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Facing the Truth that my school is terrible

  1. Sep 24, 2009 #1
    I go to a State University which mostly focuses on commuters and I guess that less than 5% of the student population is in sciences. Admission is pretty lax. I have noticed the classes more or less suck because everything is brought down to it's most base level. For example in physics I we ignored Calc for the most part even though it was a calc based physics course because it was to hard and some people hadn't taken it yet. In physics II although everyone has taken calc I we still avoid calc because they didn't understand it. Professors give pretty easy tests and yet more than half the class fails. In my Intro to Java class with 50 people to start >10 were left to finish the course.

    I don't really know what to make of it, this semester I've stopped going to my Physics course, since it is at 8am and I don't really feel like I need to hear the same lecture 3 times in simpler and simpler terms, which is what our physics class devolves to, I have no trouble learning the stuff just using online lectures and the texts.

    It's not to say that I think I am a genius or anything, I would gather I am pretty average for the sort of person who would take a science or math course in university, but my school just seems to cater to those far below average. I'm not really sure what I am looking for with this posting, but how do I deal with this or put it into context? Did anyone else experience the same thing?
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 24, 2009 #2


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    1. If you're better than your academic surroundings (and you think the trend will persist), move to the top of your class and transfer. If the work is easy, rejoice and get involved in undergraduate research opportunities that will make you more employable when you graduate.

    2. Make sure you're expressing yourself well. There are a couple grammatical errors in your first paragraph alone. While I wouldn't point this out normally, I must say that it reflects badly on you when you yourself are complaining about poor academic standards.
  4. Sep 24, 2009 #3
    I agree with this. Even if you can't transfer, you can prove yourself elsewhere in grad school if you need to. Also, make sure you get a 4.0. This may mean attending classes that don't seem worthwhile. Do it anyways. There is no excuse for getting below a 4.0 if the environment is truly how you describe it. A 4.0 from anywhere will go a long way in counterbalancing a relatively poor school reputation, while much less will indicate that you couldn't even handle it there. No one will cut you any slack on this point.
  5. Sep 24, 2009 #4

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    On the one hand, you are telling us you're too good for your college. On the other, you're telling us that you failed calculus and had to drop two other classes. With a story this complex, I think you might want to get a second, more independent assessment of your abilities. That may prove valuable in your future planning.
  6. Sep 24, 2009 #5


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    lubuntu, I never experienced the same thing. However the only thing you should worry about is to get good grades. It doesn't really matter if you don't go to lectures if staying at home is more efficient to you.
  7. Sep 24, 2009 #6
    What are your academic and career goals? These should probably be considered when contemplating transfering. Even if your classes are not rigorous enough for you, there is no reason you cannot go above and beyond on your own. Think of the lectures simply as a supplement to your own learning. They can be useful but for many they are not necessary for success.
  8. Sep 24, 2009 #7
    Touche, however my issues with classes in the past where more due to a failure in motivation and other personal issues during that time period not at all with my ability to do the work. Sounds like a weasel story but it is true.

    Now after a few semesters with my colleagues I am seeing that depth of our courses is shallower than at most any other university and tons of students fail tests because they don't even get the watered down explanations and problems.
  9. Sep 24, 2009 #8
    It's not even that the lectures are bad it just that we get bogged down in the boring computation stuff instead of discussing the subject at hand, for explain in physics we'd usually spend more time on algebra than anything else, so tedious.
  10. Sep 24, 2009 #9


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    Get use to it. Unless you mean finding out what 15 divided by 2 is.
  11. Sep 25, 2009 #10

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    Yes, but you have to look at this as a graduate school will look at it. The message this sends is "was at [and I am going by your description here] a not-very-good school and did poorly there." This is not the message you want to be sending.

    But in any event, my advice is serious. You need to get an outside perspective of where you stand. Maybe it will confirm that you are where you think you are.
  12. Sep 25, 2009 #11
    When I hear you talking I think it's myself. Stop complaining and go through the details
    of the lectures if you are bored. On the one hand you say it's too easy on the other hand you claim the algebra is tedious, that doesn't seem to add up.

    You have to work through the algebra and gain a higher perspective make yourself very
    familiar with the concepts behind all that. That's the key to success. Be ok with the stuff you
    are doing at the moment where you are, you can't run away from that. Be in the moment.

    Then make a choice if you want to leave this "backwater" then the best way out
    are good grades.

    So I'm just backing up the other statements.

