Sophomore undergrad getting very scared....tips/help/etc?

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fandangoya
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon Apr 13, 2009 1:52 am

Sophomore undergrad getting very scared....tips/help/etc?

Postby fandangoya » Mon Apr 13, 2009 2:13 am

Hey all, I'm currently finishing up my sophomore year at a small liberal arts school with a strong physics department.

I've been starting to read up on stuff on graduate schools, and I'm starting to get very scared. I always knew getting into grad school would be hard, but I think I underestimated how cutthroat it would be. I'm seeing that pretty much everyone here as a perfect 4.0 GPA with tons of research and publications. This is a scary sight for me.

At the end of this year, my overall GPA should be ~3.2 while my physics GPA should be ~3.5. This seems to pale in comparison to others. I already have one C on my transcript (first semester calc, stupid I know) and might be looking at a C or D this semester in my German class (last one...). How much will these hurt me?

I still have two years to work on my GPA, and I am very dedicated to getting it higher, but it probably won't be possible to get it to a 4.0. I think my course load is the standard (next year taking Classical Mechanics, Atomic/Nuclear, Optics, Thermo...). I'm a math major as well.

As for the GREs, I still have a lot of time to prepare and think I could do very well on them (but I'm sure that is what everyone says). Would definitely be aiming for 90+ percentile on physics, which I think I could do with adequate prep.

As for research, I did research all last summer with a professor and observed multiple times in Arizona (astronomy research). Wasn't able to get research this summer, but I'm determined to get a REU next summer. No publications of course yet, who knows if I'll be able too....

As for letter of recs, I think I could get very good ones. Going to a small school is nice, I know every single one of the physics professors and I am very personable with them.

What do you guys think? How scared should I be? I mean, I'm not going to be aiming for the #1 grad programs, but would still like to get into a good program. I would like go for a PhD, possibly in astrophysics.

This is just the first time I have started to do some serious grad school research, and it is very startling to me. It is starting to hit me how hard it is to get into grad school. I know it is still very early, but if I bring up my GPA, get some more research, it'll be possible to get in somewhere, right?

Signed Scared Undergrad :shock:

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Andromeda
Posts: 127
Joined: Wed Dec 10, 2008 3:17 pm

Re: Sophomore undergrad getting very scared....tips/help/etc?

Postby Andromeda » Mon Apr 13, 2009 5:10 am

Ok, breathe. First of all this board is focused in general towards those heading towards the 4.0 going to #1 schools crowd- more power to you all in that category, but it's not required to get into grad school. Myself, I started off my first two years with a transcript peppered with Bs and Cs, then started getting straight As to finish with a 3.26. Had a terrible Physics GRE score too, one of the lowest on these boards, and I still get to go to a decent school for experimental astrophysics in the fall. :)

My advice to you at this point since you know what it is you want to do- redouble efforts on those classes as they are often easier to tackle when you're older and "know the ropes," try and get a good Physics GRE score to show you're competent (though I warn you now, people from small liberal arts schools tend to not fare as well so don't be discouraged from the start), and and keep working on that research. If you want to do more the astro route in particular than a good research background combined with letters can often make up for some lower points on your record- I know this was definitely the case for me.

excel
Posts: 257
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 2:33 am

Re: Sophomore undergrad getting very scared....tips/help/etc?

Postby excel » Mon Apr 13, 2009 10:13 am

You are not in too bad a position actually. Research in the summer after first year is a plus. No one in admissions would care about your German grades. As long as you get pretty much all A in your upper-class math and physics courses from this point on, your current GPA should not be a problem.

Irrespective of whether you get paid or not, you should do research this summer. It would be best if you can start on a research project that you would continue till it is time to apply. That would boost your chances of publishing.

cato88
Posts: 420
Joined: Wed Sep 03, 2008 12:46 am

Re: Sophomore undergrad getting very scared....tips/help/etc?

Postby cato88 » Mon Apr 13, 2009 1:42 pm

Im pretty sure this year was a bit different because the increase of applicants and the the decrease in available of spots. Next year and maybe all the years following will be different due to the increasing in funding and given the economy doesnt become worse the decrease in applications.

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

Re: Sophomore undergrad getting very scared....tips/help/etc?

Postby noojens » Mon Apr 13, 2009 5:10 pm

So I majored in math and physics at a smallish/not particularly renowned institution. My recommendation? Don't worry about the math major. Take a math class each semester if you want, in something that interests you and (preferably) helps your understanding of higher-level physics classes... but it's far more important to enroll for 3+ credits of research every semester. Keep working with the prof you worked for last summer if at all possible; continuity will help you develop depth of understanding in the subject (and will make for a strong letter of recommendation and potential publications).

To sum up: your GPA will put you at a disadvantage, yes. You need to make up for it with research and a strong PGRE score.

Best of luck.

nathan12343
Posts: 249
Joined: Sat Dec 20, 2008 9:34 am

Re: Sophomore undergrad getting very scared....tips/help/etc?

Postby nathan12343 » Mon Apr 13, 2009 7:44 pm

Which isn't to say that improving your GPA is impossible. I went from ~3.2 at the end of my sophomore year to a 3.6 this semester and have been accepted to some pretty good astro programs. Don't fret, study hard, and try and get A's in all of your physics classes. It's not impossible, you just need to put in the hours.




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