Another What Are My Chances Thread....

QuantumLancer
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu May 21, 2015 7:15 pm

Another What Are My Chances Thread....

Postby QuantumLancer » Thu May 21, 2015 7:54 pm

Hello all! I am a new member of this forum (It was actually recommended I join this form by a close family friend) and I was wondering if I could get some input on my chances on getting into grad school (Please recognize I do not think I will get into a top program). Please be as honest as possible and I will give you any pertinent information I can think of. The real issue here will be the fact my grades are not stellar, and that I am a double major of political science that I completed in the 2nd year of college and then fell in love with my physics coursework I was doing for a minor. I fear the political science major Another one of my concerns come from the fact that I go to a liberal arts school and therefore will be awarded a BA not a BS.

Here are my grades in physics: (A 3.26 currently)
Astronomy of the Solar System REG (3) Fall 2015
PHYS 101 Astronomy-Stars, Galxy & Unvrs A- 3 Spring 2013
PHYS 103 The Nature of Light A 3 Jan 2013
PHYS 150 Calculus-Based Phys I (Mech) B+ 4 Fall 2013
PHYS 180 Calculus-Based Phys II (EMT) B- 5 Spring 2014
PHYS 190 Quantum Physics for Poets A 3 Jan 2015
PHYS 250 Computational Osclltns & Waves B+ 3 Fall 2014
PHYS 275 Optics & Modern Physics B 4 Fall 2014
PHYS 310 Mechanics C 3 Spring 2015
PHYS 350 Quantum Mechanics B+ 3 Spring 2015
PHYS 380 Experimental Physics B+ 3 Spring 2015
In math
Calculus Choice
MATH 141A Calculus & Analytic Geom. I C 4 Fall 2013
MATH 141B Calculus & Analytic Geom. II C+ 4 Spring 2014
MATH 241 Calculus & Analytic Geo. III B+ 4 Fall 2014
MATH 345A Differential Equations I A Spring 2015

And my political science GPA is a 3.78 (didnt want to bore you with the course work)

My overall GPA is a 3.35

Like I said my grades aren't incredible, but I am proud of the increasing trend I have had over this last year.

Any other useful information is the fact that I a suffer from ADHD, ADD, Dyslexia, and a mild cause of Asperger's syndrome. But I have learned coping mechanism that no longer make it an issue in my coursework. It was the most challenging because these stayed undiagnosed until about a year ago when I started working part time in my school's counseling center. I hope I may be able to explain my poor performance in my statement of purpose.

Also I am also the recipient of a pretty big fellowship at my school that I am using to interview and meet many experts in the fields of renewable energy including on of the program directors at the National Ignition Facility and a researcher at Oak Ridge. I am taking part of this summer to individually research and study renewable energy sources and try to glean as much as I can from direct networking with researchers. I have also been awarded a community service scholarship for all 4 years of my undergraduate from a local community service society at my college.

My work experience is not very connected to my study of physics, but still pretty good. I spent a summer in China teaching children at a pretty prestigious private school system and currently I work for a STEM-jump starter program that recently won some award from Michelle Obama. I was a teacher's assistant for our introductory physics class and introductory astronomy class. I also spend sometime of the last years working with my father, who is a statistician by trade, to create models for quality improvements for different businesses.

I have some coursework in computer science where I received A's. I know Python and C+ pretty well and know numerous applications such as IDL, Maple, Matlab, and SPS.

Lastly, I have research experience in fluid dynamics, modeling bubbles in the classic cylinder inside a cylinder from Chapter 41 of the Feynman Lectures, and Modeling Electron spins. I may work in a Plasma Physics lab over the summer depending on whether they can allocate some funding for additional interns. I also have the opportunity to take a graduate level course in General Relativity next year if it is offered.

Overall, my interest really lies in the field of nuclear physics, optical physics, and plasma physics. I just really want to know if it is even worth applying and if I should just go find a job after I graduate because honestly I only just started really understanding math and science in college, but I can't see myself doing anything else anymore. I am currently prepping for the GRE and Physics GRE like a madman.

TakeruK
Posts: 812
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Another What Are My Chances Thread....

Postby TakeruK » Thu May 21, 2015 8:21 pm

I think you have a good chance at a graduate program, provided that you apply to programs that are a good fit for you!

You don't have to worry about your BA or your political science major. Here's an example of another person in a similar situation in terms of degree name / double major: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4669#p43107

Your grades are not stellar, but they are not terrible either. Your political science GPA is high, which is good. I don't know the best advice to give regarding mentioning your ADHD, ADD, dyslexia, and Asperger's syndrome in your Statement of Purpose. On one hand, you want to show that your grades early on do not reflect your true ability. But on the other, except for the two C+s in math, your grades are not so low that they would raise flags. Mentioning this can be more harmful than helpful. I would advise you to talk to your recommenders and use resources/offices to help students similar to you at your school.

Doing very well on the PGRE can go a long way in showing that your earlier Physics/Math work is not indicative of your current abilities!

