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I am returning to Physics after previously failing. How will this bode for my future?

  1. Jan 31, 2012 #1
    Hey Physicists!

    This post may be relatively long, but thank you to anyone that will actually read it. I have always been interested in Physics and the way things work in general. During my Freshman year, I barely passed Freshman level Physics, but I did. It was during my second year that I struggled in Modern Physics, and ended up failing. I also ended up failing Calc 2. I didn't know what my mind set was at the time, and everything just piled on to me. I attribute this to not having the necessary skills in calculus to understand the material taught to me in Modern Physics. But, I mainly attribute it to my poor work ethic and mindset. I was too embarrassed to go to office hours for help out of fear that my professor would be amazed at how I didn't know calculus that well. I also took Calc I during my Freshman year, but it was the honor's calc, so there wasn't actually any "math", but it was mostly just proofs and writing things out to explain everything. (Sorry, I don't quite know how to word this). So, I felt like that didn't really prepare me for Modern Physics. I then switched my Major to Asian Studies (I know), and I am pretty much finished with that. I've decided to go back to Physics because I have an inner desire to go back and do something that I couldn't do before. I always see bright minds on TV, and I've always wanted to be like them.

    So, basically, I'm a junior right now, and I won't be starting 2nd year physics until next fall, which would be my senior year. I have all my other requirements out of the way, so if I am lucky, I can finish my major in 2 more years instead of 3. I mainly made this topic to ask if anyone else was in a similar situation, and how they handled it. I know that I will be graduating very late, but I just want to get this BA. I also want to go to grad school, but I know that these failures will not help, and I know it is my fault. How will these failures reflect on a grad school application?

    But, most importantly, I am focusing on preparing myself for the upcoming year. Can anyone advise me any textbooks or online resources that will help me reinforce my math and physics knowledge to help me better prepare myself? I am already going to buy "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences". All I can say is, I wished I read ZapperZ's guide when I was a freshman.

    Thank you for any replies! I really appreciate it.

    TLDR: I failed Physics, switched out, decided to come back, how will this bode for Grad School, and what are good textbook/online resources to help me prepare for 2nd year physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2012 #2
    Re: I am returning to Physics after previously failing. How will this bode for my fut

    Research shows that the main attributes of success are (i) hard work (ii) seeking appropriate mentors.
  4. Feb 2, 2012 #3
    Re: I am returning to Physics after previously failing. How will this bode for my fut

    Disclaimer:this is not an insult to your intelligence!

    If I were in your situation I would want to make sure (ego aside) that the justification of the inadequate calculus prep/poor work ethic explains all (or most) of the failure. Different people have different strengths and it's possible that you may not be ideally suited for math or physics. If that's the case, you will have to work harder for less pay-off than your classmates and research colleagues. You will not be competitive for jobs in academia, pushing you towards industry jobs that often prefer an engineering background.

    If you are considering physics graduate school/career THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO RIGHT NOW IS GET SOME RESEARCH EXPERIENCE. It will give you an idea of what you're signing up for, and look awesome on your applications.

    And to answer one of your questions...

    1) your grades in upper level EM, QM, Mech, Thermo etc. are much more important than your grades in intro classes

    2) a strong positive trend in your grades will be taken into consideration
  5. Feb 2, 2012 #4
    Re: I am returning to Physics after previously failing. How will this bode for my fut

    Hey, thanks for the reply. I take no insult to my intelligence =). I won't mind working harder, this is more of a personal goal than anything else. How would I go about getting research experience? Is this done just by e-mailing different professors?
  6. Feb 3, 2012 #5
    Re: I am returning to Physics after previously failing. How will this bode for my fut

    Yep, absolutely. If you have an advisor in the department ask him about which faculty would be open to taking you on. If you don't have an advisor, check out the websites for different groups in your school and see if any of them are listing undergrads on their team - those are the profs who are willing to be research mentors. Feel free to approach any professor, regardless of their track record with undergrads, but recognize that some faculty will probably not do a good job of mentoring a novice researcher or may be unwilling to take on undergrads. You can expect to be working unpaid at first, until you demonstrate some use to a project/group. You will also want to look into REU's for the next summer.
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