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Self teaching

  1. Dec 16, 2009 #1
    An undergrad here, about to finish up within a couple of months. My grades aren't too good overall and I think I've learned that the academic life is not for me. Well, to be more precise, the stress and pressure associated with academic life is not for me. I am thinking about the possibility of teaching myself. On that note, I was wondering how difficult that might be. As much as I don't like the pressure and stress associated with the academic life, I was also thinking about attending class/lectures anyway. As far as I know, education itself is free, and the degree is what you pay for, which doesn't really concern me. Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Good books to help me in my endeavor?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 16, 2009 #2
    Well, good luck to you. I could never teach myself; personally I need the pressure of a grade to make me study. I know, grad school is supposed to teach you to teach yourself, but whatever. In any case, if you can do it, and you don't care about getting the degree, then go for it.
  4. Dec 16, 2009 #3
    The unfortunate reality is that without the degree no one will care if you taught yourself or not. Employers need proof that you can handle some pressure and that you can stick through it. Why should they hire someone without a degree when all of the other applicants have one?

    I'm not sure what you mean though. Are you referring to graduate level study or finishing your undergrad degree? You'll also almost certainly have trouble auditing classes without paying someone for it. You can, of course, learn more on your own if you are interested after graduation. It's just typically a lot easier with others around you who are also trying to learn the same thing, and with professors around who already know what's going on.
  5. Dec 16, 2009 #4
    I understand employers need proof, but I'm not really even interested in getting some high paying job. I'm interested purely in theory. I'm finishing my undergrad degree in physics. Are you sure I wouldn't be able to merely sit in on lectures?
  6. Dec 16, 2009 #5
    It's almost universally against school policy to sit in without paying an auditing fee. Some schools allow graduates to audit for free, but they still need to register.
  7. Dec 16, 2009 #6
    This is the point in everyone's life where they realize that academics, as with every other human endevour, is mediated by economic drives. Learning is now valued only when it comes with props (diploma), for the sake of producing a mediocre, but consistant product.

    A school will tell you that a diploma is a certificate in which they profess to have been both responsible for your education, and in which they assure future employers/schools that you meet some basic standards. That IS life however, so don't expect to circumvent that just because in the case of some few people, it's silly. Better to get the degree (or not) and in the process of proving yorurself on the job, get your "autodidactage" on. :)
  8. Dec 16, 2009 #7

    If that is life, it sucks big time, doesn't it?

    btw i too have similar feelings/situation as the creator of the topic, but i don't know what i am going to do, i like studying physics a lot, but what and the way they teach in semesters is garbagety. Is it everywhere like that? Do u have to all ur life play along with a system and take time out to do what you like? is it really that bad? Or does at some point of time situation reverses, i.e., You get to do what you like all the time while taking time out to play along with the system
  9. Dec 16, 2009 #8
    If you're still enrolled as an undergraduate at the institution then I'm sure you'd be able to sit in on a graduate class if you asked a professor before hand. If, however, you've already graduated then I doubt that it would be allowed by university policy.

    As for just learning by yourself, there are a vast amount of lectures, video lectures and textbooks from which to learn. Don't anticipate going on to perform formal study/research in these areas without the degree and background though. If it's purely out of curiosity then it's easy enough to find material.
  10. Dec 17, 2009 #9
    @kapv89: If you're lucky, then yes there is time for those personal pursuits. There are fields in which personal freedom is prized, but that's rare. The reality is that 9/10ths of life is either playing ball, orchestrating the ball game, or being hit by the ball. It DOES suck big time though, I won't disagree a big lol.

    One thing I will say on this however... it's still sweet, and good to learn. Who's to say that the way things are now will persist after all? Your chances to learn on your own now are VAST, compared to virtually no chance at all 100-150 years ago. Who's to say what 10, 20, etc years will bring? Then, there are the relationships we form with those around us. After all, if you're friends with people who are willing to teach you casually or formally, so much the better!

    Remember, schools are not the beginning and end of all... they just feel like it.
  11. Dec 17, 2009 #10
    I think the OP is looking to study topics on his own because he or she is interested in the subjects, and not to put them on his or her CV. There's nothing wrong with this. Especially if you want to teach yourself topics that are usually covered in undergrad, since there's tons of material out there, and lots of free stuff too. I plan on doing this too when I eventually quit academia, I'd like to study more geometry on my own, from Euclid to Archimedes to Coxeter and Atiyah. I'd also like to study more physics, namely classical mechanics and particle physics. For whatever reason we don't get to study everything we want to in our time at university, and often the courses we take that we think we're interested in, we find out we're not so keen on it.
    Especially with websites like Physics Forums, teaching yourself topics is much easier today. However, it's still relatively difficult to teach yourself graduate level material, especially cutting-edge research topics, but it is still possible to teach yourself to a beginning graduate level probably.
    Good luck and have fun!
  12. Dec 17, 2009 #11
    thnx frameDragger,
  13. Dec 17, 2009 #12
    Since we are on the topic of having to live life according to the constraints of society,
    you would think science would be the one area that would break outside the normal bounds. People who are of the science mind, are fairly regularly the type who do not excel in the structured environment of our educational system. The lucky ones who find themselves with parents who can identify their talents, and have the money to act end up with a top notch education tailored to their personality.

    My advice is simply, stay in school. As a 30 year old with no more than a high school degree (barely even got that - I was one of the unlucky ones), I envy the position you are in. Once you get that PhD, an entire world of opportunity opens up. You'll have access to top notch equipment, and top notch peers.

    My entire set of knowledge in physics has been from self-teaching. I learn it because it is fascinating, but there is not job out there that would fulfill me intellectually now. If you are anything like me (and given the tone of this thread, I would bet you are), you will always be intellectually deprived and everything out there will seem completely inane.
  14. Dec 17, 2009 #13
    this has been quite an 'enlightening' thread (though many on this site are, this one has a 'personal' touch)

    a question, after a PhD, if you leave the 'formal' academic field, can you still publish papers on stuff u like if they are worth their salt?
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2009
  15. Dec 17, 2009 #14
    Even without a Ph.D., you can publish papers, if you can get them past peer review.

    The problem is that without a Ph.D., you are unlikely to know how to write a paper that can get past peer review. If you leave the academic world after getting a Ph.D., though, that shouldn't really be a problem.

    Then, the problem would be doing something worth publishing without access to any expensive toys. Definitely possible though.
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