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Postgraduate study opportunity for people with bad grades in first years of study

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hanrisian Male
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  #1 Old 05-12-2012 Default Postgraduate study opportunity for people with bad grades in first years of study

Hey guys,

I'm new here. So, I wanted to ask your opinion on postgraduate study, for people with bad academic grade history. Overview of my situation; 4 years ago, I was offered 2 different scholarship offers, one is Petronas to do A-level in Kolej Tuanku Jaafar (some said the most expensive A-Level programme in Malaysia) and JPA to study Medicine in Middle East. Studying Medicine was something I really dont want since I've had big affection, love and passion to Mathematics since I was a kid (to give an overview what I'm talking about; I started learning Algebra since I was 8. I'm sorry, not trying to be cocky or whatsoever).

But, I'm really sure you guys understand some dynamics and norm in our culture, so I was forced to study Medicine. I've been reluctant and went through emotional ride since - many things I never thought would happen in my life, happened.Oh, not to forget I'm not really a big fan of memorization. Automatically, my grades have not been good as it is expected from me (heck! they're really bad) and I turned out to be a complete different kind of student than I was. I've attempted to dropout couple of times until I realized, it is really hard for me to enter a local university with only SPM cert dated back to 2007.

Hence, I changed my mind, trying to focus and realized that there are many intersections and emergence in the field of Medicine like Synthetic Biology, Health 2.0 and many more that can cater my interest. Realizing these, I'm good already psychologically. I'm also interested in MIT Media Lab's way of thinking - anti-disciplinary, as I myself other than unease that I had towards Medicine, and intrigued by elegance of algorithms, combinatrics and all, have wide interests (e.g i do photography for hobby, am always find myself analysing cinematography of movies, i like to see the different in cultures in places i travel).

So, I would like to know, the possibility for postgraduate study in at least good universities (I'm hoping for top unis if it's still possible) anywhere in the world, given my bad academic grades history. As for now, I'm trying my best to focus and trying do my best for the rest of my study, but I would like to know, if they do accept people with bad grades in the past.

And what should I do, to make sure these opportunities lie in front of me?
Thanks!

Last edited by hanrisian; 05-12-2012 at 02:03 AM. Reason: hatred is a big word. unease is better.
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henry_yew Male
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  #2 Old 05-12-2012 Default Re: Postgraduate study opportunity for people with bad grades in first years of study

I happen to be in a similar as you do, i.e. I had bad grades in my first year of studies. However, the experience that I'm going to relate is no indication that it's applicable across the board, but rather to say that there's still hope.

I was hit by depression in my first year of studies, and I lost focus in social life, studies, etc. My interests remained on music and computer games because they provided me with an escape route out of my troubles. On hindsight, of course, those solutions never worked and I was on denial. Eventually, I recovered, but I had a very dismal start. I scored C+ grades, and my GPA nearly went below 3.0. I had lots to catch up eventually, and my grades were mediocre till my third year. I did way much better towards the end of my undergraduate studies, but the damage was already done. It was more of a damage control.

Nonetheless, I was interested in pursuing postgraduate studies. I was very hopeful, too, of getting into a top-notch university. In the end, I got into an American university which wasn't even at the top 200 in the world (all the other universities rejected me), but it has excellent research in wind engineering and one of my professors, who was of great inspiration to me, graduated from this university.

Looking back, it could have been my grades that affected me, but I couldn't rule out the possibility that I didn't have solid recommendations from my professors, that my GRE scores weren't considered good enough.

Anyway, I decided to pursue my Master's in Texas anyway, and I did excellently! With that in mind, I decided to apply for PhD; this time I was more courageous in applying to some of the world-renowned universities: USC, Stanford, Cornell, just to name a few. (A man can dream big, can't he?) But at the same time, I decided to apply to my current university as a safety net. At the same time, I got assurance from my research professors that they will put in a strong recommendation for me. Some of them have reviewed applications before and they have explicitly said that recommendations play a very big role, besides the personal statement.

So, if you ask me whether there is a chance for you to go into a top-notch university to pursue your postgraduate studies, yes, there is a chance, even though it may be slim. But even if you should fail to secure a placement from a world-renowned university, you may not want to be too picky about it and go with whatever options that are offered to you. Take those options and do your utmost best. If you have the desire to pursue a PhD (assuming that you do so upon obtaining your Master's), then doing well in your Master's at a less-known university will still help you.

The most important point, perhaps, is not to give up.

Some people might argue that it's not important to get into a world-renowned university for postgraduate studies. What matters is whether you genuinely have the desire for learning, and that you're studying in a school where they have excellent faculty members in the field that you're interested. There is indeed no point of going into a World No. 1 university for a field that that university is particularly weak at.
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  #3 Old 06-12-2012 Default Re: Postgraduate study opportunity for people with bad grades in first years of study

Quote:
Originally Posted by hanrisian View Post
Hey guys,

I'm new here. So, I wanted to ask your opinion on postgraduate study, for people with bad academic grade history. Overview of my situation; 4 years ago, I was offered 2 different scholarship offers, one is Petronas to do A-level in Kolej Tuanku Jaafar (some said the most expensive A-Level programme in Malaysia) and JPA to study Medicine in Middle East. Studying Medicine was something I really dont want since I've had big affection, love and passion to Mathematics since I was a kid (to give an overview what I'm talking about; I started learning Algebra since I was 8. I'm sorry, not trying to be cocky or whatsoever).

