Prospective Student Taking a Year Off

  • 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.

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Joined: Sun May 01, 2016 10:16 pm

Prospective Student Taking a Year Off

Post by marrrrr » Sun May 01, 2016 10:24 pm

Hello Everyone,

I graduated with a B.A. in Physics in December 2015. I didn't think I wanted to go to grad school and thought working a regular job is what I wanted. Turns out that is not what I want and felt more comfortable in school. I also spend most of my free time reading about physics or math because it is what I truly enjoy.

Now for the information I'd like: My GPA was a 3.67 when I graduated, my last semester was filled with C's while all of my previous semesters were nearly straight A semesters. I had a tough time due to personal issues my last semester. Will my poor last semester hold me back in getting accepted into grad school? Who do I ask for a letter of recommendation if I don't really have contact with any of my old professors? I have a lot of tutoring experience in general physics, could I play that into TA'ing while in school?

I took the first practice pGRE today and got a 500, that kind of put into perspective that I might not get accepted anywhere and will be forced to continue doing some mindless job.

Thank everyone!

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Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2015 9:55 am

Re: Prospective Student Taking a Year Off

Post by bunnysid » Mon May 02, 2016 12:39 am

Well, I would say just taking a single test and getting 500 is not the end of the world. Definitely, given enough time you can develop and get a competitive score. I am an international student so I won't be able to comment on your GPA. There are others here who are in a better position to comment. There are many who took a year off and applied. So don't lose hope. Focus on your physics if you think you want to pursue research. This forum is very helpful and there are many who will be glad to give you advice and help you. But you have to give your own effort make things work. Decide on which field you want to pursue research, if possible try to do a project on that field to improve your CV. Talk to your professors and take their advice as they know you much better than us.

Best Wishes,


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Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: Prospective Student Taking a Year Off

Post by bfollinprm » Mon May 02, 2016 10:53 am

The low grades on your last semester are probably the bigger red flag. It depends on how you come across in your personal statement how damning they will be. If I were you, I would apply to a collection of PhD programs in the 20-80 range, plus a few masters programs at schools you're really excited about going to. Many programs that don't accept you for a PhD will accept you for a masters in the denial of admission letter; it's akin to a one-year 'prove-it' contract, except all the financial burden is born by you--almost no masters students are funded.

As for the 500 on the PGRE, you should be able to score in the 700's with practice--I took a few years off, and it took me some practice to get back into the swing of things. Whether you can find the devotion to spend a few hours a day solving physics problems to get your mind back into shape is a good indicator of whether you'll find grad school a good fit.

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