Insights Aiming High and Managing Distractions as Keys to Success for Science Majors - Comments

Dr. Courtney

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jasonRF

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Thanks for the insight. Given your extensive experience this is really meaningful, and I especially appreciate that you show more than just the top grad-school path, so students can realistically understand how to prioritize in order to make the most of their college experience with whatever goals they have. For some students it is worth it to spend the extra 10-15 hours a week on academics in order to have a hope of admission to the top grad schools, while for others it clearly is not.

It will be no surprise to you that the anecdotes I have from my more limited experience are quite consistent with your more general observations, although I know more engineers so credit-loads were usually a little higher. I suspect the corresponding research experience for science majors tends to be more extensive than for engineers, though.

Jason
 

Dr. Courtney

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Thanks for the kind feedback. As far as I can tell, most science and engineering majors require comparable numbers of earned credit hours - close to 128 is common. This would be 16 credit hours per semester for 8 semesters for students starting with zero and planning for 4 years. But most students I mentor are able to keep their loads lower, because they tend to start with 20-40 earned credit hours from various high school programs - AP, dual enrollment, etc. Some are tempted to double major or try and graduate in fewer than 8 semesters, but I discourage that, encouraging instead for students to live life a bit more or focus on GPA or do more research, or both. So keeping loads from 12-15 credit hours is workable. Students starting with closer to 40 hours are also often able to include a minor which can better prepare them for graduate school, make them more appealing in campus research jobs, or better prepare them for employment. Most physics majors choose math or chemistry as a minor.

Students should also realize that the numbers in the original post are based on students with fairly strong high school backgrounds - ACT scores in the 30s. Students with ACT scores in the 20s (or comparable SAT scores) can certainly succeed in Physics and Chemistry majors if they work hard enough, but they will usually have to spend more time studying for a comparable level of accomplishment. Very few students with weaker high school backgrounds are willing to work this hard, so a lot more end up with GPAs in the 2.x range if they stay in Chemistry or Physics. They also tend to change their majors to Education or Biology or Computer Science.
 

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