how to stay positive when you fail?

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how to stay positive when you fail?

Post by mhazelm » Sun Dec 14, 2008 12:50 am

Hi guys,

I've been trying so hard to be positive, but I am totally devastated by my GRE scores. I feel totally hopeless right now. I have no idea why I scored so low (really thought I did okay!), and I don't know what I will ever do with my life if I can't do physics somehow. I know I can do research - I've done so much already and it is wonderful. I just can't seem to get past this entrance-to-grad school hurdle. For those of you who have been here, how did you overcome the total lack of hope? How do you get past these big failures? I've never been good at accepting my failures... I know that they happen, but right now I feel like I've ruined (in 1 day!) my entire career.

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Re: how to stay positive when you fail?

Post by tmc » Sun Dec 14, 2008 1:24 am

1 test score won't ruin your life; worst case scenario, it'll delay it by one year.

Apply to some Masters programs which are easier to get into, and consider doing another year of undergrad, during which you can do some research and take grad courses (essentially being a grad student), while you practice for the GRE. You could also study to retake the pgre this april; and depending on how that goes, consider taking the Mgre next fall and switching to math.

You did badly on a test, so now you have to work your ass off to make up for it, but it's not the end of the world. Just another hurdle.

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Re: how to stay positive when you fail?

Post by Juston » Sun Dec 14, 2008 3:18 am

I've been there lots of times, and I know it's difficult not to get depressed. I suppose all the encouragement we can give you won't help you get over it completely, and I doubt that you will get over it until you get accepted into a program, or find something that interests you more.

I got over my low physics GRE score last year by taking the extra year to do some self-study in quantum field theory, lattice QCD, and quantum gravity, in addition to taking the differential geometry course I had always wanted to take, but never found time for. Not only is my application much stronger this year than it would have been if I had applied last year with a better score, but I have a better knowledge of what I want to do in grad school. If you have to wait an extra year, you can use the time to narrow your interests to a certain subset of problems in the field you want to go into.

As tmc put it, low GRE score is not the end of the world, and once you get into a grad program, it won't matter what your GRE score is. What will matter, however, is how you deal with this difficulty. I'm sure this has been said here before, but lots of people had to tell it to me before it really sank in, so I'll repeat it: you don't fail until you quit.

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Re: how to stay positive when you fail?

Post by Andromeda » Sun Dec 14, 2008 2:23 pm

Speaking as someone with a bad PGRE score... One of the first things I did to remind myself about my abilities is how half the people who take it need to, by definition, be below 50th percentile. It doesn't make you any less intelligent because it just has to be that way, and anyone who takes the physics test is leaps and bounds ahead of the general population to begin with.

Ok, that's nice, but what does it mean for you specifically. You say you've done lots of research and that's great- in fact, there are a lot of great schools out there that will weigh such a thing more carefully than a GRE score if it's out of line with everything else. Talk to your professors about what these programs might be, as you're probably not the first such case they've had, and apply to a good range of programs. You only need one to let you in, right? :wink:

And if not this year, well, there's always next year and one year really isn't a big deal. I needed to take an extra semester to finish my degree which I felt terrible about initially, but now realize my application is all the stronger for it because I got a great summer research experience in I wouldn't have had otherwise, a completed senior thesis, a grad class, etc. Plus once I get my diploma in the next few weeks I'm off until grad school starts to do a trip around the world, something I always dreamed about doing but never saw myself as having the time to do. So all in all, I'd argue that an extra year was one of the best things that has happened to me in several ways, even if it seemed nothing like it at the beginning.

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Re: how to stay positive when you fail?

Post by Unnatural Log » Sun Dec 14, 2008 3:22 pm

mhazelm - Your situation sounded very similar to mine, if I remember correctly.

I was a math/physics double major, but spent most of my first three years of undergrad completing the math part. As a result, when I took the PGRE in October of my senior year, I hadn't had QM, Thermo, or the intermediate mechanics and E&M classes. I got a 590.

After I had those classes, I took the PGRE again the next October after graduation and raised my score by hundreds of points. I know this isn't what you want to hear, because you want to get into grad school now - I'm just saying that if the worst should happen and you get rejected everywhere, don't fool yourself into thinking that it's the end of your physics career. A summer of studying will do wonders for your score.

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Re: how to stay positive when you fail?

Post by shouravv » Sun Dec 14, 2008 5:12 pm

Don't give up as yet, specially since you do have research experience. In case you have been communicating with professors at your target schools already, send them an email with something to the order of:

"... I have received my Physics GRE score, and I am very disappointed to find it at the X-th percentile. I hope my application would still be adjudged to be a well rounded one and other aspects of my qualifications that better represent my abilities will be favorably considered. ..."

It worked for me. In any case, it can't harm you to contact people and test the water to see if you should send in your application, and may be even visit a few school at your own expense to meet people (with appointment).

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