You definitely do want to emphasize your research experience and ability in your SOP. You have a very strong research record. Make sure you discuss this! Make sure it is clear that your programming ability and experience is extensive. In this regard, you will be near the top of the applicant pool.

Overall, my advice is that you sound like you are passionate about this field and you want to keep working in it. Your Physics and Math GPA is a little low, but other than that, your application looks top notch.

admissionprof
Posts: 364
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:50 pm

Re: Another What Are My Chances Thread....

Postby admissionprof » Thu May 21, 2015 8:27 pm

I was admissions director at a school ranked in the 30-50 range. You don't state what courses you will take next year. But if it is only the ones you show, we would not admit you. Not a single physics grade above a B+ (and 101,103, 109 don't count), C's in calculus, just a single mechanics course, just a single QM course (most students take two of each), and zero EM or SM courses. You would not be ready for graduate level courses (wherever you go).

However, if you are taking more courses, then why not take a gap year? Take a lot more physics next year, take the GRE a year from now, take a couple more math courses. If your grades in those additional courses are mostly A's (occasional B is ok), then you'd have a very good chance and can apply in a year and a half. And if you don't get mostly A's, then you have your answer.

Don't worry about the difference between a BA and a BS. It is completely irrelevant.

After posting this, I saw TakeruK's post. My real concern is the small number of upper level physics courses. I agree with TakeruK that your research is good, but without EM and so little upper level physics, I would be concerned about your ability to handle a graduate program. But much depends on what courses you take next year. Applications aren't due until the end of the fall semester, so you might be able to up your odds considerably.

QuantumLancer
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu May 21, 2015 7:15 pm

Re: Another What Are My Chances Thread....

Postby QuantumLancer » Thu May 21, 2015 9:47 pm

admissionprof wrote:I was admissions director at a school ranked in the 30-50 range. You don't state what courses you will take next year. But if it is only the ones you show, we would not admit you. Not a single physics grade above a B+ (and 101,103, 109 don't count), C's in calculus, just a single mechanics course, just a single QM course (most students take two of each), and zero EM or SM courses. You would not be ready for graduate level courses (wherever you go).

However, if you are taking more courses, then why not take a gap year? Take a lot more physics next year, take the GRE a year from now, take a couple more math courses. If your grades in those additional courses are mostly A's (occasional B is ok), then you'd have a very good chance and can apply in a year and a half. And if you don't get mostly A's, then you have your answer.

Don't worry about the difference between a BA and a BS. It is completely irrelevant.

After posting this, I saw TakeruK's post. My real concern is the small number of upper level physics courses. I agree with TakeruK that your research is good, but without EM and so little upper level physics, I would be concerned about your ability to handle a graduate program. But much depends on what courses you take next year. Applications aren't due until the end of the fall semester, so you might be able to up your odds considerably.


Just so you know I will be taking an upper division electromagnetic theory course, optics, astrophysics, and linear algebra (Somehow I spaced about putting my senior year courses up). And I have considered the idea of taking a gap year, which I think may be my best alternative since I agree with you that graduate programs may be concerned with my ability to handle the course load. I also plan on retaking mechanics next year in order to receive a higher grade, but that won't be till the spring semester (the professor covers the same three topics every year so I'm pretty sure I can get an A). A friend of mine also pitched the idea of taking chemistry at a community college since we have heard that many physics graduate programs like you to have a basic understanding of chemistry. Also thank you for your honestly I appreciate it because I definitely am in the position where I need it.

TakeruK, thanks for votes of confidence! I will work hard to continue keeping my grades high.

TakeruK
Posts: 812
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Another What Are My Chances Thread....

Postby TakeruK » Fri May 22, 2015 11:29 am

In my earlier post, I assumed that despite getting a BA degree, you will still be a physics major and therefore take all of the required physics classes, right? If not, then you should definitely ensure your courseload covers the same courses as a BS Physics major.

If you cannot fit all of these courses in your senior year, instead of taking a gap year, would you consider just taking another year of upper level Physics courses to round out your education?

In your senior (and maybe extra year?), I think you should make sure you have the following courses:
Math:
1. Linear Algebra
2. A second differential equations course--not sure how your program does it, in my program we have a 200-level Ordinary Differential Equations course and a 300-level partial differential equations course (or equivalently, a mathematical methods course with applications to physics). Ultimately, you should know how to recognize and solve things like the diffusion equation (both analytically and numerically).
3. It would be helpful but not essential to have additional math courses. In my program, we were supposed to pick several out of a long list that includes: probability/statistics, complex analysis, real analysis, applied linear algebra, advanced mathematical methods (400 level).

Physics:
1. You should have a second upper-level Quantum Mechanics course, one that covers perturbation theory, the variational principle etc. (i.e. second half of the Griffiths book).
2. Upper level Electromagnetism course or something similar (in the astro track, we took radiative processes instead)
3. Statistical Mechanics course
4. Optics is a good choice (especially if it has a lab component too)
5. 300+ level Physics Electives! (e.g. Astrophysics if it's 300+ level). My program offered: Particle Physics, Biophysics, Cosmology, General Relativity, Acoustics, Solid State Physics, Fluids, High Energy Astrophysics, etc.

