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Programs Having doubts about physics

  1. Oct 7, 2016 #1
    Hello world. I am currently a junior at a very high powered physics school that u transferred to. I am majoring in physics and have been planning on going to grad school. However, lately I've been having doubts about my major. I came here from another school in the UT system. Everything was fine at my older school. But when I got here, I noticed that so many people lived and breathed physics at this school. And for me personally, I don't want to have to do that. I like physics a lot. But now, my school is making me like it less and less. At first it was fun to learn about it. Now I am really beginning to question whether or not I'm smart enough. I always had a bad work ethic. And I've gotten away with it so far. Including for this semester. But I know later on that's going to have to change and I'm going to need to be spending hous upon hours on physics class work and lab work (lab I don't mind). I'm even beginning to question whether or not I'm smart enough. If I'm not able to answer a physics problem on my own I feel really down about it. And this sucks because I don't want to be just another average joe in physics. I want to be at the top. My question to the undergrads is whether or not you guys feel the same way, and my question to the grass is did you feel the same way in undergrad?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 7, 2016 #2
    1. At grad school, you will be expected to live and breath physics. If you think you're going to go through grad school with minimal effort, then think again. It will take up a lot of time and effort. So if you're not prepared to spend the majority of your day thinking about or doing physics, then grad school is not for you.

    2. Bad work ethic is very bad. It will be ok for you now since you're clearly very intelligent. But every single person runs into some moment where intelligence won't save them anymore and they need to work hard to get some progress. If you have never learnt how to work hard, you'll suffer a lot and likely even drop out. The geniuses of physics are hard workers. Talent alone brings you nowhere.

    3. Doing physics because you want to be "at the top" is a pretty silly feeling. You need to get rid of it. You need to do physics because you have a deep desire to know nature. You shouldn't do physics because other people admire you for it. Furthermore, if you're going to want to be at the top, you'll be very disappointed in grad school. Grad school is typically the place where people find out they're not really as smart as they thought and where they typically struggle. Even very famou people had this very experience. So drop the desires of being at the top, they're harmful to you.
  4. Oct 7, 2016 #3
    Thank you for the reply. I know in grad school that I am expected to live and breathe physics. But I've been seeing some undergrads doing that here. And what really bothers me is that most of these people still have below a 3.5 GPA after studying 30-40 hours a week. I'm worried that I'm going to have to put in much more time than that in order to get into high powered graduate schools. And the being at the top thing came out wrong. I love physics. But I am a hyper competitive human being and I don't want to do anything unless I'm near the top of what I'm doing. I take this approach in every thing I do. From sports all the way to video games. It's an insecurity that I have. I'm worried bout people looking down upon me if I lose. So I always try to beat them out. Also, I do agree with you. I don't know whether or not I am talented. That's for others to decide. But "hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard." Hard work is infinitely more important than talent. I guess it's just time to man up and do what I have to. There's no other option.
  5. Oct 7, 2016 #4


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    It sounds like you`re hitting the undergrad wall to me.

    Often students who are bright in physics can do quite well in high school and even through the first year or so of university on natural talent. Some people even derive a sense of pride from it - that they can get high marks and not have to study very much. But this crashes at some point and it`s not difficult to figure out why. On one hand you continuously go through systematic bottlenecks. In high school you`re comparing largely with the general population. At first year university you`re compared against the people who got in and chose to take physics. By second year, you're being compared against other people who have specifically chosen to major in physics. By your third year, some who chose physics initially have dropped out and now you also have some fourth or fifth year students in your classes, sometimes even graduate students. Then you get to graduate school and they`ve taken only the top half of those who managed to complete undergrad. It keeps going too.

    So no matter who you are, at some point your natural talent will give out and the only way you can progress is through hard work. Sometimes this is why you see people complaining that they see others who they feel are not as intelligent as themselves doing better. It`s because those other people have figured this out (and perhaps there`s a little bit of ego adjustment needed).

    As far as moving forward, those who are most successful tend to be the ones who adopt a mindset that abilities in physics are earned through experience and hard work and not the result of natural talent.

    EDIT: Looks like you posted while I was typing...
  6. Oct 8, 2016 #5
    Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for a physics major to work twice as many hours as that some weeks. 30-40 hours per week is reasonable if only doing courses, but to get into a "high powered graduate school" you will need to be quite dedicated to research which can take up as much time (if not more) as classes.
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