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Should I even bother?

  • Thread starter RyanJF
  • Start date
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I'm likely going to be a freshman at Michigan State University this summer, and I have virtually no idea what I'd like to major in. I do plan on attending, or attempting to attend medical school after my undergraduate studies have run their course, but I'm not sure what I'd like to get my bachelor's degree in.

At first, I was considering just majoring in psychology, because at that point in time, I didn't know that psychology was considered to be one of the easiest college degrees. After finding that out, I decided that it may be more worth my while to double-major, with one focus being on psychology, the other on physiology. Psychology, because I'd enjoy it, and physiology, because it'd help fulfill my premed requirements.

I never considered myself to be that much of a math person, but I've found myself growing more and more fond of physics since the beginning of this year, which is the first time I've ever been exposed to the subject. Of course, it's crossed my mind to major in physics instead of psychology and physiology, but I don't know if my math skills are quite up to par.

For example, while I do have a nearly-perfect grade in my physics course right now, I often have to ask a couple of silly clarifying questions in order to make sense of things. I got a bit caught up in an extra credit problem tonight, and spent over an hour trying to figure it out, but to no avail. More like two hours, actually.

I haven't yet taken calculus, although I'm attempting to teach myself with an online class that my school offers through Apex Learning. I only signed up for this yesterday, so I have no idea how likely I am to either succeed or fail at this task.

All in all, I'd very much enjoy majoring in physics, but remain undecided, due to my fear of not being able to handle the math. I find the subject of physics to be fascinating, though I never started to get "in" to science until later last year - before that, it was all literature, political science, and psychology. So it's not like I'm one of those kids who grew up getting off on it.

Would it be possible to succeed as a physics major, with only a limited math background? Can anybody offer me any advice or guidance? It'd be appreciated.

Thanks!
 

fss

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Would it be possible to succeed as a physics major, with only a limited math background?
In a word, no. However, a standard physics track usually includes/requires a calculus sequence (I, II, III) as well as basically linear algebra which should get you started.
 
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Do you then think that it would be possible for me to get a physics degree, so long as I work through all of the math classes? Like I said, the concepts aren't that hard for me to grasp, and I probably learn faster than most people. I just have this idea of all physics majors being super math whizzes or something, and I have a feeling that if that were the case, I'd probably fall short of my peers.
 
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I’ve found that the further you get in math it’s more about having a true understand of the concepts and less about being good at numerically grinding things. What do you picture a math whiz being?
 
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Oh, you know.

I hate to stereotype, but the image that springs to mind is that of an the Indian kid with glasses, doing complex calculations in his head and figuring out the answers to problems before I can even enter them on my calculator. Not like we have anybody like that in my school, but it's what I think of.
 

eri

1,034
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You don't have to love math to major in physics, but you do need to be able to do it. You don't have to declare a physics major right now - why don't you take a few of the intro classes and the required math and see how it goes?
 
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Hi, a physics graduate from Michigan State here. There's no need to know calculus before entering the university. Do you know if they still have you take a math placement test? I started in their pre-calc/trig course which was actually very useful.

Also, you can major in anything you want and still complete your pre-med requirements. I graduated with someone who majored in physics and went to medical school. If thing are still the same, you don't have to officially declare a major until you're a junior so you have time to decide.
 

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