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failing out of grad school!!


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#1 tomyum

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 09:44 PM

I am a first year Phd student in chemistry and I am having a very hard time in my courses in grad school. I did pretty badly in my midterms despite studying really hard. In one of my classes I am so lost, I don't understand anything at all and I am certain that I will fail it. I need to maintain a B average, otherwise I will get kicked out of the program. I had a near perfect GPA in undergrad, got accepted into most of the top ranking graduate schools that I applied to, and I thought I was smart enough for grad school but now I feel like I am very under-prepared/ not smart enough for grad school . I went to a small school and did liberal arts, so I think my background is not strong enough. Has anyone been kicked out of grad school after failing to maintain the minimum grade point average? I asked a couple of people at my school and most of them say that it is pretty impossible to fail out of a Phd unless you deliberately try to. I really don't know how true that is.
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#2 Eigen

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 09:54 PM

There are people in my program that have been on "academic probation" for quite a while due to low grades.

What it comes down to is the stuff outside of classes- if your coursework isn't up to par, but your research is good, you're on a lot better footing. Does your school have rotations? How are yours going?

Also, from my coursework experience, the percent grades on all of our tests were bad. Really bad. Like 30-40 as an average bad. Have the professors talked at all about how they're going to end up assigning grades? How are other people doing? Studying with people from your cohort can really help- a lot of you are probably taking most of the same classes, so you can study together for more than one thing.

The last thing I'll ask is how many classes you're taking- I think a lot of first semester students take too many, and in addition to teaching and research it really bogs them down.
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#3 Eisenmann

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 09:55 PM

I am a first year Phd student in chemistry and I am having a very hard time in my courses in grad school. I did pretty badly in my midterms despite studying really hard. In one of my classes I am so lost, I don't understand anything at all and I am certain that I will fail it. I need to maintain a B average, otherwise I will get kicked out of the program. I had a near perfect GPA in undergrad, got accepted into most of the top ranking graduate schools that I applied to, and I thought I was smart enough for grad school but now I feel like I am very under-prepared/ not smart enough for grad school . I went to a small school and did liberal arts, so I think my background is not strong enough. Has anyone been kicked out of grad school after failing to maintain the minimum grade point average? I asked a couple of people at my school and most of them say that it is pretty impossible to fail out of a Phd unless you deliberately try to. I really don't know how true that is.


I am in the same boat as you. I need a 3.2 to even take the qualifying exams which students usually take after their first semester. I have heard that it is damn near impossible to fail since the professors will try to help you out. My professors will forget about the midterm if significant improvement is shown on the final.

On a similar note, I too feel extremely underprepared since almost everyone else have taken the classes I'm taking already.
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#4 tomyum

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 10:21 PM

Eigen: Thanks for the reply! yes, my school has rotations and they have been going really well so far. I really enjoy being in the lab. I am taking four courses but only two of them are chemistry courses, the other two are seminar style pass/fail courses which just require attendance. I do study with my classmates, they are really collaborative and nice and we work on the problem sets together. But the classmates that I work with already have masters degree or have taken similar undergrad courses so are much more better prepared. The prof. has not said how he is going to grade the midterms but my percentage grade is really low. I only made a 37 out of 100 in one of my exams.

Eisenmann: it feels nice to know that I am not the only one who is really worried about grades in grad school! Everyone around me seems to be so much more prepared for grad school. I wish you good luck with your graduate work.
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#5 Eigen

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 11:00 PM

Have you talked to the professor(s) for these classes?

I'd just be honest, assuming you think they're decent people- ask if you can talk about the midterm, and lay out your worries. Mention that you haven't had a lot of similar material as an undergrad, and it just seems like you're having a hard time playing catch up in addition to learning the new material- and see what they say. They might have some helpful study suggestions for you, additional works that might bridge the gap- or they may say you're not failing according to how they're planning on grading at the end.

If you want to PM me a bit more about the courses you're taking, I might have some suggestions. Some courses are just brutal overall.
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#6 Genomic Repairman

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Posted 27 October 2011 - 02:45 AM

Yes, we have had a couple of grad students get bounced out for grades. I like to think that grades can only hurt you, not help you. And what I mean by that is in graduate school (in so far as the sciences) you are really gauged on how productive you are, not how good your course work was. You just need to do good enough to get by so far as grades.

