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My dream not realized, and I am falling down a deep cliff.

  1. Aug 19, 2010 #1
    Just in case you are wondering, the "I am falling down a deep cliff" was something I got from "The Catcher in the Rye", I hope I used it correctly in my problem.

    Background on Problem

    I am a college freshman this fall and I am face with an undecided decision (that was very wordy). I have always been passionate about Math, but only until last year did I really look at Math differently.

    In late May of 2010, I wrote the AP Calc BC Exam and during late May, I also decide to enroll myself in a Multi-variable Calc at a community college.

    Two days ago, I got my results from my Calc Exam (late testing, late results) and I found out that I scored a 3. Then just today, I got my final grades computed from my MVC and I got a B- (2.67gpa). My community college runs on a 4.33 gpa scale. The college I have been admitted to, runs on a 4.0gpa scale and converting, I would get a pitiful 2.4gpa


    Now I feel like God just stabbed me twice in the heart because now I really feel like I am fishing for the wrong fish here.

    This is really painful for me because I don't know how to present this when I apply for grad school. They look at my application and see an ugly B and they see this is just someone with passion, but no talent and would not benefit the school in the future. Should I even retake MVC to change that B- at my new university? I feel horrible to even suggest this, but my grandfather passed away in mid-June this year, should I use him as an excuse? He wasn't very close to me, but he was still my grandfather and I feel a bit horrible for using him, just a little unethical and despicable and a disgusting temptation.

    I have talked with my instructor and he said that I should try other areas of Math to see which one is for me. (explained later in my post)

    I signed up for Calc I and II and first semester of Linear Algebra this fall (two terms) and my instructor thought that Linear Algebra was a good choice, but maybe I should argue with my new university department to let me skip freshman calc

    And here I am, no idea what to do, if I get a pathetic and pitiful grade in an elementary math course like MVC, is there even hope for me? My 3 in my AP Calc (which I self-studied) seems to say the same.

    What am I suppose to do, what path should I take. I feel like I am not getting anywhere.

    My talk with my instructor (optional read)

    After I received such an embarrassing grade, I had a talk with him and discussed some prospects with him. He told me that he nearly failed Calc I, but he bumped it to a C+ because he scored like a 98% on the finals and how he actually failed Calc III when he first started (probably said it to make me feel better). He also said that maybe Calculus is not for me and maybe some other area of Math is for me. He said I should try discrete math, probability, or real analysis and see maybe I can go on from there and if there is no concrete results shown, then I should consider switching my major.

    But I feel like a lot of his past errors are overlooked because it was probably like 20 years ago and I am sure that the competition today is much more frightening. In addition, I think all Math connects with one another and I feel like these two failures (Calc BC and MVC) showed that I am incompetent for this, but I can't get off the passion for doing anything else.

    Important info forgot to add

    I should also mention that I am Canadian, so the lack of grad school for direct ph.d entries is scaring me. Not even sure if funding exists in Canada.

    Thank you for reading PF
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 19, 2010 #2
    Grad school? You're a Freshman. No offense, but you're looking waaay too far ahead right now. Grad school admissions boards aren't going to give a hoot about your B- if you score an A in topology or complex analysis. It's the higher courses that count.

    But remember, the grades reflect how well you learned the material. If you didn't learn the material, you might be ill-suited for more advanced classes. But with a B-, you'll be fine. To be honest, you being an upcoming freshman, you don't sound like you're used to anything less than an A. Get used to B's and C's. College is not high school. In high school, you were the smartest kid, or at least one of the top ten probably. Now you're going to be with a bunch of other kids who were in the top ten. You think everyone's going to still make A's? Not likely.
  4. Aug 19, 2010 #3
    I should also add that Cs were very common in my highschool report card except Math...
  5. Aug 19, 2010 #4
    Why not just decline credit transfer for the MVC course you took? This way you could retake it this coming semester, and you'll probably be better prepared now since you've taken the course already.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2010
  6. Aug 19, 2010 #5
    I am not (have not) trasnfered it yet, but it still remains in the record at my community college.
  7. Aug 19, 2010 #6
    Then there's no problem. Just retake MVC this Fall semester and you'll be fine. And remember, for every 1 hour in math class you should be spending 2-3 hours doing homework/studying.
  8. Aug 19, 2010 #7


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    If you don't feel you really understand the material well, or even if you aren't sure why you didn't do well, then retake that class.

    Your instructor gave very good advice: the material in those classes he mentioned is very different, you may find that you love it.
  9. Aug 19, 2010 #8
    When I apply to grad school, should I even tell them this embarrassing thing?

