Is there any hope?

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Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 4:43 am

Is there any hope?

Post by iwishiwereafish » Thu Jun 28, 2012 5:17 am

I have a 2.5 GPA, and only because I pulled decent grades the past two quarters. I have only a few semesters of research and not much else to recommend me but I still have this tiny hope that I might be able to pursue a PhD, eventually. I started college early and floundered around doing my stupid teenager thing, and next thing I know there's only a year left until graduation. I've been studying for the GRE and I think I might do *very* well if I take it, but I'd like to take two years off in a volunteer program (think Peace Corps, AmeriCorps) as their GPA requirements are low enough and the recruiters seem to think I have a good chance based on my volunteering and tutoring experience. Will this hurt my chances? Based on what I've heard, I think I might be able to get into the M.S. program at my current (state) school, if I return and do very well, how much can this make up for a terrible undergraduate record?

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Re: Is there any hope?

Post by microacg » Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:06 am

I think if you do well on the GRE, do well in your MS classes, and have good letter writers, you will be able to do a phd program. I cannot say how likely you are to get the one you might want, though. The experience you are looking for after college, if it is for the right duration, could possibly help you? If you have been out of physics for more than a few years it probably set off some flags, but if you want to distance yourself from your younger, immature you, and also talk about your post-college experiences in your letter of intent, that might work out well.

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Re: Is there any hope?

Post by bfollinprm » Thu Jun 28, 2012 3:22 pm

I 'd argue taking time off will definitely not hurt you. Putting some years between you and your not-so-hot undergraduate record will be a good thing; you can speak to the growth in your maturity while you're away. If you do the peace corps or something similar though, you should really try to take some graduate-level courses in the meantime, maybe through a correspondence program or something, just to show you have the capability to persevere through graduate level coursework. If you do the masters, get some papers out, and definitely go the thesis route to graduation. You need to do better than the expectation to make the MS route an effective counterpoint to your undergraduate record--think 4.0 or close to it, and a first authorship.*

You will in general have a very hard time pushing back into the field. It's very competitive, so a questionable history can be a real killer. Not impossible though, and the longer you work at it the more likely someone will be to take a chance on you.

*if you do decently well (upper half) in your masters program with good recommendations, you'll probably get in somewhere. But if you want some choices, go for excelling. Bad GPA's are a real grad school killer.

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