If you tank a class and go on academic probation, so what, just repeat it. It sucks, but it is not the end of the world, even though it may seem as much right now. Keep your chin up.
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#7 tomyum

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Posted 27 October 2011 - 08:33 PM

Yes, we have had a couple of grad students get bounced out for grades. I like to think that grades can only hurt you, not help you. And what I mean by that is in graduate school (in so far as the sciences) you are really gauged on how productive you are, not how good your course work was. You just need to do good enough to get by so far as grades.

If you tank a class and go on academic probation, so what, just repeat it. It sucks, but it is not the end of the world, even though it may seem as much right now. Keep your chin up.


Thanks for the encouraging words! I am hanging in there. On top of academic stress, graduate school is very lonely. There is so much work that I really don't have time to socialize and make good friends. I had a really good group of friends as an undergrad, and despite the pressure of school work, it was okay because I had a really supportive social life. But now if some small thing goes wrong, I totally panic and I keep thinking about it. Moving to a new city, loneliness and academic pressure - all of this is very hard to deal with. I used to eat in dining hall in my undergrad, so there were always people around and it was nice. Now I don't even feel like eating as eating alone is so depressing. I have lost a lot of weight since I joined grad school. I hope things with get better but I feel so helpless. These two month have been really hard. Does grad school get any better after the first year/ after completing course requirements?
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#8 Genomic Repairman

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Posted 28 October 2011 - 04:36 AM

Thanks for the encouraging words! I am hanging in there. On top of academic stress, graduate school is very lonely. There is so much work that I really don't have time to socialize and make good friends. I had a really good group of friends as an undergrad, and despite the pressure of school work, it was okay because I had a really supportive social life. But now if some small thing goes wrong, I totally panic and I keep thinking about it. Moving to a new city, loneliness and academic pressure - all of this is very hard to deal with. I used to eat in dining hall in my undergrad, so there were always people around and it was nice. Now I don't even feel like eating as eating alone is so depressing. I have lost a lot of weight since I joined grad school. I hope things with get better but I feel so helpless. These two month have been really hard. Does grad school get any better after the first year/ after completing course requirements?


You have to make time for some type of friend outside of your classmates, you know normal folks. They help to keep you grounded and give you a sense of perspective that is lost in the lab grind by the rest of us. For instance, I used to drink beer with the night janitor while getting my MS. When 11pm rolled around, I'd stop what I'd be doing and we would walk the halls drinking Bud Lights in koozies, bullshitting, and I'd help him empty the trash. I'd tell him about my problems, he'd tell me his, I'd explain my project to him, and he would ask me why I was doing something. I still miss our evening constitutionals, where we discussed life, science, why the PI down the hall was such a bitch, and whose turn it was to buy beer.

Moral of the Story: Make some damn time for friends. You are never going to have balance all the time in your graduate career. At some points you will feel like you are spending too much time in the lab or too much time on your personal life. That's fine, just let it balance out in the long run. How many scientists were there 200 years ago? A shit ton son! How many can we name? Not too many. Science is not your life, its something you are passionate about and do to live your life. Enjoy the people around you and let them enjoy you.

Now get your ass out of the lab and make friends. Oh and study too.
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#9 Sigaba

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Posted 28 October 2011 - 06:49 AM

Tonyum--

Hang in there. You can do it!

Remember that your department believes in you, your ability to work hard, and your potential--otherwise they'd not have offered you admission. Your department believes in you. Trust their wisdom. It wasn't by accident that they said "Come, be one of us."

Right now, the learning curve looks steep because you're building upon your previous experiences to build new skill sets. As formidable as the new terrain may seem, you have it within you to figure out ways to navigate it successfully.

Let go of fear. Your legs are shaky now. Yet visualize yourself on that day in the not so distant future when you'll be running, looking over your shoulder, and laughing "Hey, slowpokes, keep up!" You can do it.

Now, in addition to the options outlined above, please consider the utility of the following.

Get to know some of your professors. As they have been there and done that, they know what you're going through. Among them may be a professor or two who can offer words of wisdom, an empathetically appropriate response, and maybe even friendship. (If a friendship does develop, keep the boundaries clear in your own mind. And remember that empathy is different than sympathy.)

Get to know some of the grad students who have been around a while. They may know some tricks of the trade that will benefit you.

Carve out some "me time" in your schedule. As an example, when I was doing my coursework, the interval between the end of my last class of the week and the evening of the following day was mandatory decompression time. Concurrently, I made a commitment to watching most of my favorite team's games--no matter what.

