Should I even try?

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

Should I even try?

Postby markl » Sun Feb 22, 2009 11:31 am

Hello Forum!

I am physics undergrad just starting out in the physics part of my work, and I think very much I would like to continue on into grad school, perhaps especially for astronomy. However, I have a few thing that could keep me from reaching these dreams and I wonder how severe the impairment will be and how I can over come them. I want to look at this by taking a few things for granted:

1. Say I very good gpa when I am applying for grad school >3.6 or so
2. Better than average Physics GRE
3. A decent amount of research and good letters

This might by a lot to ask for but I think it is well within reach. Now here are the factors against me that will show up to people considering to bring me on as a phd candidate.

1. I won't be graduating until I am 25( not sure how big of deal this is)
2. At my first attempt at college I did completely horrid, was far more interested in partying and dropped out after 3 semesters.(this was at an unknown small state college)
3. Spent a few years doing part-time community college courses until I figure out what I wanted to do.
4. Went back to a reasonably well known Campus of a large State university system, I do have a few W's(2), I just hated the courses and didn't go and one F, in Calculus I not for academic but personal reasons, I took the CLEP for Calculus and got a nearly perfect score and did extremely well in subsequent math classes.

Clearly, I have a lot to atone for but recently underwent something of a soul-searching period and so far have a 4.0 GPA and am focusing intently on my school work. I don't see any more F's or W's in my future. So my next two years will be almost completely my physics major and associated math courses. I do work my ass off and ace across the board, do I have a chance to fulfill my dream?

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PhysicsPdx
Posts: 58
Joined: Sun Dec 14, 2008 6:59 pm

Re: Should I even try?

Postby PhysicsPdx » Sun Feb 22, 2009 1:59 pm

markl wrote:Hello Forum!
1. Say I very good gpa when I am applying for grad school >3.6 or so

I have a 3.58

mark! wrote:2. Better than average Physics GRE

My PGRE is pretty bad, a 520.

mark! wrote:3. A decent amount of research and good letters

Here is where the good stuff resides. Knowing how to perform research and having professors who are willing to jump up and down for you, these are the important things.

mark! wrote:1. I won't be graduating until I am 25( not sure how big of deal this is)

I'm going to be 32.

mark! wrote:3. Spent a few years doing part-time community college courses until I figure out what I wanted to do.
4. Went back to a reasonably well known Campus of a large State university system, I do have a few W's(2), I just hated the courses and didn't go and one F, in Calculus I not for academic but personal reasons, I took the CLEP for Calculus and got a nearly perfect score and did extremely well in subsequent math classes.

I have a few withdraws and one 'F' on my transcripts. None of it in physics or math, but they are there none-the-less.

And, I've already been excepted to two programs. What I'm getting at is: there isn't a set linear path to graduate school. Go talk to some of your professors and I'm sure you'll hear some colorful stories about how they got where they are. You have nothing to "atone" for. What, making some "mistakes" and living your life? Please. Don't let all of the incessant over-analysis on this forum get you down, none of us really know what is what when it comes to getting in.

Good luck to you!

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WontonBurritoMeals
Posts: 103
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:43 pm

Re: Should I even try?

Postby WontonBurritoMeals » Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:25 pm

Haha, PhysicsPdx. You made subsequent replies pointless.

May the wind be always at your back,
-WontonBurritoMeals

tensorwhat
Posts: 54
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:33 pm

Re: Should I even try?

Postby tensorwhat » Sun Feb 22, 2009 3:36 pm

i wouldnt even begin to call your worries a problem.....you can still go wherever you want, dont let anyone tell you otherwise. just be confident in what you do, and youll be fine.....seriously

fastones3
Posts: 40
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2009 1:02 am

Re: Should I even try?

Postby fastones3 » Sun Feb 22, 2009 5:13 pm

Just do the best you can from here on out and I'm sure you'll be able to pull off something decent. Maybe you won't go to Harvard for grad school, but there is still a huge number of quality schools that are looking for students who picked themselves back up after initially struggling. Not to say you couldn't make a top 10 program if you did well enough, but there are a ton of schools out there and I'm sure if you pick yourself up decently enough you will have some decent options.

fastones3
Posts: 40
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2009 1:02 am

Re: Should I even try?

Postby fastones3 » Sun Feb 22, 2009 5:13 pm

PS - You'll only be 25. That's still pretty young.

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

Re: Should I even try?

Postby noojens » Sun Feb 22, 2009 6:47 pm

I was in a similar situation as an undergrad - I graduated at 25 and dropped out of one university along the way. I didn't have great success with grad programs (although I'm at Cornell now), but I also half-assed my applications and PGRE. I got waitlisted at three of the six schools I applied to (with rejections a week before their deadline to notify me), outright rejected from two, and accepted to one. They were all top 50 schools. So don't despair.

In fact, if you don't make the mistakes I made, you can probably get in anywhere you want. Finish your undergrad courses with a strong GPA, particularly in your major, and include recalculations of your physics GPA and your GPA at your present university in your statement of purpose. Don't take the PGRE lightly - study for it, don't get drunk the night before, and retake it if you need to. :) And finally, get involved in research ASAP - it doesn't matter so much what research you do. What matters more is that you get a feel for what it means to do research, because a PhD in physics is almost entirely research training. Hopefully you'll get inspired by the process of doing physics/astronomy research; if not, then you've got plenty of time to consider other options (e.g. engineering, health sciences, law, etc).

I think the fact that you're thinking about grad schools already bodes well for you. Best of luck.

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

Re: Should I even try?

Postby kaosgrace » Mon Feb 23, 2009 1:37 am

You sound exactly like me, just two or three years younger and a year or two ahead (in fact, my first post on these boards was almost exactly like yours). Let me know how it goes for you - I need reassurance too :)

isobelojalvo
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2009 2:18 pm

Re: Should I even try?

Postby isobelojalvo » Mon Feb 23, 2009 3:37 pm

I think that in your situation you're going to need some excellent letters of recommendation. Basically atleast one person who'd say, "Yes this student may have had issues in the past but I, personally, have only seen great work from him."

Form good relationships with professors, and research advisors.




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