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How much work is hard work?

  1. May 26, 2014 #1
    I know it depends from person to person,,, but what's the estimate?

    I remember someone posting(I don't remember who) that relying on intuition to solve problems is a bad habbit. It just means that I'll have to start studying from the scratch? Let's say I want admission in one of the top 100 colleges in the world for masters in physics. What does it take in terms of work?
    Also can you share your college experiences of how you studied? In the past I've managed to pass by doing minimum work in all subjects except maths.(Maths being an exception because I had an excellent teacher.). Furthermore I'm not getting admission in the best college for bachelors in physics because of problems like laziness and procrastination in studying etc,, but I intend to change. Please help!!. Thank you!!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 26, 2014 #2
    There are a few different aspects of this post that need to be addressed. This is entirely my opinion.

    First, obviously, to get into a top 100 University (world ranking) you will need stellar grades, test scores, letters of recommendation and any research experience. I don't think there are any specifics that I can give you other than, do your absolute best and invest all of your time into getting the highest marks you can possibly get.

    As for studying, I would suggest you study each course everyday. I average around 35-40 hours of studying/homework outside of class per week.. A daily study session for me might involve working on mathematics homework for a period of time, then switch to physics, then computer science, etc., to keep my brain engaged in all of my subjects but also varies the tasks and information you are learning which makes it much easier to study (for me at least).

    I am not sure how to help you become less lazy. There is really no solution other than to GET INTO A ROUTINE of always working hard. If you train yourself so that you are used to grinding through these subjects everyday without even thinking about it, you stop thinking about whether or not you are 'studying' and just become used to absorbing the information you need as you need it.

    I will say, however, if you are concerned about your laziness and procrastination, perhaps you should correct that before you start worrying about admission to highly prestigious institutions.
  4. May 26, 2014 #3


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    First, no matter how much you work, admission into some top school is not guaranteed. What is a top school is anyway also a matter of taste (although big names help a lot, especially in the US), and it is most important what you do there. And, of course, a direct answer to "what should I do to get into some of the top 100 colleges?" could be "learn German", as there are several top-100 universities in Germany, and they are all public schools without tuition and who admit anyone with an equivalent of an Abitur/Matura examination.

    I do not agree that relying on intuition to solve problems is a bad habit. Indeed, many of the most important advances heavily relied on that, in both physics (say, relativity) and math (functional analysis---it's based on Hilbert's realization of the similarity between finite vector spaces and function spaces). The problem is just that it takes a lot of work to acquire the *right* intuition. Intuition is obtained by a large number of related problems. And its benefit comes when you use the patterns thus learned to solve new problems in old domains or old problems in new domains. Note also that different people deal with intuition very differently. There are some people who intuitively know that they can solve a given problem, but would have a very hard time explaining to other people how they know that or how it is done. If you are one of them: That is okay, and you most likely cannot change it (and probably do not want to).

    How much work is enough is hard to say---in the end, knowing more always helps. And there will always be people who have spent the last five years working 80hr/week. Some of those will be your competitors. But while hard work wroks, *just* hard work is not enough to reach the top of the field either.

    It is important to keep effectivity, efficiency[1] and life balance in mind. Time is limited, after all, and you can only spend a given hour one time. So it is not only important *how much* you learn, but also *what*. And just following interests is not always the best course. For example, no matter how fascinating you find... say, category theory or lambda calculus, a working knowledge of programming and numerics is *much* more useful in most branches of physics. And once you're an expert in five auxiliary branches of math, it may be more efficient to take a course in creative writing or social psychology (yes, seriously) than to learn the sixth related subfield of math by heart.

    I also have always been very lazy in the past, and reached top placements in high school and university mainly because I worked effectively and applied abundant amounts of game breaking combinations of auxiliary skills to get things done. Do not get me wrong; I regret not working more when I was younger. I just say that having a habit of dealing with things "effectively" is not necessarily bad, especially not if you can *combine* it with hard work later on.

    In general I would recommend people to become legitimate experts in two (not one, two) fields of study: One will be the one you will take your courses and degrees in, and one will be an auxiliary skill which is useful in that field. For example, being an expert in programming can make your life much easier in most branches of physics you would go to. But even being an expert at scientific writing or giving talks can be very handy. Being provably good in a subjects (say, by entering some math/physics/comp sci/invention competitions or doing some open-source free-time projects) will often help in the college admission process, although good standardized test scores can hardly be substituted. If you do not have them, change that.

