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Failing out of College (Warning: Long Post)

  1. Apr 2, 2012 #1
    I’m not sure how much to write or how to write something like what I’m about to write. That sentence was weird but I’m more interested in getting some answers or advice than grammar and prose at the moment. I’m a little down right now so this would probably be different than if I wrote this at another time. This post is very long but I’m not sure what to do and I wanted to provide as much info as possible.

    I’m currently enrolled at a university in a materials science program. Coming out of high school I did not know what I wanted to do. I worked part time and went to a community college. While there I was going to go into a nursing program (I’m a male) but I started to really like biology and thought about majoring in biology and eventually further my studies in molecular genetics. A little later I was reading and hearing things on nanotechnology which led me to materials science. I like the idea of biomimetics and how to use engineering concepts and materials to manipulate physiology. I took a couple human anatomy and physiology classes while at the community college and received A’s in both. My gpa was about a 3.6 for my time at the community college.

    I transferred to a large university in last fall. I did very bad that semester. The room I signed a lease for was literally cut in half a couple weeks before the semester started because a fire escape needed to be put in. I also had all my belongings stolen at one point (wallet, cell phone, credit cards, ID, etc) so that was a tough thing to go through. I ended up dropping a class (organic chemistry). My other classes were differential equations, an intro atomic physics class, and intro to materials science class. I received two D’s and a C+ in those classes. The C+ in the materials science class could have been a B but I just ran out of points to earn at the end. I ended up with a 1.4 GPA for the semester.

    I was diagnosed with ADHD that semester. I don’t actually think its ADHD. I found out about a condition called twice exceptional and I seem to match it perfectly. The doctor I’m seeing is conservative with medications and I haven’t been able to experiment much. I haven’t found anything that works yet. I had some testing done and some outliers in the data were that my immediate memory was in the 19th percentile while my delayed memory was in the 95th percentile. This really showed me what I was thinking for a while. When I am not given enough time to read and build an intuition for a subject I do very bad, but if given time the subject becomes second nature. It’s very hard to explain and so far I haven’t found anybody that understands what it is like.

    This semester started out pretty good. I was organizing things more and everything started out well but deadlines and obligations started to pile up. I’m taking organic chemistry again along with C++ for engineers, mechanical properties, and materials selection. The latter two being materials science classes.

    I’m failing the C++ class. We have labs and I am never able to hand them in so out of 10 labs I have received a zero on maybe 8-9 of them. I have done very well on my homework assignments though. I do well on the homework because I have time to read and completely understand the material before the assignment is due. Over spring break I read C++ and really understood it. Read C++ and organic chemistry was all I did over spring break. I never go out because I have something due. It sucks and I feel like I’m missing out on life but I don’t know what else to do. I’m trying to fit in the educational system. I just had an exam and I think I did very well. I was talking to other students about a practice exam and they asked me if computer science was my major because I knew what was covered so well. I didn’t tell them that I’m actually failing and now I understand the subject. This sounds weird but as things get more complex I get better and develop a better understanding of things.

    I didn’t realize how bad the education system was. When I transferred I saw how everything was about deadlines and exams and just basically minutia. It’s like the concept of college and the exam has overtaken learning and building an intuition about a topic. Everybody is all about the practice exam and what will be on the exam rather than learning. I initially thought it was the students but I think our educational system doesn’t allow people to understand how they learn or how to build understanding and intuition for a subject. People are trying to learn t do well on the exam and memorize and study practice exams to do well. I can’t do that. I need to completely understand and when I do things get so easy and everything seems so logical. It’s hard to really explain with words.

    I’m not sure if I can pass this semester. I’m meeting with an advisor on Thursday and I’m going to tell him I’m thinking of dropping out. Earlier today I made a list of pros and cons for dropping out of college. The two big things for the pros are just being happy once again and having fun actually learning. The big con would be not having a career.

    When I initially transferred I wanted to go to graduate school but now I’m struggling with passing my classes. I think I’m probably best described as an anomaly. I think I may just try to find a job somewhere and reteach myself mathematics (actually build a proper understanding this time) and study quantum mechanics and start getting heavily in quantum chemistry on my own. It sounds weird but from what I’ve experienced I’m pretty much the opposite of everybody else. I also want to write a book how education has failed and how it can be improved. Also write some intro textbooks in different scientific fields in a more logical way.

