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Chances of getting into an astronomy graduate program?

sweetestpeachsweetestpeach 0 replies1 threads New Member
hello! I'm a second-year university student and I was wondering about my chances of getting into grad school. My advisors have told me its too early to be worrying about it, but I feel like my performance might have already hurt my chances and now would be the best time to remedy them. I'm majoring in Geology with a minor in Astronomy and Physics, and I also have undergraduate research experience in planetary science and volcanology. I'm the president of the Geology club but I feel like none of this is going to counteract my grades. I have a 3.47 GPA. My transcript for the past four semesters has been at 18 credits per semester, all A's and one C. But the C's are in very important classes like Calculus II & III and calc-based Physics II. I feel like no matter how well I do in my major-related coursework, these grades are going to bar me from being accepted. Math has always been a weak subject for me, but I genuinely love science, researching the universe is what I want to spend my life doing. It just takes me longer than usual to understand mathematical concepts. Should I retake the classes? Do you guys have any other recommendations for extracurriculars that I could do to show my passion for science? Sorry for so many questions, I'm a first-gen student, I don't really know how to navigate these waters :(
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Replies to: Chances of getting into an astronomy graduate program?

  • xraymancsxraymancs 4724 replies19 threads Super Moderator
    @sweetestpeach - Welcome to the Forum!

    You have a full year and possibly an additional semester to improve your GPA and, more importantly, demonstrate that you can handle the material. I don't suggest retaking the three classes but forging ahead and making sure that you get "A"s in those subjects from now on. Physics and Calculus are pretty important for astronomy after all. You will need to take more of these subjects and you will have the chance to prove yourself. Perhaps you would be better off not taking such a heavy load and putting time into getting research experience.
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6522 replies1 threads Senior Member
    I am thinking that you might want to limit yourself to 15 credits per semester starting in the fall. This will give you a bit more time and a bit more effort to put into each class and might help your grades. You also should get help from the professor and/or get a tutor in math. You should see what your university offers in terms of tutoring services.

    In my experience a good tutor can help significantly with math, although I was always on the tutor side of the effort. With math, often how you look at a problem and how you think about a problem can be key. If you find the right tutor they might be able to help you significantly.
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 27992 replies204 threads Senior Member
    do not retake a C.

    Agree with Dad. Stop taking so many units per term, particularly when you have an identified weakness.

    btw: you do know that Astronomy is all-math-all-the-time, don't you?

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  • tdy123tdy123 1046 replies18 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    @sweetestpeach wrote "But the C's are in very important classes like Calculus II & III and calc-based Physics II. I feel like no matter how well I do in my major-related coursework..." That is a reasonable concern.

    For grad school programs in astronomy, the grad schools are going to be more interested in your math and physics proficiency then your "geology" major.

    as @bluebayou noted: "btw: you do know that Astronomy is all-math-all-the-time, don't you?"

    "Do you guys have any other recommendations for extracurriculars that I could do to show my passion for science?"

    Grad school admissions are different from undergrad.

    Things that are important in grad STEM (excluding MD) admissions:

    1) GPA in courses related to the field (and overall GPA) + GRE Scores
    2) Recommendations from your professors in classes with field related coursework
    3) Research in the field <-- The only "extracurricular" that matters at all.
    edited May 2019
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  • astrotempastrotemp 18 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Something I might be able to help with! For reference, I was accepted into all graduate programs for astronomy in the last round, and am attending Cambridge as a Gates scholar, so the competitive nature of astronomy grad applications is my jam.

    >But the C's are in very important classes like Calculus II & III and calc-based Physics II.

    This is honestly pretty bad. Not necessarily because a few C's are bad on their own, but because they're in important classes, and *lots* of them. There's no sign here that you're capable of doing the higher-level stuff and getting A's because your preparation is really lacking. It'll be an uphill battle to get A's in advanced maths when you're struggling to get C's in the easy stuff. So at the very least you need to restudy these classes. If you can't do that without a schedule, maybe you'll need to retake them.

    >Math has always been a weak subject for me, but I genuinely love science, researching the universe is what I want to spend my life doing

    Astrophysics is basically just math and programming, so if you don't find maths pretty enjoyable and naturally easy, it's going to be a tough life for you in academia. There'll never be a day where you can say that you're done with maths and can just do more science; you will always be doing more maths than anything else. Make sure you know what you're signing up for.

    > Do you guys have any other recommendations for extracurriculars that I could do to show my passion for science?

    Research. Just research. Graduate programs don't actually care about ECs like clubs, jobs, tutoring, outreach, etc. Many applications won't even give you a place to list them. The only people who might care are those connected to very particular scholarships (like Gates), but even then it's rare.

    So if you want a fighting chance at the better programs, get your GPA above 3.5, get lots of research experience, and try to get a publication or at least a conference poster to your name. Graduate admissions are just assessing you on your research aptitude, so prove to them that you're competent in the field and can do research.
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