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I need inspiration.

  1. Mar 2, 2012 #1
    I am undergrad chem major. I have a serious problem.

    This semester I am taking O.Chem, Gen. Physics 1, Genetics, and Calculus-total 20 cred of science courses.

    I love science (it's been my whole life's interest) and usually pretty enthusiastic about doing calculations, learning things, and figuring out stuff. But this semester things are somehow different. I lost interest in doing home works and studying, suddenly. I am taking a little more courses than I usually take and was struggling in the beginning of the semester, but was keeping up with hard work and careful scheduling. But now, it is halfway of the semester and I didn't do any studying for last 2 weeks. Midterms are coming next week, I am clueless about my classes, except calc.

    This sort of a loss of interest never happened to me before and it is strange. Suddenly, I don't want to work on the problems for hours or read textbooks or do practice problems. I just can't sit still and do stuff. What is happening?

    I frequently oversleep in the morning and miss at least one morning lecture and feel guilty afterward, but still can't push myself.

    I am just not who I was before. Nothing changed in my personal life, I don't have a boyfriend or painful break up, or any other issue, but the interest and will to work hard are not here.

    I wonder if it a regular thing that happens when you overwork yourself; your mind blanks out and get stressed. How can I spark my interest and get my persistence back? It is really bothering me.

    I have Physics homework due tonight and still don't want to do it. What the heck?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 3, 2012 #2
    Welcome to burn out! This is a common problem to those who work harder than usual. Why not try getting back to your usual work levels? Can you drop a course? Also take a really restful spring break! (Not too much partying... alcohol & lack of sleep are *really* bad for burnout... )
  4. Mar 3, 2012 #3
    I am a Physics major and felt like this when I took Gen. Chem. I just did NOT want to do the problems. I still ended up with a B. I went into it excited to learn chemistry. I just disliked the class.
  5. Mar 3, 2012 #4
    Right now I'm taking gen chem 1, gen physics 1, and calc 3. I am finding myself in a similar situation to you, I am on burnout and and not studying nearly as much as I did for previous semesters, even though I'm taking a more rigorous schedule. The only saving grace for me is that my friend gave me his previous exams for calc 3 so I can still do good on the tests, and for chem 1 there is a curve and extra credit so getting an A shouldn't be so bad, and for physics 1 I have more exposure to the material than the rest of the class and its curved. I just can't study all 3 of those subjects in rigorous detail without being burned out.

    Also, work + school at the same time sucks

  6. Mar 3, 2012 #5


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    Sometimes if pays to look at the other factors that may at first not seem like they have any effect on your motivation.

    What is your sleep schedule like? Are you getting enough on a regular basis? Do you have an erratic schedule where sometimes you're up until 3 in the morning and other times you're trying to sleep at 10:00 pm?

    How about exercise? Are you getting enough? Are you enjoying what you're doing for exercise? Could you add in a little more?

    Are you eating right? This is a big one for a lot of first-year university students who have cart blanche at the food courts with a meal plan. The fast food diet can make you pretty lethargic pretty fast.

    Stress. Sometimes doing poorly can create a negative feedback cycle - you stress about a bad grade and as a consequence you screw up on the next assignment or exam, which causes more stress... What about your commute? How much time are you spending in a car or on a bus? How much time do you spend listening to news that frustrates you, but doesn't really affect you?

    Something else that can happen with a heavy workload is that you start spending ALL of your time on stuff you have to do. You move from assignment to assignment, and mix in time to study for mid-terms and finals, and maybe if you're lucky some review or reading ahead, but the intellectual down time isn't there any more. Previously, this is time you would have used for reading about stuff that genuinely interested you, or creating new ideas - the stuff that motivates you to keep going in your classes. It's important to make time for "free thinking" activities like reading, personal research, hobbies to keep your motivation up.
  7. Mar 3, 2012 #6
    Here's motivation. If you do poorly in university then the rest of your life will probably (not certainly, but very probably) be very tough for you. Finding a decent job will be tough, because:
    (1) Everyone has a degree today, so doing poorly in your degree sets you far behind the competition.
    (2) Jobs are scarce in this economy, and likely will be for a few more years.

    I don't mean be rude or cruel, but that is the reality. If you fail and don't get a degree things will be even worse for you.

    It sounds like if you want to pass the semester you need to work very hard.

    You may want to force yourself to work. Set yourself time-targets. For example, tell yourself that each weekday you will spend 90 minutes, or whatever, on each course you are taking, and over the weekend 2 hours each, and stick to it.

    Think of university as a job. You have to put in a certain amount of hours each day in your job, otherwise you will be out on the street.

    On a less serious note, try to approach your courses with an open mind. You may be telling yourself that the courses you are taking are boring, and as a result they actually do become boring to you. Most subjects, I believe, and especially the sciences, are indeed interesting, but you have to believe they are interesting. Most importantly, it takes hard work and time before you actually start seeing for yourself that the subject is interesting.

    You make want to spend a bit of time in the library looking at other textbooks that cover the same material, and finding those that appeal to you. To be honest, I find most textbooks to lecturers recommend to be quite bland. If you are using an American textbook try reading a European one, or vice versa. Sometimes something silly like old-fashioned language, or quaint hand-drawn, black-and-white diagrams make a book more appealing (for me at least, for you it may be something else). In your desperate case, anything is worth trying, isn't it?

    Hope that helps.
  8. Mar 3, 2012 #7
    I took a number of years to finish off my undergraduate degree. Not because I was challenged, but because I wanted to find the right fit for me. Engineering to Education to Art History and, finally, to Geology. I was most tempted to follow the Art History program to its conclusion, but I happened upon a junior field assistant position with a government geological mapping program by complete fluke. I loved it. The lifestyle, the work, the use of left and right brain, etc...

    Anyway, the moral of my story is that your academic success does not need to be a straight line path. It certainly gets the degree faster, but not everyone has to or does focus strictly on one discipline. Do I recommend my approach? No. Mostly because it wasn't explicitly planned and seemed to happen out of sheer chance. But, if you happen to find yourself yearning for inspiration, it may be that you haven't found "your calling".
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 3, 2012
  9. Mar 3, 2012 #8
    I think Choppy's post is excellent. On top of that it sounds like you're saying it's a problem you are not excited about doing homework and studying. I don't think this is a problem at all, and says very little about you "losing interest in science". Many times there's a huge difference between having an interest in course material and grinding out the homework and other coursework required for a good grade in a class. I always go into a class with two goals, learning the material and getting a good grade. Given your learning style and how the class is taught you can be required to do a lot of work for the 2nd goal that helps you very little with the 1st.
  10. Mar 3, 2012 #9


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    I would generally disagree with this. Lots of people don't complete a university degree and end up doing quite well for themselves. Not everyone is going to excel in an academic envionment, but those who don't can still excel tremendously outside of it. Figuring this out early is a good thing and shouldn't be looked down upon or seen as a failure.
  11. Mar 4, 2012 #10
    That's why I said "probably", not "certainly". A hand full of examples where it is not true does not prove that what I said is wrong. You have to be very lucky if you do not have a degree or do poorly in your degree and still be able to make a decent living, but of course there are exceptions, just not so many.

    If you think that your chances of getting a decent job are as good as someone who worked consistently throughout their degree, never failed a course, and did well overall, whereas as you failed a year or some courses, or don't have a degree at all, then you must be living in a dreamland. And those types of people who do well in their degree are common. There must be hundreds, thousand of people in your country who graduate each year with a degree similar to yours, most of them doing decently, and these are probably the people you are competing against for a job.

    Of course you don't need a degree, or to do well in your degree, to get a decent job, but if you don't your chances are very much smaller. Well, if you are willing to gamble with the rest of your life by not doing well in your studies, then that's your choice. I, for one, will have tried to warn you.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  12. Mar 4, 2012 #11
    Thank you, all of you for the excellent advices and care to respond to my pity complaints.

    It was wrong of me to choose too many science creds in one semester any way. I thought carefully about what is happening and concluded I don't like working too much. This is the problem. I just hate not having free and creative time for myself, that is why I miss my doing-nothing time this semester and want it back. Anyway, it has been great lesson to me to know my study habits. So no more of 20 cred next semester.

    I might drop that Genetics course depending on how I would do on next midterm.

    Again, thank you all.

    By the way, that job aspect of life does not move me at all. I just don't give damn about future employment etc. How bad would it be really, you know? If someone does not offer me a job, too bad-it is their loss.
  13. Mar 4, 2012 #12
    Your schedule looks totally fine to me. I am very used to take only advanced math/science classes. (I took topology, combinatorics, an extremely algebra-heavy algebraic number theory and some other class). Starting my sophomore year, I have been working 90 hours a week.
    But it works differently for different people. So if you are stressed out, then drop one class. If there is a professor that you love, then you can motivate yourself by telling yourself that you don't want to let him/her down.
  14. Mar 4, 2012 #13


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    For what it's worth, you didn't inherently choose too many science credits. You're a chemistry major. You're supposed to take lots of science credits. If not now, eventually you would have had to do it. Learning your limitations is part of the university experience. If you figure this out early, it can be a good thing

    Well, unless you're already independently wealthy, it is worth at least considering potential careers at this stage of the game. At some point we all need to put food on the table. Although I agree, that using it as motivation is not something that's going to work for everyone.
  15. Mar 4, 2012 #14


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    I suspect our disagreement stems not from the probably/certainly semantic, but from the definition of "life being very tough" part. When someone tells me that life is going to be "very tough" I think along the lines of not being able to provide decent meals, shelter and clothing for my family.

    Perhaps you could explain a little more. How would you classify the skilled trades, for example: plumbers, electricians, welders, mechanics, carpenters, etc. No degree is needed there, and yet these professions tend to be paid very well and make decent livings. Or what about technical fields (x-ray technician, dental hygenist, optician, practical nurse)? Or "blue collar" service jobs (police officer, fire fighter, paramedic)?

    I'm not sure where this is coming from. I was pointing out that for some people (not necessarily the original poster) it's a good thing when they figure out that university isn't their thing. When people fall into this category, trying to stay in university because of a fear that they won't earn a decent living if they quit is a "beating the dead horse" scenario. If you find out after your first year that you hate academia, what's the point of wasting time and money on something that you're not capable of doing well at? Instead, I would think you'd be a lot better off exploring other options.
  16. Mar 5, 2012 #15
    Actually, it does. Isn't that the normal course load? If you can't handle that, I'm sorry to say it only gets worse.

    They are not pity. You don't seem to be taking university very seriously. Have you seriously thought about what you will do if you drop out of university?

    Firstly, have you calculated that you can take the courses you need to graduate and not have a single 20-credit semester?
    Have you considered that you may fail one or more of the courses you are currently taking, and have to re-take it later?
    On the one hand, you say you don't really spend your time studying, but you also say you don't have free time. Now those can't possibly be both true.

    Look, you are in university now. You are becoming an adult. Having less free time is part of being an adult. Either you come to terms with having very little free time over the 4 years you spend in university, the reward being a decent job, or you muck about, do poorly, or even fail, and then God only knows where you end up.

    Look you, I so feel like giving you a good shake and snaping you back to reality. So you are not even half way through the semester??? If you are willing to work hard starting now you can still pass all your courses. If you fail one or more courses your work load will only be greater later on. And moreover, your future courses will build on the ones you are taking now, so if you don't know the stuf you are doing now, you will really suffer later on.
    I just wish you'd catch a wake-up.

    Well, I don't know what you say. If you really don't mind being homeless or living off daddy's money, then that's your business.


    Actually, you answered your own question. Those are skilled trades, i.e. you still have to study for them, probably not at a university, but at a technical college, or in an apprenticeship or whatever. You can't think if you fail university you can just go and become a plumber. Btw, people in the 'technical fields' as you call it, actually do need a degree of some sort, or at least training, as far as I know.

    No, that was not at all clear from your post. What was pretty clear was that the OP thought she enjoyed science. And if you drop out now you have to think about paying off your university debts, and how will you get a job to do that? Dropping out and 'trying to figure out what you want' is far more riskier in my eyes than buckling down, getting a degree, and then figuring out what you want. A degree is a foot in the door to getting a good job, not necessarily in the area you studied. So would you rather have a degree and try finding out what you want, or without a degree and try finding out what you want? I know which I would chose. And in the USA, don't you take all those general education courses or whatever you call them, precisely so you have some chance of figuring out what you want to do?

    And not everyone finds a job they enjoy, in fact, most people do not. If your sole aim in life to to find your perfect calling and perfect job, I'm afraid you will likely be very disappointed in life. You need to come to grips that you need to work for a living (well, most of us), and that you probably won't love your job, or hate either, but your chances of getting a better job are higher with a degree than without.

    My point is that if you get your degree you will have a better chance of finding a job you like, not that a degree will ruin your chances of finding a job you like, or it's the only way, but that it is the most likely. I hardly think anyone will disagree with that.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2012
  17. Mar 5, 2012 #16
    I think Choppy's primary disagreement comes from this quote right here...which in my mind is not the proper motivation. Scenarios such as not being able to cut it in the academia world are not do or die as most academics would have you believe.

    Actually, a few examples to the contrary are called counterexamples which usually are used to prove something in general is not correct.

    I think that while qspeechc might not be wrong in what he said, he was wrong in the way he said it.
  18. Mar 6, 2012 #17
    I know what a counter-example is, but we are talking about probability, not whether a theorem is true or false. My point was that it will probably be worse, I don't know how I can make that clearer, I am just repeating myself over and over. I have made it abundantly clear I do not mean 'certainly', in which case 'counter-examples' would be appropriate, I meant 'probably'.

    And I have been working for several years now, and I know plenty of university acquaintances and other working people to know for myself how important a good education is, rather than taking an academics word for it.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2012
  19. Apr 18, 2012 #18
    Well. I am serious about my study though. I have been working before I got in the university. I am in my 20s and only finishing my first year in college. Believe me, I really want to be in college and do science. I know how it is to be out there, uneducated labor-force-not desirable, but still possible to have a decent life without much headache. I figured it after being working for nearly three years at the food service to hospital technician and just thought I care about science too much not to pursue it.

    I don't think taking 20 cred of science is very common, I might be wrong. When I was scheduling for this semester, I overestimated my capabilities. I was switching from major and thinking to double major. That is why I scheduled too many creds. Now I know I am not double majoring, no need to suffer through uninteresting useless classes just for the sake of completing them.

    Agree. It sounds contradicting. What I meant is for someone like me who likes having free time, forcing yourself not to have your enjoyable life-style just increases stress level and to me, it leads to even worse efficiency.

    Or the other possibility would be I am maybe just losing interest in science or certain areas of science. This whole thing about memorizing things in classes like o chem is -yes, annoying. I used to wonder why so many smart people don't like sciences like chemistry. I understand them, now, because to compare with physics type of science, where as long as you have a solid understanding of the concept and skills of math, you can figure out stuff on the spot versus organic chem, you must have experience and knowledge on the names and different scenarios of the reaction.

    Anyhow. Thank you all again. I dropped that genetics course, since I dropped the bio major altogether. So only left with my chem required course. Still o. chem is torturous, maybe because I didn't study enough early on in the semester. I'll do my best and try to pass without needing to retake the damn thing.
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