Looking for Advice

  • 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.

srfriggen
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:40 pm

Looking for Advice

Postby srfriggen » Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:48 pm

Hello,

I am new to this forum and hope someone can lead me in the right direction...

My story: I've always loved physics and math, but chose an Economics degree as my undergrad degree which I earned in 2004. Since then I've worked a terrible job at Merrill Lynch and now at a Real Estate Development firm. Ever since my senior year I've regretted not going after what I loved. Mostly it had to do with the pressure from my parents to get a degree in what was "practical" as well as my own immaturity.

Well, sob story over...I'm 27 now and I want to go back to school for a degree in Physics. I looked into taking undergraduate courses to prep myself, but am not sure if that is the best course of action. Also, I have spoken to many physics majors, and they all tell me "math, math math" is what you need to know to excel. The concepts are "easy". So I have been looking into getting a masters in mathematics before proceeding to physics.

Does anyone have any advice on how to proceed from where I am? Even after speaking to the heads of many math and physics departments I am still getting mixed advice...one school seemed to just try to sell me on taking undergrad courses without really giving me insight as to exactly which classes would be best to achieve my goals.

I hope this post wasn't too long, and I hope there is someone who may have wise advice and is empathetic to my situation.

Thank you for reading :)

bencpp
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:29 am

Re: Looking for Advice

Postby bencpp » Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:10 pm

for undergrad phys courses, only very basic mathematics is required, you are not needed to get a master degree of mathematics. you need to learn calculus (including vector calculus), ode, basic pde (the so-called mathematical method course), linear algebra (very important for quantum mechanics), and some other mathematical technique such as statistic, fourier transform..., and don't forget to do as many exercises as you can. that is all you needed for learning the core of phys such as the classical mechanics, electrodynamics, and quantum mechanics.

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secander2!
Posts: 264
Joined: Mon Oct 27, 2008 12:25 pm

Re: Looking for Advice

Postby secander2! » Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:17 pm

I don't know for sure because I've never been in this situation, but from what I've heard about people switching into physics, it sounds like a solid PGRE can really add credibility to your desire to do physics. Perhaps taking some undergraduate courses and studying hard for the physics GRE might be a good start. After that you could probably go straight to a mid ranked grad school and go directly for a Ph.D. Alternatively, if you want to go for a top program, my guess would be that you'll need to get a bachelors or masters first, but I could be wrong. As for which courses to take... probably just look at the syllabus for the PGRE and use that to prioritize. Anyways, you'll definitely need mechanics, E&M, some modern physics, and thermodynamics. With a basic course in each of these fields and a good understanding of the subject matter, you can probably do quite well on the PGRE, but if you want to ace it, you'll need some more advance quantum mechanics, classical mechanics, and advanced E&M. I've heard of people who studied for the PGRE without ever taking the corresponding courses, but I'd personally find this very difficult to do. Furthermore, I doubt that most programs would accept you unless you had the equivalent of a minor in physics.

ComboOrgan
Posts: 16
Joined: Sun Mar 02, 2008 6:39 pm

Re: Looking for Advice

Postby ComboOrgan » Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:59 pm

I did something similar to what you want to do.

I got a BA in 2004 in something unrelated to science, and after working for a few years, I decided to just drop everything and go back to school for physics full-time.

It seemed to me that it was not worth trying to do it quickly. I decided to just go full time for three years to get my B.S. in physics. I don't want to be less prepared than my peers when I get to grad school

I don't regret my decision at all.

Good luck to you

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

Re: Looking for Advice

Postby noojens » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:59 pm

srfriggen wrote:Does anyone have any advice on how to proceed from where I am? Even after speaking to the heads of many math and physics departments I am still getting mixed advice...one school seemed to just try to sell me on taking undergrad courses without really giving me insight as to exactly which classes would be best to achieve my goals.

Just to be clear, you're trying to decide between applying for physics PhD programs now, or taking physics undergraduate courses and then applying?

I'd agreed with secander2 that the physics GRE would be a good litmus test. It's an imperfect measure, but if you study for a bit and do pretty well on the physics GRE it'd be a decent indication that you have at least the fundamentals for grad school. If not? *** it, college is fun - go back and have fun studying what you love. It's a good time to be in school anyway (he tells the economist) :P

Anyway, best of luck to you :)

srfriggen
Posts: 2
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 12:40 pm

Re: Looking for Advice

Postby srfriggen » Thu Feb 05, 2009 10:51 am

THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR YOUR ADVICE! LOL, and
noojens wrote:It's a good time to be in school anyway (he tells the economist) :P
! LOL...True

I really mean it. I think I know what to do now and the mountain doesn't seem so hard to climb when you get an idea of where to start :)

If anyone else out there has any more advice it would be even more appreciated, but so far I appreciate everyone's responses!




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