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I want to make up for the time i wasted

  1. Apr 20, 2012 #1
    hello everyone,
    I have been a frequent visitor of "physicsforums.com" but never felt the need to register until now. i desperately need your help and advice and i hope i am posting in the right forum. so here is my story:
    I have been in love with physics ever since i was a high school student. i have always been good at it ,ahead of the class at all times. physics was my passion and so i decided to pursue my passion and get a PH.d in physics. i started uni 5 years ago. the first two semesters where great and i was top of my class. so far everything was good until something bad happened.
    at the beginning of the second year i fell in love and got myself a broken heart a few months later.after that i stopped caring for a long time,nothing not even my life's passion had the power to drive me anymore, i stopped attend classes and as a result my grades started to free fall.i went from a straight A student to a someone who was more than happy to get a C and pass the course. i lost all interest in studying physics since one of the reasons "she" left me in the first place was the fact that getting a physics degree does not ensure a bright future economically. any was, after some time (years) my heart healed but i still couldn't find the passion i once had for physics and therefore i couldn't focus. i resorted to cheating in order to pass my courses that was the worst decision i have ever made in my life.
    so everything went the way i described for a while until i decided to make a choice cause i just couldn't stand the situation anymore. i had a long and through conversation with myself about what i am gonna do for my future and determined what exactly my goals are. now i know what i want, i know that despite all the mixed feelings i used to have i cant imagine myself becoming anything other than a physicist and so i decided to make up for the time i have lost.
    in few months i will be graduated with a horrible C average , no applicable knowledge of physics and no experimental knowledge of any sorts. but nevertheless i still want to use these few months to actually learn something. the only problem is i don't know how!
    here is where i need your help , i need to know how to start studying after so much time being away from it all ( study methods that work for you or others you know) . i need to know where to begin cause the amount of material i need to learn is scary and i don't wanna waste my time on unnecessary stuff and i need to know how to go about preparing myself for Ms.c.
    i am generally good with concepts, i learn and understand them quite fast but i lag in mathematics. aside from the basics and some parts of calculus ( derivatives and limits mostly) i don't seem to remember anything from math and how to apply it to solve problems. any suggestions regarding books, software, video courses,... that can help me bring myself up to speed in math is hugely appreciated.

    i am sorry if my post is long and maybe vague in some areas, i tried to keep it as short as possible and so you know i am not a native speaker of English so forgive me if my English is not good enough.

    thanks all of you in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 21, 2012 #2
    You've really dug yourself a hole, my friend. On the up side, I believe that almost any error can be righted given time. However, if I'm understanding your timeline correctly you did well in school for 1 year. Then for the next 3 and 1/2 years you have skated by with Cs -- grades that you have achieved through cheating, no less.

    It's totally unrealistic to think that you can turn this around in 3 months. Especially since you say that what is vexing you mathematically is derivatives and limits. That is early calculus material, ie freshman year. That tells me you are incredibly far behind. The only upside I see to that is that there are tons of resources to learn this material out there, see Khan Academy, but these concepts should have been old hat for you long ago.

    It's probably time for you to have a very frank conversation with an academic adviser at your school.

    Good luck.
  4. Apr 21, 2012 #3
    thanks for the response ChaseDuncan,
    just to be clear, i am not trying to fix my gpa or anything, i accepted my C average long ago. all i want to do is to make sure that by the time i graduate , i have applicable knowledge of basic physics.
    i will take your advice and look into khan academy , thanks
  5. Apr 21, 2012 #4
    His academic adviser will, given his story, if not report him for cheating (might not, but don't tell it either way), will tell him that instead of trying to pursue a PhD in physics, to just get a job in engineering more than likely as you can do that with a b.s. degree in physics. To do actual physics you need a PhD and to get into graduate school you need to take a physics related GRE test. Given that you mostly cheated to get a C in your physics courses and barely know anything pass Calculus I, you have two options (1), get a job in engineering and call it a day or, (2), get a job to support you, something minimal that will get you by, and re-study what you are supposed to know for about a year, then take the GRE-physics concentration and then apply to graduate school.

    As for video courses...

    Calculus: Takes you through all of Calculus I-3, also use the resources; no book necessary.

    http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/18-01sc-single-variable-calculus-fall-2010/course-outline/ [Broken]

    (that video course incorporates calc.II material as well)

    http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/18-02sc-multivariable-calculus-fall-2010/course-outline/ [Broken]

    (used it as a supplement to a horrible calc.III professor)

    OCW does have a differential equations section, and although I never took it, they have mostly pdfs and recitation videos helping students learn the material.

    Linear Algebra (I never took it, but I can suggest a book; down below:


    It's a free book:


    so, if you must, you can use along side the lectures.

    That is all the math I ever took.

