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Is this a good plan to pursue astrophysics?

  1. Nov 27, 2016 #1
    Hey! I'm a high school senior who has like 6 weeks left to apply to Universities and I really, really, reallyy want to pursue astrophysics, but my parents won't let me. They're forcing me into computer science because it has the best outlook.

    I tried explaining that my astrophysics degree will involve computer science courses most likely, and if it doesn't, I can always minor in cs, but they won't budge. I sat down to think about what else I can do and the best thing I can come up with that would make everyone happy is majoring in computer science and minoring in Astrophysics.

    I don't care if astrophysics isn't part of my immediate future career, I just want to learn it. I love it way too much to let go ( I started crying when they put down my plans for an astrophysics major.XD lol Why am I so sensitive smh).

    If I major in cs and end up with a secure, well-paying job, I'll stick to that job for a while and then go back to school to pursue my masters and phd in astrophysics. I can be really stubborn and persistent so there's basically no way they're going to push me away from astrophysics, my parents can force me to side track a bit but oh well.

    Hell, a cs major might be really useful (versus a cs minor) when I go on into astrophysics! Does this sound like a good plan though? I'm trying to make it so that everyone's happy, I can still have job security and what not, and still be able to go after what I want once the time is right.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 27, 2016
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  3. Nov 27, 2016 #2


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    (Another 'thread' about Astronomy as the major field: https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/physics-or-astronomy-major-for-becoming-an-astronomer.894764/ )

    Really, your parents must not make this decision for you. If you do not REALLY LIKE Computer Science as your degree major field, then it is the wrong choice for you. Can you identify another degree field YOU REALLY LIKE that would give you excellent job opportunities, like maybe something in engineering or health or medical sciences, or food science/food technology, or maybe something like Chemistry?

    Your parents business is not making the choice of major field for you. If you are completely determined to study for either Astrophysics or Astronomy, just understand that Physics will need to be your major field for undergraduate degree, and job opportunities will not be too good. Physics as major field is not bad as long as you study some courses outside their department to give you some good skills and knowledge for making you more appealing to employers.
  4. Nov 27, 2016 #3
    That's what I tried telling them and they said life isn't about doing what I like and they were all on disowning me, talking about how astrophysics isn't even a proper degree that people frown upon it. Literally, the only person that frowned was my neighbour but alrighttyy.

    I took grade 11 comp sci, got a 97 (which is another reason why they keep nagging me to go into it) and never took it again, although I was willing to go through with it if it was part of my astrophysics degree. I didn't really find it that interesting, perhaps if I took it for grade 12 I might have? We are supposed to be programming robots this year that might have been better but grade 11 comp.sci ruined it for me lol. I don't like it nearly as much as I like astrophysics and I'm not looking forward to working for a business .

    I'm also into genetics and stuff but I don't really want to go into medicine and become a doctor, I'd rather go into research.
    I guess part of the problem is me - I don't like anything that has proper careers. :/

    My parents don't approve of me going into genetics or astrophysics and then going into research because I'm a girl and it's the whole "oh what if your husband's job is somewhere else, choose a career that you can get anywhere". :/
    I've tried negotiating a lot. All my ideas are being shot down. This is so infuriating!
  5. Nov 27, 2016 #4

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    How many major life choices are you going to let your parents make for you? What you major in? Where you live? Who you'll marry? How many children you'll have?
  6. Nov 27, 2016 #5


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    Again, your parents must not make the major-field decision for you; and they MUST NOT FORCE their decision about this part of your life on you. Computer Science can be a good choice, but if you will not like the choice, then it is THE WRONG CHOICE for your major field.
  7. Nov 27, 2016 #6
    I don't want them to make this choice for me but idk what to do to get out of this situation. I was kinda thinking about telling them I applied but not actually apply and then tell them I got rejected or straight up stand up to them and see how that goes cause the former is a whole lotta lying.
  8. Nov 27, 2016 #7


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    Frustrating, and we feel for you. You should not lie to them. Do you have an exit-plan so you can do what you want? Study what and where you want? Some way to get away from their grip? Astrophysics, not the best choice, but PHYSICS, a better choice than trying to specialize in Astrophysics (at least at first, or for undergraduate).

    Possible option right now is choose Computer Science as the major field and combine with Physics as the second major field, like double-major.

    A big reason for not trying to concentrate on Astrophysics is that you will not find too many job opportunities compared to other areas, which may be a reason why your parents demand you to choose Computer Science. THEY believe you're good at it and believe you will find good employment easily. How good you really are in Computer Science might change when you try this at the college or university, and then maybe a big change will be needed about your major field. How will your parents respond then?
  9. Nov 27, 2016 #8
    A lot of the universities I'm applying to don't offer astrophysics as a major for undergrad anyways (some do ) so I'm probably going to end up in physics but I don't mind. Physics is interesting whether i specialize in astrophysics or not, so, either way I'm happy. I'm a little scared to do a double major so I was thinking of taking physics as a minor and then finding a way to make it my main area of study, which might result in me going to school twice cause my parents will probably make it really hard for me to switch majors.

    A way out of this is having them not pay for my education and compensate by applying for student loans and grants and scholarships. I can also have my physics teacher speak to my parents but they'll most likely listen and then come home and completely reject what my teacher says. I can still try though.

    Honestly don't see what's wrong with a physics degree - they get hired as engineers, there aren't many physics teachers either, and I'll have computing skills and stuff. That's apparently not of value to my parents :(.
  10. Nov 27, 2016 #9


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    It sounds to me like you need to have a serious decision with your parents about boundaries. What you study at university is your decision. Their decision is whether or not they will support you in it. It would be great to have their support. But part of growing up is realizing that you can't always have the best of both worlds. And you know that lying about your decision is only going to crash and burn.

    It sounds like the big concern your parents have is your future profession. That's completely valid. They want to know you'll be able to eat.

    Physics graduates do sometimes work as engineers. Sometimes they work as programmers or in IT. Some hard data on these things is available from the APS. The data also suggests that overall physics graduates do alright in terms of pay and overall employment.

    But one thing to realize is that a physics degree will not give you specific professional qualifications. There are a lot of jobs in engineering that only engineering graduates are qualified for. And those that can take physics graduates will also have engineering graduates applying for them that you'll have to compete with. The point is that you will have to figure out at some point how to transfer your education in physics into a career. It sounds like you're thinking about this now which is a good thing.
  11. Nov 27, 2016 #10


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    Physics graduates who also learned engineering skills and other useful things "get hired as engineers"; Physics alone is not enough.

    Your parents are clearly interfering with your education. One plan is what you have suggested yourself: CS major and Physics minor. You could get through enough Physics courses that some professors may accept you for some research, in which you may well use some of your computer knowledge.

    Check the subject coursework requirements for CS undergraduate major very carefully. What are the Mathematics and physical science requirements? Is anything listed as "cognates" for electives options? You might put in some Physics or Engineering in there for some of these.
  12. Nov 28, 2016 #11


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    I'm a little confused. Computer science is different from Computer engineering. Its computer engineering, like other engineering majors, that offers skills that can be used in a career right away. But computer science is actually more like physics. Generally computer science is more inclined toward research and the courses offered in this major are more about fundamental and theoretical knowledge.
    Maybe in US its different and people who want to pursue a computer engineering PhD, start with a computer science undergraduate. But if its not the case, and given that you like research whether its in physics or genetics, maybe you'll like research in computer science too. Actually I, as a physics master's student, really love computer science. I can easily imagine myself being a computer scientist and still enjoy it because its a really rich and interesting field.
    But the other point about this field, is that a computer science major can have an education plan that gives them some marketable skills and a computer engineering major can have an education plan that gives them some theoretical knowledge that is needed for research. I think majoring in computer science and minoring in physics is a good idea and I also think you'll find computer science more exciting than you expect!
    Take a look at this video to get a taste of theoretical computer science.

    And Of course its you who should make these important decisions of your life. But you also should learn that you're going to live with your decisions. My parents supported my decision to pursue particle physics but as I grow older, I realize I should stand by my decision and try as hard as I can so that I can have a good job against the odds. A physics student may suddenly realize they simply didn't like physics enough to endure that difficulty. Fortunately that wasn't me, and I'm still happy with my decision. And of course the amount of difficulty is different in different countries and for people in different situations. What I want to say, is that although choosing a major is a really important decision, but after you get into it you realize that its not...I don't know how to say it. Maybe I should say its not that different but that's not exactly what I mean. Anyway, you can learn as much physics as you want regardless of the major you've chosen. And you can still enjoy jobs other than physics related ones. So don't make it such a huge burden, because its not that big!
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
  13. Nov 29, 2016 #12
    Thank you for the advice, everyone! I told my parents that I'd be playing catch up for the next couple years if I went into cs considering I've only taken a cs class once in high school. My mom's mad at me- told me she doesn't care what I do anymore because I won't listen to her and that she won't house me if I can't find a job - which actually really scares me, but oh well. It sucks that I gained my freedom on such a bad note, but I'm gonna take what I got instead of giving in because I've upset my parent.

    This may sound absurd or unbelievable but I knew I loved learning about our planet and what's outside of it since I was 4. My mom wouldn't let me bring home books about dinosaurs or the weather or space and stuff so whenever my class had a library day, I'd sit in the aisle and read a book or check out the book I want and sneak it into the house :P I guess what I'm going for is pretty unrealistic but I'm not gonna go give up on something I've loved for so long.

    My physics teacher keeps telling me to just go for it cause anything can happen in the next four years. I can die for all I know. At least the time I've spent in school would be worthwhile if I choose something I like.

    I've decided to apply to:
    - Wilfred Laurier university for physics
    - University of Western Ontario for physics and astronomy
    - York university for their bachelor's of education (concurrent) with Earth and atmospheric science

    I'll probably take some cs courses or a minor cause I need cs to go along with physics but I'm not going to make it my major area of interest

    I'm not sure which of these would be the best choice if i make it, but these are what I'm applying to. I'm sticking to non-prestigious universities (though I have applied to one prestigious one) because the prestigious ones tend to make their courses much harder (many of them have averages that they cannot exceed so they weed out a lot of people) and i'd rather go a little simple for my undergrad, get good marks and then go to a prestigious institution to pursue further education.

    Thanks to everyone! Everyone was a lot of help! :)
  14. Nov 29, 2016 #13


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    I hope you learn some practical things from whatever C.S. and other things you study, wherever you attend, and can find some fine employment along the way. Astronomy or Astrophysics might not be the career you find but you could learn good things that will overlap enough with what employers want that you may find some jobs.
  15. Nov 29, 2016 #14
    thank you! I'm really excited for the experience! :D
  16. Nov 29, 2016 #15
    Good luck. I have the same fate as you. Although, in my country, the future for Physics undergraduate is 'zero'. Definitely, 'Zero.' It's below poverty line... (Seriously).

    Even then, definitely, I'm gonna pick up Physics along with some other Engineering course and survive a dual-major. Heh, I'm a boy, but even then I can see my parents interfere much more then your parents too.

    You see, the people who go for physics are those who're interested. There's not much money there. So, I understand your family's issue. But, if you're doing Physics major against the wishes of your parents, work hard. You have no-one to blame now. I've seen people blaming their parents for picking up a course for them. However, I think if you work really-really hard with Physics, you'll get work in N-labs I think.
  17. Dec 4, 2016 #16
    You gotta really love it to study it. And it's okay, even if i don't get to work a physics job at least i'd have had the chance to study it. The skills you learn as a physics major are pretty marketable too! If you're allowed to leave the country to study, one of the universities i'm applying to offers concurrent education where you do physics and engineering together or physics and math together (your choice). It probably adds some years to your studies but instead of killing yourself with two majors in 4 years, you spend a little extra time and graduate with 2 degrees.
  18. Dec 5, 2016 #17
    Would you mind telling' me about that University. My parents and I had a long argument a while back about Physics. That ended with them challenging me to get 1500+ in SAT and they'll send me anywhere I want, which accidentally, happened. So, in a few days I'm going to apply for Universities.
  19. Dec 5, 2016 #18
    Always respect your parents. They do want the best for you, and they just want you to end up in a career that will see you with good employment opportunities so you don't have to starve when you leave the nest. They are looking after you.

    That said; My advice to you is to GO INTO ASTROPHYSICS. My parents and teachers did the exact same thing to me, and I have regretted following their advice. Did they have sound advice? Yes, I have a well paying career, which I admit I do like. However, I am not challenged. I feel like I could do so much more. I am unfulfilled. If I had pursued Physics or Engineering, I would have found my own niche and have been competitive there.

    There is this factor that really matters more than statistical employment numbers; passion. If you truly love what you do, you will find the drive and the determination to do something great. You will wake up in the morning determined to compete and to find a place that will employ you for what you love doing. Will you end up doing exactly that? Who knows. You may end up doing something temporary where you know you are just collecting a paycheck to get by. But you will have your education and knowledge. You will have the drive and passion. You will work for money during the day, and work at a lab for free at night conducting research you are passionate about.. until there is funding for you to pursue something big.

    Dream big, be ambitious, and don't let off the throttle. Prove your parents right, that you do have a good future ahead of you, even though it might not be in the field they are most comfortable with.

    On the flipside, if you go to CS, you already expressed that you do not have the interest to really pursue it. This is VERY problematic for that field. Passing grades will be within your grasp, but CS really needs to be "loved". Programming is very love hate, and if you hate it, you won't do the extra hours to be proficient and it will feel more like a drag than a career path. You will drone through the degree and flop your resume into places with a completely different attitude than if you had a physics degree.

    Be warned, you will do programming during your astrophysics program. You might end up doing python or several other languages.. most of research is based on this type of programming, since you sift through extremely large databases with a large amount of different parameters. But at the same time, your programming will have the over-arching purpose of achieving something very interesting to you, so the drive will be there.

    The first year of study in astrophysics is pretty similar to all physics and engineering degrees too. Talk to your school once you get there and ask if there are any double major options for astrophysics. A lot of engineering and science degrees are possible to complete in a 5th year of university. Like U of Ottawa has a Honours BSc in Physics / BASc in Electrical Engineering. http://www.uottawa.ca/academic/info/regist/calendars/programs/1564.html

    Keep your possibilities open and look out for your own interest, but at the same time be smart about it. You have 4 years to connect with different research facilities and hopefully prop yourself into a career from there. Ask for advice from faculty and I would try to see if you can expand your program into something that may bring extra skills and also help you on your resume.

    Good luck, and remember that your passion will be your success. You will hit some moments when you will wonder what the hell you are doing, but I promise it will work itself out with very hard work! Its all worth it! Cheers
  20. Dec 5, 2016 #19
    I disagree. My view is that the degree of parental input should approximately proportional to their ongoing financial support. If the parents are providing health insurance, tuition expenses, lodging, and transportation, then they really should have a say in what a child studies during the time period where they are providing a high level of support, including possible veto power over majors they do not see as productive or a good fit for the student.

    A student only reasonably has complete say over their own educational choices if 1) they are a legal adult and 2) they are completely independent financially including insurance, tuition, lodging, and transportation expenses.

    The idea that teens should have complete educational freedom before they achieve financial independence is a fantasy. If a teen expects parents to make 5-6 figure educational investments, they need to give parents a high level of confidence that the return on that investment will be realized.
  21. Dec 5, 2016 #20
    Yeup! It's the University of Western Ontario (located in London, Ontario,Canada).
    I emailed them a couple days ago and they said you would apply to their science program, specify your major second year (also means that you specify if you're doing a concurrent degree or not), and you're set!
    It's not "prestigious" and it does have a reputation as a party school but it's not a bad university. It's not a shitty school, it's really nice. I had the chance to visit it and loved it ! The professors were sooooo nice!
    ((Also if you're going to get a masters, you might not want to go to a prestigious uni - not that you won't do well, it'll just be harder to do well and where you go for your undergrad doesn't really matter when you're applying to your masters. Western isn't extremely easy or ridiculously hard- from what I've heard and observed, it's got a good balance between the social aspect and the academic aspect.

    I'm not gonna do concurrent but if all goes well, i'll do a physics major with a minor in planetary sciences
  22. Dec 5, 2016 #21
    I'm not getting resp or anything - most of my costs are going to be covered with osap and scholarships (i'm paying osap off on my own). Either way, physics 'isn't a bad decision. I may not get a job specifically in phyiscs but the skills i'll obtain can be used in other places too. I also applied for a BEd in physics at one of the universities so I still have a teaching option open for me.
  23. Dec 5, 2016 #22
    My parents are just caught up in the fact that I got a 97 in cs. No one realizes that I cried my way through that class to get the 97- it was not enjoyable at all! And it's just going to get harder. At least with physics i'll want to put in the effort to learn, like you said. I know i'll have to do cs for astrophysics but if I have to do it to get where I want, then I will. At least i'll have astronomy and physics courses to keep me happy, right? I'm so excited I can apply there now! My parents have no idea how much I love astrophysics. It's bad - i'm like emotionally attached.
  24. Dec 5, 2016 #23
    I'm not the one you have to convince.

    Making a living in astrophysics can be tough. Without knowing the school or the degree specifics or the job market, I'm not sure I would approve the plan for one of my own children.

    Straight Physics at a top 30 US school: sure. Astrophysics at an unknown school: don't know. Maybe not.
  25. Dec 5, 2016 #24


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    Dr. Courtney, THIS is why I said to starstruck what I said:
    The parents are too narrow-minded in what they expect the student to do or choose. If follows the parents demand, the result will probably go badly.
  26. Dec 5, 2016 #25
    This is false. You need no experience in computer science prior to university.

    In that case, you could always self study.
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