Inadequate coursework

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DarklordoftheSUSY
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Feb 08, 2016 12:47 am

Inadequate coursework

Postby DarklordoftheSUSY » Fri Mar 25, 2016 6:58 pm

It looks at this point as if i am going to be rejected from all the schools I applied to. I suspect the issue is that I bombed the GRE, (600) but the reason that happened is that my school barely has a physics Curriculum. We only have 1 semester of E and M, Optics, and QM, and do not offer Thermodynamics/Statistical Mechanics AT ALL. The only upper level course we actually have two semesters of is Mechanics. Despite this, I actually managed to get summer research projects at AFRL and NASA, and complete two research projects at my university which I will hopefully get published first author within the next two months on the explosive thermochemistry of Ball Lightning and a CFT formulation of Quantum Gravity. While I am great at research, the problem is that I don't have access to adequate coursework at my undergrad institution, and considering I graduate after this semester, taking more coursework isn't an option anyways. That's not counting the fact that I have no money to be a visiting student or something like that and summer coursework for upper level physics doesn't really exist. As a result, I'm basically stuck with a bachelor's degree that doesn't qualify me to actually get admitted to graduate school. I don't know what to do at this point.

DarklordoftheSUSY
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Feb 08, 2016 12:47 am

Re: Inadequate coursework

Postby DarklordoftheSUSY » Fri Mar 25, 2016 7:02 pm

We also do not have a graduate program AT ALL at my undergrad institution either, so to put this in perspective, You can quite literally take every physics course at the university in two years.

idanpwm
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Jan 19, 2015 2:10 am

Re: Inadequate coursework

Postby idanpwm » Sat Mar 26, 2016 12:43 am

Do a Masters in Physics at some school that only has a masters program, but not a PhD program for Physics. Maybe some programs still accept applicants? Then apply for a PhD.

Find a school that still accepts applicants for Masters and go there. It doesn't even have to be Physics Masters, go for Comp Science or whatever, but use your time to take whatever physics classes you can and then reapply again.

Edit: The post below me is really smug, has privilege written all over it.
Last edited by idanpwm on Sun Mar 27, 2016 5:42 pm, edited 12 times in total.

SecondaryAccount
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Mar 26, 2016 2:58 pm

Re: Inadequate coursework

Postby SecondaryAccount » Sat Mar 26, 2016 3:02 pm

I'm sharing this from a secondary account because I ended up sharing a good bit of personal anecdote here.

I would suggest that you take on a MS, but you also should consider changing your attitude towards your studies in general. For example, you state how someone could take every physics class at your university in two years, but on your profile you list yourself as staying for four years. It could be that you completed the coursework in two years and are staying at this institution for your research. But that would mean you dedicated at least a full year to your research, in which case you'd hopefully have multiple publications by now. So honestly, it seems like you are looking for ways to make things easy for yourself by taking as little physics coursework as possible.

You are repeatedly insisting that it is the school's fault you did poorly on the GRE. Do not attempt to deflect the responsibility of doing well somewhere other than yourself. I understand that your institution did not offer various courses and I sympathize to an extent with that. But don't act like you're powerless. There are many awesome resources like Kahn/Anderson, as well as the 5 PGRE practice tests you can find for free on the internet. In my case, my institution didn't offer a statistical mechanics course worth taking, and many of the other high physics courses were taught poorly (EM, QM, optics). But that didn't stop me from getting a 960 on the physics GRE because I took the resources available to me, and worked hard to fill in the gaps. You need to do something similar instead of whining about how your school didn't offer the courses (I'm sorry, that's what it kind of looks like, especially if you dedicated personal statement or interview space explaining this). You will struggle with a physics PhD if you continue to adopt this approach when things go wrong in research.

You write about how you are doing research on symmetry breaking, the Higgs, and dilaton fields. I won't pretend to know what any of those things are, and I've had substantially more physics coursework than you. How are you going to convince a university that you are at the cutting edge of high energy physics when you have only taken one course in EM and one course in QM? Personally, my research is challenging, but I have enough background to be ready to stand as an expert in the research. I'm not necessarily saying you aren't ready to challenge yourself with fascinating research topics (that's what research is all about), but the topics you have mentioned sound very 'pop-sci-esque' and the 'honors thesis' you refer to sounds more like an end-of-class report than a peer-reviewed research paper. I don't think you have yet encountered the drudgery that is typical of research done by graduate students.