    Physics: (You could use the same site, but I preferred Yale over MIT in physics, so I will post some videos from Yale)


    (^Physics I)

    Note: Download the course materials; has problem sets and exams inside. You can also use problem sets from MIT OCW if you need more practice, and google.

    (I stopped using OCW after physics I, so the courses below I never took)


    (^Physics II)

    Physics III:


    (I never could read from a physics book, so I mostly either used google, class notes, etc..., to learn the material, my average was a B in physics but I am not majoring in the field)

    OCW can only take you so far in my opinion, most of what you need to know in physics is compounded with labs, and although I never took a physics course passed, "methods of experimental physics", I know labs (and research) are crucial in learning the material necessary to do well in the course.

    Like someone said above, you've gotten yourself in a hole and you are graduating with a b.s. (am I right?) in physics. You still have your lab notes from experiments?? That can help you if you read over them.

    I have no idea whether you can get into a research position given your record, but try and apply for jobs in physics departments at schools after you've studied and, if you can, try and get work helping a professor with his/her research. I know there are some students who've graduated recently working with professors in helping with research projects so they can get more of that under their belt before applying to graduate school. So, you can try as well.


    Physics I incorporates a lot of calculus I material (at least the course I took), so you must be competent in calculus in order to do well in physics I. Physics II has some calculus III material in it from the course I took about a year ago, and from the OCW course, do single variable calculus and upon its completion take physics I. After taking physics I, take physics II along side taking calculus III. You are not doing too much or too little in terms of your end goal. It takes time for the material to sink in and you don't want to keep compounding it with new knowledge, so don't try and do too much at once.

    As for study practices, I do believe Physics at the MIT OCW site has recitation videos, if not, the two introductory physics courses usually have some help videos on youtube.

    For me, watching the lectures and working out problems took me less than a college semester to complete the course (it is doable). And if you work as an aide in a university to a physics professor, you also have access to the libraries as well. But, like my biochemistry major, you need to make it your life practically. That means, doing other things outside of regular studying such as clubs for your major, befriending those within the same major, reading books centered around your field (possibly other fields as well), subscribing to magazines that features articles in your field, going to seminars, etc... Studying is good and all but you need to do more outside of just studying.

    You are looking at about a year and a half of pure work in physics before applying to graduate school in my opinion. I highly doubt that you can do it in a few months given that you are at the entry freshman level, but you do have an upside. You were exposed to the material, so you may get it faster or pick up on things a bit better this time around.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  6. Apr 21, 2012 #5


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    I think that rather misses the point. The OP hasn't got a BS degree in physics. I think the first step to REALLY fixing this problem is to admit to that and take the consequences. Not being awarded any degree isn't nice, but there are a lot worse things that happen to people.

    Getting some sort of engineering job on the basis of fake degree isn't likely to work out. If the OP can't able to handle the work, then what happens? Probably some combination of more cheating, more lying about the situation, or getting fired. Everybody knows that college students sometimes temporarily screw up their lives (though not usually as badly as the OP) but you won't be cut that sort of slack if you are working for a liviing.

    If you take the honest position that you need to start over from the second year of your degree course, there is some chance that you can find a way to do that if you get proper advice. Possibly the "kindest" thing your college could do (if it's possible) would be to give you a record that says "dropped out of all courses at the end of year 1", which should give you a chance to restart honestly, possibly at different college. But that may not be possible, if they take cheating as seriously as they should do.
  7. Apr 21, 2012 #6


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    I'm not sure how things are in your country, but in mine, engineering is a regulated profession, and only those graduating with a degree from an *accredited* engineering university program are allowed to practise it. Even then, you're only an engineer-in-training until you obtain four years of practical work experience under the supervision of a licensed professional engineer. At that point, you become professionally licensed and have the ability to head projects and officially sign off on drawings and designs. There is significant professional responsibility and liability implied.

    The OP might be able to get a job as a technician somewhere doing some technical thing. But it is highly misleading to imply that he/she could become an engineer. He wouldn't be an engineer and he certainly wouldn't be paid at the level of one.
  8. Apr 21, 2012 #7
    Unless they aren't doing engineering jobs then I'd be wrong, but according to AIP those who graduated with a physics degree held the word "engineer" within their job title. Here is more:


    I assumed he was graduating with a b.s. in physics, but I was just thinking in terms of the future as he said he'd be graduating within a few months. I don't see what else he could do aside from just graduating, keeping the fact that he cheated to himself, studying and applying for a position as an aide to get research experience. That is what I'd personally suggest instead of taking an engineering job.

    He cheated, okay, but telling the adviser and getting himself into unnecessary trouble is not feasible for his end-goal in life and will set him back even more, possibly find himself massively in debt, kicked out of school with cheating on his permanent record, etc...

    It is apart of every colleges academic mission. The student code of conduct, and if found out, you'll be severely punished. They cannot allow to basically slap the student with a light punishment as, "dropping out of all classes", because that effectively goes against their academic code of conduct, and he didn't have any illnesses he was combating either at the time of going to those classes. The odds of receiving leniency when they hear why he cheated is really low.
  9. Apr 22, 2012 #8
    thank you all for taking the time to help me, i appreciate that very much.
    i am not proud of what i did, cheating my way through was a bad move and i admit that.i am ashamed of myself but i dont think admitting that to my adviser will do me any good. i am 23 at the moment soon to be 24 and if i get kicked out the program when i only have a few more months to get my Bachelors degree, it would be like losing a part of my life without achieving anything in return and that is something i will never be able to make up for. i know most of you would consider it to be a fake degree ( and again an act of cheating), so do i, but if i take the time to learn all the material afterwards then i think it could be justified.IMO it would be better if i get the degree and take the time to learn on my own rather than giving it up and trying to earn it again which will take another 3-4 years ( a waste of time and money).
    pursuing other professions (engineering) is a good suggestion if all i wanted was to get a job and forget about higher education, but that is not what i want. like i said before i had the passion and the talent to succeed but i lost focus and because of that everything went so wrong . right now i am determined to fix this and to continue where i left off 4 years ago , i am focused and for the first time in a long time my mind is clear of other thoughts.
    phoenix's suggestion seems like a solid plan and should be sufficient to help me rebuild my study habits. thanks phoenix.
    i'll start right away with a review of the material i already know just to refresh my memory and take it from there.
  10. Apr 22, 2012 #9
    Yet, this is what you have done. You spent 4 years and tons of money to get a piece of paper. You don't even know the most basic calculus stuff.

    Let's see, here. You cheated and lied your way through school and you admit this was a horrible decision and has had bad long-term effects. So you solution is to just lie more? I'm not seein' where this makes any sense.

    Is there any other way to see it? Certainly you haven't actually learned anything. Now, look at it this way. There are a lot of people, perhaps your friends, who are graduating from your college who actually DID do the work. Now, if you go out in to the world with this "degree" you have done a disservice to all of your classmates. As an example, let's say you get hired on doing something that requires the use of, I don't know, basic Physics stuff. You can't do that. Your employer will notice and now he is thinking "Well, University X must not teach Physics very well, this guy doesn't even know what Y concept is!" This exact thing happened where I work.

    No it couldn't. And you haven't done so.

    You are wrong. You have ALREADY wasted time and money. If you did it again, you would not be wasting time and money. It will be harder because it is likely that anyone who is paying for your college now will not pay later. You'll have to work and go to school. But lots have done it. And it won't be a waste of time, just annoying and hard.

    It seems like you want an easy solution that involves more lying and cheating.

    Here is another problem. When do you think you will take the PGRE? I'm a math guy so I didn't have to take part in this particular torture, but if it is like the MGRE, you are going to need years to prepare. In particular, I don't see how you could possible be prepared to take it this year, or probably even next. Most of the guys who take it have actually earned a degree and know what stuff is on the exam. Again, from what my friends tell me, this exam isn't easy and I don't know how many of them would think that it is possible to take it within a year, given your situation. I have about the same level of Physics education as you actually do (just the common first year course) and looking at the topics on the test, I don't see it taking less than a year for you. But, there are more Physics people on here that know more about that.
  11. Apr 22, 2012 #10
    "to just get a job in engineering more than likely as you can do that with a b.s. degree in physics" - Really??

    Funny, I've been telling my friends who flunk out of engineering to go and teach Physics.

    Ravenous, you wasted three years of your life in an emotional tizzy.

    Re-enroll and get a new degree in physics. The one you've got now is no good.

    At the same time, seek out a counseling to identify the cause of your three-year funk. Otherwise the same thing might happen at your work after you get your degree.

    Edit: BTW, wasting *only* three years of your life is doing great. I could start a thread here about the decades wasted on this or that and I'm sure it would not be short of postings.

    Suck it up and look at the bright side- you've seen the material already and it will be ever so slightly easier than it would have been three years ago.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2012
  12. Apr 22, 2012 #11
    don't reenroll. your piece of paper is important. wait tables if you have to while reviewing for PGRE but just remember that piece of paper is more important than the actual knowledge. it gets you in the door for all sorts of non-technical jobs like sales that you won't get without one. honesty is not always rewarded in the real world. if your boss is fat, you don't tell him he's fat, he's the most handsome man in the world until he isn't your boss anymore.

    as for the actual knowledge, since you're now motivated, study by yourself every single day while waiting tables or doing sales. take the PGRE, ace it, beg graduate advisors and get into a M.S. program at a state university. 2 years later assuming you didn't fail, you'll know what grad school classes are like and can think about whether the PhD is worth it.
  13. Apr 22, 2012 #12
    Sure it's important. If he had $1,000,000 that he stole, that would be important and valuable to have as well, but that doesn't make it right or honest.

