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Courses Should I take a physics course over summer or is it cramming

  1. Jun 9, 2017 #1
    At my community college, the first calculus based physics courses (the predecessor to modern physics) are split into 3 semesters: mechanics, electromagnetism, and thermodyamics/light. As long as you take the mechanics part first, you can choose which one to take next. This summer session is 8 weeks, and they are offering the thermodynamics class. I don't have to take it over the summer, but I strangely want to. I made an 'A' in my mechanics course but it was a close A that I had to work hard for, and so I question my ability to make an 'A' in this summer session course, would probably get a B. My GPA matters a lot to me now since i screwed around in my biology and math courses and ruined it.

    Is it a bad idea to cram a 17 week physics course into 8 weeks, even if the 8 weeks entails full immersion into the material?

    And does this course, introductory thermodynamics, is its material so crucial to my future higher level physics courses that it isn't worth taking the risk of "cramming"?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 9, 2017 #2


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    What type of learner are you? And do you have other obligations ie a full or part-time job? Are you taking any other classes?

    If you are a good student with NO other obligations, you should have no problem with this class. However, if you have a meaningful job or other classes, a course like this over the summer could turn into a nightmare, especially if you need an A. Summer courses are fast paced and offer no time to actually recover from a missed or bad week. If you miss anything, it is very hard to catch up as the material is piled on to meet curriculum requirements.
  4. Jun 9, 2017 #3
    Do you like drinking from a firehose?

    Probably best to get advice from the prof. (S)he'll know if students struggle more in the summer version or not.
  5. Jun 9, 2017 #4


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    Heh. I used to call our summer school physics course "Firehose Physics." :cool: We did each "semester" in four weeks. 2-2.5 hours of lecture per day, five days a week, a test every week, and three labs per week. :wideeyed:
  6. Jun 9, 2017 #5
    I took the equivalent of the first year of calculus-based physics during summer break at my university. Along with a term of numerical methods, but that was spread out for the whole summer so that was closer to a regular semester course. I had only took a "conceptual physics" course in high school so this "Firehose Physics" probably wasn't the best idea. I did well enough in the exams to get an A, but nothing was really retained for me, particularly for the second term that was primarily on E&M. I just remember thinking of it as more of an exercise of vector calculus (solving a bunch of 3D integrals) than actually learning physics concepts, as that was the core skill to survive the homework and exams in this rushed version I took.
  7. Jun 10, 2017 #6
    I'm a hard working student with about average 'natural' ability. I'm not one of those who can breeze by and make an A with little effort.
    If I took this class, I would have no other commitments (class or work).
  8. Jun 10, 2017 #7


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    Taking a condensed summer course isn't necessarily a bad idea. But you have to go into it with the understanding that it's going to be a lot of work, with a lot of material to cover in a short amount of time. The actual workload shouldn't be too different from your regular university semesters. Sure those courses are spread out over a longer time, but there's also more of them. The issue with a condensed course like this is that you won't have a chance to change gears.

    Some people find they do better like that. The material comes to them better when they don't have to balance it with four other courses. And you don't have to worry about those days where you have five things due at once. One course at least means a single professor who will hopefully coordinate the course well to that extent.

    Another advantage is that there's less time between the end of the winter semester and the beginning of fall where your brain isn't engaged. Some students need a couple weeks in September just to get back into the swing of academia. And with something like physics, a good course in the summer will also help to reinforce some of those lessons learned in the prerequisite coursework.

    One of the major drawbacks is that it can keep you from working full time over the summer, and in the long run, unless you're on a full scholarship or have a grant from the Bank of Mumandad, it's not going to help your student debt load. Working over the summer helps you to build up real world experience and skills too, which can help you out tremendously when you start to look for your first career-type job out of school. Ultimately, there's an opportunity cost to account for. But since you say you don't have any other commitments, you probably don't have to worry about that.

    The final dimension of the opportunity cost for some people to consider is whether you need that time in the summer to avoid any kind of academic burnout. If you have a tough summer, are you going to be able to jump in head first in the fall ready to go? Some people can do that just fine.

    In the end, don't let the workload intimidate you. It will be a lot of work, but it's not insurmountable if you can put in the effort.
  9. Jun 11, 2017 #8
    Well when I took my previous physics course it was my only STEM course for the semester and I by no means breezed through the subject. And that was twice as long as this summer course. But I never was forced, or forced myself, to practice and contemplate the subject everyday, it was definitely irregular studying (at the end of the week, maybe two days, then five or six days before the test).
    So maybe that it what made it seem more difficult? I might actually spend more time chewing on the subject in this summer course.
  10. Jun 25, 2017 #9
    Intro EM can be very challenging, if you do not have the right background. In order to understand what's going on during the semester (conceptual understanding). You need to be familiar with some things in a Multivariable calculus course. Ie.., Stoke's Theorem, partials, and Line Integrals. Ofcourse you deal with a lot of "SPECIAL CASES," but it is good to atleast understand in passing why it works. Oh and Cal 2 integration techniques are a must.

    How good is your mechanics knowledge? It does not go away. You may need to apply to problem in intro EM.

    A good example involves a particle entering a ....., may involve some momentum, and Newton's Law's (force diagrams).

    Some schools add Thermal topics to intro EM (mine did).
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