Too many credits? Too many years?

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

LB
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Too many credits? Too many years?

Postby LB » Sat Apr 19, 2008 4:29 pm

I figured this would be a good place to get some opinions on this:

When it comes to graduate school applications (for physics, of course), can having an excess of undergrad credits be seen as a bad thing? What about spending more than four years in college?

This is my situation: I began as an engineering student, who then switched to physics, and then transferred to another university. Once there, I also decided to pick up a math major (specialization in scientific computation) and a biology minor.

The end result is that I will have spent five years in college with roughly 210 credits, which is way more than I need to graduate with two degrees (150). Perhaps I am being paranoid (I suspect I am), but does anyone know if graduate admissions decisions can be negatively influenced by this? I've heard all sorts of opinions, and just wanted to hear from the people in the board. Most of my credits should be relevant to what I hope to do in grad school (biophysics).

If this sounds like a stupid question, sorry! :) I'm sure I'm not the first physics student to suffer from grad-school application paranoia and won't be the last.

Samual_Adams
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Re: Too many credits? Too many years?

Postby Samual_Adams » Sat Apr 19, 2008 4:31 pm

LB,

I spent 5 years in undergrad, doing only a physics major (no minors, or anything). I also got into every grad school I applied to (Stanford, Princeton, Berkeley, Caltech, and others).

So, don't worry about it. I don't think any cares even a little bit about you taking 5 years to get a degree.

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grae313
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Re: Too many credits? Too many years?

Postby grae313 » Sat Apr 19, 2008 4:53 pm

and as for your credits, they're already taken, so why worry now? :wink: Seriously, you should be fine. Sell yourself in your personal statement as someone with a broad background and a thirst for knowledge :) make it a strength.

LB
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Joined: Fri Mar 28, 2008 5:06 pm

Re: Too many credits? Too many years?

Postby LB » Sat Apr 19, 2008 5:00 pm

SamAdams, that's good to hear. :)

grae, I still have quite a few credits left, and could shave off a few extra biology and math classes if it was better for me. But it sounds stupid to voluntarily learn less than I could...

Anyway, I'll definitely keep your suggestion in mind... it's all about framing. I'll be the student who "searched for his true interest in a wide variety of fields and achieved a strong, multi-disciplinary understanding of science in the process." Ok, maybe over-the-top, but something along those lines. :wink:

marten
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Re: Too many credits? Too many years?

Postby marten » Sat Apr 19, 2008 5:06 pm

Yeah, I second grae313. The worst thing about spending too long as an undergrad would be that it might look like someone is unfocused, or lacks discipline. But it looks like you are far from that. To the contrary, your number of credits and disciplines studied should be claimed as a strength in your application. 210 credits in 5 years with those majors and minors requires focus and discipline!

I was an engineering major, spent 7.5 years as an undergrad, took a bunch of liberal arts (non-science) classes, never completed a physics degree, and still managed to have options with grad schools.

Marten

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quizivex
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Re: Too many credits? Too many years?

Postby quizivex » Sat Apr 19, 2008 5:06 pm

Taking 5 years to finish a 4 year degree may be frowned upon or smiled upon depending on the reason.

Poor reasons for taking 5 years are:
-Failing courses and having to repeat them.
-Moving too slowly through your requirements

Legitimate reasons are:
-Switching to physics from another major midway and hence needing 5 years to finish the physics requirements.
-Transferring to another school which naturally puts you behind a step.

And stuff like that...

Your reasons would certainly be classified as legitimate. Your impressive variety of experience in engineering, computing and math will look great on your application.

christopher3.14
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Re: Too many credits? Too many years?

Postby christopher3.14 » Sat Apr 19, 2008 5:12 pm

grae313 wrote:Sell yourself in your personal statement as someone with a broad background and a thirst for knowledge :) make it a strength.


Great point.

As for me, I entered as a math major. After two years I knew I actually liked the application to physics, so I added physics as a second major. This was going to add an extra year, so I decided I might as well add a minor in classical literature (ancient Greek, and I wish I could have triple-majored). So I ended having a pretty interesting-looking set of transcripts and background.

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quizivex
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Re: Too many credits? Too many years?

Postby quizivex » Sat Apr 19, 2008 5:33 pm

christopher3.14 wrote:so I decided I might as well add a minor in classical literature (ancient Greek


ok slow down you're taking it too far.

haha just kidding. nice work.

christopher3.14
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Re: Too many credits? Too many years?

Postby christopher3.14 » Sun Apr 20, 2008 1:44 am

quizivex wrote:ok slow down you're taking it too far.

haha just kidding. nice work.


Hahaha. Actually, taking 1 upper div literary class was a nice break to go with 3 upper div math/physics each term.

LB
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Re: Too many credits? Too many years?

Postby LB » Sun Apr 20, 2008 5:28 pm

Perfect... I think your comments overall make a lot more sense than some of the arguments I've been hearing. I think that 210 credits / 5 years is definitely not an indication of being lazy or failing subjects, so I'll be sleeping easier now.

I'll also be sure to frame it as a strength and an indicator of interest in learning.

Thanks!




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