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College career advice

  1. Nov 16, 2013 #1

    I hated math during elementary school and half of high-school because of the arrogant teachers so I didn't study it. When I started to think about college and what I'm gonna do with my life I chose computers cause I already had thoughts about it and mainly the people that I talked to about advice, advised me to get into the computers field.

    So in my school, I could choose wether I wanted to branch off to natural or social sciences, I chose natural sciences and I started to study a lot, everyone knew I wasn't the type that would study, even my family but they were happily surprized.

    It was hard at the beginning, especially the math, but in order to study computers I knew that I would need to know a lot of math. My first exam in math was a B, and from then on, starting with trigonometry and finishing with integrals I had all A's, including the exam which is taken after the forth year that covers all highschool math.

    In the summer break took the coursera course on Introducton to Mathematical Thinking by Keith Devlin and the Calculus course by Robert Ghrist and did good.

    So summer break finishes and college(computer science and engineering) starts, I'm super motivated and happy to have finally started studying what I like. I spend a lot of time studying and sleeping for 7, sometimes less, hours a night, expecting to get 100% on every exam, but as it turns out, I pass introduction to computing, I fail programming, I fail calculus, I fail discrete math.

    I'm devastated, I'm starting to think that this isn't for me, I feel like a prisoner behind bars, like in a place where I cannot move any further.

    I'm gonna start contemplating if I should change my major, I really don't know what to do.. The first thing that came to mind was coming here and ask for career guidance. So, can someone advise me?

    Thanks in advance.

    P.S I know it's a lot of whining, I wouldn't type this out if it wasn't important to me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 16, 2013 #2


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    What level calculus? What programming class? Discrete is unlike other math courses.

    What college?

    I don't think you were prepared for college, there's more to it then studying. Did you take advantage of the professors office hours, supplemental instruction, tutoring ect? Maybe you should have started with precalculus and waited for discrete.

    Did you learn from your mistakes, or keep making the same ones?

    Did you take mental breaks, and enjoy the college atmosphere?

    If you decide to change your major, look into networking or IT. Both are less math intensive, but I wouldn't give up just yet.
  4. Nov 16, 2013 #3
    I couldn't chose levels.

    It's the best in the country, other are private, expensive and students pass by paying.

    Yes, I went to office hours, I even had a tutor for Calculus. I practiced a lot of programming problems with my cousin. I also practiced by myself, of course.

    I did learn from my mistakes, I know what to study more for the upcoming exams.

    I'm thinking on getting a book for programming, we're studying C. Which one should I get, other than K&R?
  5. Nov 16, 2013 #4


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    Okay I take it you aren't in the US then?

    When I took C we used "C, A Modern Approach." The book is okay.
  6. Nov 16, 2013 #5
    I'm not.

    Alright, I'll do my best..
  7. Nov 16, 2013 #6


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    All I can think to tell you since you don't have much leeway with your classes is to retake those you failed.

    Also take care of your physical health, work out, sleep well, relieve stress. You're already studying and doing that part correctly. If you fail the classes again, really consider switching majors.
  8. Nov 16, 2013 #7
    Okay. By the way, I didn't fail the classes, I failed the midterm exams.
  9. Nov 16, 2013 #8


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    There are many reasons one might fail exams. Perhaps if you describe why you're losing marks it would help diagnose the problem. Some people make lots of computational errors but basically understand the material. Others are surprised when they start seeing exams that don't just involve regurgitating a lecture or a book but rather require understanding the material and applying it to new problems. Others find that their background is inadequate -- that they just don't have facility with the necessary tools to even begin to understand the new material.

    What's your situation? Spending a lot of time studying won't help if you aren't studying in an effective way.

    More important, do you feel you are learning the material in these classes? Are you understanding it and becoming more knowledgeable and effective as a result? If not, then something's wrong.

