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I'm having a bit of a decision crisis

  1. Oct 17, 2008 #1
    I seem to have a destructive cycle of wanting to do one thing one day (like physics) and something different the next (like math or computer science). I'm really anxious right now and I have a feeling of impending doom unless I can smarten the hell up. I'm not sure what's going on because I can't seem to focus on anything in my life.

    I'm in my second year of physics and I'm really beginning to lose motivation and fall behind. Actually, that's an understatement, because unless I make a complete 180 right this instant I'm going to fail completely. I've had bad study habits since high school (that's a bit of an understatement) and the material that I really don't understand is beginning to catch up to me.

    As a result of trying to get caught up, I failed a test on special relativity. To be fair, the whole class didn't do very well, but that's not an excuse. The questions on it were perfectly valid and I should have been able to do them and I couldn't. I did study, but probably not to the extent that I should have.

    I also find it disappointing when, for example, some problem I'm working on requires knowledge of trigonometric identities and I've completely forgotten them, or even worse, I'm presented with what should be a simple problem and I don't even know where to begin.

    I realize it takes work to gain the understanding I want. The problem is, I guess, that I have no idea where to start my review - or if I should review at all. I can't even solve simple problems. I feel far too dependant on the teacher and the textbook. I want to be able to break through and lose the dependancy; to be able to solve interesting problems on my own and then to keep going. That's how I will succeed. There isn't going to be a textbook or a teacher telling me how to make a discovery or to be innovative.

    I have several forces pulling at me. I really like math. Recently, I've developed an obscene interest in social and psychological processes and the possibility of applying math to them. I also like applied computer science. Then there's physics. The real deciding factor to me when choosing to major in physics was that the other two things I can do as hobbies, but unless I want to 'do physics' I need a degree and I need a lab. Is that reasoning OK? You're probably the first people I've asked that to besides myself.

    I don't want any magic fix. I just want advice as to what to do at this point. Should I take this year off to decide what it is I really want to do or to review some things? Would it be more rewarding to persevere?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. ♥
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 17, 2008 #2


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    It sounds to me like you already know the answer to this problem. You've developed poor study habits and until now you've been able to get by likely on raw talent alone. You're not unique in this. A lot of people fall victim to this trap and usually its somewhere in first or second year university.

    The question then, is what to do about it. Everyone has their own system for studying and what works in some cases doesn't work for all. And one of the issues with physics is that it's often difficult to ask for tips on how to study because I've found that university resources for dealing with such things are very much geared towards bio/psych types where the skills focus on organizing information rather than problem solving.

    To begin, take a hard look at how you study.
    How much time do you put in? Can you use your study time more efficiently?
    Can you explain the principles you've studied to others?
    Can you solve problems outside of those in assignments?
    Do you read up on material not covered in lectures?
    Do you look for additional sources of information other than the assigned textbooks?
    Do you have a study group? Would it help to join or start one?
    Most importantly, do you enjoy studying physics? You're only going to have to do more of it.

    As for studying social and psychological processes, you can still do that with a degree in physics - especially if your interest lies in applying mathematical models to them. Although it would be worth your while to also investigate the courses you would take with a different major just to see if that's what you'd rather be doing. There's no shame in changing majors - not everyone figures it out the first time round. I mean, how many people end up marrying the first person they date?
  4. Oct 17, 2008 #3
    Thanks for your reply.

    That's very true, and I don't think I realized that until now. The university at which I finished my first year is very big on bio-psych, so that's probably part of the problem.

    I'm working on it. I'm a bit calmer now than I was when I created the thread. I was literally freaking out, which isn't like me to do... :blushing:

    I do have answers to my problem I just don't know which direction I should be going in. I've been lurking on here for about a week now reading threads by people with similar problems. They've been a great help.

    As far as studying goes, I find it very difficult to focus, even if I find the subject interesting. I can get as far as understanding the basics of a new topic, but then any little thing can distract me and throw me off for hours. It's not unique to any one subject. Is this normal? Do I just need to STFU and study moar or do I have an attention problem? I thought it might have been because of my uncertainty, but I really don't know.

    Please don't take this as a "lawl I can't study/do it for me/I don't want to do the work/self-victimization" thread, because it's not. Studying is a side issue that I am working on fixing, I just wanted some direction.
  5. Oct 17, 2008 #4


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    Maybe it's the place you study at. I found that I've never been able to focus at home. That's why you'll often find me at my school library up till it closes. And if the computer is a distraction, PLEASE DON'T bring your laptop along if you want to concentrate. In fact if I wanted to use a computer, I'll use the school's computer and not bring along my own notebook.
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