Should I start taking graduate courses?

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Would you take the course knowing you only have a 7% chance of getting an A?

Yes
5
50%
No
5
50%
 
Total votes: 10

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twistor
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Should I start taking graduate courses?

Postby twistor » Fri Apr 20, 2007 9:42 pm

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Last edited by twistor on Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

tnoviell
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Postby tnoviell » Fri Apr 20, 2007 9:43 pm

Grad courses shouldn't count against your undergrad GPA...and not only that, it's no surprise alot of grad students get B's in the class...my research advisor said that he always thought there's something wrong w/ grad students who get A's, meaning they're neglecting their research.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Fri Apr 20, 2007 9:46 pm

But even if it didn't affect my GPA per se, do you think a potential grad school would take that into consideration?

tnoviell
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Postby tnoviell » Fri Apr 20, 2007 9:47 pm

Doubtful...you should try to impress schools with your knowledge, not your grades anyway.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Fri Apr 20, 2007 9:49 pm

True, but I naturally assumed that GRE scores and grades were indirect measures of knowledge.

So what exactly did you have in mind when you said I should try to impress them with knowledge? :)

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Fri Apr 20, 2007 11:23 pm

good question, but i wouldn't do it knowing the odds. a grad course on your record might be useful, but not if it ruins a 4.0. they can be risky, esp the one you mention. i took one last year and was lucky enough to get by with an A. So now I'm staying away from them and not pressing my luck any further. I'm not sure if i would've risked it if it weren't for my circumstances... I took it because it allowed me to take an important math course that time conflicted with the undergrad version of the physics course.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Sat Apr 21, 2007 12:12 am

Well, based on his previous class (same instructor) the odds of an A are 2 in 27 or ~ 7%.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Sat Apr 21, 2007 12:19 am

OOps, misread your reply. Thought you said you wouldn't do it without knowing the odds.

This is a tough decision.

But I also looked up the second semester of the class, electrodynamics II and found that 20% of the students received A's. So there was quite a big jump, but the average for the professor is 11%, so 20% is almost twice his average. So maybe that one class could've been a fluke where nobody was putting out efforts, but I doubt that only 2 of 27 students did enough work to earn an A and the rest did mediocre work.

Sigh.

ualritemate
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Postby ualritemate » Sat Apr 21, 2007 3:07 am

my suggestion would be to take the class if you really want to despite the grade situation...what if you didn't know that 2 out of 27 people have gotten A's so far, would you have taken the class?
don't cower from sth like this...think it this way: at least someone gets an A in there and you could be that someone next year..
if i were you, i wouldn't have thought twice about it..

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Sat Apr 21, 2007 10:47 am

Well, class or no class, my main concern is that a grade other than an A would hurt my chances of getting into a good graduate school. So, it's not really a matter of my interest in the class but rather how much or little would it help me as far as getting into a decent school goes.

braindrain
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Postby braindrain » Sat Apr 21, 2007 11:48 am

As much as I believe in education for education's sake, I most certainly wouldn't want to be put in a position where I can't win. The likelihood of an undergrad getting one of the two A's over a grad student who had an advanced class already prior to this, is very slim. Maybe you should look for a grad. class with a more reasonable prof.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Sat Apr 21, 2007 11:53 am

Well, what if I wanted to forego this physics class and instead take additional math.

Is a math minor more important than extra physics?

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Sat Apr 21, 2007 11:57 am

braindrain Posted: Sat Apr 21, 2007 3:48 pm Post subject:

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As much as I believe in education for education's sake, I most certainly wouldn't want to be put in a position where I can't win. The likelihood of an undergrad getting one of the two A's over a grad student who had an advanced class already prior to this, is very slim. Maybe you should look for a grad. class with a more reasonable prof.

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In addition to the statistics, I've also talked to a grad student who told me this professor isn't really that good any way. But I figured I might have a shot since it's an introductory class and so there probably be a lot of *new* graduate students taking it. In that I case, I might not be so out of my element, but then again you never know the background of the people in the course.

icarus137
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Postby icarus137 » Sat Apr 21, 2007 7:30 pm

Is there no way that you could take the course as a Pass/D/Fail type of thing or Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory. This way it would show up on your transcript as you took it. And you wouldnt have to worry about the grade interferring with your gpa (assuming you do in fact pass).

I took 3 graduate courses as an undergraduate: 2 semesters of graduate quantum mechanics and 1 semester of statistical mechanics. I took one of the QM and statistical mechanics classes with letter grades(received As in both) and the other qm I took it Pass/Fail. I was taking them because I liked the topics. I wasnt really thinking "hey, this will look awesome on my application". Considering where I applied and where I got in, I do not think it was even a consideration. I think they looked more at GRE scores. Sadly, me taking those classes didnt leave me much time to study for things like the gre test.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Sun Apr 22, 2007 8:41 pm

Speaking of GRE tests, the last one was April 14. They don't have any more test dates posted for 2007, and most application deadlines are in December. Does anyone have any idea when they typically offer the GRE for physics and how long it takes for scores to come in?