But, I'm really sure you guys understand some dynamics and norm in our culture, so I was forced to study Medicine. I've been reluctant and went through emotional ride since - many things I never thought would happen in my life, happened.Oh, not to forget I'm not really a big fan of memorization. Automatically, my grades have not been good as it is expected from me (heck! they're really bad) and I turned out to be a complete different kind of student than I was. I've attempted to dropout couple of times until I realized, it is really hard for me to enter a local university with only SPM cert dated back to 2007.

Hence, I changed my mind, trying to focus and realized that there are many intersections and emergence in the field of Medicine like Synthetic Biology, Health 2.0 and many more that can cater my interest. Realizing these, I'm good already psychologically. I'm also interested in MIT Media Lab's way of thinking - anti-disciplinary, as I myself other than unease that I had towards Medicine, and intrigued by elegance of algorithms, combinatrics and all, have wide interests (e.g i do photography for hobby, am always find myself analysing cinematography of movies, i like to see the different in cultures in places i travel).

So, I would like to know, the possibility for postgraduate study in at least good universities (I'm hoping for top unis if it's still possible) anywhere in the world, given my bad academic grades history. As for now, I'm trying my best to focus and trying do my best for the rest of my study, but I would like to know, if they do accept people with bad grades in the past.

And what should I do, to make sure these opportunities lie in front of me?
Thanks!
Do you mean to say you had dismal results for a few years in a row or was it just that one lone year? If it is the latter then you shan't worry too much about it. However, if your cumulative results are not desirable then it might be quite difficult for you to be admitted to even the "least good universities". I should know because in spite having a Masters degree from a top 3 UK university, I am struggling to find opportunities for PhD positions just because it was not a distinction (a few marks shy unfortunately!).
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  #4 Old 26-12-2012 Default Re: Postgraduate study opportunity for people with bad grades in first years of study

Top universities tend to take a more holistic view of the students they accept. That is, having bad grades does not automatically preclude admission. I think what matters more is a demonstrated/sustained interest in a chosen field and ability to do research/think critically.
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hanrisian Male
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  #5 Old 27-12-2012 Default Re: Postgraduate study opportunity for people with bad grades in first years of study

Alright thanks guys. Well as for the question, as Medicine is 6th year study for my school, I think it's enough to say it was bad a little more than one third of it. The rest is fine and I have few years left would hope it can be stellar.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wawa View Post
demonstrated/sustained interest in a chosen field
Anyway Wawa, I see that you use the word demonstrated/sustained interest contrary to what I usually see, that people oftenly use the phrase "deep interest/passion". Does that means you dont necessarily go crazy over the particular field that you choose to be picked by the institutes?


Quote:
ability to do research/think critically.
Ahaa, I'm glad that I've asked my prof to volunteer in his lab, out of curiosity of how working in lab environment feels like. Next semester would like to try working in biophysics lab next.
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  #6 Old 28-12-2012 Default Re: Postgraduate study opportunity for people with bad grades in first years of study

Hi hanrisian,

I prefer using the phrase 'demonstrated and sustained interest in a chosen field' rather than 'following your passion'. The latter is rather misleading for a few reasons: 1) It implies that there is a one true area that you absolutely adore, and 2) You just need to find it. Personally I find neither is true. So for the former phrase, what it means is that you are able to decide that you want to focus on a particular area, and have the discipline to stick to this area for an extended period of time to develop necessary skills and understanding to excel in that area. This, I think, is a much better indicator of success than anything else, in both graduate school and in life, and is what many graduate admission committees will be looking for.

About not going crazy over a chosen field: Yes, overall I do like my area of research very much. However, 'liking' is always a function that varies w.r.t. time. When everything works out it is the most awesome thing in the world; when experiments fail for months in a row it is hard to not want to punch it. What keeps me going through the hard times (and everybody will have hard times, regardless of how much they like something) is the commitment that I have made. Learning the hard skills necessary is not a comfortable thing as it involves stretching beyond my comfort zone, but this is what improves & makes me a better researcher. And as you get better and better, you tend to enjoy more and more what you're doing (think learning to play piano). In other words, interest is a necessary but insufficient condition.
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  #7 Old 28-12-2012 Default Re: Postgraduate study opportunity for people with bad grades in first years of study

Hi Henrisian,
Having bad grade in the first few yeas is not the end of everything, you probably no going to get the top honor, but there is more to life than cumulative GPA. To quote the answers given by professors in meeting the parents' seminar (of admitted students) at UC Berkeley on how grades affect grade school admission. Of corse having good grade overall is preferred, but however, they would prefer a student whose grade improves over time rathe than a student with higher GPA but the grades getting worse over time. A student with As and Cs is preferred over a students have all Bs, at least they know what the student with some As can be good at. Your are talking about biophysics, it is an area you can use your physics/math/engineering skill to differentiate yourself over other applicants. There are areas of medicine that are more inclined to math/physics/engineering, have you considered those too?
Others have provide good answers to, remember, you have not fail, you have not give up. Once you accept failure ad give up, you have failed. An important lesson in life but not well taught is how to rise up from set backs. It is a skill necessary on all paths to success.
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