Honest Chances @ attending grad school

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ofey
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Honest Chances @ attending grad school

Postby ofey » Tue Oct 26, 2010 2:23 pm

I need honest advice.

My academic history has been tenuous at best. While in my pre-pubescent days I exhibited a strong interest in physics I quickly lost my intellectual curiosity in high school and barely ended up in college. I went to a pretty poor state college and dropped out in three semesters. I spent the next 4-5 years knocking around not truly knowing what to and having a mix of part time jobs and part time school. For awhile I thought I wanted to be a programmer but it wasn't right for me. I rekindled an interesting science and am pretty sure that it is the right thing for me. I feel like my academic past was resultant of having a lot of problems within my family during my teen years and not being properly encouraged too peruse my interest at a young age. I have suffered depression over the past 6 years and it further effected my schooling. I have 11 W's in my academic past but never one from being in danger of failing a class, it was more often a result of depression keeping me not going to class or disliking my classes. I've done very well for the most part in math and sciences, A's or so up through differential equations.

Now 6 years after high school I am trying to improve my life in many area and will be going to a top 50 or so school to finish a dual physics and astronomy degree. I want nothing more in life than to pursue a Ph.D.and feel that the sort of intellectual stimulation I get through studying physics is transformative for me.

Despite my frankly uninspiring academic past if I can turn things around in the next 2 or so years do I have a serious chance of becoming a physicist?

I feel I am sufficiently motivated now to work at an academic level I never have before and know that I will be competing with people who had much more straightforward paths.

Are there any specific things I can do, besides getting good grades and getting involved in research, to ameliorate my past?

Frankly, I feel like physics is my one chance to be something meaningful in life and want to it to the absolute best of my ability.

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grae313
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Re: Honest Chances @ attending grad school

Postby grae313 » Tue Oct 26, 2010 6:57 pm

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1093&p=9294&#p9294

Long story short, I dropped out of a shitty state school my second semester with a 1.4 GPA, came back two years later and got into Stanford, Berkeley, and Cornell.

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HappyQuark
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Re: Honest Chances @ attending grad school

Postby HappyQuark » Tue Oct 26, 2010 7:01 pm

grae313 wrote:http://www.physicsgre.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1093&p=9294&#p9294

Long story short, I dropped out of a shitty state school my second semester with a 1.4 GPA, came back two years later and got into Stanford, Berkeley, and Cornell.


But to be fair, as far as physics goes you're like Jesus. I don't know what that means but I'm almost sure it was a compliment.

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quizivex
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Re: Honest Chances @ attending grad school

Postby quizivex » Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:25 am

It's definitely never too late to become a physicist, though academic careers are very slow and you won't live forever (notice how old most full profs are!)... Starting right out of high school majoring in your future career is easiest, but you can always start fresh in a new field later in life... (actually that's what most physics PhD's end up doing lol...)
Today, grae313 wrote:Long story short, I dropped out of a shitty state school my second semester with a 1.4 GPA, came back two years later and got into Stanford, Berkeley, and Cornell.
Well that's an inspirational story, but we should tell "him" all relevant details since... ah this thread sums it up:
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2157
on 2/25/09markl wrote:Here are all the factors in the past that come into play.
1. Didn't do very well in High School, Bish student overall.(5 years ago)
2. Dropped out of first college with very low grades ~ 1.8 gpa
3. Going to school now at "fourth tier" public university for physics.
Here's what I want:
To go to a top grad school in astrophysics, I'm talking Harvard, Colombia, MIT, Berkley or similar.
on 2/26/09, grae313 wrote:Let me sum it up: I dropped out of a shitty 4th tier college my second semester with a 2.0 gpa and got into the PhD programs at Cornell, Stanford, and Berkeley. Dream on, my friend.
markl wrote:great now I just have to get a sex change :( j/k
Lol... just saying we should all have realistic backup plans, and know when to use them, in case our dreams don't come true... not everyone will be able to overcome such a slow start...

ofey
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Re: Honest Chances @ attending grad school

Postby ofey » Wed Oct 27, 2010 5:45 am

Grae, I find your story fascinating. Do you think you could comment on some of the specifics of my case and how to overcome them?

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grae313
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Re: Honest Chances @ attending grad school

Postby grae313 » Wed Oct 27, 2010 11:00 am

quizivex wrote:Lol... just saying we should all have realistic backup plans, and know when to use them, in case our dreams don't come true... not everyone will be able to overcome such a slow start...


Quiz, he's not dead set on Stanford or MIT, he just said his dream is to pursue a physics PhD. My post was not meant to imply that he can get in anywhere he wants, but to show that a physics grad program is most certainly within reach.

ofey wrote:Grae, I find your story fascinating. Do you think you could comment on some of the specifics of my case and how to overcome them?


I'm not sure where exactly you're looking for comments, but I will say that getting good research experience is absolutely vital. I've seen many, many people with underwhelming PGRE scores and average grades get into excellent programs because they have great research experience. In my opinion it's absolutely one of the most important factors in your application and this is really understated as an undergrad so it's hard to know this. It's imperative that you get good research experience and do all you can to get a publication or poster at a conference out. Even if it delays your graduation by a year, I wouldn't apply to a program without it (unless you're not aiming at top 40 or so).

So kick ass in your classes, chat with your professors after class and get to know them, do good research and impress your research adviser, and maybe consider some outreach of some sort. You'll definitely be able to get in somewhere, and depending on how well you do, I don't think top 20 is out of the question.

ofey
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Re: Honest Chances @ attending grad school

Postby ofey » Wed Oct 27, 2010 12:24 pm

Let's put it this way:

Say I do as well as someone who would otherwise be able to get into a Top 20 school with my poor past but not much above and beyond? Will the past hinder my?

I'd imagine my realistic goal is something like a 3.7 GPA, which would give me something like a 3.4 or so all time GPA, not counting a handful of F's and my bevy of W's. With one summer of research and possibly a some more research for a semester or two along the way. I'm not a shy person but can be awkward in situations when talking to professors on a personal level and what not so I might have trouble getting chummy with a professor unless I find a way to do it. I'd bet once I'm in more interesting and specific classes I'd have a few more things to talk about with them than my current more general physics classes where I don't usually have many questions.

I don't know anything about the Physics GRE yet but would dedicate myself a few months ahead of time to some serious studying so hopefully I could do really well.

Lol, sorry I wish I had some real life people to ask these questions but I'm nervous asking professors things like this and I don't personally know any physicists.

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twistor
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Re: Honest Chances @ attending grad school

Postby twistor » Thu Nov 04, 2010 12:43 pm

Say I do as well as someone who would otherwise be able to get into a Top 20 school with my poor past but not much above and beyond? Will the past hinder my?


You have to have a record that shows your performance is excellent. Admissions committee members do not know you personally so all they have to go on is the written documentation submitted to them. If your records don't suggest your claimed performance ability don't except to be competitive at top-notch schools.




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