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Advices for a freshman in a Physics BSc course

  1. Aug 23, 2015 #1
    Hi everyone, I don't know if similar questions have been submitted here previously, let me know if they were.
    So, I just graduated from the local High School in Aeronautics, and I'm ending up in what's deemed one of the hardest courses you can think of here in Italy: Physics.
    I'm going to start with the first semester's lessons on October 1st with one whole semester of Calculus, Analytical Geometry and last but not least a Scientific Programming course + laboratory (+ an eventual basic Mathematics course if I fail the exam on the 11th of September).
    Honestly I'm really freaking scared, I'm moving in to a huge city that is Rome, after living in a small countryside village for the entirety of my life, to face this course.
    Have you got some advice on how to survive here? Anything will be appreciated, whether about the course or living in a big city.

    P.S. I am already having a taste of Calculus with a book I found on the department's website
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 23, 2015 #2
    Ask questions when you don't get something (but only after you've put in a sufficient amount of effort). Read your textbook before lectures to get some exposure to the material, and then take good notes during lectures. Make sure you understand what's going on in the problems. Don't just memorize formulas; understand what formulas mean. Don't procrastinate. If you're not comfortable with certain aspects of the course, then you are not ready to pass the course, so don't fall behind, and don't skip out on the more "boring" topics.

    Again, ask questions when you don't get something. Ask your professors especially, but also ask other students if they're getting something that you aren't. People who don't ask questions because they're afraid of looking dumb ensure that they will remain dumb. It's not a competition--your goal is to understand physics, not beat other students.
  4. Aug 23, 2015 #3
    And what about Calculus? People here keep telling me that university-level Calculus is impossible to pass and that studying from my course's Calculus book from now is useless and that I should rest and wait for the course to start.
    Is it really that impossible? (Note that I've been exposed to Calculus this last year in High School, especially for applications in Electronics, Flight Mechanics, and Supersonic Aerodynamics [which has been my graduation thesis]).
    And again, is really that useless studying Calculus now?
  5. Aug 23, 2015 #4
    They're lying, or they don't know what they're talking about. Either way, don't listen to them. The only effect that can have on you is that it could convince you not to try because you'll believe trying won't work.

    Is it useless studying calculus now? As a refresher, not really. It depends on how much calculus you've done so far. If you've done derivatives or integrals, keep refreshing your mind on derivative rules and integral methods, and make sure you remember common derivatives and integrals (like [itex]\frac{d}{dx} \sin(x) = \cos(x)[/itex], and other similar derivatives that you should know by heart). If you haven't been exposed to much calculus, then the best thing to do is to brush up on your algebra and trig skills. In fact, do that anyway.

    Most people who fail calculus fail not because of the calculus, but because their algebra and trigonometry are weak.

    Calculus is not that difficult as long as you're strong with your fundamentals and as long as you have some confidence in your work. Now, should you work ahead in the calculus book to things you haven't learn yet? Probably not. You're going to learn them in a couple of months anyway. If I were you, I would focus on making sure your fundamentals are up to par.

    I'll say again: anyone who says it's impossible to pass university-level calculus is wrong. Do not underestimate it, because it can be time-consuming, but at the same time, thousands and thousands of students pass calculus all over the world every year. Just like physics, stay on top of things, and understand what you're doing and why you're doing it.
  6. Aug 23, 2015 #5
    Thanks mate. That helped a lot.
    So far a Computer Science undergrad and an Informatical Engineering told me so, plus some dropouts.
    For now I've been exposed to functions, integrals, derivatives and as a plus on trig. spherical trigonometry. I'm hoping that'll be enough for understanding at least part of it.
  7. Aug 23, 2015 #6
    Not at all. But -as axmls mentioned- make sure your foundations are ok. Make sure your algebra, trig, etc. is very solid. If you had any troubles with the high school calculus course you took, then now is the time to look at it. Otherwise, you might want to study some calculus now. It's far from useless.
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