Now and again, these requirements led to some long nights to make a deadline. And maybe I'd have been better off missing a Lakers' game to peck away at a draft. But sometimes you just have to stick it to the man. :P

If you do designate "me time," consider a counter-programing approach. For instance, if you're going to have a "Friday night" make that night Wednesday. This way, you'll have to deal with less traffic at popular venues.

Carve out some discretionary funds in your budget. I know times are hard and the life of a graduate student can be austere. But designate a certain amount for certain activities and then pursue those activities. As an example, budget fifty bucks a month for music and/or a similar amount for Starbucks. Spend some of your "me time" leisurely spending your money. (Alternatively, you could get some magazine subscriptions at the student rate.)

Then, just before you get ready for another session of hitting the books, put your feet up on a chair, take a sip of your mocha while you listen to your iPod, look around, and take pride that you are on your way to knowing more about chemistry than most people who will ever walk the face of the Earth. B)
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In the effort to create an “instant history” with which we could live and prosper, our early historians intentionally placed our early national heroes and leaders beyond the pale of criticism. . . . And this distorted image of them has not only created a gross historical fallacy, but it has also rendered it utterly impossible to deal with our past in terms of the realities that existed at that time. To put it another way, our romanticizing about the history of the late eighteenth century has prevented our recognizing the fact that the founding fathers made serious mistakes that have greatly affected the course of our national history from that time to the present.


John Hope Franklin, ISBN-0807115479, p. 154.

 

Taking critics seriously, and responding to them thoughtfully, is a sign of respect.

 

William G. Bowen, ISBN-9780691149622,  p. 53.


 


#10 tomyum

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Posted 28 October 2011 - 11:29 PM

Thanks you guys for taking the time to write such long nice post for a complete stranger! I feel so much better. You guys can't even imagine how much your posts have made my life better. I really feel motivated now and I am trying to reach out to people and make friends. I asked a couple of acquaintances if they were interested in going out for dinner tonight and most of them were trying to make friends like me. I also talked with my academic counselor about my course work, academic probation and other things like that. It was really helpful. I can't thank you guys enough. I was already at the point of giving up but now I really want to try and make my grad school experience and social situation better :)
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#11 mikeprefecture

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 03:20 PM

I am on the same boat. I am in the first semester of my first year in a Canadian PhD program. I just received my midterms results in one of my subjects yesterday and it was very discouraging. I got a grade of C+, the problem set that I did for the same subject was given a grade of B-. The minimum grade that is needed for each course to continue to the program is B. I know I have given everything that I have for both the exam and the problem set, I have no idea what else to give.

I am doing well in other subjects that I am taking though. I got grades of A's in the midterms and problem sets for my other subjects. My adviser keeps asking about how my subjects are doing and was very pleased with how I performed in other subjects. When she asked me yesterday about the subject that I failed, I told her I didn't know the result yet which was the truth since I have just gotten the midterms back after I met with her. I am so ashamed now to tell her about this. This drove my confidence to the sink as well as I am not used to failing. I feel very discouraged now.

Should I drop the course? Should I keep it from my advisor until the final grade is released? Any advice on how to deal with this? I will be kicked out of the program if I fail this course.
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#12 ktel

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 03:30 PM

I am on the same boat. I am in the first semester of my first year in a Canadian PhD program. I just received my midterms results in one of my subjects yesterday and it was very discouraging. I got a grade of C+, the problem set that I did for the same subject was given a grade of B-. The minimum grade that is needed for each course to continue to the program is B. I know I have given everything that I have for both the exam and the problem set, I have no idea what else to give.

I am doing well in other subjects that I am taking though. I got grades of A's in the midterms and problem sets for my other subjects. My adviser keeps asking about how my subjects are doing and was very pleased with how I performed in other subjects. When she asked me yesterday about the subject that I failed, I told her I didn't know the result yet which was the truth since I have just gotten the midterms back after I met with her. I am so ashamed now to tell her about this. This drove my confidence to the sink as well as I am not used to failing. I feel very discouraged now.

Should I drop the course? Should I keep it from my advisor until the final grade is released? Any advice on how to deal with this? I will be kicked out of the program if I fail this course.


