Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Courses Freshman: 107 hours of Straight Technical courses. How to deal? Tips?

  1. Dec 6, 2008 #1
    I'm currently a freshman physics major at UIUC. I really want to do engineering so I'm thinking of doing a double major in Physics/Engineering (some sort). Due to an a lot of AP credit, I'm all finished with my general education requirements, leaving only math, physics, and engineering classes. Totaled up, they would add up to 107 hours meaning the the next few semesters will be stuffed full of technical courses. My advisor says not to do it because it'll be difficult, which I believe, but I know people manage loads heavier than mine without killing themselves. The question is how do people manage this? Are there any ways or tips that I should know about?

    [Before anyone says "If you're having doubts now, don't do it" I will say thank you. However, these are the sorts of situations that people either fold under or rise up to meet. I can do this :)]
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 6, 2008 #2
    If you can do it, then do it. There's not much more to say. If you're truly worried, try testing the waters one semester without committing to a strict academic schedule over the next few years.

    As an aside, I find it interesting that you were able to use AP credit to fulfill ALL of your GEC requirements. Most schools I've glanced at simply don't allow that to happen.
  4. Dec 6, 2008 #3

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    You could stay an extra year. Might give you a little more breathing room.
  5. Dec 6, 2008 #4
    Hello, I'm I first year student at University of Ottawa majoring in physics. Well different people have different strageties on studying, and you wont find a one size fits all approach to studying. although a universal constant in this regard is probably a lack of sleep. If you want to go through with this workload your going to have to devout a significant amount of additional time to your studies, which may or may not be worth it depending on how much time you already spend on your courses. Also its worth noting that anyone can take a physics, calculus, computer etc class but the trick is doing well in all of those classes. The more difficult classes you take at once the harder it is to do better in all your classes. Its all about quality not quantity. I learned that the hard way by taking algebra, calculus, physics, programming and politics in my first semester (not one of my best decisions to date). So you might be better off not overloading your schedule
  6. Dec 6, 2008 #5
    I went to UIUC for undergrad and was in a similar situation to yours (lots of AP credit, didn't need to take much gen ed), so I can relate. I was an EE major who considered double majoring in physics, but I ultimately decided to graduate early and just get a minor instead. I agree that you should go for it, and see how you do.
  7. Dec 6, 2008 #6
    If you are hesitant that you will not be able to handle to course, take on the challenge. Make it your goal to succeed. a goal oriented mindset will help ensure that you do well.

    Most importantly, you need good study habits and discipline, plus you need to be willing to skip some party's to work your *** off.

    You WILL need to do some research to optimize your study habits. Believe me; take the time to do it. It will work wonders.

    I would recommend taking a slightly easier, however, still challenging course load. There are a ton of temptations at college, and many students who perform exceptionally well in high school learn quite slowly (yes, slowly) that they lack the discipline necessary to resist these temptations. Ultimately, they end up with terrible grades (at least in comparison to their high school grades) first and often times second semester, and they are trying to recover their GPA every semester after that. And believe me, first semester is the time to do well. Easy A's are rarer and rarer as you progress.

    Be careful, but always have goals to challenge yourself. You are more prone to fail if things are too easy.
  8. Dec 6, 2008 #7
    So many great replies in such a short time! Thank you everyone!

    Wretchosoft: Thank you, of course I would test it out for a semester. I wanted to get a few opinions and testimonials before I played a potentially dangerous game with my GPA. And UIUC is a state college (a very good one, but still a state college) so their policies are very generous because they're trying to attract exceptional students. The same students who might be hesitant to attend, say Stanford, because they get next to no credit for their AP scores. So it makes sense, I suppose.

    Math is Hard: I considered it. I need to check out first if staying an extra year and paying more tuition would make be worth it for the two degrees then. It looks like that is very likely though.

    anubis01: Oh dear, that does sound like a heavy schedule for a first semester. I know that you have to do well and not just scrape by in these courses (especially since so many build on each other sequentially) but I've seen people who have managed to do it and I'm curious why. Study smarter, not harder I guess?

    Manchot: Oh really? Well hello to a fellow Illini :) It's great to see that I'm not the only one considering double tech majoring. Thanks for the advice!

    zoner7: Wow, thank you! I've done a lot of research on study habits and I think I have what I need to know to succeed. Most of the study advice out there is for liberal arts majors with some token advice for STEM majors. What I'd like to do the most is talk to actual students who are doing something similar because so far it seems like there's no one else. I'm more than willing to sacrifice professional partying to do well. Thank you for all your advice, it is incredibly useful to me.
  9. Dec 7, 2008 #8

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    I'm sure you can. But the fact that you can do something that your advisor thinks is unwise doesn't mean that you should.

