Starting over

  • 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.

kaosgrace
Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Nov 01, 2008 4:19 am

Starting over

Postby kaosgrace » Sat Nov 01, 2008 4:47 am

Hello!

I'm a returning adult student currently in the sophomore year of my second attempt at college. The first was absolutely dismal; I started when I was sixteen taking sophomore- and junior-level courses, tried about four different majors in a year and a half, flunked out, got back in, and flunked out again (not having learned the lesson that one needs to at least show up for the tests to pass classes). I was out of school for five years, four of them in the military, and returned to college last year.

At my current school, I have a 3.8 GPA with a 4.0 in math, physics, and chemistry. I expect to graduate in 2011 with a double degree/triple major in physics, applied math, and math, with possible minors in anthropology and Romance languages and linguistics. I have always had outstanding standardized test scores in both math and verbal fields, and have absolutely no doubt that if my current record and future GRE scores were all that mattered I would be accepted to some physics grad school somewhere. However, I'm not sure how graduate programs view students with really, really bad past records (two years with an overall GPA of < 1.5, including one C and one failure in physics courses - will likely drag my cumulative GPA below 3.0 and GPA in majors below 3.7).

Is it possible that graduate schools might overlook a distant past record given stellar recent performance, good test scores, and recent research experience? Is it a reasonable idea for someone in my situation to take an upper-division curriculum geared toward theory and research in preparation for further academic work, or would I be best served concentrating more on applications in anticipation of being in the job market after graduation?

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zxcv
Posts: 402
Joined: Mon Dec 17, 2007 11:08 pm

Re: Starting over

Postby zxcv » Sat Nov 01, 2008 6:52 pm

If they're convinced that your academic troubles are buried deep in the past, grad schools will ignore them. There are many people who have overcome such backgrounds. Five years off and military service should make the point without you needing to much of an argument at all, although I would still note the more recent GPA if your transcript still shows the old grades. Good luck preparing for grad school!

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noojens
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:59 pm

Re: Starting over

Postby noojens » Sat Nov 01, 2008 7:40 pm

I spent seven years between high school and college: three and a half actually enrolled in classes, three and a half traveling and working and just generally enjoying bumdom. My overall GPA was spotty at best due to all the flunkery, but my physics and math GPAs were strong, as were my general GRE scores. I am currently in Cornell's Applied Physics department.

I would encourage you not to make the flawed assumption that the physics GRE is just another standardized test, though. I assure you, if you don't prepare for it, you will do poorly.

Since you're in your sophomore year, you might look into tutoring or TAing for introductory physics courses over the next year or two, as this will help solidify your knowledge of the basic topics that you'll see on the PGRE.

You might also think about taking a few engineering classes -- with the core physics curriculum under your belt, and maybe a class in fluid mechanics, you could jump into some fun upper division engineering electives. If you hit on something that captures your attention, then you eliminate the obligation to go to grad school that many physics majors feel. Engineering is fun, interesting, and employable without the PhD and multiple post-docs (adding up to 8-10 years on average between college graduation and your first job as an assistant professor).

Best of luck!

kaosgrace
Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Nov 01, 2008 4:19 am

Re: Starting over

Postby kaosgrace » Sat Nov 01, 2008 10:44 pm

Thank you for the replies, I feel a little better now, knowing that others have made the recovery.

I'm actually planning to take a few engineering electives if I can (they're restricted enrollment, so I might not be able to). But I have to decide now whether I want to take an engineering major or math and applied math, since the engineering major would fill up the vast majority of my credits outside physics and I think leave me less well-prepared for grad school.

However, I'm fairly certain, barring major life changes, that I'll go to grad school if I get accepted. I've been in the "real world" and found I didn't like it as much as I'd thought I would in my teenage naivete. I'd rather be dirt broke and learning than well-paid and bored.

I tried a practice physics GRE earlier this year and got a raw score of 49 which converts to a 730 (the only courses I'd completed in physics at the time were the first-year intro sequence, although I did have the advantage of having seen the material three times so equation memory wasn't an issue). I expect I'll likely do better once I've actually seen most of the material being tested, though of course I'll do some preparation beforehand.

One other question: Is a Canadian with a green card domestic or international?

markl
Posts: 33
Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2009 11:09 am

Re: Starting over

Postby markl » Mon Feb 23, 2009 9:38 am

,
I'm fairly certain, barring major life changes, that I'll go to grad school if I get accepted. I've been in the "real world" and found I didn't like it as much as I'd thought I would in my teenage naivete. I'd rather be dirt broke and learning than well-paid and bored.


I entirely agree, you are right our stories are somewhat similar, I'm not much ahead of you either I'm probably going to graduate after Fall 2011.

Argonic
Posts: 20
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2009 9:57 pm

Re: Starting over

Postby Argonic » Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:36 am

kaosgrace wrote: One other question: Is a Canadian with a green card domestic or international?


People with green cards are domestic.

kaosgrace
Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Nov 01, 2008 4:19 am

Re: Starting over

Postby kaosgrace » Fri Feb 27, 2009 1:56 am

Thanks! :)




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