I know youre never too old, but

  • Thread starter DookJones
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  • #1
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Hi everyone,

This is my first time posting, though I've lurked for a while. I'm a 25 year-old high school graduate who tried to do things his way. Now I realize that I need an education and I want to focus on physics and engineering. I've loved reading Sagan and Greene and the like, and I want more than anything to understand the world. The problem is that I haven't been in school for 7 years and I'm pretty sure I can't divide fractions. I need some advice on where to start, or how to best get my brain ready for these studies. Maybe some math software or study guides suggestions? My tactic so far has to read every book I can get my hands on.

Thanks guys!
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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If I were you I'd look at all the texts used in the first year physics and first year engineering courses at a program you are likely to attend and start reading those. Do the exercises.

When you get stuck on something you don't understand, particularly if you don't even understand what the text means or what the problem is asking, wiki the material and then go read a textbook on that material (unless it's really basic and you can get it from google).

Then if you get stuck on something in that text, go back again. Repeat.

Work backwards, basically. I think this would be the cheapest and most efficient way to find out where you are at and when you're ready for the first year courses at some physics and/or engineering program. Once you can get through a good portion of the texts used in the courses without struggling too much (a little struggling is normal; probably optimal. Ideally, you don't want to take a course over material you've mastered already) you are ready.
 
  • #3
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I know at least a few people who are really smart but were in a similar situation, so in their mid-late 20's they went back to school to get a bachelors in engineering. If you're going to try to do something like that, though, you're going to want to be aggressive with strengthening your math skills. Khanacademy.org is a nice resource for that kind of thing. You're going to want to put a lot of time in on getting the math skills up to par--sooner the better. Other people probably know more about this than me but that's my 2 cents.
 
  • #4
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Khanacademy.com

It's a great resource that will get you up to speed to college level mathematics quickly.

I'm pushing 30 and I'm just now a junior in college. I find it easier now than it would have been when I was 18 because I am mature enough to know when I don't know something, and capable of planning the time to study.
 
  • #5
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Thanks for tips guys! I think I've found a new home for the next few years and beyond :)
 
  • #6
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Hi everyone,

This is my first time posting, though I've lurked for a while. I'm a 25 year-old high school graduate who tried to do things his way. Now I realize that I need an education and I want to focus on physics and engineering. I've loved reading Sagan and Greene and the like, and I want more than anything to understand the world. The problem is that I haven't been in school for 7 years and I'm pretty sure I can't divide fractions. I need some advice on where to start, or how to best get my brain ready for these studies. Maybe some math software or study guides suggestions? My tactic so far has to read every book I can get my hands on.

Thanks guys!

If you're really behind math-wise (e.g., you can barely handle algebra, and have no command of trig or calculus), then I'd start by picking up some basic math books like The Humungous Book of Algebra Problems and The Humungous Book of Calculus Problems and work through each and every one.

Once you've caught up with math, start studying the SAT Physics and AP Physics stuff. If you can master AP Physics, then you'll be well prepared for your freshman year of physics at a university.
 
  • #7
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Similar boat.

I too, thought I knew what I was doing when I decided to enter the work force after high school.

I did go back to university at age 20, but stupidly went with what I already knew instead of what I was interested in. I started an IT degree that didn't require any math or real thinking.

I finished up the requirements for a 2 year diploma and started an engineering degree at age 23. I hadn't touched math since grade 11 (was in enriched math, so we took math 12 in the first semester of grade 11 and I didn't take AP Calc), so that was about six years without touching any math.

My first year just ended and I've decided to stick with physics as opposed to continuing with engineering. However, since I did first year engineering, I completed 40 credits (as opposed to ~30 for a science student) and got primarily A's.


My advice? Don't worry too much about it and go for it.

You're going to pretty much cover all of high school physics in the first year, but doing it with calculus instead. You even start from the basics.

Math-wise... I struggled the first month, and then was on an even playing field with my straight-from-high school peers. Actually, I'd say I was at an advantage because I had caught up mathematically and I knew what was waiting for me if I didn't do well (entry-level jobs, ugh).


What you're going to need to brush up on (and it should only take ~2 weeks right before classes start)

- Basic algebra. Exponent rules, radicals... Like I said, very basic, just know the rules. Nothing quite as disheartening as a math prof handing you back your midterm and saying, "You were near perfect, but you lost almost 20% due to mistakes with your basic algebra!"

- Basic trigonometry. You need to know some basic identities, and you really need to know your unit circle and 'special triangles'.

You'll need both of those for your math and physics courses and that's about it.


However, if your university requires chemistry courses... I really can't help you. I didn't take any chem in high school and I'm not required to at my university.
 

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