# Crashed, Burned

so i don't have any advice but i am curious how you go into a top-20 school at 16? seriously what are the logistics involved? i don't doubt you did, i'm genuinely curious how one goes about doing that.

MathematicalPhysicist
Gold Member
Staying with only 100 dollars, and can't get a job in a burger store?!

MathematicalPhysicist
Gold Member
Another thing, I don't understand how you can get to graduate school with no discpline in your undergraduate years?

Triangleman: If you're going to troll, you can at least troll a bit better. ;)

But seriously, maybe writing is your thing? Write a book about your experiences? based on them as a whole, or write some fiction?

Triangleman: If you're going to troll, you can at least troll a bit better. ;)

But seriously, maybe writing is your thing? Write a book about your experiences? based on them as a whole, or write some fiction?
I'm not trolling! What makes you think so?

Another thing, I don't understand how you can get to graduate school with no discpline in your undergraduate years?
The 100 dollars and burger store came at the end. Also, I did reasonably well as an undergraduate...the first derivative became negative when I got to graduate school.

I don't think it's that far fetched at all. I know people who were naturally much smarter than me, but I ended up doing way better than them. Why? I always showed up to class, I put in the time and I wanted to work hard.

I think triangleman is one of those kids who was a stud growing up. But I think the problem with being a stud is you don't really learn how to deal with rejection. When I started college, I wanted to be a financial modeler, just because it was a good career option. I switched to math the beginning of my junior year, was way behind most people. I never took calculus in high school, I came into undergrad with no college credits. I worked my way up, painstakingly I might add, the undergrad ladder and ended up doing pretty well.

I'll say this to triangleman. I am one of those people that just refuse to give up when I see or perceive true talent. I think you definitely had the talent, but maybe just not the undergrad beatdown that some of us get. I got it on a regular basis and got used to it. You never got it and it hit you all at once, in GRAD SCHOOL. That is not a good combination.

Maybe this is good for you. Making mistakes is truly the only way to learn, and you are definitely conscious of your problems. You can put your life back together. That is first and foremost. And you can always give physics another try. But like I said before, try just getting a job and getting some traction. Think about what you want to do, but also take it easy for a few months to maybe even a year. This should give you enough time to start shorting out the muck and getting some kind of recovery plan in order.

Staff Emeritus
can't get a job in a burger store?!
Believe it or not, for a number of reasons most fast food places reject more people than they accept. Someone who has a history of absenteeism and who plans to move on as soon as he possibly can could well be deemed to be not worth the training costs.

so i don't have any advice but i am curious how you go into a top-20 school at 16? seriously what are the logistics involved? i don't doubt you did, i'm genuinely curious how one goes about doing that.
I wonder why triangleman hasn't answered this question yet ?

ciao
marlon

MathematicalPhysicist
Gold Member
Believe it or not, for a number of reasons most fast food places reject more people than they accept. Someone who has a history of absenteeism and who plans to move on as soon as he possibly can could well be deemed to be not worth the training costs.
Well ofcourse it depends on what impression did he give them?

But if you really want the job, you'll need to act appropiately.

The fact that he's with only 100 dollars seems more far fetched than the burger store, I agree.

I work at a fast food restaurant, and I would be amazed if someone smart enough to even get accepted into a phd program couldn't get a job at one.

You need to keep trying. Apply at ten different places, and don't wait for the managers to call you back: Call them back after a couple days. Be aggressive.

Now that school is starting up again (less people working summer jobs) it should be easier for you to find a position.

Like said above, send out at least 10 resumes a day - even if it's just to companies that sound interesting. A heck of a lot of jobs aren't advertised. Except for a six month span of time that I did some extensive traveling, I've been working a minimum of 30 hours a week since I turned 14 and got a minor work permit. You need to pull your boots on and be pro-active.

I don't think it's that far fetched at all. I know people who were naturally much smarter than me, but I ended up doing way better than them. Why? I always showed up to class, I put in the time and I wanted to work hard.
Amen to that.

"Eighty percent of success is showing up."

On second thought, intelligence is one of the least important qualities for being a fast food worker. That's not to say it's easy. There are important qualities; among them are showing up every day on time, being willing to work hard, not having any sort of superior attitude, being able to deal with it when people (aka customers) think you are **** and show it (or in general any other unfair situation), and above all doing what you're told with a smile. If you're bored with physics coursework I guarantee you'll be bored working at McDonald's, but if you're willing to try to change your attitude it'd be a great way to build character.

I suggest you go to the store and buy a lottery ticket every day with your last \$100, because if you win a million then all your problems will be solved and you can do anything you want.

Or get a job as a package handeler. I did, and it was such hard physical work that I realized that anything would be easier, and when I went back to school I found no problem with working 12 hours a day on school work.

Either way you will realize reality is ***** and you are lucky to be able to study instead lifing boxes all day.

G01
Homework Helper
Gold Member
so i don't have any advice but i am curious how you go into a top-20 school at 16? seriously what are the logistics involved? i don't doubt you did, i'm genuinely curious how one goes about doing that.
I also would like to know how someone actually does this. I have heard before about younger than average college students (<=16) getting into college early, but I don't know how they do it.

