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Complete academical failure

  1. Jun 28, 2012 #1
    Hello, I hope this is the right section to post this in.

    I just finished my first year at university studying computer science and engineering and only managed to pass on roughly half of the courses I took.

    I have googled a bit and read around here on this forum to get bits and tips on how to optimize studying, but it all sounds like very abstract information, so I can't make heads or tail with it.

    Generally I don't find studying in itself to be hard, or unappealing at all. And I haven't studied less than before, it just seems as though the overall quality has dropped significantly and I am at a loss as to how I should proceed.

    When I started I had the ambition and determination of a starving wolf, and I just can't grapple what happened.

    So I came here in dire need of advice. Feel free to ask me anything.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 28, 2012 #2
    Where do you think it went wrong??
    How long did you study for each course??
    How did you study for something?? Tell me what you generally do.
    How much time do you spend on doing exercises?
    How interesting do you find the courses? What were your most and least interesting courses?
    Did you make use of facilities such as office hours, etc...
    Did you think about studying in a group?? Would that be more benificial?
  4. Jun 28, 2012 #3
    The first six months or so, I studied quite a bit, and so I passed many of those courses, but just barely.
    Generally I just sit down and do excercises for a couple of hours, nothing special.

    Here's the funny thing about the courses I did pass. They were the ones I found to be the least interesting.
    And the ones I really enjoyed I didn't pass. Some of them were analysis courses in math and programming.

    I tend to split my days with studying a bit at school and a bit at home. I find studying at home to be more relaxing and I'm actually not distracted by facebook or anything like that. But on the otherside, when I study in school I usually sit with a couple of classmates and study the same topic. So I study in groups a little.

    Now when I think about it, the decline could have started when our semi-mandatory group excercises stopped after christmas.

    This is all very frustrating to me, especially failing mathematics since that is a subject I greatly enjoy.
  5. Jun 28, 2012 #4
    I've recently faced a very similar predicament. I have the bad luck to have very regular migraines. This means that at least one or two days out of every month, I'm missing a series of classes. I'm currently heading into my fifth year of EE and it's only becoming more taxing on me. It isn't always in the study habits that make studying difficult. I found that I was getting burnt out with my dedication to getting work done. Eventually I ended up working with a friend that would be able to help me with more than just my homework. Really what I needed was somebody that could make the night interesting, without distracting. Once I started working with her and started listening to her when she said to step away for a little bit, my GPA went from a C average the semester before to a B- average the semester I began working with her. You need to find people to work with that are just as concerned with you as they are with your contribution to a group study session. Encouragement helps just as much as advice on why you should be using a double integral instead of a triple.

    Just as a bonus to that story, because I can't help it, I married that girl last month :)
  6. Jun 28, 2012 #5
    You've got a problem. As it seems like it is one that can't be solved quickly or easily, doing the same thing again will be an expensive waste of time.

    I would work for a few years until you grow up a bit, i.e. you learn to do work because it is work not because you find it gratifying. Otherwise you will be walking down the same path to the same conclusion next year and, depending on the country you are in, university debt can creep up on you.

    Who knows, you may work out what you want to do while you work. It may not be what you are studying now.

    (I could be wrong and you could pinpoint the cause of your apathy before next semester and be a great success).
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2012
  7. Jun 28, 2012 #6
    It can be hard to give concrete advice if we don't have a more concrete problem to give advice about.

    General tip for long-term retention: if you want to transfer something to long-term memory, review after 1 minute, one hour, one day, one week, then one month, then one year, then I don't know what. But don't take it too literally--the idea is just that of spaced repetition. Also, practice remembering--that means remember things WITHOUT LOOKING.

    Over-learn everything, so that it's on your fingertips when it comes time for the test. Just knowing it is not enough--it all has to be at your fingertips.

    General tip for developing an ability to understand math deeply: read Visual Complex Analysis and try to imagine all the proofs in your mind's eye until everything is clear.

    For tips on problem-solving in math, read How to Solve It by Polya.

    Also, if there are gaps in your background knowledge, you should try to diagnose those and fill them in if they are needed. A lot of times people, especially at lower levels, get stuck in math at some point because they are missing some crucial skills or concepts, and they just moved on, rather than master it.

    For computer science, it helps to write extra programs for fun using what you have learned. Playing around with stuff on your own is always a good idea--in math or engineering, too.
  8. Jun 28, 2012 #7
    Well, I seem to have these sporadic bursts of cleverness followed by periods of apathy(?).
    I don't know why, but seeing as I am in my mid-twenties it is hard to acknowledge that you might have a problem.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2012
  9. Jun 28, 2012 #8
    I must congratulate you, that was a wonderful story!
  10. Jun 28, 2012 #9
    Seems to be that I'm not the only one in the same predicament.....
  11. Jun 28, 2012 #10
    Please list the courses and your grade in each. More detail is needed to diagnose your predicament.
  12. Jun 29, 2012 #11
    Analysis (mathematics) 1,2,3: C,F,F
    programming 1 & 2: C & F
    software methodology: C

    Those are the courses that are worth writing down.
  13. Jun 29, 2012 #12
    I've found that reading the textbook BEFORE class has worked very well for me. This is true especially for math and physics. Staying ahead like this helps you organize the information being given in lecture and familiarizes you will the concepts. Otherwise, it can all seem very overwhelming when it's all brand new information. The lecture actually turns into more of a question and answer session. Also I agree with everything homeomorphic said about reviewing and learning how to remember things without looking. Also, I will add that simply doing exercises for a couple of hours is NOT enough if you want to really do well. You must also read the textbook, review notes, add little things from the textbook to your notes, review again, etc.

    I think it is very important to learn to realize when you truly don't understand a concept. For me, I find it helpful to explain the concept in my head as if I'm teaching it to a friend and if I am uncertain about something then I know that I don't truly understand it. For some people, working in a group helps them with this aspect, but I've found that groups don't often work well for me. I tend to trust the textbook more than other classmates, but I would say that groups are good if you already know the information. That way you are able to test your knowledge by helping others, and many times questions might arise that you may not have considered.

    Again, this is what works for me but everyone is different. You must just find what works for you.

    Also I would disregard what streeters said about working for a couple of years instead unless this is what you WANT to do..
  14. Jun 29, 2012 #13
    Those are very helpful tips, thank you. I spoke to one of my professors earlier and was told to keep a pen with different colors when writing down notes at lectures. Is that something you or anyone else has experience with?

    And regarding the work thing. As I said earlier, I'm in my mid-twenties and I have worked since I finished high school and during that time thought about what I wanted to do. So this is what I want.
  15. Jun 29, 2012 #14
    I'm glad I could help :)

    During a given lecture I only use one color usually, but I have noticed that I am better able to memorize things that are written in colors which contast with the paper. When reviewing my notes, I'm able to remember things written in pen better than things written in pencil. I'm a visual learner and its something about the sharp contrast of black ink on white paper that makes it stick in my mind.

    On the other hand, referring to the tip about adding little things from the textbook to your notes, I always do this in a different color than what I wrote my notes in during lecture. This way you can quickly see what part of the material you had problems with and had to refer to the textbook for more clarification on.
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