Having a bad start in college

playoff
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Jul 15, 2014 6:00 pm

Having a bad start in college

Postby playoff » Tue Jul 15, 2014 6:25 pm

Hello, I came to ask for some advice.

I'm a rising freshman who just finished two 6-week condensed summer courses and is taking another online course right now. The two classes I took were calc 2 and a course called mathematical structures, and regrettably I ended with a B+ and a B respectively on those courses, giving me a starting GPA of 3.19.

I try to stay encouraged, but frankly the statistics from this page discourages me: it seems like to get into a top grad school, you need at least 3.9 GPA and 900+ PGRE with tons of research and great recommendation letters. On top of that, my adviser tells me that a lot of people straight up fail math methods in physics II and quantum mech I, which scares me a bit too.

I'm planning to graduate a year early, which leaves me the upcoming freshman and sophomore year to fix this mess, since it looks like final year's GPA doesn't go in. Do I have enough time to get my GPA up to a competitive level?

I'm shooting at Caltech, UC Berkeley, and Stanford, arguably (or unarguably?) the best physics grad programs in Cal.

TakeruK
Posts: 813
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Having a bad start in college

Postby TakeruK » Tue Jul 15, 2014 7:09 pm

Here's my advice:

1. The profile page on this website is very useful as long as you remember that they are incomplete and very biased. Generally, the better the profile, the more likely someone will post it (or even find this website) so seeing what profiles get into schools can tell you what a successful profile could look like. However, it does not say anything about the minimum to get accepted--that is, the "weakest" accepted profile on this site is probably still in the top half of accepted students.

2. How does your performance on these condensed summer courses compare to your performance in the "regular" courses? If you think you are doing more poorly in the summer/condensed classes, perhaps it's not a good idea to rush them like this.

3. You might have a good reason to be trying to finish in 3 years, but generally that weakens your application to grad school, not strengthen it. However, your reasons for finishing early might outweigh this negative.

4. For the next summer, I would recommend working full time on research instead of taking courses. Related to the above, one less year in undergrad means one fewer year for you to do research, get to know professors, and get good LORs. If you don't already know, the best LORs are the ones from profs that say you worked with them on a research project and that you do good research work. You don't want letters that only say "This student took my class and was a good student."

playoff
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Jul 15, 2014 6:00 pm

Re: Having a bad start in college

Postby playoff » Wed Jul 16, 2014 6:08 pm

@TakeruK

Yes, after considering for a while, I don't think rushing to graduate a year early is a good idea, especially when I'm not on a financial brink.

I've not been in a regular college semester yet. But since the two summer classes translated to about 16.5 credit hours during the 6 weeks, I think I can perform much better on a regular semester.

For the statistics, what worries me is that I've yet to see an instance in which an applicant made into a top school with GPA less than 3.8 (I've seen some 3.6's, but they were Ivies and top schools). But I'll not let this drag me down and I'll work my way through it.

Thank you for the sincere advice, TakeruK.

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Having a bad start in college

Postby Catria » Wed Jul 23, 2014 10:26 am

TakeruK wrote:1. The profile page on this website is very useful as long as you remember that they are incomplete and very biased. Generally, the better the profile, the more likely someone will post it (or even find this website) so seeing what profiles get into schools can tell you what a successful profile could look like. However, it does not say anything about the minimum to get accepted--that is, the "weakest" accepted profile on this site is probably still in the top half of accepted students.


Plus one has to take in account the subfields - some schools take in account the subfields in their admissions decisions (MIT), while others put much less weight to the subfield in comparison (UNC)

Even if you did take in account the subfields, is there any reason to believe that the weakest accepted profile for any given subfield on this website is still (other than, for some schools, the published PGRE ranges) in the top half of the admits?

I thought that perhaps the kids with subpar research experiences had to have stronger grades, GRE scores and recs to make up for the mediocrity/scarcity of research experience...

TakeruK
Posts: 813
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Having a bad start in college

Postby TakeruK » Wed Jul 23, 2014 12:10 pm

Catria wrote:Even if you did take in account the subfields, is there any reason to believe that the weakest accepted profile for any given subfield on this website is still (other than, for some schools, the published PGRE ranges) in the top half of the admits?

I thought that perhaps the kids with subpar research experiences had to have stronger grades, GRE scores and recs to make up for the mediocrity/scarcity of research experience...


I was speaking in loose terms--my statement about can only be absolutely true if the bottom half of accepted students don't even post here (hence "probably") at all. Approximations like this work better with larger numbers and we only get on order ~100 or so profiles, while the number of new Physics-family PhD students each year probably number in the several thousand (e.g. http://www.aip.org/sites/default/files/ ... p-12.2.pdf and http://www.aip.org/statistics/data-grap ... -fall-2012).

I think splitting into subfields would create pretty unpredictable data since the numbers are so small!




Return to “GPA and Transcripts”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest