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Pursuing physics b.s., late start

  1. Mar 30, 2015 #1
    I'm looking for some advice-- I'm sure I'm not the only one whose been in this situation.

    This is going to seem like a whiny autobiography, but I feel like mentioning these things has a point and might lead to more relevant answers. As long as I can remember, I've dealt with depression, anxiety, and agoraphobia. Now that I'm older, I realize these things stemmed from my fear of inadequacy and my constant asking of "what if?" and "why?". I can guess that my subconscious agoraphobia is due to the fact that I always want to be in control of a situation, and if I'm surrounded by many people and the wide open, I can't focus on it all at once. (Mentioning this has a point, I promise.)

    Anyway, due to my mental issues, I hated school growing up. I would skip whenever I got the chance. When I hit my teens, I became sick. I went to every specialist my family could find, and they couldn't find anything wrong with me. They said it was due to my depression, and my sense of helplessness and doubt caused by the doctors lack of an answer. So, the combination of my frailty and my depression created a vicious cycle. I wouldn't go to school because I was sick, and I became depressed and anxious because of that, to the point that I couldn't handle school even when I was feeling physically able to.

    For the four years of high-school I was enrolled, I probably only really was there in class for 1 1/2. My education suffered severely as a result, as well as my already less than stellar social skills. I ended up dropping out my senior year, unable to deal with everything.

    I got a diagnosis, cut myself off from toxic people, and changed my mindset. I attended community college, and I realized I really loved learning. I planned on going into international diplomacy, eventually. I never had much of an interest in any science--for me it was always about language, culture, religion, and politics.

    ...And then, by chance, I came across an article about black holes and I was mystified, giddy--I found what I wanted to do with my life, I even made a point of waking up everyone in my house to tell them! I had always loved logic, but at the same time I consider myself very... dreamy. My mind is always straddling the line between realism and romanticism. Initially I told all my friends and family I wanted to study physics, but their reactions discouraged me. I knew it would be hard work, and I guess I wasn't sure at the time if I could handle it. I gave up on it.

    Then, I came back to it. I still love international relations and I know I would be happy with that career path too, but once I realized it was physics, I could deny it all I wanted but it was always going to be physics! Now that I've come to understand mathematics better, I can say that I really love math too. It's strange, because I don't consider myself to be a "sciencey" person, but I'm so sure about what I want to do.

    I felt very inadequate when I made this decision to pursue a degree in physics, but rather than becoming dejected, it motivated me to work harder. I started self-studying as much as I could in my free time, if I let myself play a video game I made sure I had an audiobook going, so maybe it wouldn't be entirely unproductive...I've NEVER been a "math person". I only scored a 17 in math on my ACT. Honestly, with any other subject, it all came easy to me, I never had to put any effort. So the fact that I'm now technically in my junior year and haven't even taken any classes related to math or physics, it's a little scary. Now that I'm transferring from a tiny community college with about 100 students to university with 30,000 students, I'm feeling very unspectacular. Dealing with physics PhDs when I've only taken a college algebra class that I'm struggling to get an A in, it's very intimidating.

    So I guess, like many younglings that came to this website before, I'd like to know if there's any advice you can offer me in my future studies. Tomorrow I'll be meeting with my academic advisor/professor, and I've probably never talked to anyone that intelligent before. More than that, I don't think I've talked to someone that professional before. It's a vague, dumb question, but is there anything I should do/ not do? Man, I know this is sounding more like something that should be on yahoo answers, I just want to make sure to make a good first impression.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2015 #2


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    Don't worry! Professors are just people. Well, people who tend to be very driven and passionate about physics. :wink: So, approach them just as you would approach any other person on whom you want to make a good impression. They wouldn't be an academic advisor if they weren't invested in making sure students do well. As such, they will respond well to students who are also invested in making sure they do well - if you come across as interested, intelligent and motivated, you will get on well. Even if you don't, they'll still be nice to you - as an undergraduate student, I never actually had an academic be anything but kind. Now, on the other side, I'm invested in my students doing well, but if they don't give a crap, I stop giving a crap about them (eventually). So, basically, give a crap!

    It sounds like you're feeling a little like a fish out of water in your new college. I imagine the transition is pretty intense! I'd strongly encourage you to seek out help if you want to - your professor is a good start, they probably know about the resources at your university, but there will be an academic resources centre, a counselling centre, and a disabilities/accessibility unit, and so on. Make sure you get the support you need! Also, I strongly recommend forming a study group with your classmates, I found mine invaluable. There's nothing that makes spending all weekend on an assignment better than doing it with a group of your peers.
  4. Mar 31, 2015 #3
    Definitely find fellow students you can work with. But I would advise you first give the problem assignments a shot by yourself to start before working with others. This will give you a better feeling about how much you think you understand and will help build confidence. But if you have issues with some topics don't wait too long to seek assistance get them cleared up quickly or you might get overwhelmed. Working with other will also give you a handle on where you stand in relation to your classmates. Finally, determine what you want to do after you graduate starting as soon as possible. This is a competitive field and likely to become even more so in the future.
  5. Apr 4, 2015 #4
    I don't want to be negative but I think I would finish your current degree you set out too. If you have only taken algebra and have already transferred you are looking at several more years of just math not to mention all the science classes. You can still study and learn science in your free time, but i wouldn't waste money at a big school when your so behind.

    If you can't possibly see yourself doing anything else then stay at the community college where its much cheaper if not free for may people and catch up on the math in particular.

    The adviser will probably mention something similar that you will need to take a lot of lower division math classes even before you can take general physics
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