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I don't want to wait to become a physicist

  1. Jun 16, 2010 #1
    I apologize in advance if the following post comes off as angry and/or arrogant.

    I live in the United States, am 15 going on 16 and I am supposed to go through two more years of high school. Over the past year, I have made a substantial amount of progress in mathematics and physics, so much that I have surpassed anything my high school could ever offer. I have taken the AP Physics B, AP Calculus BC, and AP Chemistry exams already(scores pending). Under the normal continuation of events, I would receive my 5's/4's on the AP exams, finish high school easily, go on to college and breeze through the lower level physics courses. However, I am becoming more and more disgruntled by high school and by the insistence from my parents that I go through it with no regard of my true abilities, and I have already lost much precious time to the contrived charade known as "college preparation"(anybody else find it ironic that high school touts itself as such when college is nothing like it?). I am very much interested in any alternative paths, if they exist. My goal is simply to expose how far I've come and will come to somebody of importance. I need some kind of assistance/guidance direly! tyvm in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2010 #2
    You mentioned taking the AP Physics B exams, so why don't you prepare for the C exams now?

    At my HS there was the possibility of an 'independent study' where just a handful of students asked the teacher to help them through an advanced course. For example, there was a multivariate calculus independent study where three kids basically studied and did homework by themselves with the opportunity to ask questions to and take tests by the math department head, who was the "teacher". Presumably they can now take advanced standing exams and skip the equivalent college course, Calculus III.

    Note that you don't need a teacher to do this, but it helps to motivate you when there is someone looking over your shoulder.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2010
  4. Jun 16, 2010 #3
    My advice to you would be not to rush, and take your time. There's a whole lot more you could study before going to undergrad (for free), by self-studying quality books. By doing so, you would benefit more from your undergrad experience.

    Done with calc BC?

    THen study multivariate calculus (which is the last part of a typical calc book), differential equations, linear algebra. That's gonna take you at least 1 yr.

    Done with Physics B?

    Study for the physics C exams. If you are done with those, then you can start studying serious physics, with books like:
    - Landau Lifgarbagez Vol.1 and 2
    - Griffiths E&M or Kleppner&Kolenkow Mechanics, or even Shankar "principles of Quantum Mechanics" if you have done some linear algebra

    Try to study abstract math (abstract algebra..) just to know what it's like, since high school math is very different from college math.

    Then if you done with those, you probably should go to college and study things you would not have been able to study on your own. Several of my precocious friends at top universities did that during high school (they were very bored), and they are definitely having a blast in college because they are taking challenging grad classes that are more interesting (because they were well prepared in high school).

    Also, have you looked into Olympiads? (physics, Chem, math)

    Those are much, much more challenging than AP tests, and will train your problem solving skills, which will be invaluable later in college.

    Since you finished you high school curriculum, ask your counselors if you could get credits for self-study, so that you can take a lighter load and self-study independently. Or, find out if you can take courses at your local university. A lot of my friends did that, although it might be pricey. Also look into summer programs, in which you could get mentored to undertake a research project.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2010
  5. Jun 16, 2010 #4
    I am already doing what you mentioned. The problem is not in the studying itself, but in how I can make colleges aware that I have been studying profusely.
  6. Jun 16, 2010 #5
    Have you done any math/science olympiad yet? (AMC, AIME, USAMO?) There's also a physics olympiad (USAPhO), which is pretty decent. You should definitely prep for that, the problems are pretty challenging and interesting. Schools like MIT/Caltech regard very highly of people who do well at those competitions, because of their inherent difficulty.


    There are also other math competitions like: Mandelbrot, ARML, HMMT (harvard MIT math tournament), princeton math contest..
  7. Jun 16, 2010 #6
    This! A few of my friends did this in high school, such as take multi-variable calc and et cetera classes. At this point in your maths and physics knowledge you're probably at the point where everything you learn from here on out will mostly depend upon yourself (teacher's a really just motivators the way I see it), so you should do some self-study courses over the next two years! There's really not much of a difference
  8. Jun 16, 2010 #7
    The competitions are an excellent choice.

    It also helps to discuss and ask high-level questions to your HS physics/math teacher to impress them so that they will write you a glowing college recommendation.
  9. Jun 16, 2010 #8
    Have you considered community college? Assuming you receive good enough scores to receive credit for calculus and freshman physics, you should be able to take some extra math like linear algebra and differential equations. Despite having taken the AP test, I would suggest taking calculus again at the college level since it is somewhat more demanding. At the same time, you can take a calculus based physics course as well. All this can be done without graduating from high school, at which point you will probably get your GED or whatever requirements a 4 year institution requires.
  10. Jun 16, 2010 #9
    Take classes at a community college. As others have said, you can take freshman physics, linear algebra, and diffeq there.

    If you wish to enter math competitions I suggest buying this book:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. Jun 17, 2010 #10
    How do you know? Do you mean that he might think more highly of himself? Because there is surely that possibility.
  12. Jun 18, 2010 #11
    Do you not have some sort of joint-enrollment plan where you live?

    Four years of high school is really a waste of time and those AP classes are highly inefficient--it's better to just take courses at the local college if you can; you'll have more options that way.
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