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Studying How to deal with cramped Physics courses?

  1. Jul 21, 2016 #1
    For the next two semesters, I will be taking about ~11 upper level physics courses. To be specific, within two semesters, I have to take optics, math based physics split into two semesters (covers differential equations, vector, integral, laplace, fourier, and complex analysis), thermodynamics, introductory course to modern physics, electromagnetism 1, mechanics, electric circuits, solid state electronics, and two labs. All the courses are 200 level classes, except for electromagnetism and a lab (which are 300 level courses). At this point, I'm going to go bald trying to build a fundamental understanding for all those courses and maintain a decent GPA. Any advice to save some hair would be most appreciated.
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  3. Jul 21, 2016 #2


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  4. Jul 21, 2016 #3
    It's part of a program where I can earn an applied physics degree and an eng degree. I require ~40 credits of upper level physics, before I can take the eng courses. I was hoping that I could fulfill the physics requirement in a year. However, my advisor told me if it's too much, I can drop a few courses and take those later, but, that will just extend my education by a year (must finish the physics req within a year or two, not in between).

    Judging by the required courses, how "hard" will it be to do "well"?
  5. Jul 21, 2016 #4


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    Is it possible to do "well", sure, but you might not learn much. I would take the extra year.
  6. Jul 21, 2016 #5


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    If the point is to understand the material then the extra year is advisable. What's the rush?
  7. Jul 21, 2016 #6


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    When assigning weight to the advice you receive, remember that your advisor is someone who should be intimately familiar with your program and should have experience seeing how others have performed with the various course loads. The other person to listen to is yourself. You know a lot more about the kind of workload you can handle than we do.

    To me that course load doesn't sound impossible, but you wouldn't be asking this question if you thought it was going to be easy. Some people need to have a different course in the mix to really do well. Others thrive on complete immersion and find they do better in a more focussed setting
  8. Jul 22, 2016 #7
    I perform better if I'm completely submerged on one topic, which is why I finished all my elective courses within the first year. From there I can just take my upper level math/physics courses without any other course interruptions. However, I'm still a bit anxious, as these physics courses seem relatively hard, and I'm stacking them together. My advisor did say that there were a few students who were able to do what I'm about to do, and receive "good" GPA scores. As mentioned before, I can drop some of the courses during the semester if I find it too difficult.

    I would like to attempt at least an A- on all those courses. But, that doesn't mean I want to skip out on understanding those courses. However, I would like recommendations on which of those courses should I place a heavier emphasis on, especially the courses that would most benefit a prospective ME student.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2016
  9. Jul 22, 2016 #8

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    Do you want to be submerged, or do you want to keep your head above water? If you wait until you are in trouble to make changes, you may find that you need to drop more than you would have had you started with a more realistic course load.
  10. Jul 22, 2016 #9
    I'm not so sure that I understand the dilemma. 11 courses is 5-6 courses, or 15-18 credit hours per semester. That's on the upper end of normal, but definitely within the realm of manageable in my opinion. I'd argue that quite a few physics majors had a semester or two that were filled to the brim with physics courses.
  11. Jul 23, 2016 #10
    Judging by the comments and general opinion, it seems like taking 5-6 courses upper level physics courses is on the borderline of insane. But, from your judgement I guess it seems manageable? I mean, from your perspective, are the courses that I'm taking doable?
  12. Jul 23, 2016 #11
    Obviously that differs from person to person and from university to university. However, I had a very similar courseload for two semesters (I believe that I took E&M I, Mechanics I, Intro to Modern Physics (including the lab), Diff Eq, and Optics in one semester). It made for some late nights and I wasn't able to do very much research that semester. I did get a 4.0 that semester.

    However, the fact that many others here (who have much more experience than I do) seem to think it's a bad idea means that it's very much dependent on the school/person. My undergraduate program was not too rigorous, which was likely why I was able to do these courses - they may have been watered down.
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