A Misfortunate Freshman Year

  • #1
RocketSurgery
115
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A Misfortunate Freshman Year...

I normally do not like to discuss my personal problems with other people however any sort of advice or encouragement anyone can offer would be appreciated :)
0
The problem is that I am currently a Physics major (and prospective Maths major) who is close to failing out of almost every class.
Last semester I did reasonably well in my subjects (physics, calcI, chemI). But this semester I'm doing pretty bad but not because I don't understand the material (not primarily anyway).
What happened was around the beginning of the semester I had a terrible illness (strange headache that persisted for close to 2months and visual anomalies). This caused me to have somewhat of a nervous breakdown. I thought I was going to die and stopped going to class because of my anxiety. And to make matters worse I was unable to take my ADD medication bc it made my headache flare up worse. Well fortunately since being checked up by the doctor and relieving my anxiety I have been feeling perfectly fine for the past month.
I started taking my ADD medicine again and everything In the last month I've done every well.
I even begun doing research with my one math professor (who is department chair).
But I'm wondering wether or not I completely screwed up my college education (as far as I might need to dropout) and possibly my career. I won't know for sure how bad my GPA is until I get my final grades back though (But most assignments for that time are in the 50-70 range.)
I'm hoping to try and negotiate with my Professors about the Finals. I'm hoping that being as I am probably going to do well on the finals (I've been studying ALOT) that they will let me have the final grade as my class grade or weigh it more. I'm hoping they will see my logic on this bc despite doing badly I have learned the material by now and that IS the point of the class.

Any advice?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
bravernix
188
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I'm hoping that being as I am probably going to do well on the finals (I've been studying ALOT) that they will let me have the final grade as my class grade or weigh it more. I'm hoping they will see my logic on this bc despite doing badly I have learned the material by now and that IS the point of the class.

Any advice?

Although this may be logical from your point of view, I do not think it would be fair to other students. It probably would have been wise to talk to your professors right away about the problem instead of just not going to class. That being said, I think you should probably talk to your professors individually and see if anything can be done and also perhaps speak with your academic adviser.
 
  • #3
Kushal
438
1
i had depressions some months back. but now it's all ok... i got onto an amazing forum: http://www.nomorepanic.co.uk where i was able to chat with people having the same stuffs as me. it greatly relieved me.

you should prolly tell your professors about what you went through... and don't let that discourage you

best of luck
 
  • #4
Astronuc
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What happened was around the beginning of the semester I had a terrible illness (strange headache that persisted for close to 2months and visual anomalies). This caused me to have somewhat of a nervous breakdown. I thought I was going to die and stopped going to class because of my anxiety. And to make matters worse I was unable to take my ADD medication bc it made my headache flare up worse. Well fortunately since being checked up by the doctor and relieving my anxiety I have been feeling perfectly fine for the past month.
I started taking my ADD medicine again and everything In the last month I've done every well.

Any advice?
Is the doctor who checked you, your primary physicisan, and the one who prescribed ADD meds? Have you consulted with a neurologist? A strange headache and visual anomalies are serious matters!

You haven't necessarily ruined your academic career. Your medical condition would be considered extenuating circumstances.
 
  • #5
mgiddy911
335
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This certainly seems like an extenuating medical circumstance. You should let ALL of your professors know about it and have your doctor provide them with documentation. If it was really as serious as you thought you should have seen a doctor. If you had headaches for 2 months you should have seen someone about it. If all this happened to you and you sought no medical attention then Idk what to tell you, if that is he case you will have a hard time getting your professors to let anything slide.
 
  • #6
j450n
15
0
Your school may have a process to allow for a withdrawl past the normal date under exceptional circumstances. This process exists in schools as there are situations where it is appropriate to allow a student a late or retroactive withdrawl. I suggest talking with your administrators to find out if such a process is available at your institution.

If it is not available or you are not approved, learn from this and do not repeat it. A bad semester does not ruin you. You are, however, no longer on *that* track.

Good luck,

Jason
 
  • #7
CaptainQuaser
168
0
you can also usually go through school administration to get classes AW'd (removed completely from transcript and money returned). Or you can get them to weight a mark completely on a final grade with an appropriate appeal and documented medical reasons. I know lots of people who have done that here, not sure how it works at your University, but I suggest talking to student advocacy about it, they usually have solutions for people like you.
 
