1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

I want to get a degree in Physics, but I'm scared I fooled around too much

  1. Jul 5, 2004 #1
    In highschool, I treated school like a joke.

    When I started college I did great the first semester, but in the 2nd & 3rd semester, I messed aroudn horribly. I had a 3.8 GPA in semester 1, after 2 & 3 I now had a GPA of about 1.8

    I never knew what I wanted to do with my life, much less take it seriously, and now that I have discovered Physics and something I am really excited about I'm unsure if I am beyond repair.

    I have F's in college courses: Psychology, Philosophy of Religion, Anthropology, Kinesiology, Pre-calculus (twice!) and Intro to C++. That's a LOT of F's

    I am not sure how the system works, if I retake a class does the new grade average out with the old F? Or does the new grade replace the F? Is it even possible for anyone who has fooled around so much to go from where I am at right now to getting a GPA suitable to tranfer into a University and then afterwards go on to Graduate Studies? How bad has this permanently damaged me?

    these F's are not from my in-ability to do the courses, these F's are from me being lazy and not showing up to class, getting a girlfriend, working a full-time job, and obssessively playing an MMORPG (Final Fantasy XI Online), and just treating college as something I HAVE to do, but have all the time in the world to eventually finish. Needless to say I now regret ever having this childish outlook on life.

    I am just really depressed right now because I am finally getting my life in order and making good grades but I am not sure if I can even accomplish my goals with a record like this. Any advice would be appreciated.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2004
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 5, 2004 #2
    Your high school and college career sounds just like mine. I ended up with a Ph.D., so there is hope.

    In fact, there is no insurmountable hurdle. A change in attitude and study habits are all that is needed as long as you have the necessary intelligence.

    RE: "In highschool, I treated school like a joke."

    Yep, so did I. I was a great student in my freshman year, but didn't even complete high school. I left early to work as a mechanic. I had to later get my GED so that I could attend a local junior college.


    RE: "When I started college I did great the first semester, but in the 2nd & 3rd semester, I messed aroudn horribly. I had a 3.8 GPA in semester 1, after 2 & 3 I now had a GPA of about 1.8"

    You started off better than I did. I failed two of my first four courses. But I did better from there on. Still, I was placed on academic probation for much of my first two years of college.


    RE: "I never knew what I wanted to do with my life, much less take it seriously, and now that I have discovered Physics and something I am really excited about I'm unsure if I am beyond repair."

    Nothing is beyond repair. Even if they throw you out of college you can still go back to JC, pick up your grades, and go back to a public university.

    RE: "I have F's in college courses: Psychology, Philosophy of Religion, Anthropology, Kinesiology, Pre-calculus (twice!) and Intro to C++. That's a LOT of F's"

    You have me beat by one. :)
    But F's are better than C's to a certain extent. You cannot replace C's at most schools, so their damage to one's GPA is permanent. But F's can be replaced (as can D's.)

    RE: "I am not sure how the system works, if I retake a class does the new grade average out with the old F? Or does the new grade replace the F?"

    Depends on the school, but most of the time the grade is replaced for purposes of calculating a GPA. (However, the original grade stays on the transcript.)

    RE: "Is it even possible for anyone who has fooled around so much to go from where I am at right now to getting a GPA suitable to tranfer into a University and then afterwards go on to Graduate Studies? How bad has this permanently damaged me?"

    Not only is it possible, but your struggles have prepared you particularly well for a teaching stint once you finish. You will understand how students struggle. In fact, I got a teaching stint at a respectable university by emphasizing my poor academic record when starting out as a physics student. One prof even commented that he liked the idea that I could relate to the C student, and not just the A student. (I think he meant that as a compliment - heh.)

    RE: "these F's are not from my in-ability to do the courses, these F's are from me being lazy and not showing up to class, getting a girlfriend, working a full-time job, and obssessively playing an MMORPG (Final Fantasy XI Online), and just treating college as something I HAVE to do, but have all the time in the world to eventually finish. Needless to say I now regret ever having this childish outlook on life.

    The question is, are you going to do something about it? If you are still playing MMORPG, then maybe not.

    You know what the problem is. You know what you have to do. So do it, and consider your past the past.

    RE: "I am just really depressed right now because I am finally getting my life in order and making good grades but I am not sure if I can even accomplish my goals with a record like this. Any advice would be appreciated."

