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I got a C in discrete math! My life is over!

  1. May 12, 2010 #1
    I think I've screwed up my future. I am in my third year, double major in physics and math (math major more to supplement my understanding of physics), and this semester was just horrid. I made the mistake of moving off campus, working two jobs, and in the time I had to study, could not focus well.

    I just got my grades back, and among the usual As and Bs, I got a C in an introductory discrete math course. I still have two years of undergraduate left. I plan to get a doctorate in Physics. Have my dreams been killed by this C? Are there grad schools out there, decent ones, that accept students who get one C?

    Other than the C, my transcript is pretty ok; As and Bs, mostly As. I also have some killer research experience.

    Thank you for any support; I'm really sad right now.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 12, 2010 #2
    I know plenty of Professors who failed exams when they were students. If getting one C would make it diffucult to get into a Ph.D. program, then it looks to me that the exams are far too easy in the US.
  4. May 12, 2010 #3
    One C? That's not even bad. I know exactly what two jobs, living off-campus and studying feels like, it's overwhelming. It's an intro course, not an upper year course, so it doesn't weigh in as much. If you keep up the A's next semester(s), you'll be just fine. Honestly, youyr research experience vastly outweighs your C in an intro class. Stop worrying about it.


  5. May 12, 2010 #4
    Have a look around this forum. You'll find plenty of people that got C's, or worse. One grade does not determine your future.

    Whilst a C in isolation isn't particularly bad, you will want to re-evaluate your approach if you're finding that you're over-committed to work (at least, if unnecessarily so).

    Throughout my high school I never had anything less than an A, the same was true until my third year in university when I got a C. I was disappointed but knew why, so focussed and took it from there. It isn't all that much of a problem.
  6. May 12, 2010 #5
    I think we need to start a "Spring 2010 results" thread where everybody can post their successes and failures this semester. This is the second or third "oh noes! I got an __!" thread I've seen.
  7. May 12, 2010 #6
    Thank you for the kind words. Do any of you personally know someone who has gone on to get a PhD with a C in their undergraduate program? I just feel so inadequate....so disappointed. I feel like I let down all the people in my department, because I know so many of them. It's really devastating.

    Do you know if it is possible to retake the course, or does this only happen if (hah) I had failed it?

    Thanks again,
    miss fangula
  8. May 12, 2010 #7
    You have to ask yourself why it is that you got a C. Did you understand the material? Were you only having a bad day when you took the final exam? Were you completely lost? You cannot always have a top performance, mediocre results are sometimes just a result of inattention.

  9. May 12, 2010 #8

    I did not have enough time to study. At least I know the problem, so I can fix it in the future.
  10. May 12, 2010 #9
    I got a couple of C's in undergrad courses that were much more important than discrete math, and got a PhD from a top tier program. Chill.
  11. May 12, 2010 #10
    Good news!

    I spoke to my advisor today, and he informed me that I can retake the class, and the C will not count toward my gpa, but it will still be on the transcript!

    So, I will retake discrete math in the spring. Every cloud has a silver lining! And thanks for the encouragement!

    -miss fangula
  12. May 12, 2010 #11
    I wouldn't discourage you from re-taking that discrete math course for a better grade, but only do that when you have nothing more important to do. There are so many wonderful courses out there for you, and I think it would be a good opportunity for you to try out those courses, and I don't want you to miss that opportunity by re-taking discrete math again (not saying that discrete math is a boring subject, however.)

    Besides, is discrete math that important for physics? Sure, the topics covered in discrete math comes up a lot of places in math, but I think there are other very important courses for physics majors to take (e.g. any physics classes, PDE, Fourier analysis, complex variables, linear algebra). I think it's much more impressive to get an A or high B in upper division physics/math courses than getting an A in lower-division discrete math (and I think graduate school admissions would probably agree with me too).

    But again, I'm not physics major or a graduate school admission council, so I might be wrong :\
  13. May 12, 2010 #12
    Piece of Pi,

    No doubt you are correct in that there are many important physics courses to take. I don't have much time left (only 2 years!), and there are many math and physics courses offered here that may prove very useful in the long run. That C won't be going anywhere, so probably the wise decision is to move on and take other courses, and if I have time over a summer, nothing else is offered a semester, then consider retaking discrete.