  • #8
judonight
32
0
Oh, you are fine!

I dropped from college for three years, after failing an entire year (two semesters back to back)... now, I am receiving graduate school offers from 'semi' prestigious schools.

You just have a lot of work ahead of you... but you certainly are not ruined! You need to let your professors know what is going on... or should have dropped the classes before the drop deadline; all in retrospect though... so, now you need to go explain to them what is going on. They most likely won't give you too big of a break, so be prepared.
 
  • #9
Moonbear
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This certainly seems like an extenuating medical circumstance. You should let ALL of your professors know about it and have your doctor provide them with documentation. If it was really as serious as you thought you should have seen a doctor. If you had headaches for 2 months you should have seen someone about it. If all this happened to you and you sought no medical attention then Idk what to tell you, if that is he case you will have a hard time getting your professors to let anything slide.

I agree, that sort of medical condition is a perfectly valid excuse. You may want to discuss with an academic advisor the best course of action, however. You have three main options from my perspective, but you should hash out the details for your school. The first option is to take incompletes in your courses and make up the work over the summer...that may be difficult if you need to do this for ALL of your courses though. The second option is to withdraw from the courses (a doctor's note explaining all this might be adequate to waive any late penalties for withdrawing near the end of the term, and might just get it to appear as a withdrawal as opposed to a withdraw failing mark on your transcript). This would allow you to retake your courses next year. You'll add a term, or maybe a year depending on how your courses are sequenced, but it won't penalize you in your GPA. Your third option is to do nothing about it, do your best to catch up and get passing grades. I don't really advise that third option though, since it obviously will leave you with a bunch of failing grades on your transcript (though you certainly have a valid explanation of those if it comes back to haunt you later).

My personal advice would be to find out if withdrawing and retaking the courses is a viable option. Since you've missed so much, it's going to be hard to catch up and if you just keep plodding ahead, you may wind up retaking them anyway, but with a failing mark blemishing your record, and if you manage to pass by the skin of your teeth, the content you missed may come back to haunt you in upper level classes.

Another consideration might be a combination of the two approaches. You might be able to catch up enough to pass your non-major courses if you take an incomplete and finish the work over the summer, and just withdraw from the ones for your major that are the ones more important to learn thoroughly.

I hope you've gotten a referral to a neurologist for your problems. A headache lasting two months with such visual effects is something that should get a neurology consultation. Your anxiety could possibly even be related to the same problem causing the headache and not just a normal fear.
 
  • #10
RocketSurgery
115
0
Thanks for the advice. I apologize if I was unclear but I did see my Family doctor as well as an Eye doctor. I received some headscans all of which came back normal. I also should clarify that the headache did not last for a full 2 months but lasted a week at a time alternating for that time period and it was an ache without pain (more like a pressure) along with the visual anomalies my doctor concluded it was an ocular migrane.
The anxiety subsided when I finally got this diagnosis (towards the end) and the pressure subsided (visual auras or whatever theyre called are also less frequent).

I understand what would have been logical (going to class and talking to the professors) but I was so anxious and literally thought I was dying so I wasn't exactly thinking logically. But I agree with what you have said Bravernix. Also everyone please note that I DO NOT have depression or anxiety anymore (I was evaluated by a psychiatrist just b4 it was all over and for a week after) she concluded that it was simply caused by a combination of the stress and the fear of not knowing what is happening to my health.

I'm still not sure what I should do about my classes. I know most of the material now since I've been working my butt off so I'm extremely confident about my final exams.

I'm good friends with my one math professor whom I am doing research with so I might talk to him about some advice. (Luckily homework is the majority of his class and I can still earn a B). Being chairperson I'm sure he can tell me what the best option would be so that I don't mess up my ability to take more classes.
 
  • #11
RocketSurgery
115
0
Update:

Thanks to some hard work on my part and very understanding Professors I will likely be able to pull a B average for this semester without having to withdrawl any of my classes. My physics Professor agreed with my sentiment that my Final should be a good reflection of my preparation for the next course and will weigh it more heavily if I do well on it. Worst case scenario now is that I will at worst have a few C's which I will redo at a later time. At my school I found out that if you take a course twice they will only count the second attempt.
 