    I would start by telling your advisor your goals, and ask him or her what (s)he thinks the best path towards that is, rather than telling him or her what the path you want to take is and asking whether or not it's a good idea.
  10. Dec 7, 2008 #9


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    There's nothing wrong with trying it. If you can handle it, wonderful. If you find it's making you feel like your head is going to explode and you're missing out on all the other experiences of college life you want to enjoy, you could either do as MIH suggested and spread the coursework out over an additional year, or you could decide you tried to bite off more than you could chew and decide which major to spit out. As long as you stay on track to complete at least one of them in 4 years, you'll always have that option. Just knowing you have an "out" can sometimes take away some of the pressure and stress of trying to do it all and make it a bit more feasible.
  11. Dec 7, 2008 #10
    Vanadium 50: Perhaps a bit of back story is in order. My advisor is a slightly batty old lady who spends our advising sessions urging me to take watercolor painting instead of computer science classes and telling me stories about the donkeys that she owns. Obviously, she's not quite all there. Her personal job seems to be to keep all the 10 girls in the physics department exactly where they are, no matter if it's the right major for them or now. When I said I wanted to be an engineer she spent an entire hour trying to talk me out of it and when she finally gave up, she said "At least join Engineers Without Borders. They're the good engineering kids who are doing something for people. The others ones are just after money." So you can see why I'd be reluctant to take her advice. I'll be seeing another advisor from the engineering department and then decide if it's really a questionable move or not.

    Moonbear: Thank you, that sounds like a wonderful idea. Most of the classes overlap to a medium degree anyways, so it shouldn't be too difficult. Thank you!
  12. Dec 7, 2008 #11

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    In that case, you should talk to someone in the department who is less "batty" - I would suggest Prof. Selen, and if you can't find him, Prof. Pitts. If you prefer a female, I'd ask Prof. Greene.
  13. Dec 7, 2008 #12


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    So how have things been going this semester? What have you been taking?

    I agree with Moonbear that if you think you can handle it, go ahead and try for the double major. By the end of sophomore year, after you've done some intermediate or advanced courses, you'll have a better idea of whether you can go all the way, or would be better off focusing on one area.

    In physics at least, the intermediate and upper-level courses are very different from the freshman-level courses in style and mathematical sophistication. So don't use freashman physics as a basis for judging how things will go in the later courses.
  14. Dec 7, 2008 #13
    EDIT: I didn't feel like proof reading this; sorry for any errors.

    Forgive me for my bluntness, but you absolutely no idea what study habits are necessary to succeed. Learning study habits is a two part process, both of which require an extensive amount of time to learn, especially to later.

    There are so many strategies are out; you cannot possibly cover them all 24 hours. Not to mention, there are so many different things that you need to cover. Everything from essay writing, test taking skills, how to choose your classes, managing time, organization, general studying for tests, memory techniques (there are techniques that you need to learn for everything. Not just one is applicable to all applications), avoiding distractions (not just partying), developing habits (o so important) and lastly discipline (the most important thing you will ever learn, and it applies to everything your entire life).
    I'm sure that there are plenty of things that I forgot to mention. Each of these topics require extensive reading to fully comprehend.

    But the knowledge is the easy part. You now need to learn to put them in practice. This is ****ing hard. You need to practice these all the time. Initially, things will take longer as you learn to use these techniques effectively. Additionally, homework takes longer when you use these techniques, simply because an extra step is involved. well... only in some cases, in particular study habits.) Others, such as avoiding distractions, will allow you to complete work in half the time.

    So you may ask why you would want to use study habits if doing so increases the amount of time you spend working. the answer is that they save so much time later. By delaying gratification, you will be rewarded in the long run. Come test time, you will be amazed how much better you know the materal and how effortless the study process is - not to mention, you grades will be so much better than if you had not uses study techniques.

    As you can see, you are in for A LOT of work. But just remember, the rewards are immense.
  15. Dec 7, 2008 #14
    :confused: So you've covered a whole load of courses due to AP, so you have to take more courses? Am I missing something here?

    Just wondering, what happens if others want to do your program but don't have a load of AP credits? Do they do it in more time (because I'm sure you can do a double major in the regular four years if you take a big load, including all the standard 100- level courses)? Maybe you want to do it in three years, well that's up to you...but if you stretched it out in the normal four you'd likely fare much better than your peers since you have much more time to concentrate on the upper level courses.