    Aaah man, don't worry. Just lay down some good grades and things will fall in place. So you may not be able to get into Harvard because of your academic record. So what? You can still get accepted into graduate school and earn a Ph.D. But your habits need to change dramatically.

    Uncle dies the week before a test. Don't go to the funeral. (Send some flowers instead.)

    Best friend getting married. Too bad. You have academic work to do. If he's a friend, he will understand.

    So here is my recipe for your success:

    1. Take the classes over that you failed. Replace those grades.
    2. Study hard for the GRE once you enter your junior year.
    3. Apply for graduate school mainly at Tier II and Tier III universities.
    4. Find a good advisor that has a solid reputation in the physics community, a pleasant personality, and money.

    And go for it!

    When writing my dissertation, I remembered my poor academic career and struggles. So in the Dedication section I wrote to my kids "Never give up." (Yes, I raised two kids while attending graduate school. Life has been rough in many ways -- but life has been good in others.)

    I offer the same advice to you.
     
  4. Jul 5, 2004 #3
    Wow, thank you so much for taking your time to reply.
    This is definitly the advice I needed to hear and has given me much more confidence in being able to obtain my future goals. I'm currently reading and working along with "Calculus Made Easy" to hopefully prepare me for the Fall semester and so far it's going good and man it's a great book. And yes I've cancelled my Final Fantasy XI account and sold it on ebay :smile:

    Thanks again so much for the good reply and advice!!
     
  5. Jul 6, 2004 #4
    I remember my introductory lecture when I went to university. pretty much one of the firt things they said, was that all the physics up to that point was a load of rubbish, and would have to be relearned. Hopefully your university will pick by aptitude and ability, if so, you shouldn't have a problem :)
     
  6. Jul 6, 2004 #5
    Nice job, John. And you could not be more correct: Never give up. If you have the passion and the drive nothing can stop you. Chem, he gives great advice so stick to it. I had a similar experience but pulled it out and starting this year will be teaching physics. Good luck!
     
  7. Jul 7, 2004 #6
    Stick with it!

    I like the responses to this question. I am an aspiring physics graduate student myself. I had similar experiences while in undergrad too. I flunked out with a 0.0 GPA, but I have fixed all that and graduated with honors. It has been a long battle, but one I have greatly enjoyed. In fact, I do not know what to do with myself now that I have graduated and have spare time. Currently I am studying for my GRE subject test so I can hopefully get accepted somewhere. I didn't know what I wanted to do until my senior year so I am taking my graduate tests this fall. I would establish some relationships with your profs so you have decent letters of recomendations for the graduate schools you apply to.

    To those with experience:

    I am applying to graduate schools for the fall of 2005. I have a B.S. in physics from a small state university. Should I worry about the strength of the department I graduated from? There were only five seniors in my class and I am deathly afraid my undegraduate school will limit the graduate schools which would accept me. Also I would like to stay involved with physics during my "year off". What kinds of things are possible? There do not seem to be any employment options for a person seeking a one-year long term. Right now I simply plan to take classes in the spring to learn more.
     
  8. Jul 7, 2004 #7
    Funny, I'm in the same exact situation except that I graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science. I took the CS GRE last year but did miserably since the test was in the morning, I had three hours of sleep, and I had intestinal problems (of the toilet seeking kind). Worst experience of my life. Anyways, I'll be taking it again this year. I want to take the Physics GRE test too but at the rate I'm going, I don't think it will be possible.

    You might be asking "Why are you taking the Physics GRE test?" I want to do research in quantum computing and since this area is primarily govered by the physics community, I need to know some physics. I want to learn the stuff I need to know on my own, although I think it would be better to go back to college and take the proper courses. What do you think?
     
  9. Jul 7, 2004 #8
    Well while we're all campy and sharing our experiences I'll share mine as well. Actually I'll give you mine and two friends. I barely passed highschool, hated math (or what they called it) never took physics. I took off two years to travel and work for the man before I went back to school for history and languages. Then I picked up this book by Lawrence Krauss on the the physics of sci-fi or something. He had all these numbers and orders of magnitudes floating around and i became curious as to how he figured these things out. (at this point I didn't know math was used in science). So I bought an algebra text (the remidial sort) and taught myself how to solve polynomials, how to graph functions. Five years later I have a BA in Math (and a single lab short of a BA in physics) and I'm beginning my MA in Math (focusing on math-physics of course :biggrin: ).

