Upper Division Grades?

PathIntegrals92
Posts: 190
Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2014 12:42 pm

Upper Division Grades?

Postby PathIntegrals92 » Sun Nov 02, 2014 9:33 pm

Hey Everyone,
This may or may not be a silly question, but here's what I'm wondering...

I often read that admissions look at your junior and senior level course/grades, or your "upper division grades". Sometime it is used interchangeably.

What if I was taking 300 level* ( maximum undergrad level) courses my sophomore year? Would that be apart of my upper division?

*400 level is research/independent study and 500+ = grad courses.
Anyways, I apologize in advance if this seems like a stupid question. I just want a more accurate understanding of what my "upper division" gpa will be.

bfollinprm
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Re: Upper Division Grades?

Postby bfollinprm » Sun Nov 02, 2014 10:43 pm

They mean grades in everything but your freshman physics sequence, and potentially the 'modern physics' class that follows. So E&M, quantum, stat mech, classical, relativity, math methods, mechanics, and any electives you might have taken.

PathIntegrals92
Posts: 190
Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2014 12:42 pm

Re: Upper Division Grades?

Postby PathIntegrals92 » Sun Nov 02, 2014 10:56 pm

Thank you for the response bfollinprm!

bfollinprm wrote:So E&M, quantum, stat mech, classical, relativity, math methods, mechanics, and any electives you might have taken.


So if I had a graded year long physics thesis project, it doesn't count as part of the upper division gpa?

TakeruK
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Re: Upper Division Grades?

Postby TakeruK » Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:38 am

In Canada, this would only count your third and fourth year course grades. So, the "modern physics" class (which is usually in second year), would not count towards this, but QM 1 and QM 2 would. We get grades for our year long thesis class too, but that probably doesn't count towards this (in my year, the Physics thesis class all got A+).

Whether or not a third year class taken in 2nd year would count towards this depends on the school. Some schools just look at courses in the last 2 years. Other schools know what are considered 3rd and 4th year courses in their own program and look for equivalents in your transcript.

PathIntegrals92
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Re: Upper Division Grades?

Postby PathIntegrals92 » Mon Nov 03, 2014 11:45 am

TakeruK wrote:In Canada, this would only count your third and fourth year course grades. So, the "modern physics" class (which is usually in second year), would not count towards this, but QM 1 and QM 2 would. We get grades for our year long thesis class too, but that probably doesn't count towards this (in my year, the Physics thesis class all got A+).

Whether or not a third year class taken in 2nd year would count towards this depends on the school. Some schools just look at courses in the last 2 years. Other schools know what are considered 3rd and 4th year courses in their own program and look for equivalents in your transcript.



Thank you!! Hmm, I did not have a "modern physics" class, but I can guess what the class might be about.
I took my courses in a really strange order. I did not plan on being a physics major at first, so the ordering of my courses is a bit weird. However, I did cover all the core requirements that most undergrad schools require and I have also taken many electives (idk if grad courses count as an elective).

I hope they do count my thesis grades. We don't have a class for it, we sign up to take a supervised research course with a prof which it can be either one semester (not thesis) or year long (thesis) and we get graded! (all written reports and oral presentation are graded). Not everyone gets As, but hopefully most do. I honestly do not know. Thesis is also not a requirement for our department (idk why), so that's why there is no class for it.

TakeruK
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Re: Upper Division Grades?

Postby TakeruK » Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:50 pm

At my undergrad, there is a lot of red tape in the way of undergrads taking grad class (not sure why, but I think it's silly!). But the requirements basically means it's very unlikely that a student from my school had more than 1 completed grad class at time of application. We are not allowed to count any grad classes towards our undergrad degree requirements (not even as elective credit). I did ask my supervisor what would grad schools think of it and he said that taking one grad class won't really make any difference, unless I scored really well in it relative to the grad students (thus showing that I can perform at the grad student level, I guess). The instructor was also my supervisor who wrote the LOR for me, so he said he would speak highly of my performance if I did well in his class.

In Canada, there are BSc degrees with a major in Physics ("Major degrees") and BSc. (Honours) degrees in Physics ("honours degrees"). The main difference between Honours and Majors is that Honours degree students have 10% more courses (132 credits vs. 120 credits), are required to maintain 30 credits/year minimum, and have a thesis requirement. At top Canadian schools, Honours degrees are strongly recommended for graduate study. The thesis class is organized and graded the same way as you describe it. In any case, it's a good thing that you chose to do this in your undergrad!