    Thanks for the advice, this forum is such a friendly place!

    miss fangula
  14. May 12, 2010 #13
    I have a feeling I got about a C on my physics final I took today...

    but on the bright side I have about an 8.8 lab average (out of 10) and no one ever gets a 10 unless you win a bet with the professor or something, and the labs are worth 60% of your final grade.
  15. May 12, 2010 #14
    What-that's it, a "C". boohoo. Lifes long baby, grow up. Wow. Almost everything I work at fails, "everytime" and I try so hard. But now and then we luck-out and maybe once in a life time you hit the big one,yaaaa. Forget the marks (abc), enjoy the thinking part. Push hard for the joy of it.
  16. May 12, 2010 #15
    Cheers, Stewart! And welcome to physics forums!
  17. May 14, 2010 #16
    I did.
  18. May 14, 2010 #17
    I did too. I actually also got a C for an introductory discrete math course. I got 7 out of 10 which I think is the same as a C in the US system. There were 3 questions on the exam, two enumeratve combinatoric problems and one graph theory problem. I hadn't studied graph theory very well, so I got that graph theory question wrong, ending up getting approximately 2/3 of the questions correct.

    In my case, I didn't have to take the course, or pass the exam at all, I just did this for fun. So, I ended up studying only those topics that I was most interested in.

    I studied about generating functions, Polya's theorem, Möbius inversion, some graph theory. But I was mostly interested in combinatorics. So, I spent some time proving Polya's theorem myself without looking in the book, even though for the course you only had to be able to use that theorem.

    It was also a lot of fun to invent problems myself and solving them that were far harder than anything in the book. E.g. consider counting the number inequivalent directed or undirected of graphs of, say, 5 vertices using Polya's theorem. You'll be surprised how many there are.

    Studying the proof of Ramsey's theorem was also very interesting, but I ultimately ended up not mastering everything that I needed to be able to score 10 out of 10. I could have easily done much better in the exam had I just stuck to the curriculum, but that would have meant that I would not have studied the topics of my interest as deeply as I did.
  19. May 23, 2010 #18
    Count (and all else who want to reply),

    For me it was a question of time. I took too much on my plate, with my jobs, commute, full course load. There were several warning signs, which I overlooked, because I thought I would still do fine.

    I've decided that I am going to retake the course next spring. my advisor told me that it is the school policy that I can retake up to three classes, and so long as I improve my grade, the C will not count towards my GPA. I've decided that even though there are other course offerings, and I will take as many as I can, I cannot live with myself doing so poorly in a subject.

    Do you think that if I study my arse off and earn an A this will help me significantly in the eyes of grad school boards? That is one of my two major concerns.

    My other major concern is summer research opportunities. Unfortunately, the course is only offered in the spring, so by then, I will have already received acceptance/rejection for next summer reus, so they will not get to see my improvement in that course. What do you think I can do? Do you think it is a good idea to ask my professor if I can do an independent study for three credits, in other words do the work on my own this fall? I was thinking about asking, but I'm not sure if it's appropriate.

    miss fangula

    ps. Count, the grading system you are describing sounds like the one my parents used. you are not by chance from Romania, are you?
  20. May 23, 2010 #19
    I'm not from Romania, but I think in most European countries they have a similar system.

    I think the best thing is to focus your efforts so that you can get ahead as much as possible. That leaves you with more room to study. So, if it would take a lot of time and affort to improve on the C grade, then it may be better to study something else. Studying topics like general relativity, advanced quantum mechanics, quantum field theory etc. will be more useful than studying discrete mathematics if you plan to get into physics research.
  21. May 23, 2010 #20

    Andy Resnick

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    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Maybe I'm unusually cranky right now, but stop whining. Seriously. If you have decided that a single 'C" equals an end to your career in physics, then get out now and do something else.

    Do you want to be a physicist or not?
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