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.
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:
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).
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).
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