In your post above, you only mention 3 additional physics courses but a year is something like 10 courses right? I think you should have at least 5 courses from Physics and 2-3 from Math, and then the remaining should be relevant to physics degrees (math, computer science, astronomy, physics).

I would not recommend additional chemistry courses. However, at my program, all science majors are required to take first year level Physics, Chemistry and Biology, so I'm assuming you have at least one semester of Chemistry 101 (or something like that). If you do not, then perhaps consider taking it in your extra year just to round out your science breadth if you feel that could hurt you. But, for your senior year, I would focus on taking as many 300+ level courses in the Physics/Math department as possible. In my BS program, we were required to have at least 10 semester-courses of 300+ courses relevant to our major (and 16 300+ semester courses total, in any field). Most people end up with somewhere around 12-13 upper level physics/math/astro/comp-sci courses.

You can think of taking a lot more upper level courses as a good thing! Doing well in these courses (A- and above) would boost your GPA and also demonstrate that your earlier coursework doesn't represent your ability. At Canadian schools, you are usually only judged on your 300+ level GPA. I think US schools tend to look at the entire transcript, but I know some places will put more weight on the upper level courses. So this is a chance to leave your past grades behind. If you can't handle 5 courses/semester, or if some of the other physics courses require math you don't yet have, spreading the load over 2 years is probably the best bet. (At my undergrad program in Canada, about half of my class, including me, took 5 years to finish).

QuantumLancer
Posts: 15
Joined: Thu May 21, 2015 7:15 pm

Re: Another What Are My Chances Thread....

Postby QuantumLancer » Fri May 22, 2015 2:36 pm

TakeruK wrote:In my earlier post, I assumed that despite getting a BA degree, you will still be a physics major and therefore take all of the required physics classes, right? If not, then you should definitely ensure your courseload covers the same courses as a BS Physics major.

If you cannot fit all of these courses in your senior year, instead of taking a gap year, would you consider just taking another year of upper level Physics courses to round out your education?

In your senior (and maybe extra year?), I think you should make sure you have the following courses:
Math:
1. Linear Algebra
2. A second differential equations course--not sure how your program does it, in my program we have a 200-level Ordinary Differential Equations course and a 300-level partial differential equations course (or equivalently, a mathematical methods course with applications to physics). Ultimately, you should know how to recognize and solve things like the diffusion equation (both analytically and numerically).
3. It would be helpful but not essential to have additional math courses. In my program, we were supposed to pick several out of a long list that includes: probability/statistics, complex analysis, real analysis, applied linear algebra, advanced mathematical methods (400 level).

Physics:
1. You should have a second upper-level Quantum Mechanics course, one that covers perturbation theory, the variational principle etc. (i.e. second half of the Griffiths book).
2. Upper level Electromagnetism course or something similar (in the astro track, we took radiative processes instead)
3. Statistical Mechanics course
4. Optics is a good choice (especially if it has a lab component too)
5. 300+ level Physics Electives! (e.g. Astrophysics if it's 300+ level). My program offered: Particle Physics, Biophysics, Cosmology, General Relativity, Acoustics, Solid State Physics, Fluids, High Energy Astrophysics, etc.

In your post above, you only mention 3 additional physics courses but a year is something like 10 courses right? I think you should have at least 5 courses from Physics and 2-3 from Math, and then the remaining should be relevant to physics degrees (math, computer science, astronomy, physics).

I would not recommend additional chemistry courses. However, at my program, all science majors are required to take first year level Physics, Chemistry and Biology, so I'm assuming you have at least one semester of Chemistry 101 (or something like that). If you do not, then perhaps consider taking it in your extra year just to round out your science breadth if you feel that could hurt you. But, for your senior year, I would focus on taking as many 300+ level courses in the Physics/Math department as possible. In my BS program, we were required to have at least 10 semester-courses of 300+ courses relevant to our major (and 16 300+ semester courses total, in any field). Most people end up with somewhere around 12-13 upper level physics/math/astro/comp-sci courses.

You can think of taking a lot more upper level courses as a good thing! Doing well in these courses (A- and above) would boost your GPA and also demonstrate that your earlier coursework doesn't represent your ability. At Canadian schools, you are usually only judged on your 300+ level GPA. I think US schools tend to look at the entire transcript, but I know some places will put more weight on the upper level courses. So this is a chance to leave your past grades behind. If you can't handle 5 courses/semester, or if some of the other physics courses require math you don't yet have, spreading the load over 2 years is probably the best bet. (At my undergrad program in Canada, about half of my class, including me, took 5 years to finish).


I will be completing all necessary coursework for a bachelors of arts in physics. As my school is a liberal arts college we do not offer a second course in QM or Classical Mechanics, but I will still graduate with about 9-10 upper level physics courses, I will take a linear algebra course, and 2 more computer science courses. Unfortunately, we were unable to get enough students interested in a partial differential course so we will not be able to have one next year. I don't believe that I will be able to return for a 5th year as my college will not offer financial aid after the 4th year.




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