    I thought retaking a class is like stamping a "throw away" stamp on my applications when I apply according to these threads

  10. Aug 19, 2010 #9
    My friend, you're thinking way too far ahead... Forget about grad school right now, you're not even into undergrad yet. Take a moment and realize a few things:

    1. MVC is far from an "elementary math class".
    2. No one ever has to know that you even took that course.
    3. You can take it again after calc I and II (and III); this is the normal sequence.
    4. You haven't even got your feet wet with mathematics.. There are so many areas of study, and no one likes them all. For example I detest statistics, but love calculus.

    Slow down and take your time. The worst thing you could do is rush through the undergrad courses as they are the basis for your future (should you stay in mathematics). Learn a lot and enjoy.

    Good luck.
  11. Aug 19, 2010 #10
    They were talking about re-taking courses they took at their current college which is very different from how you took a course at your CC in your senior year of high school. The college you're going to won't even consider your grade on MVC for the course you took at the end of senior year. Your slate is clean right now, plus you now have an idea of what is expected of you in college math courses.

    Since you got a 3 on the AP BC exam, your college probably will make you start at Calculus II, which is perfectly fine(in fact, you may find it very helpful since the course won't be centered completely around passing some standardized exam).
  12. Aug 19, 2010 #11
    1. MVC is an elementary class, it's a sophomore course supposingly. And every math-related careers need it, hence elementary.
    2. When I apply, if I don't tell them, won't they think I am lying?
    3. I might put away for it aside and take differentials and then do it again at junior years?
    4. I thought stats was different from math, I mean 1st-year stats maybe the same, but onwards is not.
  13. Aug 19, 2010 #12


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    I wouldn't worry about what you're going to put down on a graduate school application right now. Instead, concern yourself about doing the best you can for the level you're at. This could very well have been just a case of taking on too much while still in high school.

    Not sure why this would be. Either way, there are lots of people that get into graduate school who have done less than stellar in a few undergraduate classes. As has already been stated, it's more important how you do in the more advanced classes. The trick is making sure you're focused on the right things so that you do perform well in those classes.

    I'm not sure what you mean in the first statement. It's more common in Canada to be accepted first to an MSc program, but that's just a title. Lot's of people skip directly into the PhD program after their first year and it's no different than having been directly admitted to a PhD program.

    And yes, graduate students are generally funded in Canada.
  14. Aug 19, 2010 #13
    Elementary doesn't necessarily mean easy. For example, organic chemistry is a sophomore-level course for chemistry majors at my school, and they are "elementary" according to your definition (after all, every chemist needs to know organic chemistry, right?), but I don't think it's an easy class at all (I'm not a chemistry major, so I wouldn't know). And it is certainly possible that you can get B's in these elementary courses, even when you are brilliant, and grad school admissions are aware of that. That's why your grades/GPA is not the only indicator for graduate school; you will need to turn in letters of recommendations, statement of purpose, GRE scores (both general and subject), and other things you've done while you were an undergrad (e.g. research, thesis, math-related work). So I think stressing on grade from a MVC class is a waste of time, and you should find a way to prove that you can actually do MVC (i.e. "elementary" material!) in more advanced courses like real analysis, complex analysis, differential geometry, etc. You got a B-, and I think that means you learned something from that class; maybe some part of it is still rusty for you, but I believe you can review those materials on your own.

    It kind of is and kind of isn't... It's more like an applied math. But that's not the main point here; sEsposito is simply trying to tell you that you will likely to enjoy one area of math more than the other. This is why many mathematicians specialize in certain topics, like algebraist, analyst, geometer, topologist, probabilist, and the list goes on...
  15. Aug 20, 2010 #14
    First of all, we all have set backs. Your professor definitely was not lieing too you, if he really thought you didn't have what it takes he'd have gently told you to stay away from math completely. Also I've gotten a M.S. in controls engineering from UC Irvine and I can tell you the they could care less about how you did in your first year of college, it's all about how well you can do the advance material to them. I mean I once had to take a final behind someone who clearly hadn't bathed in two weeks (smelled friggin awful but there were no other chairs left in the room), do you really think you'll end up as worse grad student material than Mr. Needs-a-bath by the time you graduate? lol

    Don't count your passion for you field as nothing too, if the professors at your university know of your passion and dedication to mathematics, they'll be more than willing to not only assist you during office hours but also write a hell of a recommendation which counts for a lot.

