Physics Major/Ivy/3.0 GPA - Would I be considered "smart"?

I'm just curious -- I know the typical stereotype of a Physics major is that they are "really smart", regardless of what school they go to. I know a friend majoring in Physics at a state school and people say he's a "genius". But of course for IBanking it's on a completely different playing field (right?)

I'm a Physics major at Columbia with a CUMULATIVE 3.2-3.0 and I have finance coursework (and did well) but ultimately, I still have a 3.0.

Now, would I be considered "smart"? Would my resume even get looked at? How much weight would my physics degree carry? I'm fine with either Investment Banking or becoming a quant. Both routes appeal to me.

Region: 
United States - Northeast

Comments (18)

Jul 26, 2010

to me your a b student. take it for what you want

Jul 26, 2010
getyourpawsoffmyeffinmoney:

I'm a Physics major at Columbia with a 3.0 and I have finance coursework (and did well) but ultimately, I still have a 3.0.

Your profile says your a CS, Econ double major from UPenn with a 3.5. Your friend posting through your account?

Jul 26, 2010

haha that's just to hide my anonymity...i could also be a 3.0 Physics major at Columbia with lots of finance courses on my resume....just don't want someone knowing who i am based on the questions i ask.

but i really am a physics major...the computer science thing was a consideration but physics is the way im going

Jul 26, 2010

check your PM.

Jul 26, 2010

Im with Monty. I think you are smart, but if I saw a 3.9 econ major I would probably pay more attention. People see the GPA 1st. Frankly, just do some networking and internships and no one will care. GPA disappears after 3-5 years of work anyway.

GPA + Internships+School name = level of 1st job

If School name is high, your GPA can be a little lower
If GPA is 4.0 and you have internships your schools name can be a little lower
etc

1st job + work experience = 2nd job

You do 2 years at Merril Lynch and rock out no one will care what your major was or your GPA.

Jul 26, 2010

I wonder if you study under Brian Greene at Columbia...one of the founders of String Field Theory.

Jul 26, 2010

Anthony - "GPA disappears after 3-5 years of work anyway"

Maybe for work, but not for Business School.

Jul 26, 2010

I'm going through the job search but here's my two cents.

Your perceived "smartness" depends on the positions.

Quants typically come from hard sciences (physics, math, CS) or other technical disciplines--a 3.0 GPA is probably below average. You won't be able to say "Electrodynamics or Quantum Mechanics" killed my GPA when other quants have taken the same course work,

If it's a position that liberal arts or business majors compete for then you might have an edge since Physics is a lot harder than Finance.

Jul 26, 2010

If that's your BS degree, then I'd say you don't have much of a shot of getting a quant position. You'd have to at least get a MS with a 3.5 at a top school

Jul 27, 2010

There's some information here about quant jobs that isn't true. So, for the benefit of people who might read this thread looking for quant job advise, I'll post what I sent OP in a PM:

unqwertyfied:

Disclosure: I just started my quant job, so most of my suggestions are based off of interview experiences.

Your GPA matters less for Quant jobs than for IBanking jobs. It depends on the cause of your low GPA - You'll be fine if you're actually smart and can answer all the technical qs they throw at you (and the technical questions are VERY grueling). But there's no excuse if your low GPA is because you are dumb or you just goofed off and don't know your stuff.

Beyond demonstrating good technical foundations, Quant is all about the relevant courses and internship/research experience you have. You need to convince the person that you have the skills and intelligence to be useful to the group. When I applied for quant jobs, I tried to massage my profile to fit the needs of the jobs I applied for. In the interview itself, I would emphasize the key points that would be most valuable for the particular job, and how I could meet those needs.

Also, make sure you have a good story on why you want to do finance. I made a post about "the story" a few months ago when an engineering student had asked a similar question. Try to dig that up if you can.

Lastly, checkout wilmott.com and nuclearphynance.com for good recommendations on quant jobs. I found these sites really useful when I was prepping for interviews, and people there post what kind of questions different quant groups at different firms ask.

Jul 27, 2010

You could be smart and have a 3.0.

But having a 3.0 (or anything below 3.5) means you have an attitude problem towards study/work.....which is disastrous for any finance job. Dilligence is more important in this industry (except for the few ultra quant jobs out there).

Jul 27, 2010
RWP:

You could be smart and have a 3.0.

