I am a physics major in my second year. I do well in Physics, but math is my weak point. I struggle through it, I understand it, but my grades are poor. I am interested in studying specifically aerospace in grad school if I can (that's a separate matter). Would graduate admissions turn me down if they see poor Calc 1 and 2 grades?

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    You may want to try taking those classes over again, so you can get a better grade. The most important thing is that your understanding of calculus will increase, which is more important than the actual grade itself. If you want to study aerospace, then you will probably want to be able to do calculus in your sleep. – Gary Drocella Jul 31 '19 at 22:07
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    Calc 1-and-2 are early classes. Might just be best to focus on taking more math (as you'll probably need to do anyway; Engineering undergrads typically require Calc 3, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra as core classes, I think). If you want to do Aerospace Engineering, probably want to do a course-or-two on numerical algorithms, too. – Nat Jul 31 '19 at 22:13

Your grades in calculus 1 and 2, which are first year classes, have very little importance to graduate admissions in physics. Admissions will put more emphasis on your most recent grades. However, you simply cannot succeed in as an undergraduate physics major without mastering the calculation of integrals and derivatives. These are essential, core skills used in nearly everything a physics major studies.

So, my advice is to make sure you master those skills. This will enable you to get good grades in later coursework. I would also suggest that you take a proof-based analysis course. A good grade in that would demonstrate that you really understand calculus.

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Graduate admissions are generally based on a complete record, and depend less on the details of specific courses than they do on an evaluation of your potential for success. You need to build that complete record and a few C's are a negative factor that you need to overcome. There are various ways to do that. One is to just move on and do better, perhaps learning more about calculus on your own, perhaps just taking more advanced courses and doing well there.

If you continue to get C's in math it will be a problem. If you get good grades, especially in those subjects that use calculus it is less likely to matter.

But even more important is to impress your professors with your hard work and potential.

Short answer - the C's won't slam the door, but you need effective ways to open it wider.

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  • Thank you. I appreciate the thoughtfulness. – Jonathan L. Aug 1 '19 at 0:55

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