My Story: Physics Undergraduate Struggling to Graduate on Time

In summary, this student is in a difficult situation. He may need to speak with the professor and figure out a plan, or may need to take aredits by examination over the summer.
  • #1
I'm a physics undergraduate student. Im gonna try to tell you the short version of my story.

I used to be in a different science field, but always wanted to pursue physics. The reason I didn't do so at the start is because my parents were opposed to the idea (i was 17 and didn't argue much at the time.) Alas, a semester later, i changed my major. However, I had to take a semester off, which threw the entire momentum off because i had to take some prerequisites that are only offered in one semester out of the two academic semesters each year.

However, that meant I had to stay for one extra year (making the total number of years I spend in uni 5.5-6 years). But today, i found out that i might fail one of my important physics courses, a prerequisite to everything i have to take in my final year (next year).

Now the reason i might fail is because I didn't do well at all in the midterm (which is 50% of the grade) and the final is also 50% of the total grade. So passing means i should get at least a 94/100 in my final. Yes, our university has weird divisions for grades and exams. It's a little messed up that they don't give students another chance to increase their grades or retake exams.

I don't know what to do. I don't want to spend another year here, which would happen if i fail this course because it isn't offered until next Spring semester. No one knows except a friend, who is telling me to change universities because this one truly messes up its students without giving them much room for error or mishaps. Any advice? Has anyone else been in a similar position?
 
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  • #2
astrofanatic said:
I don't know what to do. I don't want to spend another year here, which would happen if i fail this course because it isn't offered until next Spring semester. No one knows except a friend, who is telling me to change universities because this one truly messes up its students without giving them much room for error or mishaps. Any advice? Has anyone else been in a similar position?
Part of your answer is in that quotation. But something not clear is, does the DEPARTMENT create those unreasonable restrictions, or does the UNIVERSITY do this?
 
  • #3
symbolipoint said:
Part of your answer is in that quotation. But something not clear is, does the DEPARTMENT create those unreasonable restrictions, or does the UNIVERSITY do this?
It's definitely the department. This isn't a curved course, so if you're below a specific threshold you automatically fail. Other departments also have homework and assignments that help them raise their grade. What would your advise be? Thank you for your reply btw!
 
  • #4
astrofanatic said:
It's definitely the department. This isn't a curved course, so if you're below a specific threshold you automatically fail. Other departments also have homework and assignments that help them raise their grade. What would your advise be? Thank you for your reply btw!
If you are in the states. Schools usually cap the number of units which could be transferred, and sometimes have a minimum of in house units which should be completed. So if you do decide to switch schools, it may add more than 1 year.

It sounds a bit extreme trying to switch schools due to one course. Have you done well in the rest of you're courses, or barely scraped by?

Worse case scenario, you do not pass, cannot take other courses since you state that this one course is a pre-requisite for all others. But you can use this extra year studying for this course, studying previous material, use this year for GRE study etc etc.

If this is the only course in which you have done bad in, then there may be two options available:

Check to see if you can do a credit by examination for this course over the summer.
Seek department approval to enroll in the other courses.

You may have more success doing option one. Option 2 relies on past performance, and maybe having a professor going to bat for you...
 
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  • #5
You need a 94% score on the final just to pass?

First off, it sounds like it might be a good idea to speak with this professor and confirm things are really as bad as they seem. I mean, if you left most of the mid-term blank, there's not much a professor can do, but if the class average on the mid-term was only 30% or something odd like that, the professor may be forced to curve it by the department. Or give another exam. Many schools are moving away from evaluations with so much weight based on a final.

Second, speak with an undergraduate advisor and figure out what exactly your options are if indeed you fail this course. If that means you'll have to stay another year to complete your degree... well there's not much that we can tell you that's going to change that. But just be clear that you're dealing with accurate information and not operating on assumptions. (It's surprising how frequently students get worked up about an assumption.)

Third, it might be time for a deep dive into whether this really is the right path for you. If all your other coursework is awesome and this is a case of illness during the exam, or some other kind of fluke, then figure out how to get through it and move on. But if this really is a case of struggling through core material, you need to figure out why you're struggling with it and correct it. Because if it truly is a prerequisite, all these other courses that require it are going to be a tough slog if you haven't mastered the material. Even if you transfer to another school you could find yourself in the same boat the next time this material comes up.
 
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