    Becoming an expert at anything takes time. But normally I would expect that intelligent people can become "very good" at something by doing regular deliberate practice at that something (say, 10hr/week) for about two years. But you have to work with the explicit intent of becoming better at it. Not just work to get things done.

    Sorry for the long post. I was in the mood for semi-coherent ramblings 8).

    [1] effectivity and efficiency are very different concepts. At least for me it helps a lot to consider them separately in everything I do.
  5. May 26, 2014 #4
    Don't apologize. It was a fantastic reply filled with thoughtful and insightful information!
  6. May 26, 2014 #5
    Laziness and procrastination were problems I suffered in the past. Now it's come to a stage where I just have problem starting anything.
    I am actually taking a programming course. More than 3 hrs per day of programming then I just start hating it,,but it passes on, and 3 hrs per day is more than enough I guess for introductory course.

    I have already studied french for 2 yrs and 2 members in my family (one of them being my mom) are french majors. My big bro is also studying it. So my best bet about learning a foreign language would be french, but I suck at it.

    Next point being Intuition
    I'm not saying it's not useful, I was concerned about undergrad studies but I definitely agree on your point that one should learn how to master the power of intuition. If I could just remember who said it, but its my fault for not reading the names properly.
    So I should develop my intuitive skills more. I'll follow your advice. Thanks!

    My college will operate for 8hrs per day and how much of it are we supposed to attend will only be known when it starts. How much in-class studies are expected??

    I have gone pretty far using this,, 3 days before my engineering entrance I was trying to figure out which compiler to use,, I got marks enough to get admission in reputed college in my area(nothing to be proud about, but nevertheless I feel good about it) I don't want to do engineering so the importance of the entrance was close to null. But I know this is wrong hence this thread.

    Here are my plans for future I dunno how much they'll work out
    -double major in physics maths
    -programming efficiency in c++, python, mathematica, matlab.
    What more do you suggest?

    I plan on studying on the path of test taking. Even if they'r bad(I'm not saying they are!) I have to take them and score, I realise this.

    I have bad social skills which is a major disadvantage on my part in any field.

    If multiple "Thanks" worked,, I would give you 1000s..

    Efficiency is ratio of input to output.Effectivity is useful output from your input What's really the difference?
  7. May 26, 2014 #6
    This is not true. I could not find information about other german universities in the world top 100, but I think LMU Munich and TU Munich are at least as selective as Heidelberg is:


    "In the winter-semester 2006/2007, the university offered 3,926 places in undergraduate programs restricted by numerus clausus, with an overall acceptance rate of 16.3%.[63] Most selective are the undergraduate programs in clinical medicine, molecular biotechnology, political science, and law, with acceptance rates of 3.6%,[64] 3.8%,[63] 7.6%[65] and 9.1%[66] respectively. The selection is exercised by allocating the best qualified applicants to a given number of places available in the respective discipline, thus depending primarily on the chosen subjects and the grade point average of the Abitur or its equivalent. For some majors and minors in humanities—particularly for conceptually non-vocational like classics and ancient history—unrestricted admission is granted under certain criteria (e.g., relevant language proficiency), as applications regularly do not exceed the number of places available. For prospective international undergraduate students, a language test for German—such as the DSH—is required. Admission to consecutive Master's programs always requires at least an undergraduate degree equivalent to the German grade "good" (i.e., normally B+ in American, or 2:1 in British terms). Except for the Master's programs taught in English, a language test for German must be passed as well. Ph.D. admission prerequisite is normally a strong Master's-level degree, but specific admission procedures vary and cannot be generalized.[67] International applicants usually make up considerably more than 20% of the applicant pool and are considered individually by the merits achieved in their respective country of origin."
    Last edited: May 26, 2014
  8. May 28, 2014 #7
    I personally think the amount of work you need to do in medical school to become a surgeon is hard work. If you apply that kind of hard work to any field (be it engineering, physics, mathematics, CS, business etc.) the probability of success becomes very high.
  9. May 31, 2014 #8
    Well I get the idea.
    Thank you all.
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