  • #12
Dylanette
5
0
I normally do not like to discuss my personal problems with other people however any sort of advice or encouragement anyone can offer would be appreciated :)
0
The problem is that I am currently a Physics major (and prospective Maths major) who is close to failing out of almost every class.
Last semester I did reasonably well in my subjects (physics, calcI, chemI). But this semester I'm doing pretty bad but not because I don't understand the material (not primarily anyway).
What happened was around the beginning of the semester I had a terrible illness (strange headache that persisted for close to 2months and visual anomalies). This caused me to have somewhat of a nervous breakdown. I thought I was going to die and stopped going to class because of my anxiety. And to make matters worse I was unable to take my ADD medication bc it made my headache flare up worse. Well fortunately since being checked up by the doctor and relieving my anxiety I have been feeling perfectly fine for the past month.
I started taking my ADD medicine again and everything In the last month I've done every well.
I even begun doing research with my one math professor (who is department chair).
But I'm wondering wether or not I completely screwed up my college education (as far as I might need to dropout) and possibly my career. I won't know for sure how bad my GPA is until I get my final grades back though (But most assignments for that time are in the 50-70 range.)
I'm hoping to try and negotiate with my Professors about the Finals. I'm hoping that being as I am probably going to do well on the finals (I've been studying ALOT) that they will let me have the final grade as my class grade or weigh it more. I'm hoping they will see my logic on this bc despite doing badly I have learned the material by now and that IS the point of the class.

Any advice?

I know what you went through because I had the exact same thing happen to me many years ago when I was in undergrad school. I started getting strange sensations of pain and pressure in the head, tingling sensations, digestive disturbances, a sense of light headedness or feeling of being off balance, fatigue, and a sense of nervousness and irritability coupled with a sense of dread that something was seriously wrong with my health. To make matter more confusing doctors could find nothing wrong with me. And to make matters worst in those days doctors were very lacking in sympathy and understanding for people like myself who were actually suffering from stress related illness.

As a result I self-medicated myself with drugs.. I don't recommend anyone do what I did. But at the time, I wasn't thinking rationally either and could not get any help or understanding from anyone., It was the only way that I was able to calm myself and ease my discomfort and misery enough to clear my head and focus on my school work and salvage my grades which I did.

Nowadays there is much more known about stress related illness and how to cope with it and without turning to drugs as I did. Stress related illness can manifest itself in many strange ways and can cause a host of physical symptoms. It can occur at anytime but is more likely during moments in our lives when we are putting a lot of pressure upon ourselves. The important thing is to relax and let the body heal itself and there are many natural techniques for accomplishing this.

Good luck.
 
  • #13
Moonbear
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Update:

Thanks to some hard work on my part and very understanding Professors I will likely be able to pull a B average for this semester without having to withdrawl any of my classes. My physics Professor agreed with my sentiment that my Final should be a good reflection of my preparation for the next course and will weigh it more heavily if I do well on it. Worst case scenario now is that I will at worst have a few C's which I will redo at a later time. At my school I found out that if you take a course twice they will only count the second attempt.

Excellent! Thanks for the update, and good luck on your finals!
 
  • #14
cristo
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Update:

Thanks to some hard work on my part and very understanding Professors I will likely be able to pull a B average for this semester without having to withdrawl any of my classes. My physics Professor agreed with my sentiment that my Final should be a good reflection of my preparation for the next course and will weigh it more heavily if I do well on it. Worst case scenario now is that I will at worst have a few C's which I will redo at a later time. At my school I found out that if you take a course twice they will only count the second attempt.

Well done! Keep up the good work :approve:
 
  • #15
RocketSurgery
115
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Thanks cristo. Now all I need to worry about is my Genetic Engineering Research paper for english! eeeek.