How did you accomplish getting out of high school so early and getting into a college?

No one brought up the possible problems involved with a minor living in a dorm with "adults" (I use the word losely in regards to many college students) who could possibly provide alcohol, etc?

As ice said, I don't doubt you. I am curious though.

I was 18 when I got to college; I imagine most of the dorm inhabitants were sub-21, and we never seemed to have any trouble procuring beverages of a questionable nature.

I don't think it's too unrealistic for someone to get into a top school at age 16. That's really only 2 years behind a normal high school graduate - I could have easily skipped two years, but I'm pretty glad I didn't.

lisab
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
University for under 18-year-old teens? You bet!

When I was in college, I would estimate that about 5% of the students in the undergraduate physics program were under the age of 18. I was really surprised - I just figured that physics attracts young 'super geniuses' more than other fields of study. One kid in my advanced calculus class was 14 - the university required that one of his parents accompany him to class.

It was strange - I was in my mid 20s, sitting next to teenagers. Some brains just bloom early.

This was at the University of Washington in the late 1980s.

I'm somewhat mystified by the fact that you worked in menial blue-collar jobs despite having a bacherlor's degree (and, if I read your first post accurately excellent grades for your undergrad courses) in physics. Couldn't you get a decent job as a high school physics teacher? You can always decide whether or not you want to return to grad school after you have a steady source of income.
Most teaching jobs require certification or licensure by the state. You usually either need to complete a teaching certification program at a college or university to be recommended for licensure.

Many states have alternative licensure programs that allow you to start working as a teacher immediately if you have an undergraduate degree in the field (or in a very closely related field, e.g. engineer teaching physics). It takes from one to three years to complete such programs, taking online and/or evening coursework and summer courses.

It is not the kind of job to recommend to someone who doesn't have good motivation. Between teaching, class prep, grading, and working on your education and any content deficiency coursework, you are easily looking at a 60-80 hour week.

I also would like to know how someone actually does this. I have heard before about younger than average college students (<=16) getting into college early, but I don't know how they do it.

How did you accomplish getting out of high school so early and getting into a college?

No one brought up the possible problems involved with a minor living in a dorm with "adults" (I use the word losely in regards to many college students) who could possibly provide alcohol, etc?

As ice said, I don't doubt you. I am curious though.
It was mostly a matter of having good teachers. I demonstrated interest in math very early (two-base multiplication at four), and kept the interest up through high school. My ninth-grade science teacher noticed I was doing well in his course, and he loaned me a quantum mechanics text (Goswami) for self-study. I kept the book for a year, and turned through every page. Interestingly enough, it was my spanish teacher who did a lot of the legwork (even though I was earning a D in the course!) and referred me to a professor at the local university.

I had a one-hour meeting with this professor, and he asked me to do some of the "standard" quantum mechanics problems with 1-D potentials (particle in a box, particle off a cliff) on the board. After the problem session, he asked me to name the four forces in order of strength. The next day, my spanish teacher announced to the whole class that I'd been admitted to the university. A lot of people were shaking their heads--understandably so, because I was anything but a stellar student in HS.

This came on the heels of an intense desire to study science, though: my history teacher caught me studying a physics book in class. He grabbed the book, threw it in the garbage can, and kept on lecturing! My spanish teacher caught me more than once doing math problems while pretending to read the spanish text.... This same spanish teacher gave me a class cut for sneaking into the chemistry lab to make aspirin during spanish class (the chemistry teacher was in on it, and he let me do the experiment while he was teaching his class).

But at the present, I'm really in a spot:
$$\text{(present)} = \text{(past)}^{-1}$$

What? To me it seems like the present is similar to the past (low grades, no motivation to do things you don't find interesting, etc.)

I had a one-hour meeting with this professor, and he asked me to do some of the "standard" quantum mechanics problems with 1-D potentials (particle in a box, particle off a cliff) on the board. After the problem session, he asked me to name the four forces in order of strength. The next day, my spanish teacher announced to the whole class that I'd been admitted to the university. A lot of people were shaking their heads--understandably so, because I was anything but a stellar student in HS.

But at the present, I'm really in a spot:
$$\text{(present)} = \text{(past)}^{-1}$$
Bah physics isn't that difficult. If you said you knew real analysis then, that would be impressive.

I don't know what to tell you. You could be addicted to video games, which is pretty serious. Addictions serve as an escape from something, so either you really loathe school or just want a break from it all. The latter is especially true for those who do a lot of independent learning. Everything in moderation, otherwise you lose interest. Last summer I learned a lot of E&M over the summer, and it was great. However, not having a rest that entire summer, I performed really bad the following fall. It was not until December break when I recovered. So if you are doing your own reading, stop if for a few months and take a break from it. Play all the games you want during this time. When you get back, read over stuff you already know and find what made you love the field in the first place.

Or maybe you just suck at physics and aren't up to speed yet? This is especially true if you went to a low-tier school where they give out As like pancakes. Maybe memorizing how to find the potential by studying answers worked for tests, but left you no deep knowledge. Now that you are being challenged, you can't keep up - so run from it all.

