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Self-Taught Undergraduate Physics Major

  1. Jan 20, 2014 #1

    Do you think that it would be possible for me design my own curriculum and teach myself all of undergraduate physics and the appropriate level math in a year potentially? I know that I will have to work lots of problems to become really good at the content. I was also thinking about taking the subject GRE in Math and Physics to show how much I have learned. I will be learning from MIT open courseware and other online sources as well. I will take timed tests from other courses with similar content. I haven't had any calculus beyond calculus II formally.

    Too much or should I stay and get a formal education? Also I am not a genius but I work really hard in my opinion and am willing to learn as much as I need.

    I want to be able to get into a physics masters program after taking several graduate level courses to show that I know my stuff along with the GRE subject tests in Math and Physics and Chemistry. Is this impossible. Again this is just for the undergraduate level.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 20, 2014 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    Can you work four times faster than an MIT student with no professorial guidance?
  4. Jan 20, 2014 #3
    Well, you are saying you work hard and have determination and passion, so I suppose you can try. For example, Scott h young completed MIT's four year computer science classes in an year. Also, after doing a bit of searching, I see that on MIT open courseware there are many resources including textbooks, video lectures, lecture notes for math and physics. Also, try edX for actual MIT courses from MIT professors online (edx.org). For classes you can't find resources for, find the class code (i.e. 18.xx) for the math classes from here http://math.mit.edu/academics/classes.php and find the text book for it from here http://math.mit.edu/academics/classes.php?term=2014SP&sort=sorttexts
    For physics, http://web.mit.edu/Physics/subjects/index.html
    Just don't be disappointed if it takes more then one year. Good luck!
  5. Jan 20, 2014 #4
    I think I can try. So far I have been teaching myself physics and I'm enrolled in a class. It seems like all we are doing is working problems right out of the book. The professors are great don't get me wrong but, I just don't get paying all that money for what I'm getting other than the credential. I'm with Wannabe, I don't know but I can certainly try.
  6. Jan 20, 2014 #5
    You aren't saying that I can't and I know it will be difficult. I think its worth a shot. I don't know if I can work without a professor's guidance but with enough work, patience and dedication I think I can do it.
  7. Jan 20, 2014 #6
    Vanadium, do you think they will hold it against me that I didn't receive a formal education for a BS in physics for say a masters program? I am planning on getting research experience and will take 4 or so subject GRE's to show my competence and any other exams they would like for me to take. In addition, I will take several graduate courses to show my competency.

    If it becomes slightly more than a year I think it will be Ok.
  8. Jan 20, 2014 #7


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    Yes, they are going to hold not having a bachelors against you. A bachelors degree is the minimum requirement to apply to a masters program. The vast majority of schools won't even consider your application. In fact, I'd be surprised if any did. And how to you plan to get research experience? Most programs require you be an enrolled student.
  9. Jan 20, 2014 #8
    Why do you think they shouldn't hold it against you? I and most people that went trough the trouble of going trough four years of exams,lab reports, sleepless nights of doing homework and sometimes dealing with extremely annoying and stressful BS would definitively hope that any admission committee holds it against you.

    Why take 4 subject GRE when you only need the Physics GRE?
  10. Jan 20, 2014 #9
    Oops. Well I am thinking of taking the Math GRE as well as the Chemistry and Biochemistry subject tests. Maybe this is a bit overboard.... I am hoping that I won't have it counted against me and am hoping that the graduate level courses I take before applying to a masters program will outweigh me not having the formal course work and going through the undergraduate system. I know I probably should go through the system but I don't have the money. BTW I would be a second degree student and have had some of the content formally.

    Now what do you think?
  11. Jan 20, 2014 #10
    The point is to perform high on subject tests and in research and graduate course work in order to outweigh my deficiencies in undergraduate coursework.
  12. Jan 20, 2014 #11
    Again people, I already have a bachelors in an entirely different field. I'm pulling a Witten. I want to volunteer in a lab and work my way up.
  13. Jan 20, 2014 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    Of course they will.

    It's a lot easier to claim to be as smart as Ed Witten than to actually be as smart as Ed Witten.
  14. Jan 20, 2014 #13
    I know that. I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying that I am doing something like what he did. I am no where near as smart as him--I think. However, I am willing to put in the work and make myself stand out to make up for my deficiencies. I think this way can work if I put in the time and dedication. I believe that anyone can do anything that they set their mind to. Its just hard work and mentality more so than intelligence (even though this helps alot) that makes anyone anything. I am sure you know this.
  15. Jan 20, 2014 #14
    I also know that I don't learn quickly and that I don't learn in the manner that the system prescribes. But once I get the material it sticks. Teachers/professors don't seem to appreciate this quality. They want the fast person. I am hoping that the admissions committee will understand this.
  16. Jan 21, 2014 #15

    Vanadium 50

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    I think this has been asked and answered.
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