But having a 3.0 (or anything below 3.5) means you have an attitude problem towards study/work.....which is disastrous for any finance job. Dilligence is more important in this industry (except for the few ultra quant jobs out there).

How on earth do you go from a 3.0 to perceiving that someone has an attitude problem?

Reasons for a 3.0:

1)Transfer student (GPA does not transfer)
2)Family emergency
3)Worked FT or PT all throughout school
4)College athlete with a busy schedule
5)Very tough major or intense course load
6)Graduating in 3 years vs 4 to save money
7)Some people suck at standardized test

Thats just off the top of my head. GPA means shit, it is just one piece of the puzzle. If you have a 3.0 from Iowa State and have no work, internships or EC's on your resume, but were president of the frat then I think we can infer someone partied a lot. My point is GPA is just one element. I would hire the 3.0 kid with 4 solid internships, college athlete and creative ec's over the book worm who got a 4.0 in whatever.

Man, I feel sorry for all the kids on this forum that think life is fair and people who get 4.0's are smarter than someone with a 3.0 or that karma will reward them. Good grades are important and people should strive to learn as much as possible, but I have come across too many people who goof off all the time, but can memorize powerpoints and ace the test to believe that grades are the end all be all. GPA will get you an interview with no effort, but it will not get you the job.

Jul 27, 2010
Anthony .:

How on earth do you go from a 3.0 to perceiving that someone has an attitude problem?

Reasons for a 3.0:

1)Transfer student (GPA does not transfer)
2)Family emergency
3)Worked FT or PT all throughout school
4)College athlete with a busy schedule
5)Very tough major or intense course load
6)Graduating in 3 years vs 4 to save money
7)Some people suck at standardized test

Thats just off the top of my head. GPA means shit, it is just one piece of the puzzle. If you have a 3.0 from Iowa State and have no work, internships or EC's on your resume, but were president of the frat then I think we can infer someone partied a lot. My point is GPA is just one element. I would hire the 3.0 kid with 4 solid internships, college athlete and creative ec's over the book worm who got a 4.0 in whatever.

Man, I feel sorry for all the kids on this forum that think life is fair and people who get 4.0's are smarter than someone with a 3.0 or that karma will reward them. Good grades are important and people should strive to learn as much as possible, but I have come across too many people who goof off all the time, but can memorize powerpoints and ace the test to believe that grades are the end all be all. GPA will get you an interview with no effort, but it will not get you the job.

I agree that GPA is only a component of the puzzle, but keep in mind that there are enough people with qualified GPA to be interviewed with and there will be enough people with qualified GPA for you to weed out the unqualified ones. I also agree that once your GPA reaches a certain level its difference matters less (e.g. 3.7 vs. 4.0)

That being said, GPA(or test scores in general) is still the single best factor for pre-selecation fo candidates.

  1. It offers a direct comparison and probably is the fairest and most objective metric (not saying it is 100% fair but you can see it as the fairest among the viable options)
  2. It is easy to compare (you can't possibly standardize everyone's work experience and compare them)

To my previous point on why 3.0 shouldn't be considered:

  1. I did a "hard core" science major in a top school myself and I know the amount of effort you need to spend to get something above a 3.5, it is not much.
  2. At the end of the day, people can have different opinions, but the main reason you went to a (decent) college is to study. As unscientific as it may be, GPA still represents the result of your study. I assume you also understand how important "results" are in this industry. Hence having a minimum GPA requirement just means you care about the results of your main duty in college.

Same in banking, your main duty at banking is to work. If you made a crappy pitch book/memo/presentation/other piece work, no one cares about:

1)Transferred from another bank
2)Family emergency
3)Worked charity outside of work
4)Played sports outside of work
5)The analysis you have done is very complicated
6)Finish analyst program in 1 year so you can go to business school earlier
7)Some people who suck at basic financial knowledge

People only look at your results and if you don't understand how to generate results you don't belong here.

Aug 8, 2010
Anthony .:

Reasons for a 3.0:

1)Transfer student (GPA does not transfer)
2)Family emergency
3)Worked FT or PT all throughout school
4)College athlete with a busy schedule
5)Very tough major or intense course load
6)Graduating in 3 years vs 4 to save money
7)Some people suck at standardized test

Glad to see somebody who is rational.

I win here, I win there...

Aug 9, 2010
Anthony .:
RWP:

You could be smart and have a 3.0.