You also reached way too high in the schools you applied to. Specifically you applied to Yale and other high tier schools. Students who get into Yale are extremely advanced in their coursework - many of them have taken literally twice the number of physics courses you have taken, many have taken graduate level courses before finishing their undergraduate degree, and most have GPA in excess of 3.5 from institutions with substantial grade deflation. Your physics curriculum which looks more like a physics minor than a BS degree isn't going to cut it at places like Yale or Dartmouth. I do not know if this is your ego getting in the way, or if your professors are encouraging you to apply to schools beyond your reach, but you should re-evaluate your list of schools and make sure you aren't wasting money and time on what I like to call 'ego-applications'. I was admitted into a physics program on a similar level as the Ivies, but I thought long and hard about even applying to the school because I was concerned that it was beyond my reach, even with how hard I've worked as an undergraduate.

There are many students like you who complete an undergraduate at a liberal arts institution with limited coursework, and then expect to immediately 'take the next step' to a physics PhD somewhere like Yale or Harvard without a clear grasp on why they are seeking the PhD. Why are you seeking the PhD at this juncture in your life? It seems to me like you expect to just 'coast' through a PhD instead of taking this opportunity to actually decide what you want from life.

Do the MS at a highly regarded physics institution instead of looking for an easy way out. Emphasize taking as much coursework as possible, because (especially if you want to go somewhere like Yale for a PhD) you need this opportunity to get caught up to the other applicants. Work closely with an advisor to do research which comes as close as possible to PhD thesis writing. If at that point you are still enthusiastic about physics you will then apply to be considered for a PhD.

Good luck!

Edit: I wrote these words out so that they might help someone. This isn't about money or undergraduate school prestige. Case and point, OP likely is from a FAR more affluent background than I am. I attended an in-state public institution with mid-rated physics, which was the best available to me given the circumstances, whereas OP chose to attend a private school which offered limited physics. The point is to just stop making excuses and get to work.

Edit2: For reference, the above poster left an edit where he/she insinuated that I come from a rich background with rich mom and dad doing everything for me, whereas the exact opposite is true. He/she edited it out before I could make my first edit.

Edit3: The above poster has absolutely no clue whatsoever about this situation. OP went to a private liberal arts university, which are known for having incredibly high tuition cost and selectivity, so money and lack of choice is clearly not the OP's concern. However, if your family makes pennies a day and your only realistic option is to go to an in-state school where the tuition is only 8K a year, it becomes quite clear who is the 'privileged' one. Also, it's extremely presumptuous and downright backwards to state that someone who understands the idea of work ethic and personal responsibility is 'privileged', which is a word being thrown around a lot to silence unwanted ideas. You can feel free to continue believing your delusion, but I choose not to allow myself to become a victim of circumstance and I choose to do what gets results in the real world while encouraging others to do the same, because it works.

Edit4: Thanks for entertainment :D

Please just let the 'privilege' thing go. I also come from a pretty shitty place and I have zero sources of privilege in my life (no 'rich mommy and daddy', zero parental contribution, worked two jobs to pay for tuition) but you are continuing to insist otherwise and make everything about privilege. Can you not fathom the ridiculous idea of someone earning their way to the top? Why do you seem to want OP to think there's nothing they can do to improve their situation?

Edit5: I'm not really sure why I'm editing this post again, since the above poster is clearly trolling at this point. But he/she isn't even arguing anything. I just want to say that it's becoming clear that this isn't about any kind of 'privilege'. This is about trying to silence a viewpoint you don't like. I could say I'm a black LGBT male (which is true) and I would still be 'privileged' to you. Evidently, privilege has nothing to do with being rich or from certain backgrounds, but rather anyone whose viewpoints you dislike is privileged. If you can't argue cogently with someone, just edit out your previous comments and call them 'privileged', right?
Last edited by SecondaryAccount on Sun Mar 27, 2016 9:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Dishsoap
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Aug 24, 2015 12:31 am

Re: Inadequate coursework

Postby Dishsoap » Sun Mar 27, 2016 9:27 am

I agree with the above post. My school also has no graduate program and doesn't help with the pGRE (in fact, it's common for people to graduate without even hearing the word!) and the curriculum is also horrid. Nonetheless, I worked my arse off, and got into graduate school at 12 places (including Yale, Berkeley, and Cornell) - everywhere I applied. Life is what you make it, and it's no one else's fault. It's best that you learn this now before going to graduate school.

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Inadequate coursework

Postby Catria » Sun Mar 27, 2016 11:33 am

Or perhaps you should try to do research (or find some other job) and also self-study thermodynamics in preparation for a rewrite. If you go the MS route, perhaps Canada would be worth exploring for next year because they actually fund MS students (and usually on RA from the first semester, although some fund on TA for the first year and the second on RA) whereas funded MS in the US usually exist at schools that do not confer PhDs. For self-studying thermodynamics, start with Schroeder or Baierlein and Reif or Pathria for more advanced stat-mech.

