Teach for America - teaching before grad school??

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

Post Reply
Posts: 193
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 3:33 pm

Teach for America - teaching before grad school??

Post by mhazelm » Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:07 pm

Hi everyone,

I've been considering deferring my grad school plans for 2 years to do the Teach for America thing, esp. with my mediocre GRE scores. I have thought a lot about it, and am still not sure - there are pros and cons. But I think teaching high school physics for 2 years might actually help strengthen the GRE score, since it will cement the basic principles that the PGRE tests. At the same time, I don't want to lose all my upper division specialized knowledge - I am sure that in 2 years I could forget how to solve PDEs, or forget about the band theory of solids, or relativistic electrodynamics (not to mention my research skills) etc. So I'm wondering - has anyone done Teach for America to teach high school physics, and then gone off to grad school in physics? Any thoughts on this topic?

User avatar
Posts: 809
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2007 7:11 pm

Re: Teach for America - teaching before grad school??

Post by Helio » Thu Dec 18, 2008 8:34 pm

From what i know UWash gives you two years off if you do Teach for America

On another note, i think the benefits outweigh the risks. strengthening your fundamentals can only help if you are going to the advanced stuff. it will come back to you revise the stuff for the PGRE and in general. there is always the suggestion to start tutoring to prepare for the PGRE, and Teach for America would be better than just tutoring. Also you will have teaching experience, which will help you as well on the application

User avatar
Posts: 29
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 7:19 pm

Re: Teach for America - teaching before grad school??

Post by muonman » Thu Dec 18, 2008 10:35 pm

From my experience and from friends who have taken a little 'break', once you leave school for whatever reason, it is incredibly difficult to come back -- life gets in the way and the best laid plans are worthless...

If you're serious about physics, use the 2 years to get a master or work for a professor or something, that way you'll be even more competitive when you apply for phd programs two years from now.

Posts: 94
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 4:42 am

Re: Teach for America - teaching before grad school??

Post by YF17A » Sat Dec 20, 2008 2:59 am

Once again, I'm posting based on purely anecdotal evidence, but...

Teach for America is supposed to be MISERABLE. In fact, I don't even know if they would let you teach physics specifically, since I doubt most low-income schools even have a physics class. Besides this, you will be dealing with so many things like a low salary, difficult students, even more difficult administrators, etc. that you will be too distracted to really focus on things for the GRE.

@mhazelm, as several other people on this forum have said, I think you are much better than you think you are. Really, how many people have done serious research in GR as undergraduates? Certainly no one at my school. I would pull all possible strings to make sure that someone at the schools you're applying to at least LOOKS at your application, because once past that point, the GRE stops mattering and you're in excellent shape.

Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Sep 27, 2008 11:50 am

Re: Teach for America - teaching before grad school??

Post by valkyrie » Mon Dec 22, 2008 5:03 pm

I guess it depends on your reasons for applying to Teach for America. My boyfriend is applying both to them and to math grad schools - but he's also pretty serious about wanting to do teaching at least part of his life. It's a pretty intense program and I wouldn't do it unless you were really motivated. I'm not sure it would help your GRE scores or applications that much, though. But if you're unsure of what you want to do, a two-year break might help, too.

If it's not too stressful, why not apply for both? Their last deadline is February, as far as I remember. It seems apart from your GRE scores your application is very strong, and i'd be very surprised if you don't get in somewhere, especially if your letter writers say it's not representative of your abilities.

Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2015 3:29 pm

Re: Teach for America - teaching before grad school??

Post by kneaks21 » Fri Apr 17, 2015 3:36 pm

In case there is anyone else out there searching "Teach for America" in the search field...

I am a corps member, finishing my 2nd year in the classroom and will stay for a third. Currently starting all the prep work to apply for Fall 2016 admission. Which...sucks so far. You forget the little things like the necessary trig/calculus. You lose some of the ability to do "back of envelope" type calculations and your "feel" for appropriateness of answers. But, bonus, I am significantly more patient now! I plan to spend the whole of my summer not absorbed by professional development and coaching to study for PGRE.....and I am afraid it wont be enough.

So far, I have loved my experience in the classroom and am super excited to do a third year. But, in spite of teaching in Texas where the majority of students are required to take Physics....I didn't end up teaching Physics. There is not guarantee!

Just wanted to throw one story out there....and hope there might be some other corps members in my position!

Post Reply