Generic Thread About College Stress Version 45634523.0

In summary, the conversation discusses the topic of college stress and the pressure to attend prestigious schools for graduate studies. The speaker shares their personal struggles with their current academic performance and their future aspirations. They ask for advice on whether the difference in career prospects between attending a top school and a less prestigious one is worth the stress and lack of sleep. The conversation also shares insights on the importance of enjoying what one is studying and the idea that the type of person who is accepted to top schools will likely do well regardless of whether they attend or not. The conversation ends with the importance of finding a balance between work and rest, and the speaker's personal experience with dropping out of college but still being successful in their chosen field.
  • #1
College Stress Help

Alright I'm just going to get right to it.

Right now I'm a freshman at BU studying physics, though I'm hoping to double major in math. And it has not been going very well. About a month ago I bombed my first set of midterms, but honestly I think I can attribute that to laziness on my part. I never really tried in high school, so I thought that I could put in roughly the same amount of work I did there and still get A's. Mostly I'd just go through the homeworks for the week, finish all of them in about 4 hours each, and then never think about that subject again for the rest of the week. After getting my first midterms back, I decided that that probably wasn't the best approach to studying. So I started studying each subject for about an hour and a half six days a week, and I honestly thought that I could feel that I was understanding the material a lot more this time. . . until I came back from my next computer science midterm. Suffice it to say, not good. This first semester isn't looking very good, considering that it'll definitely bring down my GPA and that I want to go to MIT or another top school for grad school and that none of them ever accept anyone who got less than an A in anything.

So basically my question is this: What difference is there in the long term for someone who went to MIT for grad school vs someone who got a PhD in exactly the same field at a less prestigious school? Are the career prospects really that much different depending on where you went for grad school? And if they are, is it really worth killing yourself and getting 2 hours of sleep every night (which, considering my current grades, is likely how I'll be spending the next 4 years)?

Any help I could get from this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, guys.
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  • #2
If you don't like math and physics then no, it's not worth it. People have this ridiculous idea that if they work really hard in undergraduate school then they can get into a really good graduate school and it'll be clear sailings. This is ludicrous. If anything graduate school will be much harder than undergrad and if you do get a PhD and a sick teaching position then the research you'll have to do will be ever harder than the graduate school.

Though students who went to MIT graduate school obviously have better career opportunities than people who went to Clown College, you're confusing correlation with causation. The prestige of their college is a very small factor, and the major factor is that they were smart/hard working enough to go to MIT in the first place, so obviously they would perform better after school too.

Just work as hard as you're willing to work for the rest of your life. This period of your life is not any more or less important than any other period. If you're willing to work 10 hours a day on this stuff for the rest of your life then do that. If not then don't. The one thing I will say is that if you are going to devote a large part of your life to anything, it really helps a lot to enjoy doing that thing.
  • #3
Firstly, @deckoff9:

I completely agree with the idea you mentioned which read: "...and the major factor is that they were smart/hard working enough to go to MIT in the first place." I think I once heard of a study (though don't quote me) where education researchers looked at a large pool of accepted applicants at ivy league or other wise just top schools like MIT, Harvard, Columbia, etc... They then divided this pool into three groups:

1) Those who accepted admission and went to one of said top level schools
2) Those who didn't accept admission and went to a less-prestigous school
3) Those who didn't go to school at all and just did something else with their lives

They checked back with the three groups after something like 10 years to see how they were doing with their lives, and all three groups were doing just as well financially and career wise, regardless of what life choice them made about college. So they concluded that the type of person who's going to get *accepted* by Harvard or MIT is going to do just as well regardless of if they actually go or not.

Secondly, @PrinceRhaegar,

If you're only getting 2 hours of sleep every night, that's totally awful. For one thing it's just physically painful, and for another thing in my experience it's damn near impossible to learn anything; you can still zombie your way through course work, but the information just doesn't stick the same way.

I went to Sarah Lawrence College for ~5 months. Their science programs were great fun, but they had me getting just 4-5 hours of sleep almost every night, and pulling all nighters with 0 hours on a weekly basis. I eventually got fed up and dropped out. I'm working as a software developer now doing 3D graphics applications on mobile platforms, but I'm still using every once of my free time to gleefully study away at my calc and physics textbooks. More than that though, I'm actually using those skills at work every day too. Often I even have days at the office where I do nothing but study in front of the lounge's white board for the whole 9-5 so I can achieve this or that 3D graphics effect, or sometimes it's a day spent learning some nifty new software API.

Overall I'm very well rested, and on the whole study at least as much as I did when I was in school. Sure, the study is not always free wheeling and is often dictated by the needs of my work, but college doesn't quite give you free reign over your day to day reading either. And the studying I do with my time at home after work and on the weekends is of course completely up to me. Plus, at work you actually get *paid* for the whole experience, whereas in college it's exactly the opposite.

You seem like you have your mind set solidly on going to school, so perhaps you won't take much from my story. Plus, I probably didn't spend enough time in school to geta feel for whatever value one might get from stick with it until the advanced course come, but I'm just throwing this idea out there regardless: "Life in the private sector can be pretty academically fulfilling as well."
  • #4
First and foremost, thank you both for the advice. There are a couple more points I think I should address. I was being hyperbolic about getting two hours of sleep every night. Honestly, I average about 7-8 hours every night. I just said that because it looks like I'll have to be pulling all nighters on a regular basis from now on if I want to maintain a 3.8+ GPA. But I do love math and science, and ultimately I don't care how hard I have to work in the end, because apparently it'll be worth it in the end. Thanks again.
  • #5
This first semester isn't looking very good, considering that it'll definitely bring down my GPA and that I want to go to MIT or another top school for grad school and that none of them ever accept anyone who got less than an A in anything.

The standard response I've seen is that there is no such thing as 'top school for grad school' - and I believe it. The only reason why I'm looking at MIT for grad school (as an aerospace engineer) is because they have a program for people interested in plasma propulsion. Similar logic applies to physics. You find yourself interested in some field, then find a grad school that does research in that field. That grad school is almost certainly going to be sufficient for educating you in that particular subject. It doesn't matter if it's no-name university; if it's studying said particular subject, then others who study said particular subject at other universities will have heard of that no-name university, and will likely regard it favorably.

Also, MIT isn't that hard to get into for grad school. Just from reading twofish_quant's posts here, I'd say that, while grades are a big factor (preferably 3.5+), something like a research letter attesting to your creativity in solving a particular problem would be the thing that got your foot in the door.

You have what, seven more semesters at least before you graduate? Your first semester isn't going to bring your grades down that much, even if you get all C's.

1. What are some common causes of college stress?

Common causes of college stress can include academic pressure, financial concerns, social anxieties, and time management challenges.

2. How can I manage my stress levels in college?

There are several ways to manage stress in college, such as prioritizing tasks, seeking support from friends and family, practicing relaxation techniques, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle through exercise and proper nutrition.

3. Is it normal to feel overwhelmed in college?

Yes, it is completely normal to feel overwhelmed in college. The transition to college can be a major adjustment and it's common to experience stress and overwhelm during this time.

4. What are some warning signs of excessive college stress?

Some warning signs of excessive college stress can include changes in appetite or sleep patterns, difficulty focusing, irritability, and physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches.

5. How can I seek help for college stress?

If you are feeling overwhelmed or struggling with college stress, it's important to reach out for help. This can include talking to a trusted friend or family member, seeking support from a counselor or therapist, or utilizing resources on campus such as counseling services or support groups.

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