I acknowledge that you may not afford to be a visiting student even at some state school in your state, and for each person that undertakes a PhD with no clear idea why they want one, there may be others for whom they feel better in a research setting than in a classroom setting.

A little anecdote about not aimlessly pursuing a PhD: One of the admin staff at my last school gave up on QM, because she disliked research after a summer taking measurements in an AMO lab without being given a clue about what these measurements would be used for. She knew a PhD required her to do research and it also required QM of her. She attended an undergrad which actually offers thermodynamics but without a physics grad program.

P.S.: I got rejected at Dartmouth, too, but in my case, it may look like I aimed too wide (too high, probably not, since I was advised to apply to top-20, and even top-10, schools, here and also by professors at UNC I've contacted) and I could legitimately claim that I was afflicted by Tufts Syndrome.

SecondaryAccount
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Mar 26, 2016 2:58 pm

Re: Inadequate coursework

Postby SecondaryAccount » Sun Mar 27, 2016 9:54 pm

Dishsoap wrote:I agree with the above post. My school also has no graduate program and doesn't help with the pGRE (in fact, it's common for people to graduate without even hearing the word!) and the curriculum is also horrid. Nonetheless, I worked my arse off, and got into graduate school at 12 places (including Yale, Berkeley, and Cornell) - everywhere I applied. Life is what you make it, and it's no one else's fault. It's best that you learn this now before going to graduate school.


That's freaking awesome, congrats on all the acceptances! I read your profile and I can tell that you clearly deserve all of those acceptances.

DarklordoftheSUSY
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Feb 08, 2016 12:47 am

Re: Inadequate coursework

Postby DarklordoftheSUSY » Mon Mar 28, 2016 3:34 pm

Secondary account couldn't be further from the mark "So honestly, it seems like you are looking for ways to make things easy for yourself by taking as little physics coursework as possible." But I already stated that there is literally no more coursework possible to take. How is it "trying to make itself easy" when there is no more physics coursework i could take If i wanted to? You make it sound like it is easy or financially feasible to just hop randomly from school to school when your coursework runs out at one institution. The only reason I attended this "private school" is that they gave me a TON of money in merit scholarships, which made it cheaper than the state schools which had ZERO of that. State schools in my state receive next to ZERO funding from the state and tuition at state schools is generally $20-30K per year. Plus, my parents did were both employed which meant I did NOT qualify for financial Aid AT ALL. Also I don't know where you go to school, but at liberal arts schools you don't ONLY take physics coursework. Its not like I just twiddled my thumbs for the remaining two years. I had to take coursework from almost every other department they had because yes, general education requirements are a thing. Second, the High energy physics thesis is ANYTHING but a "Report" as you seem to think. It took me three years to develop and my adviser told me that this is something he'd expect from a PhD thesis. The only reason I don't go more in depth on it here is because I intend on publishing it within the next month or so, and don't want people stealing my ideas. I DID teach myself multiple subjects including QFT, GR, Complex analysis, QED, superstring theory JUST to write this thesis. You wouldn't know that looking at my transcript however, NOR does that have any bearing on MY PGRE because it turns out those subjects are not ON the PGRE. I tried to study for thermo/ E and M, QM to make up for it, but I only have so much time in my life. I ALREADY gave up any and all social life I had to get where I am. I am right now., without any publications, but about to publish TWO first author papers, and a third project WOULD be publication worthy if not for the fact that AFRL won't let me publish because of OPSEC. I applied to Yale and Dartmouth because their research HAPPENED to coincide with my research interests, BIG TIME. If I wanted prestige in physics, I would have applied to Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, MIT, not Yale which actually has a relatively poor reputation in physics among the "top schools". I'm not trying the "easy path" through ANYTHING, Its just that there are a lot of obstacles. The only USEFUL advice I heard so far was "start with a masters program", but the problem is that this is hard to do as an American, because there aren't a lot of programs with masters degrees to begin with, and those that DO have them, have generally closed the applications by now. Beyond that, Masters degrees are unfunded, and I can't pay for that either.

DarklordoftheSUSY
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Feb 08, 2016 12:47 am

Re: Inadequate coursework

Postby DarklordoftheSUSY » Mon Mar 28, 2016 3:44 pm

I think Catria had the best response because a Canadian MS might be doable if I can find one that still accepts applications. My issue is that I'm actually far better a researcher than I am in the classroom. I can create and perform my own research projects with little to no help and get great results from them.I would flourish in a research environment. BUT my grades and test scores seem to be the thing that prevents me from getting admitted in the first place, which is why i am in a quandary.




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