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Course Loads

  1. Oct 18, 2014 #1
    So I recently signed up for classes this semester, and have everything down except one class. This semester, I'm taking modern physics, electricity and magnetism, differential equations, intro to advanced math (essentially an intro to proof class, along with a little basic set theory), and logic. I currently have A's in all those classes except for E&M (depends on the curve; although at the lowest, I have a B).

    For next semester, I want to take classical mechanics, E&M II, thermodynamics, lab (it's the first lab class for majors), abstract algebra I, and philosophy of mind (I do want to take something that's not physics or math, and I don't anticipate this being an overly demanding class).

    So, my question is, is this a doable course load? If so, will I have any time at the end of the day?

    Information that may help:

    I haven't taken linear algebra yet. Should I wait on abstract algebra then? (I plan on taking it in the summer to lighten the load a little bit; abstract algebra isn't offered in the summer).
    E&M II is not a required class, but I want to take it, and I don't know if they'll offer it next spring (the physics department rotates higher level classes at random; for all intents and purposes, I don't expect them to offer it next spring). Should I take the time to take it?
    How hard and time-consuming are each of the physics classes listed?

    Thanks in advance to all who answer.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2014 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    What does your advisor think of this plan?
  4. Oct 18, 2014 #3
    He was the first person I asked. All he said was that it depended on myself and how much I could handle. I guess I just answered my own question, but I would like a solid answer.
  5. Oct 19, 2014 #4


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    I don't think there is a sold answer.
    In my experience it depends on an lot of things. This would include whether each lecturers teaching style matches how I personally learn best. Timetabling eg if I have three consecutive hours of lectures then the third hour is pretty much a write off in terms of information absorbed. Mainly, it depends on whether I have an intuitive grasp on the subject.
  6. Oct 19, 2014 #5

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    I don't think there is a solid answer. How long is a piece of string?
  7. Oct 19, 2014 #6
    Alright. Could you at least answer the first two questions I made at the bottom (disregard the last one, as billy_joule made a good point)? That might help me decide quicker.
  8. Oct 19, 2014 #7

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    The problem is that "E&M II" doesn't tell us what the class syllabus is, or what you were taught in E&M I, or what the mathematical expectations are. Similarly, Linear Algebra has a lot of variation - my class was largely proof-based and would have been helpful bnefore Abstract. Others I know too classes that focused on numerical methods, and would have been of little help for Abstract. That's why I tried to point you to your advisor - he knows these things. We would be guessing.
  9. Oct 19, 2014 #8
    (This description goes by Griffith's book, if that helps) E&M I covers electrostatics, electric fields in matter, magnetostatics, electrodynamics (i.e. emf and inductions), conservation laws (i.e. Poynting vecotr), and electromagnetic waves. E&M II will cover potentials and fields, radiation, and relativistic electrodynamics, as well as a little introductory plasma material. Linear algebra, from what I understand, is half computation (matrices and determinants), and half "proof"-like (vector spaces, linear transformations, orthogonality, and eigenvalues, although I don't know how much each topic here is weighted).
  10. Oct 19, 2014 #9
    What has worked well for you in the past in terms of course load. I personally learn the most when I can focus on a small number of things. In theory this might mean I learn less overall. But if you focus on a topic you tend to pick up a bunch of generally useful things. As an example studying numerical PDE leads to some graph theory, learning measure theory might lead you to Ordinal numbers if you think about the Borel Hierarchy.

    On the other hand many people learn more when they take high class loads. You should choose the course load that has, in the past, lead to maximal learning for you.
  11. Oct 20, 2014 #10
    You see, this will have been the most I have taken. I took 4 classes (14 hours) the first semesters, and am taking 5 classes (15 hours) right now. My schedule would have 6 classes (18 hours). I'm doing fine in 5 right now, but I'm concerned about the difficulty of the classes next semester, and the jump from 5 to 6.
  12. Oct 20, 2014 #11
    In this case imo, it is probably not a good idea both to increase the difficulty and the number of the classes you are taking. My guess would be you are best off with CM + EM2 + thermo lab + 1 other class. But I agree you should talk to a faculty advisor.
  13. Oct 20, 2014 #12
    Two points:

    1. Don't underestimate courses like philosophy. Even if they're easy, they can still take up a lot of your time. (Writing essays, memorizing a bunch of stuff by rote, etc.) I made this mistake once and ended up having to withdraw from the class.
    2. What do you gain by taking 6 courses instead of 5? If your grades don't take a hit, you're at very least going to be more stressed. Also, even if you do well grade-wise, you still might not learn as much as you'd like to in some classes because you're juggling too many other classes. So the logical question is, what do you gain by doing extra classes? Is it worth the probable stress and reduced quality of your education?
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