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General university advice?

  1. Aug 4, 2010 #1
    I am a soon-to-be physics major starting freshman year of university very soon, I'm sure at least a few users who come onto this sub-forum can relate. So, I am wondering about what advice about being physics student (or generally about college) those of you who are much wiser and experienced in academia would like to pass down. I'm not seeking for career guidance advice, but rather advice on how to approach what basically seems like a whole new life (when compared to living at home through high school).

    I apologize in advance to the moderators if this post is too vague in direction. I just thought that getting this topic going would be helpful to others as well as myself considering it's that time of year. :smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 4, 2010 #2
    Firstly, I think that maybe this thread should be moved to the Academic guidance section? Secondly, The main (and greatest) difference i'd like to point out between high school and university is the need for self-discipline and responsibility in the university environment. What I mean by this, is that most people are walked through high school: they are told when to do their work, when it is due and are approached if anything at all seems wrong (Academically). In University, you won't get an automated call home if you miss a class and there might not be anyone pushing you through it quite like they did in high school. It is up to you to keep track of your own progress and push yourself academically. Generally, you are there on your own terms and have earned the privilege to be there. Treat it that way.

    Don't get me wrong, It is not an incredibly drastic leap. Many of my colleagues (and myself) were always self-motivated and dedicated students, and never encountered a problem in transitioning to university. Many of my friends, due to their learning styles, are much more successful students in university then they proved to be in high school. Of course there are others who lack the necessary self-motivation and attempt to coast through it- Ultimately plummeting behind. You have to want to be there to do well! If you keep your head up, take responsibility as an individual and work hard, then you will be fine- in fact, you will most likely find the university environment to be very nurturing, alive and respecting.

    Keep on top of everything, don't fall behind, but live your life.
    Good luck!
  4. Aug 4, 2010 #3
    Oops- I didn't see that I posted this to the wrong place. I'm still thinking of how the career and academic guidance used to be the same thread.

    Thanks for the advice. Your advice about wanting to be there makes a lot of sense.From what I hear, it becomes common for students to be in classes they never attend. I don't understand that - if anything tuition should be a pretty dang good motivator
  5. Aug 9, 2010 #4
    From my experience, I have learned the important lesson of using your time wisely, or as I like to call it aiming for quality in addition to quantity of studying time.

    To put it more concretely, let's say you study x amount of time. You should maximize the effect of x amount of time on the grades you will be getting. This means you should only do what the teacher wants you to do and will likely test you on, instead of reading the textbook cover-to-cover.

    Many deteails in your study habit can be derived from this principle of using your time wisely. For me, I have found studying past exams, underlying your textbook even if you want to sell it, group study, using solution manuals, and skipping over-kill questions to be helpful to me. Not having many things in your head also helps.
  6. Aug 9, 2010 #5
    Alot of my cousins wished they had more of a social life during their university career. I say go get a social life along with doing your undergrad. Get to some clubs that aren't involved in your undergrad degree. So you should try your cheese and wine club (yea some unviersities have that) Or try dancing or a martial arts. Heck i'd even try music club.
  7. Aug 9, 2010 #6
    Sometimes you have very good reasons for doing that. It may turn out that the professor is incompetent, and attending lectures is a waste of time. It may also be that the professor is really good, but you have another class that conflicts with that lecture.

    You may have good reasons for missing class. You may have bad reasons for missing class. What is different is that a lot of times no one will know or care, and you have to make your own decisions.
  8. Aug 9, 2010 #7
    That may work for you. I didn't work too well for me. Personally, I don't care that much about doing well on tests, and I cared a lot more about learning new things, and that includes things that the teacher didn't assign or which isn't going to be tested.

    But one thing that you do have in college is some freedom to figure out what you want to do. I think the big advice that I'd give is to think more about what you are doing and why you are doing it.
  9. Aug 9, 2010 #8


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    I'll tell you one thing that really helped me that I wish I had figured out a lot earlier. I found that going to the same place to study really helped me focus. For me a was a particular room in the library. The ritual of it was like magic in settling me down to concentrate.
  10. Aug 9, 2010 #9
    1) Be careful about alcohol and relationships. Learning how to handle those things is part of what you will learn in college, and figuring out what to do has a bigger impact on your life than what you will study in class.

    2) Don't be afraid to ask for help if you get in over your head.

    3) Be very, very careful not to burn yourself out. Pretty much everyone that wants to study physics was close to the top of their class in high school, and it comes as a huge shock to be average or below average, and a lot of what happens next depends on how you handle it. The natural reaction is to study harder and longer, but you can hit the limits of what is humanly possible, and I've seen really bad situations when people hit those limits.

    4) The other shocking discovery that you will likely make is that your teachers and parents are human beings, which is both a good and a bad thing. One discovery that I made that was a little scary was that my teachers and parents were also still trying to figure out the alcohol, human relationships, and avoiding burn out thing.
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