    Sorry, this post has gotten ridiculously long and now probably no one will read it but I wanted to give as much info as possible so maybe one person can offer some advice. Also sorry if there isn't much flow. i have a lot of things going through my mind.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 2, 2012 #2
    You've got a lot of options my friend. I was definitely in your shoes when I was in my first year of university. I failed calculus 2, got Ds in most of my other science subjects, dropped two courses, and in general just did miserably. In my second year I dropped another two courses and did mediocre in the rest. In the summer of my second year I got to that make or break point where you've just got to ask yourself if its worth it. For me, it was. I finished my entire economics and statistics part of my degree and am about to chip away at the math section (i'm a math-eco double major).

    Personally, the key to my success was not taking full course loads. I took two classes in the spring semester (may-august) and three during the fall and winters. This puts me behind a year when you consider what I have failed/dropped coupled with the lighter course loads, but it was just what I needed to get back on track.

    Focus on what personally made you do badly (seems like a lot of personal stuff/instability in your environment) and fix it piece by piece; don't tackle it all at once.
  4. Apr 2, 2012 #3
    Thanks for your advice. I was just reading the thread you made.

    I'm not sure what to do. I only seem to really learn when I can read and I guess create an understanding on my own. I don't learn from lectures. I'm not sure if I can go part time with my major. I was thinking about taking a year off and studying things like thermodynamics, kinetics, polymer physics. I'm doing a polymer concentration in materials science.

    My problem is that I just don't have enough time with a normal class schedule to properly learn. Once I learn it though it though it stays. I guess that is because o my delayed memory. Most people forget stuff after they take exams. That brings me to another point. Exams don't seem like a good measurement or knowledge or future potential. They are a static measurement and there are many variables that influence the score for the individuals taking them. College degrees are losing value, we are outsourcing jobs, and producing less educated people and it seems like no one addresses how our education system teachers people.
  5. Apr 3, 2012 #4
    1) Whatever happens, it's going to be OK! You are young, your whole life before you, undoubtedly you have friends and family that love you and you live in the wealthiest society in the history of the world!!! Your self-worth should NOT be tied up in whether or not you get a university degree!

    2) I'm sorry that the current incarnation of the educational system isn't a good fit for your learning style, and I think it would be great if you could explore those issues further and write about it. HOWEVER, don't become too bitter about this. Recognize that all real-world systems are flawed, and also admit that you may have to work 'inside' the system to accomplish some of your near term goals.

    3) I like this idea of working part time and finishing your degree part time - that way you could spend the time needed to learn the material on your own. Your interests seem a little unfocused at this point, but maybe consider trying to get a part time job in a research group in a field of interest??
  6. Apr 3, 2012 #5
    I think a lot of people have been in your position, especially in the first-year of university. This is not to minimise what you're going through right now, but rather to help you understand that you can certainly get through it, and that you should not be afraid to take a different path to see what you want to do.

    I think the people above have outlined some key points that are good advice, but above all, don't be afraid that you've failed, use it to learn how to adapt better next time, it's a key part of the learning experience.
  7. Apr 3, 2012 #6
    I'm sorry to hear of your struggles in school. Have you tried seeing some different doctors for a proper diagnosis of anything that might be hindering you? I know it costs money, but a proper diagnosis (if there truly is a medical issue here) may be enough to get the school to help accommodate any disadvantage you may have.

    Also, as another poster already mentioned, try taking fewer courses, at least for the time being. It doesn't matter if it takes you longer than the traditional 4-5 years. What matters is that you are able to learn the material effectively.

    Wish you the best, and I hope things get better for you! It sounds like you're putting in a lot of effort to do as well as you can, and I'm sure this effort will pay off in the future, so keep it up.
  8. Apr 3, 2012 #7
    You have to understand that part of the functional purpose of college is to create cogs for the corporate machine. College is all about deadlines and exams and shuffling papers which trains you for an office job in which you have to worry about deadlines, exams, and shuffling papers.

    I find it helps to think of passing tests as a game.

    Failed whom? It works pretty well as a "corporate training school" and "young adult day care."
  9. Apr 3, 2012 #8
    It might be a good idea to reduce course load. Also if there are any sorts of undergraduate research, you might try a hand at that.

    Sure, but if you have X places and 1.5X people then you have to have some system for ranking people. If it wipes out people that aren't good at taking tests, then that's bad for the person taking the test, but the person giving the test doesn't care very much.

    Part of it is that if you look deeply at the system, there are all sorts of hidden agendas and embarassing facts that people would rather not talk about.
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