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I never graduated from high school, what are my options?

  1. Dec 11, 2011 #1
    This is a little long but bare with me, I need help from some experts.
    So I left high school when I was 15. Not because I was stupid, dumb, illiterate or whatever, it's because I was bullied. But I won't go into that. I made a career decision at 17 that I would be a custom motorcycle builder, fabricator blah blah blah, but when I graduated from my course I couldn't get a job in a workshop. For the last two years I've been working in the retail department of motorcycle stores and I hate it, it's mind numbing and I won't go far in life with it. Plus I feel I've wasted the $20,000 it cost me to do the course.
    Now, since I was a little kid, I've been fascinated with space and science. In the last year physics has really taken me by storm. I find I love it. I love reading about the history of physics, I love the challenge of trying to understand concepts that seem beyond comprehension, I love everything about it, and the difficulty of it doesn't care me a bit. I love the problem solving, it keeps my hyperactive mind busy. Now, problem. I'd love to study this full time, however, I have no school quals. I can do a uni preperation but I'm told you have to have a strong background in year 12 and 13 school studies, which I don't have. I am doing correspondence studies at the moment but the maths homework stares at me from the corner like a big black spider. The maths I am struggling with. I can add, subtract, divide and multiply, but these weird words that come with it just baffle me. Any ideas where I can get GOOD maths help?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2011 #2


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    Hey gizmo6 and welcome to the forums.

    Where abouts are you from? It's going to be easier for posters here to give advice if you tell us this first.
  4. Dec 11, 2011 #3
    It sounds like you're from the UK. Here in the US, we have something called community colleges, or junior colleges, where you can start basically from scratch with no background. Does the UK have something similar?
  5. Dec 11, 2011 #4
    I'm from New Zealand. Land of the great Earnest Rutherford :-)
  6. Dec 11, 2011 #5
    I can't give advice specific to New Zealand, but here is my advice from a US perspective:
    Self study using the internet. There are many good sites, and there are many threads here discussing these sites, so look for those threads. My personal favorite is Khan Academy. Khan does 10 minute videos on a wide variety of math and science subjects, and is very good at intuitively explaining things.

    After you feel comfortable, get your GED. In the US the GED is a test one can take that gives the equivalence to a high school diploma. I imagine New Zealand has something similar.

    After that got to a community college. These are low cost colleges that allow anyone to start taking classes, but only grant two year degrees. After that you transfer to a full university that grants four year degrees. Again this is how it is in the US, but I have to imagine other countries have something similar.
  7. Dec 12, 2011 #6
    I was in a similar situation (I’m in the US though). When I was in grade school I missed a lot of school (I spent some time in a hospital), in middle school I got the shaft too, and by the time High School rolled around I missed a lot of that too.

    When I went back to school, first thing they did was start me off with basic math, which was a semester of adding/subtracting, long division, multiplication, etc. The next semester I took what the school called Intermediate Algebra, which consisted of Linear equations, factoring polynomials, square roots, etc. The semester after that, I took Algebra I (maybe College Algebra?), this consisted of polynomials, square roots, imaginary numbers, un-factorable polynomials (needed to know the quadratic equation, square root property, etc.). I’m starting Precalculus in January and very excited.

    My advice to you is to do the same. Take a class that starts you off with the basic math, then go on to Intermediate Algebra, etc. You might as well get your GED (or whatever they call it in NZ).

    When I started, I would study for a few hours every night to get my speed up, so I could pass the tests. They didn’t allow calculators (which I think is the best way, especially for me). Also, what I mean by “study for a few hours” is to do math problems, I would do nothing, but factor math problems until I would dream factoring of polynomials (for real). When I started the basic math I would do practice worksheets with nothing but “Add 47+43” or “Add 32+87” etc, and do timed tests. I time myself on everything I do and try to improve my speed.

    From my point of view, nothing beats taking a class, with a teacher, a chalk board, and doing homework every night.

  8. Dec 12, 2011 #7
    Thanks for that, that is what I'm trying to do, the correspondence doesn't work for me because if I get stuck, I've got no one to help me through it. It's actually really difficult to find that kind of school here, I can't find anything close to that! I'll keep looking though cause that's exactly what I want to do and what I've been searching for.
  9. Dec 12, 2011 #8
    Did you look at Khan Academy? He does a very good job of explaining things. And since the videos are short you can find the one on just the part you are stuck on.

    Also there is the homework section here on these forums. People will be happy to help you through a problem you are stuck with.
  10. Dec 12, 2011 #9


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    Hey gizmo, welcome to PF!

    It *is* possible to become a scientist starting from where you are now.

    Like others have said, you have to start with a bit of math. Self-study is very, very tough - you really need a class. Knowing that you have to get your homework done because it's due tomorrow is a great motivator. Otherwise, it just stares at you from the corner :smile:.

    Alternatively, you could hire a tutor. Just an hour or two a week will help you get enough correspondence courses done, so you can start uni preparation courses.

    Btw, I sort of dropped out of school at a very early age. I tried to get back into high school but I had missed so much, they wouldn't let me into the mainstream classes. I was placed into vocational classes. Even so, I eventually got a BS in physics. So, I know it can be done - but it takes a long time, and a lot of work.

    One thing you have to know, though. I think some people fall into this trap: "I want to be a scientist but I can't even figure out this elementary algebra problem - I'll never make it!" That is a very wrong attitude. Your journey will be hard at *every* step! You will struggle, but it's worth it.

    Best of all, you've found PF. There are people here who will help you, only because they like helping people learn science and math.
  11. Dec 12, 2011 #10
    In a weird kind of way that's one of the things that attracts me to physics. Yes it's hard, but it's a lot of fun solving the problems and trying to "get it". My brain is super hyper active and it gets me into a lot of trouble at jobs. I'm typing this now at work and I could get into some serious trouble, but ****, I AM BORED!:grumpy: The only thing I've ever stuck at is tertiary study, and I think I'd really enjoy Uni. Cheers for the advice. :biggrin:
  12. Dec 12, 2011 #11


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    gizmo, my father quit HS to join Airborne in WWII. He was eventually given a diploma by his old HS. He took a correspondence-course in geometry to help himself learn advanced layout skills for sheet-metal fabrication back when I was a kid. You have options.
  13. Dec 13, 2011 #12
    Thanks for the advice, but it is now 2011, not 1945 and the population is now 7 billion not 2 billion. Competition is more fierce than ever. Options are available, but they are highly competitive, especially since in NZ universities are being more and more picky and reducing class numbers every year. But thank you for the motivation. It helps
  14. Dec 13, 2011 #13


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    Hey gizmo6 and welcome to the forums.

    I'm an Australian citizen so maybe I could offer you advice a bit closer to home.

    In Australia we have a technical college known as TAFE (Technical and Future Education). Certain courses can be used as a way to get into university courses.

    Also we have an entry test known as the STAT test which can be taken by mature age students to get into university directly.

    I don't know the NZ system, but chances are there might just be an analog to the above entry schemes for your system over there.
  15. Dec 13, 2011 #14
    Great advice from everybody here.

    Yes, this is possible for you but it will take a lot of work.

    The absolute most important subject to focus on right now is mathematics. Study math for a while: algebra, precalc, geometry, trig, etc.

    Go to khan academy and watch the videos. Buy an algebra book and work ALL the problems!! If you get stuck: ask on this forums.

    Even better would be to enroll is some "second-chance education" or whatever it is in New-Zealand.

    Let us know how you're doing!

    You have an exiting journey in front of you. I'm jealous :tongue:
  16. Dec 13, 2011 #15
  17. Dec 14, 2011 #16

    I like Serena

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    So go to a uni and ask what you need to do to get in.
    You'll probably need to do some entrance exam or something, but that will give you a goal to achieve!
    And then things may start to get rolling...
  18. Dec 14, 2011 #17
    I agree, go down to the Uni and find out what needs to be done. There must be something that can be done in NZ.

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