I'm currently a third year student studying mathematics in Australia, and things have taken a very bad turn in third year. I developed tremors in my writing hand and it meant I wasn't able to use a pen properly and couldn't take good notes during lectures. I was then put on a beta-blocker which had some side-effects and I have seen my grades for maths slide again. I might even fail a course this semester. It looks like I will not be a able to gain entry to honours year. Does that mean the end of my goal of pursuing a career in academia? Would any institution take a student for a masters degree in maths if he's failed a course in undergraduate study?

I also feel I didn't learn Galois theory well in my undergraduate study. Is there any way to redo the material in a serious way? It seems difficult to juggle a job and reviewing this material at the same time.

  • 2
    Disagree with the close vote, as this is ultimately about Transitioning from undergraduate to graduate researcher as described in the FAQ.
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 12:59
  • Why did your university not make allowances for your tremors? It sounds like they should have.
    – Magpie
    Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 16:56
  • @Magpie It was partly my fault, I was a teaching assistant and a scholarship holder, so it was quite shameful for me to say I had trouble writing with a pen. Initially I thought it was stress related, but when it didn't go away, the doctor prescribed me beta-blockers to reduce the tremors. I was then told later that I should have approached disability services (which I did not). Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 16:42
  • @anegligibleperson why don't you do that now? Better late than never.
    – Magpie
    Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 22:43
  • @Magpie unfortunately, disabilities services could have provided a scribe during class to take notes, but it won't make a difference now that the semester is over and the department has rejected my application for honours. Commented Dec 16, 2012 at 4:47

3 Answers 3

  1. Unfortunately, good schools often require 1st class honors minimum for scholarship and PhD applications.

  2. Have you considered taking an extra year? A similar thing happened to me and I was able to save my academic profile with the extra year. For more details about my medical condition, look at my recent question.

My suggestion would be: Talk to your course director or whoever is in-charged regarding your medical condition and ask if they will let you take an extra year and if possible, repeat the courses that you failed.

Please do not worry about taking a year longer to finish. It bothered me terribly at first, but after a while I realized that it is rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

  • 2
    I second that. I took an extra year for my Bachelor, but a diploma was for me fully sufficient to enter into a Master programme (although nature of Master programmes differ per country). The time it took me to get the Master programme didn't matter. Particularly if the delay is caused by a medical condition, an extra year is nothing to be ashamed of.
    – gerrit
    Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 12:58
  • For the benefit of others who might be in a similar situation: I was not allowed to lighten my course load due to visa restrictions (I'm an international student). International students are only allowed to lighten their course loads if they've previously failed a course. Keep that in consideration should bad things crop up during study. Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 16:39
  • @anegligibleperson - Sorry to hear that. Thanks for providing additional information.
    – Legendre
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 18:26

This is from someone outside of Australia. Do you have plans on going out to do the PhD?

I do not know how the honors system works in Australia very well, and fortunately for you neither the Japanese nor the Americans do, for them there is only the undergrad. The Honors is a nice thing to do, but hardly a requirement if you are looking for a Grad Program.

In US, they care more that you have some sort of work published, and in Japan they care that you can pass the entrance examination, which for Math I think is the GRE.

If you have close doors in Australia, perhaps you could try in some other place.

  • Thanks Leon, I'm thinking of doing a PhD, but taking things one step at a time. I guess the US would be a good place to do a masters degree then; are there any programs taught in English in Japan you would recommend? It seems only the elite Japanese universities have programs in English and they typically only take 5 students each year. Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 3:02
  • I'm studying at Tokyo University (arguably the best in Japan), and while it is hard to enter, it is not impossible, I had a couple of friends at math, and i don't remember them pointing out the entrance particularly difficult. Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 13:33

I don't think you'll be forever barred from academia. You have proof of excellent academic work as an undergrad (you're a TA), and only in this past year have your grades been declining. I know this is anecdotal, but I also could barely write during my undergrad, also was too ashamed to seek a disability until late, and as such I barely graduated.Now I'm about to enter a Master's program less than two years after graduation. Take an extra year if you can. Don't lose hope. If I can get to grad school, so can you.

My way to grad school was through a back door. I am a field technician on a research project, and my supervisor mentioned something about having funding for a master's student during a conversation about some interesting anomalies. I asked a week later if I could take advantage of that funding, and she agreed. So now I'm gonna be a grad student.

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