engineering credit.

bfollinprm wrote:Just poking around, you need what, like 25 classes, not counting gen ed requirements and freshman prerequisites?


I have taken 45 total classes, 9 are from AP credit, and 3 are liberal arts electives that I took at UW-Green Bay. That includes 11 Physics Classes (not including 2 from AP that never helped me with anything), 9 math classes, 7 nuclear engineering classes, and 1 astronomy class. The other classes are a collection of engineering requirements (comp sci, chem, other engineering, etc.).

arwright3
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby arwright3 » Sun Sep 04, 2011 12:24 am

Dorian_Mode wrote:Today was like one of those fly dreams
Didn't even see a berry flashing those high beams
No helicopter looking for a murder
Two in the morning got the fat burger
Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp
And it read "IceCube is a neutrino telescope constructed at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica."


Doesn't quite flow as well as
"Even saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp
And it read 'IceCube's a PIMP'"
But I still like it. Haha

CarlBrannen
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Re: Do graduate schools care about my Astronomy Major?

Postby CarlBrannen » Sun Sep 04, 2011 2:05 pm

Fool! Ice Cube's a telescope that's made out of Ice.
It's in the Antarctic where the winter's ain't nice.
It looks for neutrinos that are hard to catch,
faster than tweak, and hide like Sasquath.

If you think that Kitt Peak is a place that is lonely,
think about a continent where you could be the only,
guy who busts rhymes, likes to use the word "ho",
and operates a gat to poke holes in the snow.

P.S. Kitt Peak:
Image
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitt_Peak




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