Some Vault should do the trick ;)
 
  • #16
mathwonk
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dear brainscience,

as a small town math whiz in the big city for the first time,
i made a D- in honors calc2 as a freshman, then a D+ in abstract algebra as a sophomore, and some grade of C- or less in several vbls calc, then was asked to leave school for a year.

upon returning, i gradually climbed back up, with a B+, then A- in honors multidimensional calc, an A in diff eq, and finally an A in real analysis and measure theory.

that got me into grad school, where i again slipped, but eventually righted myself and spent 30 years doing what i had aimed for, including a stint as postdoc at harvard.

the road to ones goal is often not perfectly straight. the point is there is no grade you can get as a young college student that will determine the course of your life.

good luck.
 
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  • #17
Defennder
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This is a very inspirational post. Thank you mathwonk.
 
  • #18
mathwonk
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you are welcome. note i did not say it was easy, just not impossible. i worked very hard for years to overcome those missteps, but there is always a demand for talent, and for commitment.

of course it is recommended to make life easier for oneself, by avoiding such mistakes, but recovery is possible.

people are more interested in what you seem to be capable of, and are wiling to try now, than in mistakes you have made in the past.
 
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  • #19
RocketSurgery
115
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Thank you Mathwonk. That was an inspirational post indeed.:smile:

Hopefully anyone else who has a similar fallout early in their college experience will see this thread and get some confidence to get back in the game like I did.
 
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  • #20
mathwonk
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I was asked for more details ,on my career and why i did not repeat courses.

In my day we were admitted only for a total of 8 semesters. If you did not graduate in 8 semesters you were kicked out to make room for someone more serious.

Hence repeating courses was not an option. It was necessary to learn the material on ones own and continue to the next course or change majors.


So i studied in the summers and attended extra classes to make up missed material on my own.

Thus I went from a D- in honors calc 2, then after a break to a B+ in honors advanced calc 1, and an A- in honors advanced calc 2, followed by A in abstract real analysis.
 
  • #21
RocketSurgery
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Oh. Would you recommend someone to retake classes that they received a C or less in then?
 
  • #22
Cincinnatus
389
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I'm not a professor (so don't listen to me)

but I wouldn't bother wasting time retaking a class, provided I actually did understand the material. I would just take a higher class and do better. Then when you apply for graduate school (or whatever) have your advisor in his letter of recommendation mention why you did badly in the first class and how you applied yourself and did better in the second class and your gpa calculated without the first class would have been a ___ etc. This way you wouldn't have to waste time retaking a class, and it might even sound better to an admissions committee.

Note: this probably wouldn't work if you are applying to medical school or law school as they care much more about GPA and not letters of recommendation. Whereas graduate schools seem to care more about letters than anything else (as it seemed to me anyway).
 
  • #23
RocketSurgery
115
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Yea I was thinking the same thing mostly.

no law/med/etc. I'm either going for Maths or Physics but I'm still a freshman and haven't decided between the two.
 
  • #24
undrcvrbro
132
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Some Vault should do the trick ;)
Hahaha. Watch it with that stuff. I've heard stories..bad ones.
 
  • #25
RocketSurgery
115
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Hahaha. Watch it with that stuff. I've heard stories..bad ones.

Hmmm. I'm on a case a day so if I start acting funny I'll stop.:tongue:
 
  • #26
undrcvrbro
132
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Hmmm. I'm on a case a day so if I start acting funny I'll stop.:tongue:
Awesome. At that rate you should die by the time you're forty. I have a feeling that stuff may decrease the life expectancy of our generation by a decade or so.
 
  • #27
RocketSurgery
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Well as long as I'm still productive... haha

Seriously though I'm only on half a case a day or less nowadays:smile:
 
  • #28
mathwonk
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i do not see how anything i said can be interpreted as a recommendation to retake classes.

i was answering someone who asked me (privately) why i did not retake them, and i said it was not an option.

i.e. i never even considered it, not did anyone else in my school.

VOLUNTARILY retaking classes is a modern phenomenon, from an age in which people do not responsibility for their actions.

what i recommend is taking them seriously the first time.

as i have said before, not only have i never taken any classes twice, but i did not take all useful classes even once, but skipped some, such as baby real analysis, and learning the material by sitting in on them.

also teaching classes is a good way to learn them. the best way, in some cases.

but i never advocate taking a class just to get a particular grade, only to learn the stuff.

but i may not be a good guide in that regard. I only know how to advise people on how to learn math, not on how to game the system.

forgive me, it is exam grading week and i am dealing with that odious aspect of a professor's life.
 