However, I wouldn't worry too much about the numbers at this point (where there's not much left you can do). Admissions in both US and Canada are "holistic" so I don't think they will pick one person over another due to a 3.70 vs 3.68 GPA. Also, as I said above, in many Canadian places, individual profs make decisions on which students they are willing to take, so you don't always have to be in the top pool of all candidates, you just need to be one of the top students that your particular professor is interested in.

PathIntegrals92
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Re: Upper Division Grades?

Postby PathIntegrals92 » Mon Nov 03, 2014 11:35 pm

PathIntegrals92 wrote:However, I wouldn't worry too much about the numbers at this point (where there's not much left you can do). Admissions in both US and Canada are "holistic" so I don't think they will pick one person over another due to a 3.70 vs 3.68 GPA. Also, as I said above, in many Canadian places, individual profs make decisions on which students they are willing to take, so you don't always have to be in the top pool of all candidates, you just need to be one of the top students that your particular professor is interested in.


Thank you so much TakeruK! I guess I would understand if grad classes don't count as electives. In that case I feel like I only have two additional physics electives ( unless if I'm forgetting some).

I have one more question. Many people talk about explaining bad grades, but what grade is considered bad? I asked my advisor this question, and she said she would throw my application out if I discussed some of my Bs or B+s in physics.

I am concerned because my grades+pgre just seems to indicate that I am not good enough and it's sort of just freaking me out. No one is going to buy that my grades do not indicate my potential, because my pgre score seems to just justify it.

**I apologize if I sound petty or anything. It's just I often have way too many friends who are concerned about A- grades and not getting into top 10, and I am concerned about getting into a grad school!

I think the strongest part of my application would be: rec letters/research experience, gpa, pgre ... I should apply to places that look at things in this order haha.

TakeruK
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Re: Upper Division Grades?

Postby TakeruK » Tue Nov 04, 2014 12:21 pm

I think a "bad" grade (in the sense that you would need to explain it in a SOP) would be something like a C or C- in a Physics class, especially if there is a semester where you have more than one of those. I "arbitrarily" chose this cutoff because in my undergrad physics program, a C+ grade is often the minimum required to take the next level course, because a honours BSc degree requires a minimum C+ average; and because having a year with a C- average means you are put on academic probation (two years on academic probation = kick out of school).

Obviously, if you have a C average (or even a B- average), it will make you very uncompetitive for grad school; however, there's no point explaining one or two grades in this range.

Regarding the top schools -- it makes sense that your friends with A or A- averages might be concerned about the top schools. Top schools are a completely different beast and very few people are certain to get into top schools, so even the best students should rightfully be concerned. There's no sense comparing your goals to their goals though. And, grades are not the biggest factor so they might be concerned because of other things. Fun fact: I'm in a top school and I have B grades in two kind of important courses in my major program!

(Also, I don't remember your profile--you might want to apply to top schools as well?).

Finally, if I had to do a rough ranking of what things are important for most grad schools, I would say:
1. Research experience / Letters of Recommendation
2. GPA
3. PGRE
4. SOP
5. General GRE

Depending on your background though, GPA and PGRE might switch or be equal in weight (i.e. PGRE might be weighted higher if you don't have a Physics degree and/or if you come from a country whose physics program is not familiar to the school). The PGRE might be weighted lower if you are not in a pure physics program (e.g. astronomy, medical physics etc.).

PathIntegrals92
Posts: 190
Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2014 12:42 pm

Re: Upper Division Grades?

Postby PathIntegrals92 » Wed Nov 05, 2014 1:03 am

TakeruK wrote:Finally, if I had to do a rough ranking of what things are important for most grad schools, I would say:
1. Research experience / Letters of Recommendation
2. GPA
3. PGRE
4. SOP
5. General GRE

Depending on your background though, GPA and PGRE might switch or be equal in weight (i.e. PGRE might be weighted higher if you don't have a Physics degree and/or if you come from a country whose physics program is not familiar to the school). The PGRE might be weighted lower if you are not in a pure physics program (e.g. astronomy, medical physics etc.).


Thank you for explaining the "bad" grade thing"! Also for thorough explanations of everything ( on this thread and previous one)!

Does it matter if you have a B in your major class program if it's still passing? I thought gpa/grades did not matter much if you are in grad school? (other than for fellowships) What is top 10 grad life like? Is it what you expected?


TakeruK wrote:(Also, I don't remember your profile--you might want to apply to top schools as well?).


If you mean top 10? I am definitely not going to bother applying haha. I still don't have a list though, only 3 schools so far. Other than Toronto, the other two are U.S in top 100.




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