Can I take intermediate E&M Senior year and still be competitive?

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Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2019 12:33 am

Can I take intermediate E&M Senior year and still be competitive?

Post by PhysicsQuestions990 » Mon Oct 07, 2019 12:34 am

I will be applying to physics PhD programs in astronomy/cosmology next year. For background, I am currently a junior at a top 15 university.
This semester I am taking
-quantum mechanics I
-General Relativity (grad course)
-Advanced Cosmology (grad course)
-Intermediate E&M
I am handling the grad courses well, but, surprisingly, I didn't do so hot on my E&M exam. As it looks now, I would probably get a B+ in the course. I am, however, able to drop the course and take it first semester of senior year. I am inclined to do this so I can also spend more time on research.
Most physics majors take this sort of course junior year (E&M I and E&M II). Of course I took E&M freshman year and did fine, but I know this is not the same. This is a course I would really like to do well in (get an A) so I am feeling a bit anxious about staying in the course now risking a B/B+ when I could just take it next year when my schedule is less hectic and spend more time on it.

Would doing so make me less competitive for any reason in grad school applications?

Thank you!

Posts: 142
Joined: Sat Jun 08, 2019 1:10 pm

Re: Can I take intermediate E&M Senior year and still be competitive?

Post by geekusprimus » Mon Oct 07, 2019 3:43 pm

It's set up as a senior-level course at my school so that students can come in already knowing how to solve PDEs (same with quantum). There are a handful of topics that pop up on the GRE that are helpful to understand, but most of the E&M you need to know should have been taught in your freshman or sophomore-level intro classes.

As for withdrawing, at this point in the semester, your school probably will put an annotation on your transcript saying that you withdrew from the course. Depending on where you apply, this might not be a big deal, especially if the rest of your application looks pretty good. If you're that concerned about it, you might consider writing something in your statement of purpose about it.

Also, remember that GPA isn't everything. It's just another data point on your application, and the kind of effort producing a 3.8 at a top 15 school would probably get you close to a 4.0 at most top 100 schools. Teacher quality, school expectations, and course rigor vary wildly from school to school.

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