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  • #29
RocketSurgery
115
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i do not see how anything i said can be interpreted as a recommendation to retake classes.

i was answering someone who asked me (privately) why i did not retake them, and i said it was not an option.

i.e. i never even considered it, not did anyone else in my school.

VOLUNTARILY retaking classes is a modern phenomenon, from an age in which people do not responsibility for their actions.

what i recommend is taking them seriously the first time.

as i have said before, not only have i never taken any classes twice, but i did not take all useful classes even once, but skipped some, such as baby real analysis, and learning the material by sitting in on them.

also teaching classes is a good way to learn them. the best way, in some cases.

but i never advocate taking a class just to get a particular grade, only to learn the stuff.

but i may not be a good guide in that regard. I only know how to advise people on how to learn math, not on how to game the system.

forgive me, it is exam grading week and i am dealing with that odious aspect of a professor's life.

I didn't say you did. When I was talking to the other guy I just meant that I was thinking the same thing as him. I didn't say that YOU said what I said. Sorry if I made it seem that way.

Yeah and when it comes down to it I don't care as much about the grade as I do about learning the material. The only reason I care about grades at all is so that I can get into a good university where I will be able to learn the material from the best.

I'm sorry if I made it seem as though I was just one of those people out to get a good grade just to look good on paper or anything like that. I just want to make sure that I can one day go to a decent graduate school.

Good luck on the whole exam grading thing. :smile:
 
  • #30
usahockey
40
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Glad to hear things are going alright for you...I have been suffering with some anxiety lately, and while not severe enough to have an impact on school, I can understand where it is definitely a valid reason for falling grades.

Just some advice to you, the ADD meds, combined with a high caffeine intake (half a case of vault) can both contribute quite a bit to stress levels, with the way that those drugs work in your body...take it easy with that.
 
  • #31
RocketSurgery
115
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I will try and take it easy but my mind seems to have infinite clarity in that state and I love it. Now that finals are done though I'm still self studying out of Apostol's Calculus but have stopped drinking vault. I'm drinking a lot of caffeine free stuff and finished my last vault case until next semester. Thanks for the heads up though. I hope you get your anxiety stuff worked out and I'm glad it isn't hurting your academic performance.
 
  • #32
mathwonk
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getting into grad school is a matter of impressing someone. when i was out of school teaching at a small college, but interested in going back, i was literally recruited to a different school from the one i was applying to by one of my letter writers.

talent is really scarce, grades are just grades. if someone thinks you are good, you will get in.

as one of my best teachers ever put it about phd prelims being there for the students benefit: "if you cannot impress anyone beforehand that you are able to do a phd, still you can pass prelims and then someone will have to take you on."

good grades are there as a backup if no one knows or thinks you are good otherwise.

there is another thread here where they have persistently refused to listen to my advice that the difference between making A's for 4 years, or A's for the last 2 years, is minor compared to what impression you make on people now.

in my view many people do not understand how decisions are made, or how little grades are thought to reveal about someone. of course at some point you have to have them, to show you can follow the rules and do well by arbitrary standards.

but really brilliant people are cut a lot of slack for a long time. there are harvard professors who do not even have BA degrees.

still i admit, for the rest of us, good grades are helpful, but they are not everything.

after being recruited to grad school by my letter writer, i made sure i got all A's for the next three years. but a smarter classmate was still noticed as such and duly rewarded.
 
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  • #33
RocketSurgery
115
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Thanks Mathwonk. That does make a lot of sense. I always thought grades weren't very indicative of how well someone would do after school. It seems that what makes a good mathematician (or possibly physicist) hinges more on his/her creativity; and the knowledge you gained in school (shown by grades) is necessary for success in the field but not a sufficient condition for success.
 
  • #34
RocketSurgery
115
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Also since you mentioned impressing the people...

I have notebooks filled with my original research as well as work I've done on my own out of Apostol's calculus and a few other texts because the texts my school usually use are boring calculation only texts. Do you think it would be to my benefit to keep these notebooks as a record of what I do outside of class? I was planning on keeping my research notebook either way of course though.
 
  • #35
mathwonk
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well it might help in an interview to mention one or two especially nice pieces of work you have done.
 

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