Mediocre math grade - now what?

gammagamma
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Joined: Wed Jul 04, 2012 2:03 pm

Mediocre math grade - now what?

Postby gammagamma » Wed Jul 04, 2012 2:45 pm

I tried to post this earlier, but it didn't work... hopefully I haven't double posted!

I'm a current undergrad (in the early stages of undergrad!) hoping to do a PhD in experimental physics or experimental applied physics. I've done intro physics and an upper level physics course, and I've achieved As in all of them. I've also done well in Calc III. My problem lies in linear algebra, an important course, in which I scored a B in freshman year.

I'm worried that this B will be a substantial barrier to getting into a top physics graduate school. I'm not sure what to do about it - I'm considering retaking the class, but I don't think I'd enjoy it, and it might defeat the purpose, because I'm not sure how a retake would look. My grade in the final was substantially better than my midterm, so I feel as though I understood the material well towards the end of semester. I'm also considering taking extra math classes to demonstrate that I can do math, but I'd much rather spend the time doing physics or another science. It sounds really pathetic, but I'm at a loss - if I've screwed up my chances at doing high level research, I'm going to consider looking for internships to explore other options and to strengthen myself for the job market.

For context, I should say that I'm at one of HYPSM, and though my GPA is currently ~3.7, I hope that it will rise when I take more classes in my major.

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

Re: Mediocre math grade - now what?

Postby bfollinprm » Thu Jul 05, 2012 10:15 am

It won't be a barrier. A single B is by no means a referendum on your ability, and grad schools know that. You'll have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge of linear algebra later in your physics career.

What is it with you and those other ivy brats freaking out over the littlest setback? Relax a little bit, and have a little faith in your own ability!

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WhoaNonstop
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Re: Mediocre math grade - now what?

Postby WhoaNonstop » Thu Jul 05, 2012 2:39 pm

bfollinprm wrote:What is it with you and those other ivy brats freaking out over the littlest setback?


These words were coming from me but I see that you already said them.

Funny thing is, I guarantee you that B from "Private School" looks better to most admission committees than my A in the same course from "Cow-Roping Midwest School". ;)

-Riley

TakeruK
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Re: Mediocre math grade - now what?

Postby TakeruK » Thu Jul 05, 2012 3:10 pm

Silly question -- what's a HYPSM?

In addition to the above comments, some programs will not look at Math grades as critically as they do Physics grades. Math courses are often geared towards Mathematics majors so they contain much more formality and abstractness that you might need in Physics. Linear algebra is an important topic -- you will use these concepts over and over again in later Physics courses. However, this means that if you do well in these courses, you obviously have a strong grasp of linear algebra and more importantly, how to apply it to Physics situations (which is more important!). In addition, graduate schools will probably look at your junior and senior year courses more -- it's silly to judge a physicist's linear algebra ability based on their freshman year course: since you will use this a lot more later, your skills will be developed!

Anyways the bottom line is -- don't do anything to make up for this because it's not necessary! I think a 3.7 GPA is great, especially for a first year. As far as I know, graduate schools really care about your GPA in the last 2 years and mostly in your major (it sounds like you have all As and above so far, so great job!)

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

Re: Mediocre math grade - now what?

Postby bfollinprm » Thu Jul 05, 2012 5:24 pm

Oh, by the way, definitely don't retake the course. It screams, "I don't know how to deal with failure!" and failure is part and parcel of a research career.

admissionprof
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Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: Mediocre math grade - now what?

Postby admissionprof » Thu Jul 05, 2012 5:58 pm

TakeruK wrote:Silly question -- what's a HYPSM?



Some say it is Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT

I think it is HYPerSpasModic.

Oh, same thing. Never mind.

TakeruK
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Mediocre math grade - now what?

Postby TakeruK » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:42 pm

admissionprof wrote:
TakeruK wrote:Silly question -- what's a HYPSM?



Some say it is Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT

I think it is HYPerSpasModic.

Oh, same thing. Never mind.


Thanks ;)

pranavdave91
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2012 4:20 am

Re: Mediocre math grade - now what?

Postby pranavdave91 » Sat Jul 07, 2012 12:03 am

Don't worry about the stupid B. I don't think any grad school will say "Hmmm....he didn't get an A in linear algebra 3 years ago, so maybe he's not PhD material!" or "Hey! This other applicant got an A in linear algebra 3 years ago, we should definitely go for him!" If a grad school says that, it's definitely not worth attending, even if it's HYPSM. So calm down and stop worrying about it.

gammagamma
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Joined: Wed Jul 04, 2012 2:03 pm

Re: Mediocre math grade - now what?

Postby gammagamma » Sat Jul 07, 2012 2:15 am

Thanks everyone for the responses - I know it sounds really petty, but it's a relief to hear that it's no big deal :)




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