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Messed up in high school and want to be an astrophysicist

  1. Sep 7, 2009 #1
    Alright, first of all I'm going to say that astronomy and physics are my biggest passion and have been since I was very young. I'm going to try and keep this small and not get too personal here, I apologize ahead of time though if I sound like I'm complaining or something. So I'm fresh out of high school and never once thought about going to college all through school. To be honest, I had no clue what I was going to do (I was completely against paying to learn). During high school I slacked and whatnot and hardly did any homework, blah blah you guys know that story and I didn't take the SAT. So now I'm at a point where I'm like "what am I going to do with my life?". The only thing I want to do is try to solve the mysteries of the universe(however childish that sounds), its been my goal since forever but I thought I could do it without college. I never thought I was going to make it out of the situation I was in with my family and whatnot (I'm not going to get all personal and tell the information on here, if any of you are generally interested then shoot me a pm, I'll tell you).

    Right now I'm feeling that my only option is to go to the community college near me and make sure I do really well there and with a little luck and a lot of hope try to transfer out into a "real" school for astrophysics. Can anyone on here guide me at all?

    If anyone has any questions or anything please just post them here or send me a pm, I'll respond to the best of my abilities.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2009 #2


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    I think you've got the basic idea. You have to first make up for any shortcomings in your high school education. The way to do that is to get into a community college, which depending on how much you slacked off, may require you first take some remedial high school courses. Then you can take first and second year university courses. Then try to transfer into a full university. It's probably best to take straight physics. Then when you apply to graduate school you can decide on a subfield such as astrophysics to pursue.
  4. Sep 7, 2009 #3
    Well in highschool i took more advanced classes and passed them I just didnt get A's because I didnt do my homework. I took a lab physics class, precalculus and college algebra, I passed all of those. My main worry is that I think the chances of me being able to get into a "real" university for physics after this is low. Do you think that it will be that hard for me?
  5. Sep 7, 2009 #4


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    The first thing I'd do is look all over the internet/schools around you etc. for FELLOWSHIPS and SCHOLARSHIPS. You'd be surprised at how many are out there, and how many you DON'T need good grades to get. I'd say your first step would be to take the SAT as soon as possible. It makes the application process easier if its done. So study for that, get yourself prepared for it and ace it.
    Then look at scholarships. If you're a minority, live in a poorer area, are a woman, have a parent that is a minority or native american, had a tough time growing up, etc. Then theres probably a scholarship you can get, or at least some money some where you could try to obtain. You'll just have to write a good essay.
    The only way you won't have a chance is if you're like me, middle class white male from a decent area with parent's that make a decent amount of money. We're pretty much screwed in every way until grad school when universities realize they need English speaking TA's (no offense to anyone with poor english, but I've actually heard this helps locals get in).

    So :
    Take the SAT/ACT (depending on where you're applying) and do well on it.
    Look for scholarships that fit your situation.
    Apply for them, and apply to the schools that the scholarships can get you into.
    You'd be surprised, you may get into a decent state school, or private school with some monetary assistance.
    If those fail, which can happen, then consider the community colleges in your area. Research which have classes you can take that, if you get into a bigger school later, you can directly transfer into that school. All schools are different.
  6. Sep 7, 2009 #5


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    No, because there are a lot "REAL" universities out there if you're willing to move. Remember, getting into undergrad isn't always about getting in "for physics". Lots of places just accept you and let you decide what you're going to do. I switched majors 3 times. (Computer Science -> Computer Engineering -> Electrical Engineering -> Physics )

    Don't work under the assumption that only 4.0 students get to go to college.
  7. Sep 7, 2009 #6
    The money isnt an issue really. Worse comes to worse I'll get loans and whatnot. I'm worried about just getting in. Can you take the SAT after highschool? I never heard of that before.
  8. Sep 7, 2009 #7
    Yeah, you can take the SAT whenever you want.

    Don't worry about your performance in high school much if you are going to go to a community college. Just focus on doing really well in your community college classes. Universities will care more about that than how you did in high school. My story is kind of similar to yours. I barely graduated high school and after a few years finally went to a community college for a year. I was accepted to every college I applied to and now I am attending one of the top public universities in my state. Also I never had to take the SAT's because I was a transfer student, so you may not have to either, but make sure you check with the school. If you think you will do well though you may want to anyway just as a little boost for your application.
  9. Sep 7, 2009 #8
    Thanks man, this is what I needed to hear. It just seemed to far fetched to me to go to community college and transfer out for something like physics.
  10. Sep 8, 2009 #9


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    But again, let me stress to you, that if money isn't that big of a problem, DON'T assume you won't get into a state school/university. Apply to them first, after taking the SAT. If you get into a 4 year program without having to worry about what to take, what transfers to where, etc. then life will be a lot easier.
    IF you go the community college way, again, to most schools its more about how many credits maximum you can transfer, and most of them are for general ed classes. Which means that you won't be transferring into a "physics program" but rather just the school itself. Then you declare your major.
    Grad school is more of a apply-to-department program. Undergrad is more of an apply-to-school.
  11. Sep 8, 2009 #10
    Yeah, I understand what you guys are talking about now. I should get into the school before I get all picky about what major I choose. I think the community college route would be the best option for me but I'm not sure.
  12. Sep 8, 2009 #11
    If you've got a bad high school record, community college is *definitely* the route that you want to go. As another poster said, go there, fix up any high school deficiencies and do your first two years of university, studying and doing well the whole time. When it's time to transfer to a four year university, you shouldn't have any problem.

    Re-reading the thread, though, Hepth might have a point... some state universities are not very competitive. You might want to consider applying there directly if money really isn't an issue.
  13. Sep 9, 2009 #12


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    Yep. But one then has to work hard (and do homework) in order to demonstrate that one is both competent and serious. A person could be the smartest in the world, but if he or she does not perform and do the work, they will not get opportunity down the road.

    Yes and no. The really good schools can be competitive. One needs to look at the specific departments rather than simply picking a university. Look at the research that is being done at various universities and pick the one that one finds of most interest.
  14. Sep 9, 2009 #13
    Yeah, I'm willing to work hard for this though. Doing financial aid for community college now. Here's to hoping I can start in the spring.
  15. Sep 9, 2009 #14
    Absolutely. I guess I assumed that the OP had seen the error of his ways and was ready to straighten up and fly right. Going to CC and just screwing around would be a recipe for total failure.

    True, but some of the lesser schools are also acceptable. I guess I still think CC is a better option because of the economics, but if money isn't an issue, why not go directly to a four-year college?

    The necessity of hard work is the same along either path though.
  16. Sep 9, 2009 #15


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    My daughter just completed her AS at CC and my son just started. Neither had fixed on a major, so CC is fine while they sort out their paths - and to save money. If one can live at home or live in a low cost apartment with a roommate and work, that is a good way to go - at CC or at a 4-yr program.

    I went directly from high school into a 4-yr program in physics starting at the sophomore level. I subsequently changed majors from physics to nuclear engineering and went onto grad school. I got married when I finished my bachelor's program. I left grad school and immediately started a job.

    Different people take different paths.

    If I knew then what I know now, I would have certainly done things differently - and perhaps would have taken time off to see more of the world.

    I should mention that I had a friend and colleague in my undergrad NE program. He mentioned that he messed around in high school (early or last year or all along, I'm not sure). But he buckled down and was perhaps the best student in our class. He made straight A's in the undergrad program and picked up a research job during his sophomore year. He went on to get a MS and PhD in NE.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2009
  17. Sep 9, 2009 #16
    If you work hard now, you may be able to reach your goal within 10 years. You need a PhD. You need to do give up many pleasures, study hard, and do well. And you need to have to develop good connections with astrophysicists - I guess this is something you will learn along the way. Good luck.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2009
  18. Sep 9, 2009 #17
    Thanks man. I won't have to give up very many pleasures, this is what I love, this is what I want to do. This is my pleasure.
  19. Sep 9, 2009 #18


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    Look into joining - http://www.aip.org/
    http://www.aip.org/pt/jobs/seek/astronomy_astrophysics.html [Broken]

    http://ptonline.aip.org/journals/doc/PHTOAD-ft/vol_62/iss_8/60_1.shtml [Broken]

    Interesting interview with George Gamov

    Some history - http://www.aip.org/history/cosmology/tools/tools-spectroscopy.htm

    and http://www.aps.org/


    Topical Group in Plasma Astrophysics
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  20. Sep 9, 2009 #19
    Wow, this is amazing man. Thanks. I just finished my financial aid, lets hope I have to pay as little as possible with loans.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  21. Sep 9, 2009 #20


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    Not far fetched at all! I messed up most of my high school (um, I had other interests, haha :smile:). Then about a year after high school, I went to community college for *4 years* part time to catch up on all the things I missed...the first math class I had in CC was "Introduction to Algebra."

    It took a while but eventually I got a BS in physics. Seriously, it can be done. You just have to be hard-headed and stubborn!
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