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How to survive this semester

  1. Feb 16, 2005 #1
    I am 28 years old and this is sort of my freshman year in college. I was enlisted for 8 years and for promotional purposes I decided to take some off duty education. I did terrible in high school so I started off with very basic classes at a local community college. I have gotten As in every class I took up to calc 2 in math and chem 1 and other elective classes. I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to finish my time in the military and become a full time student. I like math the best and so I decided to major in mathematics and I hope to one day teach math at the junior college level or above.

    Ok, so like I said this is my second semester at a regular university as a full time student. I did very well my first semester getting all A's and a B while taking 17 credits. Well I think I may have over estimated my abilities and took more than I can handle this semester.

    These are my classes

    Discrete math

    Computer science

    Differential equations

    Calc 2

    Special topics, inequalities. (Cauchy inequality)

    I know I said I took calc 2 in the past but this time I wanted to take the honors sequence for calculus. The problem is the work load is practically unbearable. I goto class come home study and goto class but no matter how hard I work I feel like I am falling farther and farther behind with each passing day bringing more frustration than the previous.

    I am not going to just drop some classes because I really cannot since my G.I.Bill depends on me taking a certain number of classes. I could technically drop one and be ok but I would rather do my best and see what happens.

    What I really need to know is how have you all survived when the workload becomes too much? What is the best way to study to maximize my time? Are there any techniques or tools that will help me be more successful? Any general advice you would like to offer to me would be appreciated.

    Thanks for reading this and all replies I get.

    Mr. T
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 16, 2005 #2
    I'm having a similar problem. my course load was c programming, cal 2 , physics I, and history. i'm good at math but the physics requires alot of time to be good at. i dropped programming so that i could have more time. i hated to drop the class but the workload was just to much. i even talked to my mathematics prof. about it and he agreed that i had to triage something. i'm making a very solid A in cal btw. if you stay with your workload you know that you will always strugle to keep up. for me dropping a class has lifted a burden off me. i feel so much better and more relaxed about school now. do what you feed is best. i receive financial aid so i have to be very careful about dropping classes also. i think that i made the right choice. you be the judge in your situation.
  4. Feb 16, 2005 #3

    Math Is Hard

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    Do you have the option to switch status for one of your classes? For instance, can you switch to Pass/Fail or "Not for Credit" status for the class with the heaviest workload? That way you wouldn't have to drop, but you won't have to put as much effort into it. You'll have to repeat it for credit, of course, but it wil be easier the 2nd time around.
    Hang in there! I know how it feels - I am an older, returning student, and this quarter I worked full time and took 14.5 quarter units. It's been really exhausting. I wonder why I do this to myself and I figure it's like banging your head against a wall -- it just feels so darn good when you stop!!! :biggrin:
  5. Feb 16, 2005 #4

    Here's my answer to tough times in college:

    Well jokes aside, its just a matter of buckling down and pushing through it. I tend to enjoy being under pressure though, i do better under a heavy workload than a light workload for some reason--probably because the amount i slack off is related by an inverse square law to how much work i have, meaning as the amount of work decresease linearly, the amount of slacking off increases quadratically.

    Yeah, i'm a physics major, could you tell?

    MIH's idea is probably the best way to lighten the load if you're worried about the number of credits.
  6. Feb 16, 2005 #5
    franznietzsche, I'm sorry, but you offered little advice to Townshend. A lot of what you said was just you talking about yourself.

    "What I really need to know is how have you all survived when the workload becomes too much? What is the best way to study to maximize my time? Are there any techniques or tools that will help me be more successful? Any general advice you would like to offer to me would be appreciated."

    -If the workload becomes too much, think about which problems you really need to know how to do. What helps a lot is talking to the professors. Develop a good relationship with them--it will go a long way.

    -Find some people in the class who you can work in groups with. This has many benefits. For one, you will get help on homework. Second (and more importantly in my opinion) is that you can EXPLAIN things to them. You know the saying: you never really know something until you can teach it. Take this saying to heart: it really helps. If you're having trouble with a concept, sometimes just talking about it with other people is the best remedy!

    -As far as techniques: KNOW THE DEFINITIONS. Before you jump into any problem/question, in really any class, know what the problem is asking, and write down all the givens (defining where necessary).

    I hope that helps
  7. Feb 16, 2005 #6
    I'm sorry you can't handle the occasional bad attempt at a joke. A thousand apologies, your infinite superiorness. From now on i will subscribe to the one true way of never laughing, and always being serious.

    A more serious response:

    Prioritize your work carefully. With a large workload you obviously need to get the most productivity possible out of your time as possible.

    Focus specifcally on the classes that are the most difficult. (probably the special topics and the differential equations). Which computer science class is it? If its a programming class, take advbantage of that, use your programming assignments as excuses to do your math homework. I haven't taken differential equations, but i would assume you cover numerical techniques for solving the ones that can't be solved analytically. if the comp sci is a programming class, write programs that use those methods to solve differential equations. This having to code the methods helps remember them, you get two things out of the way at once, and have a ready method to check or do your math homeowkr with in those sections. (that goes much faster than doing it by hand). You can do the same for discrete math. That alone could save you a lot of time by being able to study for comp sci and math simultaneously.
  8. Feb 16, 2005 #7
    Here's a wonderfully irrevelant post:

    Can you believe that I live in the same town as you, Townsend? Seriously. WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF THAT?!
    .. Just wow..
    I wouldn't know you though, since I'm a senior at high school.
  9. Feb 16, 2005 #8


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    Well one advise I must give you - do as many problems for your math classes - homework, worksheets, problems from textbook after the chapter - etc. This is very important if you want to get a good grade with optimum amount of effort on your part.
  10. Feb 16, 2005 #9
    Can you only let yourself study a set amount each day? I have heard of a real world law (simliar to something like Murphy's law) called 'jones law of shelf space'. It says "a task will utilize all the resources allocated to it, and the more resources allocated the more inefficiently they will be used". It is based on the fact that if you add more shelves in your house you end up finding ways to fill them and you fill them less efficiently with things that are less and less valuable to you. It applies to all areas of life. If two people remodel their kitchens and one uses 10k and the other uses 2k, the person using 2k will use their money much more efficiently. The more resources you allocate the more inefficiently you use them up.

    Point being, the less time you allow yourself to study theoretically the more effective your studying will be (I have heard working mothers say the same thing, taht since they had a kid to go home to they found they could do 12 hours of work in 9 hours). Only allowing yourself to study a set amount of hours a week no matter what for a class could be more effective than studying willy nilly whenever you feel like it.
  11. Feb 16, 2005 #10
    Really? That is pretty crazy but with weather like we have been having lately nothing seems too crazy. In fact that could make for an interesting probability problem if you think about it.

    Since I have the rare opportunity to ask you this I will take it. What is it like to grow up in a college town like this one? I mean do you feel more pressure to goto college than a typical high school student would? Not that you could honestly answer that question but in your opinion what do you think? I have been wondering that for awhile so perhaps you could answer that for me.

    Nice to see a fellow South Dakotan here at PF. I have been trying to get some of my classmates to use this forum but with pretty limited success. Oh well, at least the younger generation seems to be open to new ideas and resources so hopefully things like this will be better utilized in the future.
  12. Feb 16, 2005 #11

    That sounds pretty interesting and very reasonable too. A strange thing about that is last week we took our first test in diff eqs. I expected to not do very well because I had spent most of my time studying discrete math and inequalities but to my surprise I found the test to be pretty easy and I got a 93 percent which was fourth best in the class. I did most of the assigned homework and really did not study for the test but the time I spent doing homework was time well spent as I certainly did not waste any of it. Obviously when I give myself a larger amount of time I tend to be slower and actually seem to accomplish little more than when I give myself just a little bit of time.

    I will work on trying to give myself a time diet for a week and see if it seems to be working. Thanks for the advice.