You need to look deep down and ask yourself... do I want to do physics? Not because it is expected of you, or that you already went so far with it, but is it something you want to study in and out? If not, your bachelor is still worth something, so don't think it was all a waste. You should apply for entry positions in banks or something, where your mathematics will be of great use. In fact, a very lucrative field is actuarial science - and you won't need to get a degree. Just do some independent studying in economics and pass some exams, they will be happy to have you. Initially it will be a lot of monkey work, but the pay and opportunity will be better than McDs. Make sure you mention your "new found love for business" too, alleged or otherwise.

(Take some time off) x 2 + (think about it) = V(grad,school)

Last edited:
vanesch
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
[ ... ] Interestingly enough, it was my spanish teacher who did a lot of the legwork (even though I was earning a D in the course!) and referred me to a professor at the local university.

I had a one-hour meeting with this professor, and he asked me to do some of the "standard" quantum mechanics problems with 1-D potentials (particle in a box, particle off a cliff) on the board. After the problem session, he asked me to name the four forces in order of strength. The next day, my spanish teacher announced to the whole class that I'd been admitted to the university. A lot of people were shaking their heads--understandably so, because I was anything but a stellar student in HS.

This came on the heels of an intense desire to study science, though: my history teacher caught me studying a physics book in class. He grabbed the book, threw it in the garbage can, and kept on lecturing! My spanish teacher caught me more than once doing math problems while pretending to read the spanish text.... This same spanish teacher gave me a class cut for sneaking into the chemistry lab to make aspirin during spanish class (the chemistry teacher was in on it, and he let me do the experiment while he was teaching his class).
Seems like it was your Spanish teacher, against his will, who got you into this mess ! The guy who was right was the history teacher. Your Spanish teacher made the bet of the brilliant but bored kid, only interested in one thing. It could have worked out in a sense - actually, it did on undergrad level. However, in doing so, he deprived you of the teaching you needed most: having the discipline to take up your responsibility and sit through whatever you have to sit through, like the Spanish course or the History course. And that's what's biting back now at an age where one doesn't accept such a behavior anymore.

But at the present, I'm really in a spot:
$$\text{(present)} = \text{(past)}^{-1}$$
As another poster said: no, the present is a repetition of the past, but at an age where it has worse consequences. You only do what you like, and you can't concentrate, even be present, on things you don't like or are not passionate about, like listening to the history course or the spanish course, or at least even have the decency of giving it a try. People were blinded back then because what you were passionate about was considered valuable (studying physics) - other kids, who are passionate about football or video games, don't trick their educational environment and get frowned upon.

In fact, that's what I supposed did happen:

[ ... ] It could be that studying and getting good results was really a game for you, and that you have never been in a situation where you HAD to do something you didn't find fun. Most kids have, and learned at a pretty young age that even if they didn't like to do something, they had to it nevertheless. They learned to take on some responsibility and developed the courage needed to "finish the job". It might be that because you showed signs of genius, that during your youth, people (your parents, your teachers, your professors) never forced you in "finishing the job" in anything except the one you enjoyed so much: bringing home good results and studying. So you never met the frustration and challenge of "having to finish a job you didn't find fun".
Point is, now you have reached the stage where you love video games, as any 14-year old does, and as you've always been used at doing what you like and nothing else, well, that's what you do. But instead of having some corrective measures by your (history?) teacher and your parents, you did that in grad school. So you're about 6 years behind on the scheme of things and people don't accept that at that point (visibly they even did, and gave you a few extra chances).

So THIS is really the point you have to work on, but I don't know how, because there are no teachers anymore, and you've outgrown your parents, for anybody to help. You've missed your usual occasion to learn some self discipline. Guess what ? Join the army. They'll teach you. It's the only place I know where adults can kick off a total lack of self-discipline.

This is a tough situation. I have one friend who is in almost the same position as you - except he is 5 years older - and another friend who pulled himself out of a similar pit a few years ago. The latter also started university early, then bounced in and out of prestigious school for a while, working at a grocery store in between. After TEN years he finally pulled together enough credits to graduate in engineering. He worked in sales for a while, then worked part time in childcare thinking he might want to go into teaching. He has since discarded that plan and now he is employed by a consulting firm which works on civil engineering projects.

You need to take the next chance you get and show that you can work hard. Can you apply to a temp agency? You will end up in a bunch of short-term positions (for which you are a low risk to the company) but this will give you an opportunity to demonstrate that you can work. The jobs will also be more intellectually challenging than flipping burgers and if you do well you may be able to finesse your way into a more permanent position.

You can try applying for financial and computing positions which require a master's degree in physics/math/CS but it will be extremely difficult to make yourself an attractive candidate because of your past work ethic.

Don't go to teacher's college unless you really want to be a teacher.

Would you consider giving up computer games entirely?

It's pretty cool that you drove an 18 wheeler. I bet there were quite a few things enjoyable about that job - cruising down the highway listening to some tunes and watching the scenery. There is some enjoyment to be had in any job - make it part of your day to make your coworkers' days less boring.

I don't know about you, but I think the worst I can do with a physics degree is to become a high-school teacher, a better job then McDonald's or trucking. You just need one more year to get a teacher's certificate.