How to best prepare for a physics major

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So in a couple weeks I'm going into university to study physics and I just have so many things going over my head. The main thing I am afraid of is failure. I'm planning to go on to a top grad school in the future and then go on to pursue a PhD in astrophysics. I've been looking forward to doing this since I was like 13 so I don't want to go to fail. My goal is to get a 3.5+ gpa and I have no clue how hard that's going to be. What are some tips I can get for preparing for university and what can I do during university to excel? Thanks.
 

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There is an interesting interview by AMS with Karen E. Smith which is worth a read
http://www.ams.org/publications/journals/notices/201707/rnoti-p718.pdf

and we have some articles on the Insights Blog section on how to avoid mistakes:
https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/things-can-go-wrong-complex-numbers/
https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/10-math-tips-save-time-avoid-mistakes/
https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/make-units-work/

All these contain really helpful tips and tricks to avoid mistakes and / or what to keep in mind.

And if nothing else, you can still come over on PF at any time 24/7 and ask for help. If you really want to learn (and not only find a stupid who solves your exercises), we are more than pleased to help you.
 
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  • #3
verty
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So in a couple weeks I'm going into university to study physics and I just have so many things going over my head. The main thing I am afraid of is failure. I'm planning to go on to a top grad school in the future and then go on to pursue a PhD in astrophysics. I've been looking forward to doing this since I was like 13 so I don't want to go to fail. My goal is to get a 3.5+ gpa and I have no clue how hard that's going to be. What are some tips I can get for preparing for university and what can I do during university to excel? Thanks.
This is an excellent question. Here is my advice.

Usually the second half of most courses is more difficult. Also, the content of the second half is usually worth more marks in the final exam. So it's important to ramp up your effort in the second half of the course. It may take more hours to understand everything, etc, or you may start to be tired of the material. But if you want those top marks, you have to reckon with the later content.

Then also, homework usually counts 40% or 50% of your grade. This is quite a lot so it is important not to drop marks on your homework. Try to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to homework. If you are doing a homework question and it doesn't feel like you know the material, take a break and try to fill in that gap. One has amazing resources now, what with the internet, supplementary textbooks, etc. If the textbook isn't clear or you just aren't feeling it, perhaps look it up online. But try to answer those questions and when you do the homework, it'll make so much more sense.
 
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  • #4
ZapperZ
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So in a couple weeks I'm going into university to study physics and I just have so many things going over my head. The main thing I am afraid of is failure. I'm planning to go on to a top grad school in the future and then go on to pursue a PhD in astrophysics. I've been looking forward to doing this since I was like 13 so I don't want to go to fail. My goal is to get a 3.5+ gpa and I have no clue how hard that's going to be. What are some tips I can get for preparing for university and what can I do during university to excel? Thanks.
Have you read this?

https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/so-you-want-to-be-a-physicist-22-part-guide.240792/

Zz.
 
  • #5
gleem
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Going to university should be exciting. You need more confidence than you appear to have. Doubting yourself or you abilities is natural to some extent when you face unknown situations but it is not a good way to start. You must think that you can be a successful physics major or why did you enroll in university . Are you sharing everything about your situation?

One key to success will be the amount of discipline that you can muster. You will be your own boss for the most part determining your priorities, setting your schedule, selecting your friends and recreation. All of these should be consistent with your ultimate goals. Review them frequently.

Apart from academic preparation you must also personally prepare for the challenges of university life. You must mentally prepare yourself and monitor your attitude constantly keeping it positive. The competition will be stiff, your time must be managed carefully.

Being a physic major is like running a marathon, it is a seemingly long effort and for success you must maintain a consistent pace. Homework is a big key to success do it faithfully and on time. If you need help seek it out do not let pride keep you from obtaining the knowledge you need. Get use to sequestering yourself to study in a distraction free environment. Yes you will need distractions and recreation but make sure that they do not interfere with your goals.

Turn your cell phone off when studying In fact get use to not using it much at all. Avoid the web accept as it can contribute to your course work. Do not seek answers to homework by surfing the web. Your own mental effort is that which promotes your learning abilities and scholastic success. Do not blame poor teaching for your failure. Learning is your responsibility .

Failure is as much about distractions or giving up as it is about not being capable. Keep asking yourself how hard do you want it. You will be surprise how far desire and persistence will take you.
 
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