Also, I think I've figured out what I can do:

If I don't take the graduate physics course I will be able to complete a minor in math by taking Complex Analysis. That also frees up time in my schedule to continue my research. As I understand it, graduate schools weigh research heavily when they look at applications as it indicates your ability to suceed in the scientific community. ..... Right?

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Helio
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Postby Helio » Sun Apr 22, 2007 10:34 pm

Research can also help you make connections (that you get in by know a prof at the school) and get good letters of rec, which some schools value more then GPA/GRE.

I had thought about taking grad courses, but I decided against and rather double major, since I always have something to fall back upon and I can get something out of my other interests (economics). If you want to go into theory (on in general for that matter), I would consider a math minor a bit more worthwhile then one physics grad course.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Sun Apr 22, 2007 11:57 pm

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 2:34 am Post subject:

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Research can also help you make connections (that you get in by know a prof at the school) and get good letters of rec, which some schools value more then GPA/GRE.

I had thought about taking grad courses, but I decided against and rather double major, since I always have something to fall back upon and I can get something out of my other interests (economics). If you want to go into theory (on in general for that matter), I would consider a math minor a bit more worthwhile then one physics grad course.

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Well, I don't intend to go to the same graduate school as the one I'm doing my undergraduate program at (because it's a state school and they don't offer the classes I want to take or a degree in theoretical physics). What I really want to get out of the research is a) experience in the field b) I want to show graduate schools I can function competantly in a research environment.


It's funny you should mention going into theory, because that is precisely what I want to do. Also, I just love math, and I'm pretty sure the course would be an easy A.

So it sounds like most people on this discussion forum are leaning towards NOT taking the course. At this point I pretty much agree, although I did think it would be cool to have a 500 level class on my schedule :)

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Helio
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Postby Helio » Mon Apr 23, 2007 2:03 am

It is no that hard to see that you want to go into theory if you do Complex Analysis. :P

What i meant with connections was that the prof. that you are working with might have a couple friends at other schools that could help you to get in. Focusing in your research and showing a certain level of dedication always help as boost as well as providing the things you want.

I am in a similar situation. I did enough work in my current group that i'll meet a couple outside professors and present our current work to them, if I can get out of my summer work for a week...

If you are so in love with math... Have you consider a 500-level math course?

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Mon Apr 23, 2007 8:07 am

Well, the profressor I'm working with says she's sure I'll have no problem getting into the schools I'm applying at, but I'm not so sure. I applied for two DOE internships for this summer, thinking I would get at least one, but was rejected for both. So I'm a little more cautious now.... But the good news is that the research is part of an international collaboration, so hopefully the word will get spread far and wide :)

There are many 500 level math classes I'd love to take, but unfortunately I don't have all the prerequisites.

skozmedia
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Postby skozmedia » Mon Apr 23, 2007 9:28 am

You do not need a 4.0 or graduate courses to get into top physics programs (I'm talking Princeton, Harvard, CalTech). This comes from personal experience. What I assume matters is a well-rounded application with no "holes", and great letters of recommendation. Show that you have taken what you have done seriously, and you will do fine. There are no "silver bullets" in this game, and focusing on one will only hurt your concentration. That being said, it seems like there's little you can do to ruin your chances anyway.

calusine
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Postby calusine » Mon Apr 23, 2007 10:58 am

I will take the other side here. I think taking graduate courses is great. I took a bunch of grad classes at my school and finished a big chunk of the grad program. These classes were by far the most enjoyable I took in my 4 year of undergrad. Granted, they were very hard but I learned a lot.

Also, showing that you can handle graduate course may prove to any admissions committee that you aren't going to fizzle out once you get to grad school. Similarly, it may cement or change where your interests lie in physics.

Personally, I got a lot out of my graduate courses. On the other hand, I wish I had taken more math courses. One math professor ruined abstract math for me...his class was miserable.

That being said, I'm not sure whats the best option. If you aren't going to do research, perhaps you should give graduate courses real consideration. You usually need to do something to prove to graduate committees that you really know what you are getting into with physics graduate school(the options being research or advanced study).

I finish with saying that I did get into some top graduate schools having taken grad courses, but not the most competetive. This may be due a good but not phenomenal GRE physics score or a lack of publications with roughly 2 and a half years of research in the same lab.

Good luck deciding.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Mon Apr 23, 2007 9:32 pm

Posted: Mon Apr 23, 2007 1:28 pm Post subject:

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You do not need a 4.0 or graduate courses to get into top physics programs (I'm talking Princeton, Harvard, CalTech). This comes from personal experience. What I assume matters is a well-rounded application with no "holes", and great letters of recommendation. Show that you have taken what you have done seriously, and you will do fine. There are no "silver bullets" in this game, and focusing on one will only hurt your concentration. That being said, it seems like there's little you can do to ruin your chances anyway.