But having a 3.0 (or anything below 3.5) means you have an attitude problem towards study/work.....which is disastrous for any finance job. Dilligence is more important in this industry (except for the few ultra quant jobs out there).

How on earth do you go from a 3.0 to perceiving that someone has an attitude problem?

Reasons for a 3.0:

1)Transfer student (GPA does not transfer)
2)Family emergency
3)Worked FT or PT all throughout school
4)College athlete with a busy schedule
5)Very tough major or intense course load
6)Graduating in 3 years vs 4 to save money
7)Some people suck at standardized test

Thats just off the top of my head. GPA means shit, it is just one piece of the puzzle. If you have a 3.0 from Iowa State and have no work, internships or EC's on your resume, but were president of the frat then I think we can infer someone partied a lot. My point is GPA is just one element. I would hire the 3.0 kid with 4 solid internships, college athlete and creative ec's over the book worm who got a 4.0 in whatever.

Man, I feel sorry for all the kids on this forum that think life is fair and people who get 4.0's are smarter than someone with a 3.0 or that karma will reward them. Good grades are important and people should strive to learn as much as possible, but I have come across too many people who goof off all the time, but can memorize powerpoints and ace the test to believe that grades are the end all be all. GPA will get you an interview with no effort, but it will not get you the job.

Not trying to make excuses, but an additional point to make is just how easy/hard the school is as a whole (grade inflation/deflation). I had classes where the professor would say that only 1 or 2 people would/could get an "A" because statically that is what was likely and the professor's performance reviews were based on whether or not their class grades fell into this predetermined bell curve. If they gave too many As then they would receive more marks in their reviews.

I thought this particular professor was crazy and was like, you can't change our grades, so if there are 10 smart people in this class then 10 of us will get A's and break the curve...his response was "It won't happen."

After the first few weeks I realized how he controlled this curve...

He would give tests with ridiculously ambiguous questions, that would have multiple choice answers like:

A) Yes
B) No
C) Maybe
D) None of the above
E) A & B
F) A & D
G) All of the above

You would be like...WTF? No problem though because he would always answer questions about the questions you had, if you came to his desk at the front of the class during the test. I kind you not, nearly the whole class would be standing in line 4 minutes into the test. You would get up there, ask your question and his response would be "just pick the one you think is the best answer and if it turns out to be wrong, then you can come to my office hours and dispute it and if you make a compelling argument then I will change it."

So...awesome, I am great at debating and can BS with the best of them. You get X number of questions wrong, show up to his office hours (again, wait in a line the size of the entire class) and point out what your issues. His response would be "You're wrong, next question." You would ask how he derived that particular answer and his response would be "Go look in the book." It was like you were on an episode of Punk'd or something.

He also had quizzes that would ask questions whose answer would only be found in the subscript of picture/image inserts in the text books...like "What was the label on the y-axis on page 238?"

He also had some gimmick he was developing that I think he wanted to sell.

So you would be sitting in class taking notes, hoping to learn enough to pass the next test and he would yell: "Thomas! Water Bottle!" and he would have to respond "...And what could be better than that?"
"Ashley! Curtains!" and she would have to yell out whatever the hell the answer was suppose to be.

Essentially they were mnemonics for the top things/questions you needed to be able to ask and answer (mostly to yourself, but your staff as well) when in a board room as the CEO or Project Manager (he was a prior consultant and hospital administrator). The items were all things you would see in a board room potentially that should remind you to ask these question when evaluating a project.

He would also ask you to answer questions in class and after you finished explaining your answer to the case questions, etc. he would just ask "Projector?" and you were suppose to know what that referenced and then respond with the answer...but typically you would have no clue what the word meant so you would just make something up and then lose points anyway.

In short...that is how he 'fixed' the curve in our class.

Regards

Aug 4, 2010

GPA does matter, even if it doesn't prove how smart you are. I've seen a ton of quant PhD resumes with a near flawless track record, and for one reason or another, might not be able to get a job easily. If those guys have a tough time getting hired, then how much harder do you think it'll be for someone with a 3.0 to get hired?

Aug 4, 2010
HarvardOrBust:

GPA does matter, even if it doesn't prove how smart you are. I've seen a ton of quant PhD resumes with a near flawless track record, and for one reason or another, might not be able to get a job easily. If those guys have a tough time getting hired, then how much harder do you think it'll be for someone with a 3.0 to get hired?

case to case

Aug 4, 2010
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