    I'm in a combined honours math/physics program at UBC; I guess it isn't really a double major (though I do take more math and physics courses than non-honours students in either discipline do). I only had one AP credit (Calculus AB) since that was all my high school offered - and the physics department wouldn't accept it as first term math (MATH 100). Of course the AP calculus did help with first year math, but I still did have to take it. This term I took diffy q, hon linear algebra and hon multvar calc, as well as a phys lab course, relativity and quanta, plus first year compsci - six of what one could call technical courses.

    I do plan to finish my degree in four years, and it requires me taking 5-6 (mostly 6) courses a term. So it seems you want to finish super early...so 107 hours (credits I suppose) is over how many terms? Honestly, I'm just curious how things work over there.
  16. Dec 7, 2008 #15
    Vanadium 50: Oh, lovely! I've talked to professor Pitts before, I'll to find the people you mentioned and chat with them. Thank you for the advice, I'm rather surprised you know individual professors. Did you go to UIUC at some time?

    jtbell: Things have been going very well. As and Bs: East Asian History, Math, Chemistry, Computer Science, and a few other misc. courses. And that's a good point, I haven't had any real upper-level courses yet so it would be good to wait. I just hope I don't take too long, because that increases the semesters that I have to stay here before I can finish up and get a job. Thanks for the advice!

    zoner 7: Thank you for the really insightful post. I do have some idea of what smart studying is, which is why this year has been relatively easy for me (versus the crying-and-hair-pulling that my usually stellar student friends are going through). You're right, discipline and organization are the most important things are the hardest to learn. These will take time and obstacles to refine, but I appreciate the stress you place on studying more efficiently. Thank you.

    tanker: I've covered all of my general education courses, not all of my courses. The courses I have left are technical and major-specific courses. I'm not in a program at all and most people who wanted the two degrees I want to get and have no AP credit would need to stay in school for 6 years versus 4. I guess what schools accept as AP credit varies widely. I took 12 AP tests and that worked out to 50ish credit hours for me. State schools in the US are usually a lot more lenient with AP scores and they'll give you quite a chunk of credit for good scores because the want to attract students that do well on AP scores and, like I said before, may want to go to StateU instead of Stanford because Stanford gives next to no AP credit. And assuming no major sequential issues exist (which probably don't but I haven't looked that deeply into it yet) 107/18 hours per semester= roughly 6 semesters. Since I've already registered for Freshman Spring courses, that would allow me to finish in the normal 4 years if I want to finish as soon as possible. :) I'm happy to answer any more questions if you have them!
  17. Dec 7, 2008 #16
    Phew, a six year degree! Thanks for clearing that up. And for sure, 6 courses of nothing but math, physics, engineering for six straight terms would eventually wear you down. At least I get some (easy) Arts courses to ease things up a little!

    Very interesting about the whole AP credit thing, wonder why so-called "top tier" schools look down on that (by not honouring them)...doesn't it show you're motivated and all that (in addition to the oodles of extracurricular you need to get into one of those institutions) so that you can handle upper level courses without having to (almost) take that first year course again (if you so choose).
  18. Dec 7, 2008 #17
    They don't look down on it, most of the time AP classes are just easier than top tier core classes (depending on where you go!). I can't count the people I know who got 5's on their AP English tests and B's or C's in their humanities and social sciences courses (not quiet the same material, but the same skills--reading, writing, analysis). I personally got a 6 on my IB HL history course, though that means I only get an extra credit of history on my college resume -- I don't test out of any core requirements. For sciences its different. They'll honor your AP science courses and give you credit so you can test out of biology or physics or whatever, but if thats your major it just means you end up having to take a harder class.

    the AP system is great, though at a top tier school you're essentially taking your core classes with all sorts of other people who also got 4s and 5s on their AP tests, and graded as such.
  19. Dec 7, 2008 #18
    tanker: That's what I was afraid one. I was afraid that I might start seeing derivatives floating around in my sleep.

    Interesting question. From what other people have conjectured, it does show that you're motivated and and a smart kid but it's almost required to get in in the first place. Hence, 95% of the incoming freshman at a 'top tier' school ALL have AP credit so if they gave everyone credit for those classes, I'm guessing there would be almost no one in the 100-level classes. So they're used more for admission than placement. But Hazerboy, most of the classes I got credit for were not math or sciences. They were liberal arts-type courses so it varies greatly by college.
  20. Dec 7, 2008 #19
    Oh, doing physics homework right before going to bed makes me dream of graphs and equations...the other day I had a differential equation final - there WERE derivatives floating around my head as I tried to sleep.

    ...Am I the only that this happens to? :blushing:
  21. Jan 10, 2009 #20
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook