1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal 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!

Is it too late?

  1. Apr 12, 2013 #1
    Hello, I am new to this forum.

    Currently, I am a junior in high school, and I have been wondering whether I still have the opportunity to start a career in physics.

    For the past month or so, I have met a few other students who have an odd passion of the sciences, particularly physics. Odd, because almost everyone in our school hasn't an ounce of interest in anything involving academics. Until I met these well-informed students, I shared the same view as most others around me. Most of the science courses I have taken, have involved absurd amounts of worksheets and book work, with uninterested peers and uninterested teachers. This year seems to be a complete flip from that, where my science teacher seems to be much more passionate about his subject and can engage the class in discussion; and the fact that I have actually met other students who are interested.

    So for the past month, I have decided to learn as much about physics as I can. Mostly due to the fact that I was denied an advance placement physics course next year, because the teacher felt that I was not suitably prepared to take the class. Quite understandable, but it really pushed me to learn as much as I can, in the hopes that next year when class begins, I can convince the teacher to move me up to the advance placement course, rather than honours. Most of my classmates are already taking physics, and what I have noticed is that the entire course is only on classical mechanics. Most students seem to struggle, and while I have not learned as much as them; in just the month that I've been studying alone, I have learned almost half of what they have learned for the past 1.5 semesters. Learning without any guidance has been difficult, as I would spend hours in solitude trying to figure out the math behind what I've learned; but, I still seem to really enjoy doing so everyday.

    Unfortunately, next year will be my final year in high school and my academic record is abysmal. I'm not sure if it is plausible for anyone to be able to just take on something like physics this late into high school and actually be able to take it as a future profession; since from what I hear, becoming a physicist would require continuing to a PhD. I'm not sure if I ought to major in physics or leave physics as a hobby and pursue something else like computer science. For the record, the eventual goal that I plan on getting to is quantum mechanics. So would it be too late for me to reach that goal?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 12, 2013 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    When you're a junior in high school it's not "too late" for anything.

    At this stage of the game your goal should be to learn as much of the basics as you can. Read up on the subjects that you are interested in and take the courses that are available to you. Then when you have the opportunity try to get into the best university (or the one that's the best fit for you) that you can. As you explore a little further, your interests may shift somewhat. You might, for example discover an interest in engineering.
  4. Apr 12, 2013 #3


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    I took earth sciences my senior year, after I flunked it twice before. You show more initiative then I ever did as a student.

    No reason you can't major in physics if that's what you want to do.
  5. Apr 13, 2013 #4
    It's not too late, but are you sure you want to?
  6. Apr 13, 2013 #5
    I don't really think that high school means that much, well at least not in Australia. It might be different where you are. I was able to get into maths and physics with a bad highschool record (even not having taken final highschool year maths/physics). The university I'm at just gave me their own exam to test my ability and let me in. I think many universities would be willing to do something similar for you. It would also be worthwhile to consider what would happen if you got to university and found yourself in a course with a dull and boring lecturer. Is it likely that you will fail because of this? Because unless you are very lucky, it's going to happen at one point or another.
  7. Apr 13, 2013 #6


    User Avatar

    Many people don't take a physics course before college, and some of them go on to major in physics. It's never too late. It's pretty ridiculous to think it would be at your age.
  8. Apr 14, 2013 #7
    I was in a similar situation in high school. I discovered my interest in physics the summer between my junior and senior year. My school was VERY small and didn't have honors or AP or anything like that but they did offer one physics course so I took that senior year and loved it. Similar to you, I read a lot on the internet and got the idea that only child prodigies who could teach themselves calculus in the 5th grade could study physics. After all, I hadn't taken any calculus at all the majority of people starting in university had taken Calculus in high school. So, I started as an engineering student, thinking I would barely be able to keep up with the others. To my surprise I did extremely well my first semester... and second semester... and this trend continued. After eventually realizing how much I enjoyed physics/math more than engineering I switched over to physics and that's where I'm at now. I'm only just finishing my second year, but so far I'm VERY happy as a physics major. I'd say if you're doubting yourself, just start in engineering and figure things out once you're there. But you can definitely be a successful student in physics if you put the time in, which it sounds like you're prepared to do. I'd say go for it!
  9. Apr 14, 2013 #8
    no[its not too late]. its too early to tell anything. took myfirst physics course last year at 20 years old.
  10. Apr 14, 2013 #9
    I'm currently also in Grade 11 (equivelant to Junior, I think) in High School, and I'm telling you right now that it's not too late. If you're willing to put in the time and effort, you can absolutely make it in physics.

    If you're interested in the subject, and you really want to be in the AP course next year, talk to the teacher and find out exactly what prerequisite material he would expect you to know in order for him to accept you into the course, and then go out and learn it.

    You can be whatever you want to be, especially at this stage of the game. You just have to be proactive, and learn.
  11. Apr 14, 2013 #10


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    In most US colleges and universities, physics majors start with a more or less standard two- or three-semester sequence of calculus-based introductory physics. This course starts pretty much from the beginning, in principle. It's helpful to have studied physics in high school already, but it's by no means mandatory.

    The most important thing in high school is to get your math down solid, through algebra, trignometry and pre-calculus. If you can take calculus also, it's helpful, but again, not mandatory. Most college/university intro physics courses have calculus I and II as co-requisites, that is, they assume you're studying calculus in parallel with the physics course.

    There are variations in come colleges and universities, but I think this is the most common pattern. So long as you can take some physics next year, that's fine. It won't be a disaster if it's not the AP course.
  12. Apr 14, 2013 #11
    Pretty much what everyone else has said. It's never too late; if you're dedicated to learn physics, then do so.

    I didn't take a physics class until my senior year of high school and that was the only physics class offered.
    (There was a physics 2 course, but it was new my senior year and only five people took it.) I was taking PreCalculus too that year, along with physics 1.

    My freshman year of college came around and I couldn't take Calculus that fall semester, due to the fact that whatever math class you place into, you had to take. I tend to get nervous on placement exams, which caused me to do bad on it. So, spring semester rolled by and instead of diving straight into Calculus, I decided to take PreCalculus again as a review to refresh my mind for Calculus and it was pretty useful. (Although I hear from a lot of people that you rarely use anything you've learned in PreCal in Calculus.)

    Here I am, going into my Sophomore year of college next semester taking Calculus along with Calculus based Physics. So it's never too late to start.. Just remember that. :)

    If you're dedicated and have the passion for something, it'll get you far in life.
  13. Apr 15, 2013 #12
    Too late? There's a guy in one of my physics classes who is in his late 30's and he's acing everything.
  14. Apr 15, 2013 #13


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    To reiterate JtBells post....MATH... take all of the math you can in HS. Do not worry so much about physics yet, HS physics is a near waste of time. Get the math in preparation for University physics that is where you actually start to learn physics.
  15. Apr 26, 2013 #14
    Wow I feel like i wrote this post myself, I too am a junior that is quite infatuated with the realm of physics, and I wanna tell you, youare definitely not too late for anything, you're actually pretty early and since you'll be ahead of anyone in your class next year(like me) your teacher will have no choice but to let you in your ap class. You'll be fine,and you're not too late.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook