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I am failing. Hard.

  1. Apr 3, 2009 #1
    Or at least... that's how it seems...

    I'm an Astronomy Major.

    In the summer, I'm all 'I can't wait to study x y and z!' and then two weeks into the semester, I'm just, 'meh. My homework can burn in hell'

    Completely unmotivated and don't know my future outlook. I pass my courses with average marks or pass by the skin of my teeth and I just sigh once and forget about it.

    Last year it was Extragalactic Astronomy and I passed that with 50% (I was actually hoping I'd fail. That was like.. a pity pass). Electrodynamics which I did horrible in with respect to the homework but the midterms and final was easier so I got like.. 64%. On top of it all, I still don't know what I learned in those courses. Math will stick somewhat. Physics however.. not so much. I will leave physics lectures not knowing what I just learned. The thought of asking for help makes me feel like I don't belong in school. cumulating over the semester, I end up towards the end of the term realizing I don't understand much of the material...

    This year it's Wave Optics, Mathematical Proofs (a 200 level course), and Galactic Astronomy.

    Anybody have advice, comments, telling me to an hero, etc?
    So frustrating.
    Sorry if this is the wrong forum or something. A little new here.

    Edit: I'm trying to derail the fail train, not stay on.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2009 #2


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    There is no dishonour in asking for help when you recognize you need it. You can't be expected to know everything before you've taken the course.

    That being said, one philosphy that separates exceptional students from the average, I have observed, is that the exceptional ones don't think along the lines 'it will be great when I get to study x,y and z' rather, when they have free time, they study those subjects out of their own self interest. This turns lectures from an introduction to the material, into a formal means of covering it that essentially establishes connections, fills in holes, and draws on the experience of experts to highlight the most important topics in the subject.

    So a question then, if you're struggling to keep up, is what's keeping you from diving into the material ahead of time. Along those lines, what's keeping you from actively engaging your homework when it's assigned?

    I would also ask why are you hoping to fail your classes? Is it because you really don't feel you're getting anything out of the lectures and feel you need to restart them on day one?
  4. Apr 3, 2009 #3
    I said i'm trying to DERAIL the fail train. NOT stay on it.

    I have no idea about the blowing off homework. I always feel i should be doing something meaningless instead of my homework. Like browsing an internet forum (I'm not talking about this one)

    When I say I can't wait to study x y z, I'm referring to subjects I have an interest in. I've been interested in Astronomy since i was six. Physics is another big interest.. But homework makes me forget all that =/

    Edit: if you were referring to my astronomy course, I was hoping I'd fail it because then I'd have another chance to understand it... rather than pass and like now, not remember what the hell I even did in the course.
  5. Apr 3, 2009 #4

    Obviously you're not interested in the courses you're studying.
  6. Apr 3, 2009 #5
    I'm that way with a lot of things.
  7. Apr 3, 2009 #6


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    Did you earn the prerequisite course credits for your currently difficult courses, or did you MASTER the prerequisite courses? Irregardless, you are in a process of determining what your academic and career interests are, and possibly adjusting your major field of study. Make sure to use available time during intersessions and summers to either review coursework intensesly or study a course in advance. You can sometimes accomplish great learning when you study something without concern for a grade.
  8. Apr 3, 2009 #7


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    Does your school have a counseling center? They should be able to help you sort out if you've just gotten bored with the subject when you found out what it was really about vs. your expectations, or if there's something else hindering you from putting the effort into succeeding...that could be anything from simply being a procrastinator to having a learning disability or depression or anxiety or other psychological issue that emerges when you are under stress (i.e., you're gung-ho between terms, but as soon as you're under pressure to get good grades, something kicks in to hinder your learning).
  9. Apr 4, 2009 #8
    I'm sure that's part of it; the pressure to get good grades. And classes sometimes feel like they go too fast.. or like I said originally, I leave lecture not knowing what I was just taught.
  10. Apr 4, 2009 #9
    I think Moonbear makes some very good suggestions. My advice is to really try and evaluate what you think you are interested in and what you are truly interested in. As others have mentioned, pick a subject and a book during the break that you think you're interested in. Get into it by working through the text, and that includes working the exercises. This will be on your own time, without any outside pressure of classes, homework, grades, etc. If you don't enjoy the material then, then it is likely you are not really interested in what you're studying. Which is okay, you just have to find your true interests. When I pick up a book in math or physics over the break, I get really into it and have a lot of fun.

    Like most students in the sciences, I can also get down throughout the course of the semester and have a feeling of being complete overwhelmed, but this is unfortunately the nature of our university education system.

    Homework may be a pain, just like dribbling drills and shooting jumpshot after jumpshot can be tiring and monotonous when preparing for basketball, but this is what makes a good mathematician/physicist, just as those drills makes a good basketball player. It is useful in many ways and is a necessary evil as they say. I know it doesn't immediately feel useful (which can give you the inkling to not care), just like only 5 more jumpshots doesn't feel useful, but they are useful and build up over time to give you the tools you need to create the science you want to create.

    One last thing. The mathematical proofs class is usually the class in a mathematics program that transitions a student from calculus and linear algebra to abstract mathematics. It is a get in gear course for math majors and usually starts completely from scratch. You could use this to your advantage.
  11. Apr 4, 2009 #10
    Thanks for the chin-up. I don't know how normal this is, but my multivariable calc I've sorta-kinda forgotten now. I'll rememner terms like stokes' theorem, curvature, etc but I won't know how to do them again until I flip through my math text (I don't sell my texts) and then I"ll go oh yeah that's how it's done. But again, Math sticks to me better than physics.

    I'm doing quite bad in my math proofs class. I have a bit of an interest in number theory which is why I picked that up (it's on of the prerequisite courses to get into the number theory course at the 400 level). It's an elective thougH (I know. What was I thinking?) and sadly It's going to bring my already low grades even lower =/
  12. Apr 4, 2009 #11
    Sounds like you need a clear goal -- say get a PhD in astronomy. Then determine what you need to do to do that, e.g., what grades do you need? Then ignore the boredom and just do what you need to do to get them. As you have a fundamental interest in the subject then you should be able to grind through the boring bits until it gets interesting again (this may take a few years!)
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