Hello, I am a new member on this forum who needs advice from current knowledgeable undergraduates (or grads)
. I just graduated from high school and decided that physics was the only thing I wanted to major in. So to make things short, I am an international student (from Canada) who will be enrolling in UC Berkeley this fall. Since it is very expensive, I am looking to graduate in 3 years in order to save money.
However, many things make me nervous about this decision. First thing that comes to mind is I have no idea what possible hell I am getting into. I heard that hard sciences at Berkeley are really competitive and it is very hard to get an A. I have aspirations of getting into a good grad program, so I want to aim for a 3.5+ GPA. I feel like this is going to be very difficult if I'm taking 5 courses a semester. I dunno how things are like in other colleges, but 5 courses a semester is normal, right? Any physics major at berkeley want to inform me about how hard it is to graduate in 3 years, based on courseload alone?
The thing I'm really worried about though, is research. From skimming this forum it seems like research is an extremely important asset of one's application. How on earth am I going to get ample research experience in such a short period of time, on top of the heavy courseload? I am going to finish all the lower division physics/math courses required for the major in the first year (not a lot), and then the next two years are technically my "junior" and "senior" years. My second year is when I will be starting research (the summer after my first year is occupied as I'm taking summer school). However, i dunno how much research I can get done in one and a half years (since after that I apply). So I just want to ask, how does research typically work? Do undergraduates usually start doing research their junior year, or the summer before ? (if this is the case, then I will be at a disadvantage as my corresponding summer would be occupied by summer school) Is research something that can only be participated during the summer or can it be done throughout the year? I am completely new to the subject so I have no idea when it should be done. I am thinking about taking a gap year afterwards if my research experience ends up being lacking and apply to graduate school after then. Is this a viable option or is it mandatory to apply right after you graduate? Do grad schools look unfavourably upon gap years? or 3 year degrees in general? I heard some programs don't even let 3 year physics B.A's apply to their programs.
Sorry for asking a million questions but I need to know if a 3 years bachelors gives ample time for research opportunities, and studying for GRE's/PGRE's on top of that. Right now, taking a gap year afterwards seems like a perfect option as that significantly makes the timeline more flexible. However, I am just a high school graduate who knows little about this process. Anyone who did a 3 years bachelors, or anyone who attended berkeley undergrad specifically, enlighten me about the difficulty of this path I am about to embark please
. And for everyone who made it this far into my post, I congratulate you lol.