Should I Switch My Major Due to Fear of Advanced Courses?

  • Thread starter Serik
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In summary, the conversation discusses the speaker's academic journey, including transferring to different universities, changing majors, and struggling with math courses. They are currently considering a major in either Earth and Space Sciences or physics, but are unsure if they want to commit to the extensive math and physics courses required. They also mention contemplating giving up and reluctantly pursuing a political science major. The conversation ends with the question of whether they should continue with calculus and physics courses, even if it means adding more years to their degree.
  • #1
Serik
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My freshman year began at the University of Missouri-Columbia where I was majoring in print journalism. But I hated living there, so I transferred to the University of Washington to finish off my freshman year. While taking some general ed classes, I became interested in geology/earth and space sciences.

In high school, I focused on liberal arts (newspaper editor, AP history and English classes, etc.) while happily neglecting math courses. (Just reaching finite math was a struggle!)

But ES and other physical sciences require three quarters or more of calculus! And then there's the calculus-based physics courses! After talking with an ESS counselor at UW, I decided to withdraw during the fall of 2006 and return home to take remedial math courses at the local community college. There was just no way I would pay out-of-state tuition for lower-division math courses :) The UW, thankfully, makes it easy for students to return after an absence.

I took intermediate algebra in the spring, then trigonometry over the summer, and I start precalculus tomorrow. Next semester I will finally reach calculus. I've also been taking trig-based physics, as certain ESS majors don't require calculus-based physics. They're also good prep should I decide to take calculus-based physics later on. At this point, I don't know if I should major in ESS or physics, though the latter would take longer.

I haven't taken a "real" physics or math course yet. I've aced all of my intro or trig-based science classes, but so what? I'm terrified of taking upper-level physics or geology classes only to discover that I actually hate the subject. I love physics based on my limited experience. And at this point, I'm not interested in grad school, so will a physics B.S. do me any good by itself?

Life, of course, further complicates things. Initially, out-of-state tuition wasn't a financial problem, but things have changed. Now I'm contemplating reapplying to the UCs that I didn't get into the first time around. UC Davis has a transfer agreement with my community college at least. My fear is that my screwed up academic history (bouncing from college to college) will sink my chances of making it into a UC. Besides, I'll only have one semester of calculus by Fall 2008... Returning to the UW is still very much possible, though not preferred.

So my question is: should I continue grinding away at calculus and physics, even if it will add years to my degree? I'm so flustered with my college experience, with my inane decisions, that I often contemplate giving up and reluctantly finishing off a poli sci major. There are no other courses I can really take until I complete a semester or two of calculus.

Anyone else have a similar experience, with radically changing majors and having to take years of math, physics, etc.?

Thanks for taking the time to read over my little story. I really don't have many people to talk to about this, so every bit helps.
 
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  • #2
Yes a physics degree will open up lots of areas to work in - even in Earth science.
One of the things about science is that you can generally work in a more applied area if you have a degree in a physics/maths.
The trick to deciding if you want to do physics is do you enjoy calculus? A large part of a physics degree is (unfortuantely?) calculus. this is the basis of being able to do quantitaitive work in most areas of physics.

I'm not american so I don't have any advice about courses/institutes/funding etc.
 
  • #3


I understand the struggle of deciding on a major and navigating through different courses. It can be overwhelming and confusing, but it's important to remember that it's never too late to change your path and find your passion.

In your situation, I would suggest exploring both ESS and physics courses to see which one resonates with you more. Taking the introductory courses and talking to professors and students in both departments can give you a better idea of what each major entails and which one you enjoy more. You can also consider taking a course in both ESS and physics to see if you can handle the workload and if it interests you enough to pursue it as a major.

In terms of the financial aspect, it's important to consider the long-term benefits of pursuing a major that you are passionate about. A degree in a field that you enjoy and excel in can open up many opportunities for you in the future. Additionally, you can also look into scholarships and financial aid options to help with the cost of your education.

As for your academic history, I would suggest being honest and transparent in your applications to universities. Explain your journey and the reasons for your transfers. Admissions committees look for students who are determined and have the drive to succeed, and your story can show just that.

In the end, the most important thing is to pursue a path that you enjoy and are passionate about. Don't be afraid to take the time to figure out what that is and make the necessary changes to achieve your goals. Good luck!
 

Related to Should I Switch My Major Due to Fear of Advanced Courses?

1. What are my career options after completing my degree?

There are many career options available to scientists, depending on your field of study. You could pursue a career in research, academia, industry, government, or even science communication or policy. It is important to research and explore different options to find the best fit for your interests and skills.

2. How can I narrow down my options and make a decision?

One way to narrow down your options is to reflect on your interests, skills, and values. Consider what type of work you enjoy and where you see yourself in the future. It can also be helpful to talk to professionals in your field and seek guidance from mentors or career advisors.

3. What steps can I take to prepare for my desired career path?

Depending on your desired career path, there may be specific steps you can take to prepare. This could include gaining relevant experience through internships or research projects, networking with professionals in your field, or pursuing further education or certifications. It is important to research and understand the requirements for your desired career path.

4. How can I stay informed about new opportunities in my field?

One way to stay informed about new opportunities is to join professional organizations or attend conferences and workshops related to your field. You can also follow industry news and job boards, and network with professionals in your field to stay updated on potential opportunities.

5. Is it okay to change career paths after starting in one direction?

Yes, it is completely normal to change career paths at any point in your career. It is important to continuously assess your interests and goals, and make changes if necessary. Many scientists have diverse and varied career paths, and it is never too late to explore new opportunities and make a change.

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