    Another friend of mine, who just completed his first year at Brandeis in a physics PhD program failed out of highschool, got a GED, entered a community college for nursing and after taking an anatomy course got kind of excited about science. This, believe it or not, led him to physics, and now he is pursuing theorectical physics at the graduate level.

    Yet another friend of mine (he's a philosopher, but a philosopher of science and math, a good one at that) barely made it through high school as a druggie drummer. floated around for a year and enrolled at university as a landscaper major. From there a gen-ed philosophy course caught his interest and long story short he's working on a PhD at Northwestern. (for those of you who don't know, this is a really good school for philosophy, and hard to get into).

    So the moral of the story, is that the three of us made guidance counselors cringe and sigh. Years later we're pretty successful.

    The important thing is that you pursue your ambitions,

    Kevin
     
  10. Jul 7, 2004 #9

    Gokul43201

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    If you know any professors that are actively involved in research, you could ask to work for them. Most schools have some kind of REU - Research Experience for Undergraduates - Program. Find out from your physics department office.

    Classes are good !
     
  11. Jul 7, 2004 #10
    Thanks for all who shared their experiences (and their friends' experiences too!) I get down on myself because I feel I royally screwed things up (twice!) and it feels good to know that others have made great strides and are doing well for themselves.

    I would think the amount of time you have before the test would be the deciding factor. If you have a lot of time and are a really quick learner, than you might be able to learn it on your own. However, there are some concepts in physics which may be very difficult to digest without the aid of a teacher or other students who are just as confused as you are. As much as I hate to ask for help or to study in groups there are instances where a learned individual can clarify ideas or suggest methods (without giving away the answer) to help. Sometimes it is necessary to "see the light" in order to grasp the concepts you will have to learn. Also a teacher will most likely provide demonstrations and provide neat stuff like some history of physics, which is enjoyable (I am currently enjoying "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat" by John Gribbon which is a history of the development of quantum mechanics)

    I am currently studying by reading through my freshman text and working through the problems at the end of each chapter. It might be overkill, but its all very enjoyable :smile: , especially when I come across a topic I had such a hard time with freshman year and it is all so clear to me now. Since there is no "standard" review book per se available, you will be mostly on your own.

    BTW, is quantum computing based on quantum electronic devices or something else? I have heard the term, but am not familar with it.

    Hope this helps.
     
  12. Jul 8, 2004 #11
    RE: "I am applying to graduate schools for the fall of 2005. I have a B.S. in physics from a small state university. Should I worry about the strength of the department I graduated from? There were only five seniors in my class and I am deathly afraid my undegraduate school will limit the graduate schools which would accept me."

    You only need to be accepted by one graduate school. So why worry? No matter where you are accepted, there will be a top-notch professor there doing some cool research that would love to have you working for them. So pick a large number of middling institutions that have concentrations that appeal to you. Apply at LOTS of places. (Yeah, they charge $50 or so. Big deal! This is your future you're talking about, so borrow the money if you need to. Just APPLY!)

    Why does everyone get so stressed out about this?
     
  13. Jul 8, 2004 #12
    Wow! That's a start!! I can see you have just changed your habits completely, that takes great willpower! I wish you good luck with your future :)
     
  14. Jul 8, 2004 #13
    Funny, I'm doing the exact same thing with my books.

    Quantum computing is based on quantum mechanics. Quantum computing is the study of how quantum mechanical systems can be used to solve computational problems. A lot of physicists are now doing research on developing a decent quantum computer (something that can handle more than two qubits). There are many ways to 'construct' a quantum computer, with the techniques used in quantum optics seem to be the most promising at the moment. However, I don't want to enter this particular area. I'll leave it to the experimental physicits.
     
  15. Jul 8, 2004 #14
    Your advice is very much appreciated. I am applying to four PhD programs and one M.Sc. program. Are you suggesting that I apply to more than this? You are correct, the larger the number of programs I apply to will greatly increase my chances of getting accepted somewhere, however, I do not want to overburden my kind professors who are writing my recomendations with a large number of different forms. Most graduate programs have thier own, specific form for recomendations. These things take time out of their lives and I feel they ay get frustrated by the time they get to the bottom of the pile and then my recomendation may suffer as a result.

