Give Up?

  • 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.

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Give Up?

Postby MissKitty425 » Sat Oct 30, 2010 12:43 am

Hi all,

I am on the cusp of finishing a degree in engineering physics. My dream has always been to continue my education to the doctorate level. However, I have come to realize that my chances of actually being accepted to a physics PHD program are pretty slim. I have almost exactly a 3.0 gpa (3.2 phys classes), which apparently sucks according to my advisors. I am taking the physics GRE in two weeks and am very skeptical I can perform well enough to overcome the crappy gpa as far as application perks go.

I have struggled with anxiety/ADHD my entire life, and while I can't blame my poor performance on this alone, I feel it has contributed to it significantly. I habitually receive poor test scores due to the time constraints. I was never diagnosed as a child and as such have no documented medical history regarding my disorder, therefore I cannot receive the accommodations (i.e. extended test time) that would greatly help my performance, as my school has very strict criteria to qualify for such accommodations.

I don't feel that my gpa accurately reflects my potential in physics, however I also don't think I will be able to get into a graduate program. So I guess I have to give up my dream of being a physicist.

Has anyone else been in a similar situation and managed to pull it off? Any Advice?

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Re: Give Up?

Postby HappyQuark » Sat Oct 30, 2010 1:56 am

Have you considered applying for a masters program? It will give the opportunity to get research experience and, in your case, will let you start fresh. In a couple years after finishing your degree, if you still think you are cut out for a PhD you can apply and cite your grades in your masters program as evidence that despite struggles in undergrad, you can handle and excel in grad school.

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Re: Give Up?

Postby laser » Sat Oct 30, 2010 3:51 am

Apply anyway. My GPA isn't any better but it's still worth trying. Pick reasonable schools, don't waste your time or money on top twenty schools. I agree also with HappyQuark, and add that you don't even have to do a whole master's program, you can start one and apply to grad schools again while you're in one, and transfer credits over to a new grad program (which is my personal back-up plan if I don't get in anywhere this round). A 3.2 in physics isn't something to shake a stick at. Maybe most of the people on this forum have better than a 3.2, but I would bet that most students in general, even among those that go to graduate school, are a little more "average."

If your advisors are discouraging you, if possible, get new advisors. If they have such little faith in your abilities then they might not write good letters for you, not to mention the effect that it's clearly having on your morale and motivation, which could have an impact on other parts of your application, like your SOP (if you're feeling down on yourself, or overdefensive) or organizing all your deadlines (if you're feeling unmotivated). My advisors have been honest and encouraging (which is one of the reasons I'm not applying to more than one top 20 school, and I don't actually expect to get in, but I have realistic chances in the 40 to 80 rank range, and that's good enough for me, and I bet you would have good chances in that range as well, not all of us get to go to Cornell/Stanford/Berkeley/etc), and I know that they will write good letters for me.

I test slow and lose focus and have anxiety issues too, but I refuse to be a victim of it.

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Re: Give Up?

Postby MissKitty425 » Fri Nov 05, 2010 7:48 pm

Sound advice. Thank you both

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Re: Give Up?

Postby pqortic » Sat Nov 06, 2010 2:29 am

giving up is the last option. consider the following:

1- you don't have to go to graduate school immediately after undergraduate. you can take a year off and get prepared for pgre and do some research and apply with stronger cv next year.

2- doing master as an intermediate step to phd is a very good idea but you should have plans for that. being graduate student even in a MS program is so time consuming and if you are assigned TA duties it's even worse. by the time you start the MS you must have some plans on when you want to take the pgre and be determined to involve in a research program and possibly publish something.

3- having stress in pgre test in usual but level of stress depends on your preparation. for example, after studying some higher level physics courses you don't have any stress in solving freshman physics problems or taking those easy looking tests of general physics and that's because you have enough practice and that level of problems doesn't make you feel stressed. the same about pgre, if you are prepared enough and are familiar with the format of the test and type of questions, you won't have too much stress during the test. everything depends on the level of preparation you have.

good luck

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