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What do you consider to be "holes"? Also, I haven't taken the GRE's yet, and I wanted something to fall back on in case I was having an off day that day....

icarus137
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Postby icarus137 » Tue Apr 24, 2007 1:08 am

as for when they offer the next GRE physics exam, I want to say November and then again in December 2007. Then again around April 2008.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Tue Apr 24, 2007 8:29 am

icarus137 Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 5:08 am Post subject:

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as for when they offer the next GRE physics exam, I want to say November and then again in December 2007. Then again around April 2008.


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That's what I was afraid of. Deadlines are in December. Would taking the test in Nov. give me enough time to get scores?

Zephyr3.14
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Postby Zephyr3.14 » Tue Apr 24, 2007 10:31 pm

Yes, you will have time for sure if you take the Nov. test. And maybe even if you take the Dec. test, most schools will wait a little while for your GRE scores if that is the last thing that you need.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Wed May 02, 2007 12:32 pm

Well, to the 80% of you said you would take it, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I don't feel it would be worht it.

iaia
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Postby iaia » Thu May 10, 2007 2:16 am

sorry to reply late, but you made the right choice. from the experiences of myself and my friends, schools don't really care if you've taken a specific course or not, they will probably just see that you took decent courses and got competitive grades. which are grades > 3.5-3.7, more or less i guess. again, there are a lot of students and plenty of them (such as yourself) probably do better than this, so i don't really know. anyway you've already shown you can get an A in a grad course.

getting a math minor is a decent idea. it's not hard to do since a physics major requires a bunch of math courses (3x calc, linear algebra and diffeq) anyway. you probably only need 2-3 extra courses to get a minor. if you're interested in theory then learning real and complex analysis is a very good idea anyway. it will save you from not really having a clue when advanced courses mention manifolds or convex neighborhoods or whatever else.

my suggestion is take real analysis and complex analysis and you'll have a minor.

also, iirc schools can check your scores online, so they get results within 2 weeks. this means you can take the december gre and send it to schools with december deadlines. please double check this by searching deadlines online (or ask your professors how long it takes them to see december scores), before relying on it.

fizzics
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Postby fizzics » Tue May 29, 2007 11:10 am

GPA isn't everything. If you get a B in a course especially if it's a grad course then it's not going to kill your application. I actually had a professor tell me it hurt an application to have a 4.0 GPA because they did just as much work for their core non-physics classes as they do their physics classes.

Unless you're going to grad school the same place you took your undergraduate then it's very likely that you're going to have to retake the class as a grad student. It's not worth it in my opinion just to take it to boost your application.

If you haven't taken the Physics GRE yet then you are better off studying for that.

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quizivex
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Postby quizivex » Tue May 29, 2007 6:17 pm

Quote Posted by fizzics:
"I actually had a professor tell me it hurt an application to have a 4.0 GPA because they did just as much work for their core non-physics classes as they do their physics classes. "


Wow it's outrageous that a prof out there looks down on 4.0s. Certainly a 4.0 isn't everything, especially since it depends on the courses taken, and isn't much better than a near perfect GPA anyway (3.9+), but to say it's BAD to have a 4.0, that's ludicrous. All the more proof that everything about admissions less on what your record is than on who's looking at it. How can this prof look at a transcript and decide where the student's priorities were? Can't a student be good at everything? Are we supposed to intentionally screw up our core classes... add grammar mistakes two our essays?

In my case for instance, I took all the core stuff early to get it out of the way, at the time when the only physics classes I could take were general physics and calcs (stuff that really shouldn't take too much time for physics majors). There was no competition for time.

Fortunately for me, If some wacko prof like that is looking at my record, he'll see only math/physics classes for my last three semesters, and won't have any idea how much time I devoted to facebook and such.

No offense to anyone here. I just can't stand some of the twisted ways some profs interperet seemling ordinary aspects of a student's record.

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twistor
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Postby twistor » Tue May 29, 2007 10:41 pm

I hate the arbitrariness of this whole process. What really irks me is that the fate of my application rests in the hands of someone who can make a decision based on any criteria they deem appropriate.

fizzics
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Postby fizzics » Tue Jun 05, 2007 7:10 pm

quote quizivex:
"Wow it's outrageous that a prof out there looks down on 4.0s. Certainly a 4.0 isn't everything, especially since it depends on the courses taken, and isn't much better than a near perfect GPA anyway (3.9+), but to say it's BAD to have a 4.0, that's ludicrous. All the more proof that everything about admissions less on what your record is than on who's looking at it. How can this prof look at a transcript and decide where the student's priorities were? Can't a student be good at everything? Are we supposed to intentionally screw up our core classes... add grammar mistakes two our essays? "

You're reading way too much into it. It was more an off hand remark rather then an official stance he takes. Basically you really can tell what the students intentions are by looking at an application. This was in reference to someone that had a great GPA but terrible GRE. What does that say about the person? Do they really know physics? Are they just concerned about getting A's rather then learning anything?




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