    So yah, in summary no one will ever care about one bad class. I'd suggest retaking the course in college, nobody is gonna look down on you for having to retake a course you tried to take 1-2 years ahead of the usual time. You just sound like your down in the dumps, so I'd suggest watching a few Rocky movies (the montage's cheer me up) and challenging the course to a rematch.
  16. Aug 20, 2010 #15
    I'd like to offer what I think is some of the most critical advice about being a scientist or mathematician. When you are struggling to understand something, don't torment yourself with the idea that other people understood it quicker. Allow yourself the time to think about whatever is confusing you, even if it seems simple. Virtually no one can understand a complex problem in one step. The successful ones have simply been patient and taken the time to break the problem down into simple parts that they can comprehend.

    All I am getting at is that MVC is not an easy topic. I got an A in it, and later tutored it at my school, but that doesn't mean I found it easy. There were a ton of concepts that I really had to struggle with at the time. Anyone who acts like it was totally simple is probably just showing off. And oftentimes the people who go through the class telling themselves it is simple are the people who actually don't understand things as well as they thought they did.

    Josiah Willard Gibbs said "One of the principal objects of theoretical research in my department of knowledge is to find the point of view from which the subject appears in its greatest simplicity." If you truly understand what you're doing, it SHOULD seem elementary! Even once you're a grad student.

    I guess this post was irrelevant to your question. Sorry.
  17. Aug 20, 2010 #16
    For freshman classes, people aren't going to care very much.

    In any case, one thing that you are going to have to learn in college is "damage control."

    Given that things don't go the way that you want (and they won't), what can you do to keep working toward your goal, whatever it is. If you retake a class and then have a solid foundation for your upper level classes, then that's going to be far, far, far matter than if you just head into upper level classes unprepared and fall apart.

    "Damage control" is pretty important because at some point it may or may not become obvious that you just can't get into the top schools, but if it's important enough to you, then you just tell yourself that you are heading for the middle schools, and if you can't get into the middle schools, then go for the bottom schools, and if you can't get into the bottom schools, then figure out what you can get.
  18. Aug 20, 2010 #17
    What you are going through is pretty common, and it happens with a lot of people freshman year in college. What happens is that most people that are into physics and math do very well in high school, but when they hit college they suddenly realize that they in their group, they are either average or below average, and it's a pretty shocking feeling for most people to deal with.

    One question that you sort of ask yourself is to you love math and physics enough to do it even if it turns out that you are awful at it. You are destined to be awful in math and physics, because if it turns out that you are good, you get promoted to the next level, and eventually you'll find a level in which the people around you are just better than you.

    Dealing with that is part of your education.

    A B- isn't the end of the world, and taking multi-variable calculus as a freshmen is quite challenging. The important thing that you need to figure out is if you understand the math enough to take further courses or if you need to retake the class.

    People aren't going to care that much if you do decent in your other classes. What you really *should* be concerned about isn't graduate school applications. What you really should be concerned about is that you are getting into a mental state that may make it impossible for you to finish your degree at all.

    This is *NOT* the last time you are going to do badly on a test, and this is *NOT* the last time you get a sub-par grade. If you dust yourself off, and recover from it, then you'll muddle through. If you can't deal with bad grades and bad tests, then you aren't going to get to the point where you will be able to apply for graduate school, and then *getting* through graduate school is a series of obstacles and challenges, and then getting through life after graduate school is also a series of obstacles and challenges.

    You are going to screw up. You are going to mess up majorly because you are human and math and physics is a hard subject. You are going to have bad grades, you are going to bad days or bad weeks. You are going mess up majorly. You are going to get rejected for graduate school, post-doc, faculty positions. This is going to happen because you happen to be a human being, and you just have to face that fact.

    But what works for me is that I stopped caring a few years ago that the person next to me was ten times smarter than me. Math and physics are cool, and they are cool enough to be worth a bad grade or two.

    If you think you aren't prepared for the next set of courses, absolutely.

    MVC is not an elementary math course.

    Do you like math? Do you like math enough to study it even if it turns out that you are just not that good at it?

    Why are you so worried about the competition? One of the things that I had to learn in college, and which everyone that does physics has to learn is that not everything is a competition. If you get yourself in a state of mind where it is number one or nothing than you are just not going to be able to do productive work in physics or math.

    If you aren't making mistakes, then you aren't trying hard enough.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2010
  19. Aug 20, 2010 #18
    It's something that requires a high degree of knowledge. The fact that you got a B- as a freshmen in MVC looks pretty good to me.

    Applications committees have to go through hundreds of applications and they actually prefer that you don't tell them information that is irrelevant. The fact that you took MVC twice is not going to be relevant.

    Do whatever you need to do to keep yourself in the game.
  20. Aug 20, 2010 #19
    But that B- is like on a 4.33 scale, it's like 61%
  21. Aug 20, 2010 #20
    Irrelevant. B- just means B-; it means a "good" or "above average" work, unless your school uses different grading strategy.
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