    Also, are you sure you're failing? I remember being shocked when on one of my first tests in college I got something like 12 points out of 50. Then I discovered it was one of the higher marks in the class. That was an eye opener.
  10. Nov 16, 2013 #9


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    I don't know how college/university compares to high school in your country, but in the US it's common for students to find them to be very different environments in general, and they have trouble when they begin college regardless of what field they're studying. Then they figure out what it takes to do well, and their grades improve.
  11. Nov 16, 2013 #10
    I'm taking my time when doing problems now, I stopped with the computational mistakes. I think the problem is that I get surprized when I see a problem that I haven't seen before, but which can be solved by applying what I already know.

    For example on the calculus exam there was a problem that could easily be solved applying analytic geometry, which I tried to, I drew the lines passing through the two points that were given and I had to find the other line so that they formed a right triangle. I found the formula for the first and second line in the form of (y = mx + b) and for the third line I wrote y3 = -(something/m) + some variables. cause m1 * m2 = -1 when two lines a perperndicular. But I forgot that I could find m by just applying the formula y-y1 = m(x-x1). When I gave the exam and left the room the solution flashed before my eyes but it was too late..

    Well the way I'm studying is by understanding, i.e why is this happening, why apply this formula, why this why that. I guess that's an effective way..

    I firstly learn by the book, then I go over my notes, I study the school exercises that we do, and then I solve exam problems from the years before.

    I'll go to the teacher's office hours in Monday to check the test, he said he'll give points to students that will show that they worked, which I have.
  12. Nov 16, 2013 #11


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    Okay, at first you made it sound like you failed the classes already.

    Reading your later post it sounds like you have a good plan. Don't let the failures get in your head and take what ever criticism your professors may give you.
  13. Nov 18, 2013 #12
    Turns out I passed the Calculus exam. The average was a failing grade :O
  14. Nov 18, 2013 #13
    Prometheus - If your average in Calculus was a failing grade, reevaluating what you want to go to school for is probably wise. However, that does not mean you should necessarily give up on CS. If you decide CS really is for you, go talk to some Professors, maybe get math tutoring, and retake Calculus. If you can get some quality help that shows you how to effectively study, you will be surprised how well you will succeed in Calculus.

    If you decide CS is not for you, Student100 gave really solid advice. IT is a good major for people who enjoy working with technology, but don't care for the upper level mathematics.
  15. Nov 18, 2013 #14
    What I meant to say was that I passed Calculus, while the generations average grade was a failing grade.
  16. Jan 25, 2014 #15
    Okay, I found exactly what my problem is. I'm different when I'm in the exam room, I make mistakes although I'm fully concentrated. I'm not myself, It feels soo different than from when I'm at home solving the same problems I had on the exam.

    What can I do about this? I tried being myself but it's like a stronger force..

    Meditation? Foods? Whatever..
  17. Jan 25, 2014 #16
    You may do this already (but): make some of your study, and all of your practice exam questions, as close to the exam environment as possible.

    So perhaps get your formulas from an open textbook used in the exam (if any) and not your notes, if your notes won't be in the exam; sit in a crappy hard chair, as usually happens in exams; time yourself; don't check your phone; don't let anyone talk to you; don't go get a drink; practice past papers at the same time of day (if your exam is at 9am, get used to doing calculus in silence at 9am); try a practice exam in an unfamiliar environment (new library?) to get used to the distraction of new places. And so on.

    Possible nonsense: I saw a BBC documentary with preliminary research suggesting that cognitive improvement occurs if you perform your daily mundane tasks in a new order. An experiment was taking people from a culture where breakfast is usually buttering bread then putting chocolate sprinkles on. They had the exposed group put sprinkles first on the plate, then butter the bread, then press the bread into the plate. Performance went up on subsequent reasoning tests.

    (Yes, this is a documentary not a journal, yet it is preliminary, yes it's unclear if the effect is permanent or even lasts a few hours, yes it's unclear if it does anything for tests other than those used, yes correlation isn't causation, yes the effect might not be 'real-world' significant etc. This is just a suggestion that brushing your teeth exam morning with the other hand, or reversing the order of sections of teeth cleaned, may - atop everything else - give someone a tiny extra boost for exams they struggle with.)
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