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Really behind in my degree. Looking for advice and/or comments

  1. Sep 9, 2012 #1
    Hi everyone this is my first time posting on this site. I'm feeling really crappy about where I am in school, and I thought I would see what you people think.

    So anyways, my first semester in college I was a music major at a pretty good conservatory. I was a good musician and I really only went into music because I was good at it. It was during that time that I started reading a book by Richard Feynman and I consumed hours and hours of videos by him. Long story short, I decided I wanted to change my major to physics. My second semester I came back home and went to a community college for a semester to get all my required credits I would need for transferring. I now go to the University of texas in Austin.

    This is where everything goes to ****. So for about that entire first year at UT I was really depressed, I didn't know anyone on campus, and I was completely oblivious about the million ways I could have gotten help that year. Unfortunately, when I got there is when I started to deal with some pretty nasty stuff from my earlier years. I went through Calculus with C's, and I got by in Mechanics. I took e+m in the spring but I dropped it because I was doing so poorly. The next year was even worse, and it was then that I realized that I needed some serious help and went to a therapist. Apart from working through various issues, I was diagnosed with adhd.

    That semester was a complete disaster for me and I ended up withdrawing from the school. In the spring, I took a severely reduced workload in hopes that I could learn how to actually do well in class, and then translate that to a heavier course load. So I have like 10 hours to account for my third year of college.

    So here I sit in my 4th year of college. I take responsibility for where I am, but I'm really scared for the future. Here's just a glimpse as to how ungodly behind I am. I'm taking a single upper division modern physics course, no lab(need diffeq credit), differential equations, biology, and an asian studies course. I have to wait until the spring to even finish up lower division coursework. So, barring any more screwups on my part, it'll have taken me 4 years to just complete lower division physics, one upper division class, and lower division math. This semester I'm really going heavy on the T.a. sessions and office hours in hopes that I can have some sort of support system through that. Also, I'm getting into a routine where I'm studying 4 or 5 hours every day, although I'm currently building up to that. I also don't have a good idea about what I would want to do with physics, so I would like to take this semester or year and talk to different professors about their research.

    I'm sorry for the essay. If you have any sort of advice whatsoever, I am all ears. Even if it's telling me to quit physics forever, I will appreciate it.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 9, 2012 #2
    I'm going to bump this once, and then let it die if no one comments on it.
    I'm really just looking for some tips about how to stay motivated, how to figure out what on earth I want to do with physics, and maybe some study or organization tips. I would seriously appreciate it. I'm actually playing around with the idea of taking some time off in the spring so I can get my head straight. I figure I have so much school left anyways, I might as well have that time to figure some things out. Any thoughts on that?
  4. Sep 9, 2012 #3
    My advice is to not attempt your degree until you're able to focus on and enjoy your studies. After all, if you can't enjoy it, why are you doing it?

    From a financial perspective, you're shooting yourself in the foot. Most universities only allow for 10 semesters worth of financial aid (both federal and school grant money). From an academic perspective, you're not really getting the education you deserve, or that you're paying for, when you're dealing with distractions. Maybe you have family concerns at home, maybe you have some personal issues to work out, and that's fine. But work those issues out first, then you can get your education with minimal distraction. Another advantage to taking some time off is that you can spend your free time preparing for future classes, and that alone should relieve a great deal of your stress.

    I understand that you're already enrolled for this semester. So if you're seriously considering the above advice (taking time to sort your issues before pursuing your degree) then I would suggest that you meet with your dean to discuss your options. Even if you're still headstrong about working through your classes this semester, it would still be a good idea to meet with your dean and put him/her on notice about whatever is going on with you personally.

    Nobody on this forum can tell you how ready you are to tackle your classes, only you can decide that.

    Edit: Also, it's probably much too early to be concerned about what you can do with your physics degree. Just focus on sorting your personal issues, then focus on doing well in your classes, and then you can concern yourself with a career path. Plus, taking time off from school will allow you to decide if physics is a good choice. If physics doesn't interest you, then you can second guess your degree plan. But you've already mentioned that you're inspired by Feynman, and that you've willfully consumed hours of your time studying physics, so it's probably a good fit.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2012
  5. Sep 9, 2012 #4


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    If you're in a mess mentally I'd consider taking a break and then just find ways to keep busy and figure out what's right.

    One thing that you should be aware of is that physics (like engineering, mathematics, and the other sciences) is all about solving problems. It's not the only thing of course concerned with solving problems (life is all about solving problems), but you should keep in mind that this is what it's really all about and if you don't like solving problems despite whether they are interesting or not, then it might be a good idea to re-examine if you want to go the distance with physics.

    Whenever I hear the word "passion" I am reminded of a similar word "passive". To me a lot of the passion requires one to be passive: to just keep going regardless for the purposes of doing what it takes to get better and try to master as much as you can.

    A thing to think about is since you are familiar with music, think about the constant drills and time you need to spend playing so that you can forget about where your fingers have to be so you can concentrate on the bigger picture. Eventually you are able to look at the entire song rather than getting the individual notes right, and a lot of this comes from being passive on the road to mastering the instrument and music as best as you can.

    If you really want to do it though, just find someone that will give it to you straight without euphemisms or sweet talk: if after hearing the worst crap that is entailed in achieving the goal or becoming a professional in that career you are still hungry to enter, then that is a good indicator but you have to be 100% honest with yourself, and if it's not the case don't take it as meaning that you somehow "inferior": it just means that there is something else that you can put your energy into where you can deal with all the crap that comes with it.

    We all do it: we all choose things where we can put up with the crap that comes with it where the rewards are worth what we have to put up with and everyone has their own limits and crap that they will tolerate.
  6. Sep 9, 2012 #5
    I think your attitude of accepting responsibility (not blaming others) is excellent and way ahead of a lot of other people in similar situations. It also sounds like there were problems outside of the courses themselves that hurt your studies. To me an important question to answer is to what extent these outside problems have changed for the better. In other words do you see a clear change of circumstances/attitude that make you think you will be successful now as opposed to before? I think it might be helpful to make a list of the reasons you did poorly and ask yourself if each has changed. Best of luck, talking this through with someone you know and respect in person is probably a good idea.
  7. Sep 10, 2012 #6
    Thanks so much for the advice and kind words! I think I'll see what my options are for this semester, but definitely withdraw for the spring. I really shouldn't be trying to juggle all the crazy mess in my head with all the crazy stuff in physics...
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