You should talk to your adviser now. You should also talk to the professor that is teaching the course. Since you are doing well in all your other subjects, they will likely want to do everything possible to help you pass so that you don't get kicked out. Hiding it until you fail is not going to help.
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#13 MoJingly

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 11:47 PM

You have to make time for some type of friend outside of your classmates, you know normal folks. They help to keep you grounded and give you a sense of perspective that is lost in the lab grind by the rest of us. For instance, I used to drink beer with the night janitor while getting my MS. When 11pm rolled around, I'd stop what I'd be doing and we would walk the halls drinking Bud Lights in koozies, bullshitting, and I'd help him empty the trash. I'd tell him about my problems, he'd tell me his, I'd explain my project to him, and he would ask me why I was doing something. I still miss our evening constitutionals, where we discussed life, science, why the PI down the hall was such a bitch, and whose turn it was to buy beer.


I want to make friends with the night janitor. Would it be creepy if I showed up with beer some night and say, "hey, be my friend!" ?

Also, Sigaba.... amazing post :)
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#14 waddle

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 12:33 AM

tomyum, I've been hitting many of the same problems you've been facing, and I'm just barely hanging on. Today, when lab work was going horrendously as usual, I started listing out each obstacle I've run into as a beginning grad student, and coming up with possible solutions for each--baby steps.

It's wonderful how much support this forum provides!

P.S. I've been lurking in the Earth Sci. forum but I think I'm going to get back to posting more-or-less regularly now.

I want to make friends with the night janitor. Would it be creepy if I showed up with beer some night and say, "hey, be my friend!" ?

Also, Sigaba.... amazing post :)


Do it!
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#15 tomyum

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 06:36 AM

tomyum, I've been hitting many of the same problems you've been facing, and I'm just barely hanging on. Today, when lab work was going horrendously as usual, I started listing out each obstacle I've run into as a beginning grad student, and coming up with possible solutions for each--baby steps. It's wonderful how much support this forum provides! P.S. I've been lurking in the Earth Sci. forum but I think I'm going to get back to posting more-or-less regularly now. Do it!


It's okay waddle! Things will eventually work out! We just have to stay strong and hang in there. I heard first year is about survival and keeping one's sanity intact and things get a lot better after that. We are already near the end of this semester! :) Good luck. We can make it through the first year :D
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#16 MoJingly

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 02:42 AM

P.S. I've been lurking in the Earth Sci. forum but I think I'm going to get back to posting more-or-less regularly now.


YES.
I've missed that little penguin popping up on these boards. :)
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#17 Tall Chai Latte

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 05:12 AM

I failed a class last semester and am placed on academic probation this semester. I also studied very hard and talked to the professor for suggestions, but in the end I still failed... Now I need to repeat this class to in order take the candidacy exam next year. I have to say that grades are still important because you need them to apply for external funding and moving along in your program. However, while a C on the transcript seems bad, it's really not the end of the world. Grad school is just a process, don't stress yourself out over a printed letter.
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#18 Genomic Repairman

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 04:36 AM

I want to make friends with the night janitor. Would it be creepy if I showed up with beer some night and say, "hey, be my friend!" ?

Also, Sigaba.... amazing post :)


You have to let it happen organically, you could just drink booze in the lab and offer some up to the janitor, public safety, or the hobo trying to steal shit from the lab whenever the opportunity presents itself.
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#19 NinjaMermaid

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Posted 26 November 2011 - 12:20 AM

You have to make time for some type of friend outside of your classmates, you know normal folks. They help to keep you grounded and give you a sense of perspective that is lost in the lab grind by the rest of us. For instance, I used to drink beer with the night janitor while getting my MS. When 11pm rolled around, I'd stop what I'd be doing and we would walk the halls drinking Bud Lights in koozies, bullshitting, and I'd help him empty the trash. I'd tell him about my problems, he'd tell me his, I'd explain my project to him, and he would ask me why I was doing something. I still miss our evening constitutionals, where we discussed life, science, why the PI down the hall was such a bitch, and whose turn it was to buy beer.

Moral of the Story: Make some damn time for friends. You are never going to have balance all the time in your graduate career. At some points you will feel like you are spending too much time in the lab or too much time on your personal life. That's fine, just let it balance out in the long run. How many scientists were there 200 years ago? A shit ton son! How many can we name? Not too many. Science is not your life, its something you are passionate about and do to live your life. Enjoy the people around you and let them enjoy you.

Now get your ass out of the lab and make friends. Oh and study too.


I would like to say that I approve of this advice. =)
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#20 StephanieM

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Posted 27 November 2011 - 12:54 PM

I think you need to talk to your professors first. Most professors don't want to see you fail, especially if they see that you really are trying (and lab work proves that). Explain to them that you're playing catch up and so on.

Also, try to make some friends. Feeling depressed and lonely will have a negative effect on your work regardless of how hard you try otherwise.
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