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Depressed, 2.84 gpa Physics sophomore, can I handle it?

  1. Jan 9, 2013 #1
    Hi everyone.

    This is my first post on this forum-- I would firstly like to thank you all very much for all the advice and help you give on various threads here; I have found it extremely helpful, and am very grateful already. Thank you!

    My problem (apologies for the long post :( ):

    (In nutshell: chronic problem of taking hard classes, don't have stable base, what to do now?)

    I'm going to be a second semester sophomore in the next few weeks at a top university. I was very excited upon entering college, but absolutely unsure of what I wanted to do. I considered Economics, Math, Physics, Biology. Biggest mistake-- took classes harder than my level--I assumed I knew the first year Econ sequence, so I skipped onto the harder option in sophomore sequence and landed a B. I took MV Calc (Stewart) when I really should have taken Calc 2 again in college, and got a B-. After the first sem, I started the Physics hardest sequence, got a B in Mechanics, and this past semester, got a B- in E&M (Purcell). This past semester, I also, instead of taking applied linear algebra and DE, I decided to take a proof based math class (uses excerpts from Baby Rudin), filled with people who've been doing math since forever(it's that "crazy-math people" class), got a C+. Other bad grades were a C+ in second semester Econ, and C in a Biology class (both freshman year). :(
    My problem with these classes, apart from them being harder (except for Physics, which I really should have worked more in), is that I just assumed I was much worse than the rest of the students and freaked out on the tests. This fear of exams affects me to the extent that in Mechanics, I got a 28 on one of the mid terms, and then, entered the final under the assumption that nothing worse could happen (so was much more relaxed) got a 89 in the final-- 0.8 SD above the mean. The same happened with Math; I freaked out in the mid terms-- at one point I was wondering why I was even sitting there as my brain refused to work. :'(

    (This might seem a bit off track in an academic forum, however, please bear with me as it holds relevance to the discussion) It took me longer than usual to get settled into college as well, and I didn't start feeling settled in until sophomore fall. I feel I spend too much time trying to get the ideal social group. I didn't have friends who were interested in the same things as me in school, and so, was really excited to find people into gaming, quantum physics and nerdy jokes. But I didn't find those people until this semester, and so, I feel a lot of my time goes into getting to know these people. While I really enjoy the company of my current friends, I also want/like physics/math/CS people, but since I am one semester behind in the physics sequence, I have to make more effort to get to know them, and I, being the lethargic, slow to work person, spent more time than required on this. I wish I could just get tasks executed without thinking for ages about them.

    My question is-- is my career doomed? I don't feel like I have a solid basis that a Physics student should be developing in the first two years. I am behind on research as well. All my peers seem to have much more CS and Math background, and I have none. I also don't know which branch of Physics I wish to research in, although since I enjoy cosmology, I started a supervised research project in Cosmology this summer (but that hasn't progressed much since I don't have required CS background). I just feel behind in every thing.
    Also, how should I proceed for the next 2.5 years? I really want to make the most out of my college career, and not waste it taking irrelevant classes like in the past. How can I start catching up?

    next sem, I'm thinking of taking proof math second sem (have to, it's a year sequence, started studying before already), Wave mechanics theory, a scientific computing class and a GED. Should I chuck the GED/scientific comp and put in a more relevant class? I'm also doing research, hopefully I'll be more diligent about actually going this semester..

    Please please advise me; I would really appreciate opinions of knowledgeable people, as I have nobody I can ask on my own.
    Thank you.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 9, 2013 #2
    I also feel lost as I don't know *exactly* what I want to do, and everyone around me (in Physics) seems to have it all figured out and are applying for research positions/internships in their field. :(
  4. Jan 9, 2013 #3
    There isnt much reason to get a degree in physics if you dont know why you are doing it. A physics BS prepares you for a very narrow path, it prepares you to be a physics grad student. If you dont want to do that then I would highly recommend considering a different major.
  5. Jan 9, 2013 #4
    Thank you for your reply. I'm doing Physics because I enjoy doing it, and puzzling over the various problems, however, I'm not entirely certain what branch I am interested in. I find cosmology extremely interesting, and so, am doing research in it, however, I'm not sure if that is *the* branch, as I haven't tried out/learnt about other branches (should I start reading research papers in other branches to get an idea..?). That's what I meant. :)
    Also, while grad school is most likely the next path (if I can go), I can't know for sure if I'm not sure about what branch I want to devote myself to. What if I do astro (and really enjoy it), and then figure out at the end that I like some other branch better? It seems like a vicious circle.
    *In* the extreme case that I decide/cannot go to grad school, then also I feel, a physics major would be useful because of the skill set it provides. Already, from learning whatever I did in these classes, I can see myself thinking about and approaching problems and decisions I make differently.
  6. Jan 9, 2013 #5
    I tend to disagree, but that is the popular view.
  7. Jan 10, 2013 #6
    Hi Gaara,

    Usually when you are devoting yourself to any concentration in physics, you still have all of the classes offered in a traditional physics degree plus the classes of your selected concentration. So if you decide on astro now and want to major in another area of physics for grad school, it should be an easy adjustment...at worst you may need to take a few more classes. I am a junior and have no experience in grad school, but this is what I have found in my searches.

    Do you have an advisor who can provide you with more guidance on which courses to take? I read your original post also and I would say not to be depressed. Just try to change the things that made you not do so well in the past and try to have a positive outlook for your future classes. Aid yourself with everything you need, even guidance on better study habits if necessary. Sometimes mistakes can happen and exams can freak you out, but if you find out how to better deal with the anxiety, you will surely do better as you proved with your finals.

    All the best with everything!
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