    Umm, depends on what you mean by important.

    Excuse me? In what world, exactly, is he living? And honesty isn't something that should be rewarded. It is something that a person should do. But, aside from that, dishonesty has a tendency to catch up to people eventually. For example, perhaps his boss's son is having trouble with Physics and asks the OP to help tutor his son. Or perhaps a co-worker. What if they ask him to review some technical documents that the business majors don't understand. Or there could be a number of other things that happens. What if he gets into a grad school and then people discover that he cheated his way through undergrad? Perhaps it will work out if he does what you are saying but 1)it is wrong and 2)if it explodes, it will explode big.

    Surely you see the difference between the two cases, don't you? In your scenario, you are not lying by not telling your boss he is fat. In the OP's case, by accepting the degree, he is lying.
  14. Apr 22, 2012 #13
    Bottom line: you will look yourself in the mirror every morning. Do you want to see a man who got away with something or a man who has accomplished something?
  15. Apr 22, 2012 #14
    Regardless of how you got it, you'll have a degree in physics. Put that on your resume and try to find some job somewhere with it. I'd suggest putting thoughts of enrolling in a Ph.D program off for now. Maybe that's something you can revisit later in life, but it isn't going to happen now.
  16. Apr 23, 2012 #15
    My recommendations are not binding. It is just my opinion. People have financial and time constraints.
  17. Apr 23, 2012 #16


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    "Life isn't so much about what happens to you.....it's more about how you handle what happens to you".

    So a girl screwed you up for a while....and some classes got screwed up.....yadda, yadda, yadda.....it happens.

    I failed out of school for goofin off when I was 18......Went back when I was 30 to make things right....and the rest is history.

    It sounds like your thoughts are on the right track now. Do the right thing from now on.
    Make yourself proud. YOU are really the only one you need to impress....starts with the man in the mirror.

    And by no means should you re-enroll. However, you should buy some of the books listed above and learn the material. Perhaps take a cumalitive physics exam that covers all of college. And the main reason not to re-enroll is the gigantic waste of money you will blow. You can learn the same things from a book....then take the state exam or whatever if there is one.

    And I don't think you can say things went so terribly wrong. You just experienced life for real. Slightly different than the picture your parents painted for you. Sh*t happens to everyone without exception.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2012
  18. Apr 23, 2012 #17
    thanks that's very encouraging,
    you are absolutely right, the only one i have to be honest with and to impress for now is myself. when i do that i'll surely be able to impress others as well.
    right now all i care about is learning the stuff, i wont make another move like applying to a grad school or trying to find a job that requires vast knowledge of physics until i am sure i have learned what i need to learn and of course ace the physics GRE test. dont know how long it would take, maybe a year or so given i do my best , but i am determined and motivated to do this.
  19. Apr 23, 2012 #18
    I agree with that; and it is something he needs to consider.
  20. Apr 23, 2012 #19
    Spend more money that he probably doesn't have? That isn't the least bit good in my opinion. It is actually a waste if he can learn the material on his own in less time as he wouldn't have to take labs and go to class every single day, dealing with people and their problems. He also won't have to deal with a possible dating incident gone awry again, so his best bet is to not tell the truth and do as he is planning now.

    Being honest when (1), you are in the clear and, (2) the truth would hurt you more, is not smart. There is a time to be honest and there are times where dishonesty will take you a longer way. In this case, keep your dishonesty is the best choice.

    In this case, no it won't. He plans to restudy all of the material he missed out on so he can still tutor the son, a few years later once he's finished.

    How will they find out? If he tells one person and they decide to tell others, he can deny it. Besides, he got into graduate school within this scenario so he knows the material needed to be successful. Those graduate students would have a hard time proving he cheated years ago in undergrad and if something happens to him over their gossip, he can sue them for mis-characterization and slander.

    It won't make a difference as the classes you took require that you know the material. SO in a sense you are just learning what you were supposed to know to validate your degree as valid rather than invalid. But keep on your track though, you have some time to make up for and being on here isn't going to help much aside from asking for help on problems that may come up.
  21. Apr 23, 2012 #20


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    To Ravenous:

    Being happy with yourself is the key to most things in life.

    Dissapointments are coming your way no matter what you do. But if you are happy with who you see in the mirror.....no matter what happens, you always have your self worth to fall back on. You should always be nice to other people as well.....but it starts with yourself.

    Right now you have several regrets.....this absolutely stinks right? In the future.....make better decisions and do the right thing......you know what they are if you just listen to your head.

    So ya....consider this the first day of the rest of your life.....and this time....DO IT TO YOUR MAX POTENTIAL!
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