    I believe people get so stressed out about applying to graduate schools because it really is our future at stake!
     
  16. Jul 8, 2004 #15
    RE: ":You are correct, the larger the number of programs I apply to will greatly increase my chances of getting accepted somewhere, however, I do not want to overburden my kind professors who are writing my recomendations with a large number of different forms."

    That's their job. Besides, they should be attaching their own letters as a substitute for section where they are supposed to enter their comments on your qualifications. If they are doing that, then they can run off multiple copies of the same letter for attachment. Writing additional letters of recommendation is realliy not much of a burden once your write the first one.

    I would apply for at least four more colleges -- those that you have a solid chance of being accepted.

    RE: "I believe people get so stressed out about applying to graduate schools because it really is our future at stake!"

    But the choice of graduate school is not what makes or breaks you. Rather, the choice of ADVISOR is where most students make their mistake. I choose advisors based on five main criteria:

    1. Can I get along with this person? (SUPER, DUPER IMPORTANT!)

    2. Does the advisor have any money for research assistantships and travel?

    3. Does the advisor have political support with the rest of the department?

    4. Is the advisor doing research that I am interested in?

    5. Does the advisor have a solid reputation within the physics community.

    Typically, students only look at the fourth and fifth items listed. This can be a crucial mistake.

    So does it really matter that much whether you attend the University of Kentucky or Princeton? Sure, but the difference is not that great if you choose the right advisor. And in many instances you will have the advantage if your advisor is well-regarded in his or her field.

    So there is no need to go to Princeton to position yourself for employment if you choose your advisor carefully. Ask the other grad students; they'll tell you who to work for.
     
  17. Jul 8, 2004 #16
    I think you have a good perspective on this. I really appreciate the insight you have offered (and your time). I do believe I will apply to more programs. Its awful important to me that I get my chance to attend graduate school, and it does not especially matter to me what school I go to, as long as I get to learn more about physics!

    In an earlier posting on this thread, you mentioned Tier II and III programs. Is there some rating system of physics graduate programs I am not aware of? I have read many program descriptions and have not seen these terms mentioned.

    Thanks again!
     
  18. Jul 9, 2004 #17
    I was referring to the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which are reasonably meaningful when applied to graduate programs. (They are useless for evaluating undergraduate programs, however.)

    I wouldn't pay that much attention to them. Instead get the Graduate Programs in Physics book from AIP and look at their requirements. Although they are over usually overstated, this data can be useful when compared between schools.
     
  19. Dec 19, 2004 #18
    If any one wants to have a success in life...just read those comments!
    I have printed them and put them infront of my desk.

    hhegab
     
  20. Jul 8, 2005 #19
    Wow, I'm impressed. This gives me hope (although I haven't failed any classes...). Still, it takes the pressure of significantly.
     
  21. Sep 26, 2007 #20
    Man, I'm so glad I found this site! I had problems much similar to Chemical Penguin. I stopped doing work when I was in Junior High, but they wouldn't hold me back because my test scores were astronomical. I wen through high school barely doing anything, and at the beginning of my senior year I only had a GPA of like 0.05 or something ridiculous like that. I never even finished out high school. I got out early by taking the California High School Proficiency Exam (which I completely slaughtered) and then fooled around for 7 years, jumping from job to job never knowing what I wanted. I'd always get exicted by something and then burn out really first.

    Now, I'm almost 26, I'm married, and have a kid on the way. I really needed to find something fast. Then I watched a movie called "What the Bleep Do We Know?" and it changed everything. I want to know all that stuff. Then I did some research and soul searching and found out that the reason I'm interested in so many things is because I'm good at a lot of things and I want to know everything there is to know about life, the universe, and everything.

    Through more research, I discovered that physics is the key to that door. It all makes sense. As a little kid, when I got bored in school, I would try to invent my own math problems. I've always been super-interested in exploring and explaining he mysteries of the universe. So, I've finally decided to major in Physics and Philosophy and study Alchemy on the the side. Thanks to this post, I know that I have a chance at doing what I've always dreamed. Thank you so much!
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: I want to get a degree in Physics, but I'm scared I fooled around too much
Loading...