mediocre first year

feynman14c
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mediocre first year

Postby feynman14c » Sun Sep 09, 2012 7:17 pm

in my freshman year, I did rather poorly, earning a cumulutive GPA of 3.05.

I received two C's (linear algebra, advanced calculus), a bunch of B's (3rd semester intro physics waves optics etc, mathematical structures, general topology, abstract algebra, mathematical methods in physics) and no A's in my in major coursework...

Is there anything in particular I can do to help remedy the situation, apart from merely obtaining better grades?

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quizivex
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby quizivex » Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:49 am

You've given zero information that could help other people give you suggestions. All you've said is that you got poor grades, with no other clues as to what could be the problem.

Though there might be an indirect clue. Are the first two sentences in your post connected? I mean did you take all of those courses in your freshman year that gave you the 3.05? That's how I read it. Many of those courses are 2nd and 3rd year level. It looks like you went way overboard trying to do too much too early.

feynman14c
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby feynman14c » Mon Sep 10, 2012 1:23 am

yes, I believe that taking too intense a load was one of my major problems. I didn't really talk to anybody, I just thought topology, advanced calculus, abstract algebra, and mathematical physics looked cool, so I signed up for them!

I was less curious about how to obtain better grades, although seeing as I've yet to figure that out, I suppose I can ask for a few suggestions. I was more interested in how this can be recovered when applying for grad school; what is the usual recourse one turns to when one borks it? Of course, there is no easy cure, indeed no cure at all I'm sure, but I wanted to know what steps for recovery I should be looking at for the next 1-3 years of school.

as for getting better grades, one of my greatest issues is concentration when taking tests, which has gotten worse with the passage of time; I can sometimes find myself losing as much as 5-10 minutes thinking about something utterly irrelevant to the task at hand, almost inadverdently. Furthermore, I am a bit off an on as far as tricky questions are concerned; sometimes I'm like lightning, othertimes I seem to totally choke on a tough problem and have my brain seize up.

CarlBrannen
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby CarlBrannen » Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:28 pm

feynman14c wrote:yes, I believe that taking too intense a load was one of my major problems.


Maybe you need more "Feynman" and less "14c".

feynman14c
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby feynman14c » Fri Sep 14, 2012 11:26 pm

haha, more mathematical prowess and less insane course load taking? or what?

seriously though, is this recoverable for my graduate school admissions chances or am I destined to go the way of the dodo? I'm doing fine for the first few weeks of this semester (just quantum, math phy II, classical mech, an english class, and a social science class) so we'll see if I can bring things up...

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twistor
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby twistor » Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:09 am

feynman14c wrote:haha, more mathematical prowess and less insane course load taking? or what?

seriously though, is this recoverable for my graduate school admissions chances or am I destined to go the way of the dodo? I'm doing fine for the first few weeks of this semester (just quantum, math phy II, classical mech, an english class, and a social science class) so we'll see if I can bring things up...


You're not totally screwed. Work hard, reduce class load, and improve your GPA. Do well on general GRE and PGRE. Engage in research and try to do a publication, talk or poster. Depending on what year you are in you can improve your GPA significantly. You should be able to get in somewhere but don't count on gaining ivy league admission.

feynman14c
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby feynman14c » Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:26 pm

twistor wrote:You're not totally screwed. Work hard, reduce class load, and improve your GPA. Do well on general GRE and PGRE. Engage in research and try to do a publication, talk or poster. Depending on what year you are in you can improve your GPA significantly. You should be able to get in somewhere but don't count on gaining ivy league admission.


I was a freshman when this happened. I should note that while in high school I spent two years at a community college, so upon recalculating, my GPA is like a 3.47. Is that decent?

Also, why should I care about the Ivy League? What's so important about them? What if I got into UCLA?

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twistor
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby twistor » Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:23 am

feynman14c wrote:
twistor wrote:You're not totally screwed. Work hard, reduce class load, and improve your GPA. Do well on general GRE and PGRE. Engage in research and try to do a publication, talk or poster. Depending on what year you are in you can improve your GPA significantly. You should be able to get in somewhere but don't count on gaining ivy league admission.


I was a freshman when this happened. I should note that while in high school I spent two years at a community college, so upon recalculating, my GPA is like a 3.47. Is that decent?

Also, why should I care about the Ivy League? What's so important about them? What if I got into UCLA?


I'm not sure what you mean when you say you were in college while in high school, but it doesn't matter because 3.47 is pretty good. No one looks at your "freshman GPA". They only care about your overall GPA. Of course they also care about poor grades in physics courses.

You shouldn't care about ivy league admission but many people do so I addressed it.

I don't know what happens if you get into UCLA.

It sounds like you just finished your freshman year. If so, follow our advice and improve your grades and you will do fine. Plus you've already taken some 2nd and 3rd year courses so your upcoming class load won't be as heavy. If you've already taken many of the hard classes why not pad upcoming semesters with easy courses to boost your GPA?

blighter
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby blighter » Tue Sep 25, 2012 2:14 pm

twistor wrote:I don't know what happens if you get into UCLA.



Me neither. I'm curious to learn though.

feynman14c
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby feynman14c » Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:52 pm

Well, UCLA was just an example, but your statement that I shouldn't care about getting into the ivy league renders it a moot point.

Sounds like I'm in decent shape. This semester I'm taking a much lighter load (3 physics, two humanities) so I should be able to fix things.