    As far as working in groups is concerned I would love to but since I am 28 and married and most of my fellow classmates are not even old enough to drink it is hard for me to talk to most them. They are all nice and smart and willing to lend a hand if I ask but I cannot seem to make any real friends with whom I could really spend some time studying with.

    Actually since you mention it I feels kind of strange in that I get along better with the 25 to 30 year old teachers then I do my classmates. Any time I have a conversation with my classmates it seems to be short and to the point. Yet with my teachers we can talk back and fourth and get along great and I am sure I could be good friends with most of them except that there is a student teacher relationship that must be maintained for professionalism.

    Anyhow I appreciate everyones responses, I think I will be ok. I am just at a point where I am wondering what I was thinking when I registered for all of these classes. I guess I just needed to get it off my chest more or less. I will definitely put your comments to good use. I really like the idea of concentrating my efforts by putting artificial time constraints on my time.

  13. Feb 16, 2005 #12
    I totally agree. I think this is especially true in math classes. I really don't think you can learn much math by just watching.

  14. Feb 16, 2005 #13
    My computer science class is basically all about learning c++. As far as the programing for numerical methods like RK4 goes...I wish I could write a program that complex. I think I could write some pseudo code that should work in theory but I don't think I could actually write a program that would make a very good numerical approximation. At least not at this point in time. That being said I do use my computer to make numerical approximations all the time. I am learning a lot about how programs work and this really makes using the programs a lot more interesting than they would be otherwise.

    Thanks for the advice...
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2005
  15. Feb 16, 2005 #14
    concentrate as much as you can on the tougher classes, and doing extra practice on them.

    I would suspect that you should be doing ok in calc 2 and Differential equations, since those are more straight forward calculations. so discrete math and CS,...more abstract classes...you gotta prepare for those more...so, keep that in mind, work hard on those, and you got it made.
  16. Feb 16, 2005 #15
    First time i ever used RK4 was in C++ in highschool, and its not the best language for it. It works fine, but C++ is geared towards object oriented programming, which is not the most efficient way to set up an RK4 program, functional decomp works much better.

    RK4 is actually very simple to code however. I've had some troubles with variable declarations, but thats because i like to keep the whole RK4 algorithm in a header file, and the main program just calls it up in an iterative loop.

    since when are entry level programming classes abstract?

    However i think you are right about focusing on the more difficult material. Like i said, relly try to get the most productivity you can out of your time. And just as important, know what your productive limit is. We're all human, and there comes a point where you're better off taking an hour break, and coming back after a little down time. You just can't work productively for too many hours consecutively (well, at least not efficiently).
  17. Feb 17, 2005 #16
    Haha, yep, how rare! And the weather.. wow.. 60 degree jumps (and drops, let's not forget those) won't surprise me.

    It's hard to answer this. Our local school has a high percentage rate that goes off to college or a vocational school (I believe about 90%). Do I feel more pressure? Well, I'd assume I feel more pressure than those of other rural areas in our state. But I don't know how clearly I speak for the average person, because I'm exited about college and love math/physics. Other urbanized towns probably do prepare students for college better (more challenging courses, activities, etc.), but we are able to get involved with and attached to our teachers a little more, as we live in a small town.

    Well, I'm wasn't exactly sure of what you were asking; but hopefully I answered your question.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2005
  18. Feb 17, 2005 #17


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    basic advice: never take 4 science and math classes at once. 2 or maybe sometimes 3 is plenty, more than enough. take two math and one history and one art appreciation or english or something.
  19. Feb 18, 2005 #18
    If you're a physics or math major, thats not possible to follow really. Lower division maybe, but in upper division if you're on semesters you'll have science and math at once. No way around it really.
  20. Feb 19, 2005 #19


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    Everyone's given some excellent advice. I just want to add one thing. Make sure you get enough sleep.
  21. Feb 19, 2005 #20
    You can still follow Mathwonk's advice if you limit the 2-3 rule to new classes. Taking classes that just apply the previous material should be a fair bit easier because you know how to work with the material in a different way.
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