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A Misfortunate Freshman Year

  1. Apr 23, 2008 #1
    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 :)
    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?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 23, 2008 #2
    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.
  4. Apr 23, 2008 #3
    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
  5. Apr 23, 2008 #4


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    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.
  6. Apr 23, 2008 #5
    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.
  7. Apr 23, 2008 #6
    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,

  8. Apr 23, 2008 #7
    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.
  9. Apr 23, 2008 #8
    Oh, you are fine!

    I dropped from college for three years, after failing an entire year (two semesters back to back)... now, I am recieving 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.
  10. Apr 23, 2008 #9


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    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.
  11. Apr 23, 2008 #10
    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.
  12. Apr 30, 2008 #11

    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 senario 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.
  13. May 1, 2008 #12
    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.
  14. May 2, 2008 #13


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    Excellent! Thanks for the update, and good luck on your finals!
  15. May 3, 2008 #14


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    Well done! Keep up the good work :approve:
  16. May 3, 2008 #15
    Thanks cristo. Now all I need to worry about is my Genetic Engineering Research paper for english! eeeek.

    Some Vault should do the trick ;)
  17. May 4, 2008 #16


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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.
    Last edited: May 4, 2008
  18. May 4, 2008 #17


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    This is a very inspirational post. Thank you mathwonk.
  19. May 4, 2008 #18


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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.
    Last edited: May 4, 2008
  20. May 4, 2008 #19
    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.
    Last edited: May 4, 2008
  21. May 5, 2008 #20


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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.
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