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Future physics major looking for advice

  1. Dec 15, 2014 #1
    *I just realized I posted this to the wrong topic. Oops*

    [Note from mentor: moved to Academic Guidance. In the future, if you think you've posted in the wrong place, simply hit the "Report" button/link and tell us.]

    I'm starting college in 1 month, I'm so excited! My plan is to go in undeclared and spend some time taking the necessary math pre-requisites before declaring a physics major. My first question is: Will spending (more than likely) a few semesters taking math classes work against me for potential graduate studies? Math is obviously related to my future major, but this does kind of worry me.

    I actually really like math - however, I dropped out of high school my sophomore year and before that, had some terrible experiences with instructors. On the one hand, I've been renting workbooks and textbooks from the library to familiarize myself with forgotten concepts and even work through understanding new ones. On the other hand, I really enjoy the idea of being properly evaluated for the work I do, in a classroom environment.

    I plan to start with high Algebra, then precalculus and trigonometry.

    And for the second question: What is an incoming physics major expected to know about the subject? I've read several pop-sci books and glanced through a few college-level textbooks. I also bought the Feynman Lectures...only to find out they're free online -.-

    Oh, and if anyone has any suggestions for reading material on Classical Physics, suggest away!
    This is a topic that I find kind of boring, for whatever reason. I mean I appreciate it and understand its significance, but still.

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this and any advice is greatly appreciated!
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 15, 2014 #2


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    Gold Member

    Taking a bunch of math to catch up in college is what you NEED to do. Almost everything you do in physics is based off of math.

    Once you catch up you will be fine.

    And no, no one will penalize you down the road for taking college math courses, prerequisite or not.

    You should know some of the basics going in, but you will just learn most of it as you go. Basics like a object in motion tends to stay in motion.....object at rest tends to stay at rest. Maybe know a little about friction...etc. Doesn't really matter, what you don't know you will learn just like everything up to this point.....and beyond this point.
    If you know a lot more than those basics, great. Either way, you are gonna have to work extremely hard to get your degree.
  4. Dec 15, 2014 #3
    Thank you! I'm glad it won't be counted against me in any way. I just found out that if I'm taking a math course and feel I've already mastered it, I can take an exam and move to the next one. So that helps.
  5. Dec 15, 2014 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    At most colleges/universities in the US, the "freshman physics" course for prospective majors does not assume you have taken a physics course in high school. It obviously helps if you've studied physics in high school, because then the material isn't completely new to you, but it's not essential.
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