I’m a math major at a ~T10 school (Ivy) about to start his freshman year second semester. I worked hard to be accepted and took several state university courses, both excelling in lower-level reqs and some upper-level ones doneto get here as well as conference research + olympiad achievment in relevant fields.

I’ve always had dreams of going to a great R1 grad school, but this semester I finally caved, scoring projected B range grades across the board (maybe even a C). So much of this was due to a shattering in work ability largely caused by physical health problems that emerged when I got here. The first two months were nicely motivating because of college’s novelty, but the last two came to break me and it killed my final exam performance even though my homework averages and midterm performances were decent.

Well, I’m taking the part-2 iteration of these sequences (algebra and analysis) and am determined to do better when finishing off the semester, but can’t help but feel ashamed especially when I had so much momentum.

Will drive and exceptional performance alone from here on out, including in graduate courses beginning next year in the same topics dig me out of this hole, when considering REUs and/or quant trading internships beginning summer of 2024?

I know I already threw away industry internships for this summer, but was hoping to do some research with a professor/group here and take a few summer courses to up my GPA, citing my previous experience as a strong point.

I was asked about if one of the generic FAQ pages answered my question - what I meant to ask was how might I be able to score math-related research this summer. I know that there's a barrier to meaningful research in pure math due to training requirements, but I hope to counteract this by being accelerated during some point in my time here.

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  • @Pikachu피카츄 I edited so as to formulate my post more of a question about getting REUs/what might be in my interest to do this following summer, not simply about grad school. Jan 9, 2023 at 23:00
  • This is why the first two quarters at Caltech are — were? — pass/fail only. Jan 10, 2023 at 12:49
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    @chuloobydooby IMHO, if you recover and stay in "good shape", and if your GPA is nondecreasing, then your first semester shouldn't be your "academic death" Jan 11, 2023 at 10:52
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    Agree with @RodrigodeAzevedo. It's just the first semester of you freshman year. You will get there if you keep it up. Pure math is not something you want to accelerate. You need to study it bit by bit.
    – Nobody
    Jan 11, 2023 at 14:42

1 Answer 1


You've got three years to figure this out -- no need to worry about it right now. As a math major, you can do this kind of math yourself: If you got all As from here on out, the remaining 7 semesters of your undergraduate education would get your GPA up from your current 2.85 to 3.85, which is plenty good enough to get into good grad schools, and will be even if you didn't get all As. You also have plenty of time to figure out where you fell short this semester. Finally, admissions committees for graduate schools are interested not just in GPA, but also in the trajectory of grades; a single poor semester isn't going to derail an application.

In other words, let past things go. Focus on what you can change: What happens in the future.

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    Dear Wolfgang, thanks so much for the reply. What is nice is that my university issues A+ grades for STEM courses which are weighted as 4.33, and future semesters will be weighted more due to the credit load - I think, since I was planning on it anyway, the best course of action would be do my best to perform highly on higher-level (graduate) courses using these as a prerequisite, if it at all might demonstrate my proficiency. Jan 9, 2023 at 20:41

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