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I want to stay a physics major, but

  1. Nov 9, 2009 #1
    I'm having a very distressing problem and could use the advice of other physicists or physics students on this one.

    Ever since I was little, I've been absolutely enamored with astronomy. The stars, space, planets -- all of it. I couldn't get enough. So obviously, when I entered into a university, I declared my major to be physics with a concentration in astronomy, and set to work.

    And horribly, only one semester in, I'm starting to falter. It's difficult for me to sit down and do physics and math homework. My brain starts getting muddled with equations and formulas, and my normally swift analytical process just comes screeching to a sudden halt. I graduated with the highest possible marks from high school, and now...well, now, I feel like all that skill and that feeling of "it comes easily to me" has suddenly vaporized. I don't know what this is, but it makes me so sad. I don't want to think that me and physics are incompatible, because I don't think we are. I understand the concepts when I apply myself. I think it's just a lack of motivation to do the work, and that makes me feel awful. I really want to work in astronomy and planetary sciences when I'm done with school, and I would do anything to preserve that ultimate goal.

    My questions:

    Have any of you (or did any of you, when you were in school) run into this motivation brick wall? How did you overcome it? What are your best tips for motivating yourself when you start to get bogged down?

    I'm open to any recommendations and advice that can help me stay on the physics track and help me do better. I'll even take the common sense answers that you think I might already know. No matter how silly or obvious it is, if you have a suggestion, please put it here.

    Thanks so much! -- A.S.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 9, 2009 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome to PF AstraeaSophia! I think many students have, at some point, shared some of your feelings.

    Do you think you might have taken too many of the harder subjects in your first semester? The change to University is an adjustnment by itself. Perhaps lightening up your load with a few "fun" classes might help next semester?
  4. Nov 9, 2009 #3
    Thanks for the welcome!

    I thought that might be a factor because, while not all my other classes are hard, they are certainly time-consuming, and just the idea of how much time it will take me to finish my homework on any given night is a little daunting. I'm taking an Astrobiology course (read: possibility of extraterrestrial life!) next semester that I think will keep me smiling. :-)

    A lot of other physics students feel this, too? It would be amazing if they did. :-) I wouldn't feel so alone, then, nor would the challenge seem so massive. But how to motivate myself enough that I don't flop this semester's physics class...this is the burning question...
  5. Nov 9, 2009 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    One of my life long dreams was to become an astronomer, but my dad refused to let me go into science. Oh well

    There have been a number of threads where others got bogged down for awhile.

    Is it possible that you could find someone to study with? Talking things through with another person might help clear your thinking. And don't forget to use our homework help section!

    I wish you the best. And when you become a famous astrobiologist, I expect mention in your first book. :tongue2:
  6. Nov 9, 2009 #5
    Haha! Duly noted. :wink: And out of curiosity, do you have the links to any of the threads you've mentioned about other "bogged" students such as myself?
  7. Nov 9, 2009 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    I will see if I can find some. I'm sure others will be posting their experiences shortly also.
  8. Nov 9, 2009 #7
    It sounds like you're rather bright; I would guess that you didn't have to struggle or work very hard to do well in high school. Am I correct in that assumption?

    If so, then I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that your feelings of distress are perfectly normal and understandable! The bad news is that those easy, coasting-through-academics days are over. You're interested in a field that is full of very bright people; being smart is good, but only if you have a strong work ethic to power it.

    A lot of bright kids go through this when they get to college; some more than others if they are pursuing a field that is competitive and difficult. You're going to have to learn how to study effectively and efficiently; you're going to have to learn how to schedule your time in a way that allows you to accomplish the things that need to get done without cramming it all in at the last minute; and you're going to have to figure out a balance between work and recreation (skewed towards work, most likely) that doesn't leave you feeling strung out and brittle.

    As I said, it's perfectly understandable to feel the way you do; sadly, higher education seems to be less about expanding our horizons and discovering what it is we wish to do, and more like job training or extended high school. Make the most of the opportunities that you have in college while you can; take classes for the professor whenever possible, because a good professor can really open your eyes to a subject that you may never have considered before. He (or she) may not convert you, but you may, at least, have a new respect for something that wasn't there before.

    Aim for the golden mean, and best of luck.
  9. Nov 9, 2009 #8
    DarrenM -- High school did always come very easily to me, yes. I managed to land a valedictorian slot with virtually no effort (in my mind) on my part. And I think at this point, that former sense of arrogance is starting to work against me. :-p I'm definitely going to have to buckle down, you're right. I guess it's time to start a whole new system of study habits.

    I have to go to a class now, so there won't be many replies on my part, but please keep the suggestions rolling! The more the better. I want all the advice I can get.

    All the best, and thanks again...

    -- A.S.
  10. Nov 12, 2009 #9


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    I've just completed designing and manufacturing a pill that will impart motivation to people. It comes in quick-doses (for that late homework assignment) and long-haul doses (for that master's thesis).

    It's only $19.95 a bottle for the long-haul, and just $6.95 for the quick-doses!!!
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