    I'm also some kind of disenchanted my university offers like 99.9% experiments and
    I'm more into theory. Always try to make the best out of the situation. Keep going.
  13. Sep 25, 2009 #12
    You missed the point, what is tedious is that my physics classes take time to even consider how to do the algebra instead of focusing on physics. Like computationally how to solve a system of equations, not for example the consequences of the formula. Any derivation that requires a good use of calculus is usually ignored since the class wouldn't understand it, etc.
  14. Sep 25, 2009 #13
    That's your part of the studies to do both of these things. It's not ignored because
    the class wouldn't understand it, it's left out because they want to see that you can manage this
    by yourself. We didn't get anything in the lectures close to the problems we should solve.

    I felt the exact same way when I was at that stage. Our calculus stuff was always late compared to our physical development, so it was often very boring. They only show you the easy
    calculations. It's like in advanced textbooks, the proof is left to the reader.

    Is that your problem ?

    If not, then I would go ahead and try to take an exam at a university for more
    talented people. If you're really very much above that level there will always be
    a place where you can do more advanced work.
  15. Sep 25, 2009 #14
    Again, I appeciate the feedback but I think your missing the point that at my school, we avoid more difficult stuff because it is swept under the rug and not because we are to figure it out on our own. Of course I do figure it out on my own but I am just frustrated at how the in class session are essentially pointless. More often than not it would just be the same people asking the same basic questions over and over again. For example it took us about 10 tries of explaining how to derive the work done along an isotherm of an ideal gas, because most of the class didn't understand the calculus parts.
  16. Sep 25, 2009 #15

    never mind.
  17. Sep 25, 2009 #16
    One suggestion that I can tell you is to wait until upper division math/physics courses, and it might change a bit. Usually, the introductory courses like your physics class usually have a good amount of students who can't keep up. Eventually, they will leave before they advance to the next level, so your next professor might demand from you a little bit more than your current one (hopefully). I'm no physics major, but that seems to be the case for most departments in most schools.

    Also, as everybody suggests, you should keep your grades high, and show your professors that you are different from the other students in class. If your professor sees it, you might get a research position from that professor.
  18. Sep 25, 2009 #17


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    That's my interpretation. If they are still letting half the class or more fail, then these are just the weed out courses before you get to the real ones. I also agree with the points made above that if you're not getting the material covered in class, if it's in the textbook, you can still go ahead and learn it on your own. University comes with a good deal of self-directed learning, not just spoon-feeding. If you spent all that money on a textbook, use it.
  19. Sep 25, 2009 #18
    You're likely in a Physics class with other Physics majors, math majors, chemistry majors, Engineering majors, people planning to go to medical school, biology majors, etc., etc.

    It would be great if we could start from day one in a "physics majors only" environment where the full theoretical underpinnings of every subject was covered in all its mathematically beautiful detail....but the American university system isn't that way at your average "state school."

    It's the same with math courses. You go through calc I and II with damn near everyone, Calc III with many other science majors, and differential equations and Linear Algebra with Engineering majors. Once you finally get through that, you start the process of "real" mathematics instead of just arbitrary applying rules to get the right answer.

    At the end of the day, the quality of the student is what matters.
    I doubt you'll find any "great" physicist who relied solely on his or her course material for their physics knowledge.
    In fact, I'd be willing to bet that any "great" physicist we all like to read about instead of studying earned the majority of their physics knowledge from self study, not from assigned course material.

    My Physics I course is the same way. Its entirely UN-theoretical, and sometimes down right frustrating that students can be confused when the material is presented so "watered down." It's even more frustrating that the watered down material is presented that way because so many students couldn't care less about actually trying to learn the material...and the motivated students are the ones that suffer in order for the university to "dumb it down" enough for those students to be dragged along.

    I use the class time to practice deriving formulas from various starting points, finding different ways of solving the same problem, or working through a more advanced book from the library.
    But, like others have stated....grades matter to graduate schools. If you're not getting 100% on every quiz and exam, then no matter how watered down the material is, you could still stand to get a better grasp on it.
  20. Sep 26, 2009 #19
    Does your school have physics major track physics courses? If so, are you on that track?

    If not, then don't worry your classes will get difficult once the premeds, chem majors, math majors, and engineers don't go beyond intro to physics.
  21. Sep 26, 2009 #20
    The bottom line is you have to maintain good grades, whether you like it or not. First you do all the computations until it is impressed in your head - if you can't even maintain an interest to do calculations, you won't be doing physics later. Sorry but this is true.
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