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Engineering Engineering major having physics difficulty

  1. May 21, 2012 #1
    As the title implies, I am a current engineering major currently having difficulty in the physics material that I need to study for my major. I am in a position where I am considering a possible major change because I am currently questioning if I will be able to make it through the physics that I need to study. My difficulty in physics has become a significant hurdle to me in order to get into my junior level classes. I hope you can help me steer through the right path: to continue or is it time to reconsider another major?

    A few overview of how my academic situation have been:

    *I took Physics I three time before I was able to actually pass it.
    *It seems that I will be the same for my Physics II. I dropped it the first time I took it due to low grades, I still failed it the second time I took it, now I am enrolled to retake it this summer.
    *My math hasn't been a problem with the journey, while I am not exceptional at it, I was able to pass my calculus sequence without dropping it or failing it thankfully.
    * I have been known to be versatile. Sort of a jack-of-all trades. I am trying to be at least a master of something because i don't want to be a master of none.

    A few problems that I may be looking at:
    *I have a personal issue that has been interfering with my focus in studies. I am currently trying to work on overcoming it, but I didn't seek for help (tried to wing it hoping it will come to pass) until later in the semester where I failed Physics II because it seemed that the effect of the issue was getting worse in terms of getting better (this personal issue started since I studied Physics I and it seemed that it was also a part of the reason why it took me three times to take it.)

    *It seems that I am having difficulty in understanding the material. I don't know why, and I've been known to be a fast learner, but Physics seems to be my nemesis as of now. It feels like my brain can't fully grasp the material in an overall sense. I try to study, I've been in every help sessions that my professor did, I had group tutoring, still I failed.

    *All of the above problems leads me to test anxiety. I try to study the material and it feels like I seemed to get it. I try to redo some problems repetitively and I do so to make sure I understand it not memorize the solution. It seems successful while studying, I then start to feel confident, but when I take my exams, it just feels like I get mentally blocked out. Then I end up mixing the concepts or feeling blank at all. During the exam, once I read the question, two things happen on top of the anxiety:the clarity of the solution that I need to do in order to solve the problem otherwise, the familiarity of the problem will help me recall what I have studied, but then in my brain it feels like all of these concepts, information and calculations try to come out of my brain (even the ones that I don't need in a problem) instead of getting it all sorted out for the problem which results in the mix-up.

    *Because of this difficulty, I think I am starting to lose motivation to continue. I hate to switch out to a different major. I want to stay in my major as much as possible. On the other side, I also have to think if it is still worth pursuing especially if these difficulty is an indicator that I may not be cut out for it.

    Possible decisions:

    *Try to pursue my current major in engineering. I talked to my adviser, and she still seems pretty optimistic about me making it with the condition that I still want to pursue it. There was a lot of factors that she saw why my previous semester seemed pretty rough including the personal issue that I was dealing it and the schedule overload (which is also a big mistake) that I did with my past semester. That optimism was also despite of my GPA drop from 3.2 to a current 2.2. It did give me hope, but the doubt if I can actually do it is still there.

    *Move to a "hybrid" major that is still related somewhat to the engineering classes that I have taken. I am a person interested in technical and practical materials. I have sincere interest in technical stuff which seemed to be my driving force to trudge through my Physics classes. I am looking at this hybrid of "Business and Engineering" Hybrid which is comprised of 50/50 business and engineering concepts. With this said, I would still be able to use most of the engineering classes I took. I have broad range of interests which is also sort of a gift and a curse, so in my opinion, mixing a little something different would not be a problem because business is in that range of interest. My only concern in this major is if I would be able to get a good job. Now I still have to take Physics II for this class but I will only need a D for them to take it.

    *Move to another major that is not really related to engineering. I have also been looking at switching to a completely different major. Specifically, I have been looking into switching into a pure science degree which is Biology, Microbiology or Genetics. Biology has always been my strength among all sciences or so it seems when I was in high school. I was okay with everything else including Physics when I was in high school (I was a bit surprised actually that I am having a difficulty in Physics now because I seemed okay in high school). I have a long list of reasons why I didn't actually go to a biology related field, but the main reason why I chose engineering because I also like and love technical stuff even though I seemed to excel in biology. The draw back to this is in order to get a good job or put the degree to good use, I will have to get into grad school (I don't want to teach however) or a medical related professional degree(more likely to go in this route).

    I'm sorry for the long post. I try to be as thorough as possible in my first posts. I hope you can give me some opinions in my case. Thank you in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 21, 2012 #2
    Aside from calculus and physics, what other engineering related classes have you taken and how did you do?
  4. May 29, 2012 #3
    --So far I have my foundations of engineering I, I got an A on that class.
    --I have taken 2 specialized engineering courses for my major. I got C on both. I believe it could have been higher (probably a B) if I didn't overload myself.
    --Programming Class that was required which was a substitute for my Foundations of engineering II and I got a B on it. I hated programming afterwards.
  5. May 29, 2012 #4
    I have to say that for most students, general physics is a pretty good indicator of how well one will perform in more advanced engineering classes. I can tell you that most engineering programs do not get any easier as you move ahead with your studies.

    With that said, there is no reason to give in. Physics can be an eye-opener, so to speak, even for students who typically excel in areas like math. The key is being able to understand the fundamental physical concepts as well as having the math skills to be successful.

    If you continue with your studies of physics, I think you would benefit from hiring a tutor if you can afford it or using your school's free tutoring services if available. It can be very helpful to observe how someone more experienced than yourself goes about solving and thinking through an array of problems. Being successful in a given problem set or an exam is often just a matter of how a person initially approaches a problem. If you get off-track it can be difficult to recover, but if you can learn basic skills in how to approach each problem then you will likely find physics to be a lot less overwhelming.

    As far as degree programs, you could always pursue something like applied biology, biophysics or bioengineering that emphasize quantitative analysis in addition to biological systems. Just a thought, good luck.
  6. May 31, 2012 #5
    I did get group tutoring for this class. Help for this semester was at my hand's reach. My professor was even giving help sessions which encompassed additional problem solving sessions and exams from the previous years that she thought, and I attended every helps session she offered. I guess my main problem that's why I flunked this semester was I didn't have enough time to practice solving problems on my own. I think everyone here would agree that to be successful, I must be able to devote time to solve problems alone. I have this syndrome of being able to understand the concepts while being discussed during lecture and recitations, but when I am trying to solve problems on my own, I get lost as soon as I get at it.

    Since I am retaking this class for the third time, and it took me also three times to take the mechanics part just to pass it with a grade of C. Do you think this is a good indicator that I should switch to a major that has less physics in it? I think I am wanting a confirmation that in the case that I decide to switch my major, it is not because I got discouraged from my struggle and a fail, but because Physics and I just can't do well together.

    I find it weird that I like technical stuff, but can't really get Physics at all. I have always thought that technical smarts and good aptitude in physics concepts go together. I stand corrected on this statement it seems.

    I have looked into biochemistry and biophysics just this week. It seems interesting, it has a high potential to be my new major. The downside I see to this is that it looks like I would have to go to grad school or professional school to land a good paying job enough to pay my student loans when I get out of school and not being too broke compared to the job opportunities that you get with a bachelor's degree in engineering. I don't have a college fund to depend on (being an immigrant) so I need to account possible financial hurdles if I make a choice. Am I thinking too much?

    I really appreciate your input. You are greatly helping out a confused soul to have direction.
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