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Taking a victory lap

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 8:21 pm
by Kaiser_Sose
Hey all,

This may be an over-chewed topic, but I was wondering what the prevailing sentiment is about taking an extra year to raise your GPA. Is it transparent that you are trying to make up for something? I'm not talking about taking things like yoga or intro philosophy. I'm talking about 2 semesters of some electives mixed in with upper level, topical physics courses, like nuclear physics, elementary particles, quantum theory of solids, maybe even a grad class.

The financial costs for me would be rather large to do this, but I'm looking at the GPA's of people who get into the places I'd like to be, and mine falls just short so I'm trying to contemplate my options. I may just try to clean house on the PGRE (no sweat eh?) and then make a decision then.

Thanks for you input.

KS

Re: Taking a victory lap

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2009 9:55 pm
by grae313
Kaiser_Sose wrote:Hey all,

This may be an over-chewed topic, but I was wondering what the prevailing sentiment is about taking an extra year to raise your GPA. Is it transparent that you are trying to make up for something? I'm not talking about taking things like yoga or intro philosophy. I'm talking about 2 semesters of some electives mixed in with upper level, topical physics courses, like nuclear physics, elementary particles, quantum theory of solids, maybe even a grad class.

The financial costs for me would be rather large to do this, but I'm looking at the GPA's of people who get into the places I'd like to be, and mine falls just short so I'm trying to contemplate my options. I may just try to clean house on the PGRE (no sweat eh?) and then make a decision then.

Thanks for you input.

KS


Is your GPA above like 3.5? If so, I'd say letters and excellent research will do way more for you than bumping it up a few tenths of a point.

Re: Taking a victory lap

Posted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 1:24 am
by Kaiser_Sose
Its right at 3.5 actually, hence my consternation. I don't have any Yale or Princeton or Harvard aspirations, but I would like to to get into a top 15-30 school. Pretty please with a cherry on top.

I don't know if its excellent research. I think its good and with some more results I'm hoping for a publication or two. I guess that's a whole different topic though.

Re: Taking a victory lap

Posted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 11:18 am
by grae313
Kaiser_Sose wrote:Its right at 3.5 actually, hence my consternation. I don't have any Yale or Princeton or Harvard aspirations, but I would like to to get into a top 15-30 school. Pretty please with a cherry on top.

I don't know if its excellent research. I think its good and with some more results I'm hoping for a publication or two. I guess that's a whole different topic though.


I would say if you're going to take another year, a few grad classes or advanced physics classes will be a plus, but having a really strong research background and excellent letters will do more for you. My opinion only.

Re: Taking a victory lap

Posted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 12:46 pm
by Kaiser_Sose
My opinion only.


Well considering the places you got into, I'm willing to place some stock in it. :wink:

Re: Taking a victory lap

Posted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 2:11 pm
by Andromeda
I had to take an extra semester due to one course, and was strongly advised by my profs to take a grad class during that semester to show I was capable of that work etc etc. So I pass along the same recommendation to you- another nice thing about the extra semester was how I was ahead of the pack in applying for shiny REUs. :D

I dunno if I would do a whole extra year just to raise a 3.5 though, just as a personal thing. MAYBE a semester.

Re: Taking a victory lap

Posted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 4:12 pm
by noojens
I'm confused about where you are in your degree. Are you a junior now? Senior?

Bear in mind that schools won't even see your grades from your last semester of work - some schools e.g. Berkeley with its Dec. 5 deadline don't even see your last YEAR's worth of grades. So I would strongly advise you to sit down with a spreadsheet and look at the actual impact that your additional time in school will have on your GPA. Consider a couple grade scenarios - what if you get a 4.0 both semesters? What if you get a 3.8? A 3.7?

The actual impact on your cumulative GPA probably won't be more than a tenth of a point... and the impact on the GPA that schools will see will be even smaller. Not really worth it from a GPA perspective alone, IMO.

That's not to say that a victory lap's a bad idea, though. If you can knock out A's in grad classes (in the fall, so schools will actually see them), rock the PGRE, and (MOST IMPORTANTLY!) do some excellent research and publish it before the fall application deadlines, then another year might be worth it.

It is hard to multitask with PGRE studying, research, and classes though. If you really want to get in somewhere sexy, you might consider pulling a Secander and just focusing on a year's worth of research and acing the PGRE.

Best of luck :)

Re: Taking a victory lap

Posted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 4:31 pm
by Kaiser_Sose
For clarity, I am junior. So the current semester, this summer, and next fall will be my last opportunities to raise my GPA up above 3.5, which at least by my cursory analysis, seems to be the cutoff for reliably getting in to a top 15-30 school.

Consider a couple grade scenarios - what if you get a 4.0 both semesters? What if you get a 3.8? A 3.7?

The actual impact on your cumulative GPA probably won't be more than a tenth of a point... and the impact on the GPA that schools will see will be even smaller. Not really worth it from a GPA perspective alone, IMO.


I actually wrote a little script to do this in Mathematica and I got a bit sad, because the individual impact of each class is so small.

I am doing research now and I will hopefully get supported again next academic year for that project. Also lined up work on a different paid project over the summer. The GRE is on the agenda for this summer too: I plan to plow through problems from recommended intro texts and some of the upper-level texts. The cues for those books I of course take from this site. :mrgreen:

Hope that clears things up a bit and maybe familiarizes some of you with the real me.

KS

P.S. Is it significant at all that someone thinks its worth the money to pay me for research, rather than me just volunteering my time? That is, is paid research time more heavily weighted than unpaid?

Re: Taking a victory lap

Posted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 4:47 pm
by noojens
Kaiser_Sose wrote:P.S. Is it significant at all that someone thinks its worth the money to pay me for research, rather than me just volunteering my time? That is, is paid research time more heavily weighted than unpaid?

It means that they value your research abilities, which is certainly significant - it'll probably be reflected in the letter your advisor writes you next year. I don't think schools care too much whether you got paid or not, though. What matters more is the opinion of your advisor and the results (i.e. publication) of your research.