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Incoming Freshmen Physics Major

  1. Jun 25, 2013 #1
    Hey hi hello there. Incoming freshmen physics major here. I'm staring my first year of undergrad school and I'm majoring in physics but I have to spend my first year just taking math courses and I wont be able to take a physics course until my second year. Did anyone else on here go through this?
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  3. Jun 25, 2013 #2
    I knew a couple people who did. They did poorly on the math placement exam. Did you have to take such an exam?
  4. Jun 25, 2013 #3
    No I didn't. But I did do poorly on the math portion of the ACT. That's the reason why I must take math courses my first year.
  5. Jun 25, 2013 #4
    I didn't take physics my first year. At my school, Calc I is a prerequisite for physics I and most engineers wait to take physics in their second year. I started in engineering but switched to physics after my first year. I ended up taking physics I that summer in order to "catch up". It's not a big deal as long as it doesn't put you off schedule with your other physics classes.
  6. Jun 25, 2013 #5


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    Don't worry about keeping to an artificial time table. Your job is to learn physics. If you need to strengthen your math first, so be it. Don't worry about what classes others are taking -- you'll take those classes soon enough.

    Time and again we see students posting here who try to rush through their degrees, taking classes even though they have not yet met the prerequisites. They seem to think that their passion and enthusiasm will get them over the hard parts. Nope!

    Take your time to get all the background courses you need before moving on to the tough ones. Trust me, you won't regret it.

    Best of luck!
  7. Jun 25, 2013 #6
    That's one of the things I was concerned about. I was worried that not taking any physics courses my first year would set me back from getting my degree in four years lol. I mean I feel I'm ready for College Pre-calc or Calc I because I took Pre-Calc in high school and I thought it was easy (I made As and Bs in that class). My adviser scheduled me for an Algerbra course my first semester but I feel like that would be too easy though.
  8. Jun 25, 2013 #7
    Thanks! I was just worried that not taking any physics courses my first year would set me back.
  9. Jun 25, 2013 #8


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    You could do what you think you should be allowed to do in keeping with a plan to finish in four years -- and fail at it;
    or you can go through the courses recommended to you which you need (mostly for the necessary Mathematics) and be able to succeed toward your degree.

    Build your mathematical development. Anything you repeat due to previous study you learn better. Some topics in courses you might have hoped to skip may include materials which you had not yet seen. Do not be afraid to study courses which you previously studied.
  10. Jun 25, 2013 #9
  11. Jun 25, 2013 #10
    But what about taking courses over summer?
  12. Jun 26, 2013 #11


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    Depends on what kind of course. Taking a Math or Science course in the summer is a very bad idea. Summer courses are often no more than 8 weeks long. You need 18 weeks or more to effectively learn a Mathematics or other science course. You cannot simply stuff all the needed hours into fewer weeks and study for those number of hours and learn well.
  13. Jun 26, 2013 #12


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    ^It depends, sometimes it helps to be able to focus on one thing. One might need to learn 2-3 times fasted, but there is 3-5 times as much time and no distractions. Summer courses can also help for continuity (minimizing the times between courses) and keeping one from getting behind or overwhelmed during the rest of the year. Some schools like Cornell College and Colorado College have one month terms. Many schools have some short terms. It is not unthinkable.
  14. Jun 26, 2013 #13
    I wouldn't say it's a very bad idea. Stanford Math 171 teaches much of an intro analysis book in 10 weeks during the school year. It just depends on how fast you can digest the information and how many hours you are willing to put in. I personally like summer study because I have more free time to relax and exercise, leaving me less stressed during my study time.
  15. Jun 26, 2013 #14
    Does the length of the summer courses depend on what college you go to? I'm not sure how long the summer courses at the Uni I'm going to.
  16. Jun 26, 2013 #15


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    Your university's web site might have that information. :wink:

    You might find that summer courses last different lengths, depending on the course. For example, there might be a "full summer term" which is maybe 12 weeks, and two "short terms" which are 6 weeks apiece. Some courses are offered in the full term, and some are offered in one of the short terms. Short-term courses proceed twice as fast as as full-term courses.

    I used to teach one of our "freshman physics" courses during a summer short term. We nicknamed it "firehose physics." :smile: For most students, I'd consider it OK only if they just need to take the course as a requirement for another major, or if they've already had enough physics in high school that they're acquainted with most of the material at a lower level.
  17. Jun 26, 2013 #16
    Yeah, my school offers summer course in Calculus and Chemistry (Which is what I need to take for my major), but those only last for 10 weeks ( There are two five week sessions) But, I'm not quite sure if I should take summer courses or not :/
  18. Jun 26, 2013 #17


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    This is a common problem. It depends how courses are organized at your school. At a few school not placing into the right math will delay you a year. Most schools into physics is 1-2 years (2-4 semesters or 3-6 quarters) often to stay on 4 year pace you need to take at least one freshman year or make it up by taking one in a summer or two at once (the practicality of which depends on the organization of the course and the workload).
  19. Jun 26, 2013 #18
    Hmm Yeah. I've been thinking about taking the summer courses. I don't want to be there longer than I have to. I'm not sure if it would cause me to delay a year at my school though.
  20. Jun 28, 2013 #19
    I didn't take physics I & II until the last 2 semesters at my community college. It took me ~1.5 yrs before I got to take physics I, due to the abundance of math courses I had to take. If taking a math class over the summer will keep you from having to stay an extra semester, I would do it. I made the mistake of not planning out my classes during the first year and wound up having to stay an extra semester when I could've just taken trig or precal over the summer. though that extra semester did allow me to only have 10-11 hr course loads for much of the time. but anyway, it all ended up working out and now I'm transferring to a university in the fall. so I wouldn't worry too much about it. (:
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