Upward trend?

phys16
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Jan 09, 2016 9:52 pm

Upward trend?

Postby phys16 » Sat Jan 09, 2016 10:10 pm

Hello,
I'm a physics & CS double at a top public university. I finished my freshman/sophomore years with a 3.5 GPA. This was hindered in large part by the introductory CS and honors physics sequences, which are quite tough. However, things have been picking up, and I got a 4.0 during my first semester of junior year. Now, I have 2 semesters of upper-div major coursework under my belt, and a 3.8 GPA in this coursework. I plan on taking an extra semester of undergrad, and applying for physics grad school (experimental HEP) during this final semester. I have about 8 months of solid research in this field so far, along with an additional summer physics research experience that is not too relevant to HEP (cosmology). I've only taken one non-major, non-pass-fail course, so these do not factor significantly into my grades.
Do I have a shot at a top grad school (e.g. top 10), assuming I keep up the good grades?
Thank you for taking the time to read & respond!

thehairupthere
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri Oct 02, 2015 1:44 pm

Re: Upward trend?

Postby thehairupthere » Sun Jan 10, 2016 3:13 pm

Yes you definitely have a shot/have nothing to worry about. Maybe try and publish something in a journal/conference, that does make the difference. I'll give you what my advisor commented when I was in a similar situation: The admission committees are more interested in people with an upward trend in their GPA than those who have always done well. It shows that, while maybe you were bored with/found first&second year courses difficult, once you knew what you wanted to do and set your mind to it you were able to achieve better than most of your peers. So you shouldn't worry about that. Just focus on strengthening the rest of your application now (publication/GRE scores etc)

thehairupthere
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri Oct 02, 2015 1:44 pm

Re: Upward trend?

Postby thehairupthere » Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:26 am

I have further found this in confirmation on Science Magazine's Career's website, written by Josh Neufield, http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/ca ... t.a1500118

Although an outstanding transcript is a valuable asset for an applicant, potential supervisors see enormous promise in a student who has lower marks in the first year, and maybe even the second year, with a strong upward trajectory through the second, third, and fourth years. Students with an upward trajectory often become the strongest graduate students.

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

Re: Upward trend?

Postby Catria » Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:08 am

phys16 wrote:along with an additional summer physics research experience that is not too relevant to HEP (cosmology).


Cosmology observations are now used as a means to probe into HEP processes (and by that one usually means the energies that cannot be attained with current man-made accelerators) That's where the intersection between the two lies; this is what I wanted for a research topic.

thehairupthere wrote:Yes you definitely have a shot/have nothing to worry about. Maybe try and publish something in a journal/conference, that does make the difference. I'll give you what my advisor commented when I was in a similar situation: The admission committees are more interested in people with an upward trend in their GPA than those who have always done well. It shows that, while maybe you were bored with/found first&second year courses difficult, once you knew what you wanted to do and set your mind to it you were able to achieve better than most of your peers. So you shouldn't worry about that. Just focus on strengthening the rest of your application now (publication/GRE scores etc)


What makes someone that always achieved high grades more likely to flame out?

thehairupthere
Posts: 49
Joined: Fri Oct 02, 2015 1:44 pm

Re: Upward trend?

Postby thehairupthere » Tue Jan 12, 2016 11:56 am

Catria wrote:
thehairupthere wrote:Yes you definitely have a shot/have nothing to worry about. Maybe try and publish something in a journal/conference, that does make the difference. I'll give you what my advisor commented when I was in a similar situation: The admission committees are more interested in people with an upward trend in their GPA than those who have always done well. It shows that, while maybe you were bored with/found first&second year courses difficult, once you knew what you wanted to do and set your mind to it you were able to achieve better than most of your peers. So you shouldn't worry about that. Just focus on strengthening the rest of your application now (publication/GRE scores etc)


What makes someone that always achieved high grades more likely to flame out?


I think an upward trend shows that a student can definitely overcome difficulties, while someone who's always done good may or may not have had very challenging experiences, and may or may not be able to overcome difficulties when faced with it throughout the PhD. Different people might have completely different opinions on this though.

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

Re: Upward trend?

Postby TakeruK » Tue Jan 12, 2016 12:25 pm

thehairupthere wrote:I think an upward trend shows that a student can definitely overcome difficulties, while someone who's always done good may or may not have had very challenging experiences, and may or may not be able to overcome difficulties when faced with it throughout the PhD. Different people might have completely different opinions on this though.


I'd agree with this opinion too. I think evidence that one has faced difficulties and overcame them is an asset in life (not just for grad school applications, but in many other evaluations too). I wouldn't say that if you have a high GPA the whole time that it would mean you're not able to overcome difficulties, it just means that your GPA trend doesn't show evidence for that. A candidate with a high GPA may have other, non-GPA related difficulties to overcome, which is just as good. And of course, all of us know that absence of evidence for something is not the same as the absence of that thing. So, I don't think anyone with a high overall GPA will be "penalized", but an upward trend is definitely a good thing.




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