Thanks for all the advice, folks!

capandbells
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby capandbells » Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:52 am

That seems to be a tremendous courseload as a freshman. I am impressed that you managed to get Bs in topology and abstract algebra.

Look, things happen as a freshman. People bite off more than they can chew, are overconfident and unprepared, drink and do lots of drugs, or just aren't ready for college. Lots of people do way worse their freshman year and turn out fine. I dropped out after my first semester of college because I spent the whole semester partying and getting high and failed all my classes. And I GO to UCLA now. (And if I had been more proactive getting involved in research I probably could have done even better, but that's neither here nor there...)

Having high standards is good, but never expect perfection from yourself. Accept that setbacks happen and that you won't always do as well as you want to, but that ultimately things will be ok. I think you probably have a bright future ahead of you.

asdfuogh
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby asdfuogh » Thu Sep 27, 2012 11:37 am

I think this can mostly be remedied by not overloading again, and having one or two of the professors writing the recommendation letter explain why it doesn't make you a bad student/researcher, right?

feynman14c
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby feynman14c » Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:39 pm

Just thought I'd check in to point out that I got a 4.07 this semester, with an A in mathematical physics II, quantum physics, and analytical mechanics, bringing my gpa up to a 3.37*! I've planned next semester out very carefully so I think worst case scenario I might get a 3.45 and best case scenario is close to a 3.8 with 18 credits and A+'s (i'm not counting on it, but it's an encouraging thought)

Quick slightly off topic question: I'm so far ahead that I can graduate next year, or take an extra year. Would it be better to take a set of graduate level courses my senior year and then graduate, or graduate my junior year? The main concern I have is that getting A's in graduate courses is by no means a forgone conclusion, one of my friends took a full load and graduate classical mechanics. I think he got an A but I hardly ever saw him, his life was consumed by school!

*at ASU. My cumulative GPA is a low but respectable 3.53.
Last edited by feynman14c on Sun Dec 30, 2012 12:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

kangaroo
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby kangaroo » Sat Dec 22, 2012 9:32 pm

If you're close to graduating and have hardly any more classes, get into a research lab. Sure it's not easy to complete a degree in 3 years, but grad schools are not looking for the next generation of physics Olympiad students. Build up your research credentials, and if you only need to take 2 courses per semester in your senior year, you can do a lot and get some decent papers published. Graduating in 3 years is way OVERRATED, and grad schools would at most raise one eyebrow when they see it.

TakeruK
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby TakeruK » Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:52 pm

I agree with kangaroo -- reduce your courseload and spread out the remaining courses over the next 2 years so that you can do part time work in a lab during the school year. Not finishing a year early also means an extra summer for research as well.

feynman14c
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby feynman14c » Tue Dec 25, 2012 3:51 pm

I started research the summer of my freshman year. I'm curious, next semester I'm taking 18 units. I've been quite strategic; one of the units I'm taking for a possible math double major is a lower division course in differential equations; having already taken mathematical physics I know most of the material, and my part time work as a tutor means I've seen/done much of the homework.

More importantly though I got a payed gig as a research assistant in a computational biophysics lab. I also decided to do an honors directed study simultaneously, so I'm getting payed and getting credit to work in the lab. What I'm curious about is whether or not that's a good idea; I've essentially committed myself quite seriously to the laboratory work, with both a payed gig and a for-credit directed study course. Could this be too much? My course load is:

-Introduction to Astrophysics
-Quantum II
-Electrodynamics
-Abstract Algebra II
-Lower division Differential Equations
-Honors directed study biophysics research

kangaroo
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby kangaroo » Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:32 pm

Go to your advisor/registrar and see if you can place out of your diff. equation course, if you already took at a level higher than the course covers, there really is no point, unless you're that desperate to pad your GPA. Even if you have seen the material, you'll still have to do the homework and stuff, and that's still easily 6 hours a week at least. And your presumed knowledge of the diff. eqn course can easily make you underestimate the workload and it may come back to bite you in the ass.

Electrodynamics and abstract algebra are heavy stuff, you will need as much time possible to do the homeworks properly. Treat them as 1.5 courses each. At the end of the day, don't try to impress other people by your heavy course load, focus on learning the material well, you are really in no big hurry.

feynman14c
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby feynman14c » Wed Dec 26, 2012 11:53 am

Hm, I did like the idea of GPA padding, although I'm not desperate. If (and that's a big if) I get straight A's again this semester I think I'll be in the ballpark of a 3.6, which is basically decent. Part of the reason I wanted to take the course was because I am employed as a tutor, and I never learned certain interesting topics like Laplace Transforms and linear systems of differential equations; I figured I may as well get credit to learn them if I'm going to tutor differential equations.

However I was running under the assumption that it would be a cakewalk, but with my GPA in a somewhat fragile situation I may just take your advice and get the override. I've got more important classes to get A's in... Thanks!

feynman14c
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Re: mediocre first year

Postby feynman14c » Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:49 pm

One point to add though is that I took the Intro to Abstract Algebra course and am now taking Intermediate Abstract Algebra. Oddly, when discussing the syllabus for next semester with the professor for intermediate, he listed the chapters he would cover and the book. It was the book I used for intro and many of the same chapters; about 60% of the material is stuff I'd done already. So I convinced myself that it would not be impossible.

With this taken into consideration, is it still a bad idea to take all of these courses?




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