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Should I take Introductory Physics or just forget about until I'm prepared?

  1. Aug 21, 2011 #1
    Hey folks,

    I'm about to graduate with a B.S. in Neuroscience from a public uni in Chicago, USA (not listing school to block search engines).

    We aren't required to take any physics classes for the B.S. in Neuroscience, but I've been thinking about going to medical school as of late, because I've considered the reality of a Ph.D program and Ph.D prospects are not satisfying enough for me. I rather help people, make money, and do biomedical research than just do research and be underpaid with job instability.

    I need to take a year of physics to be accepted to medical school (I would take college algebra based, as pre-calculus is currently my highest math).

    However, at the public uni in Chicago I'm at, I've been told constantly not to take physics here, because the grading curve is low (avg ~ 40 to 50%), because the teaching assistants are unhelpful, and because the general competitive nature of the course can give an individual a bad grade. Graduate students that I'm friends with have told me not to take it. 3.5+ GPA students have suggested I don't take it.

    People who have done well in the course have told me that they have taken physics in high school or a community college (forced to retake at uni). That makes me considered why the course may be abnormally difficult (people come into the class with prior physics knowledge).

    Personally, if there is a high chance of me getting a C, I'm not interested in taking the course. That's too much of a liability of me, and fixing that C (as I have a 3.5+/4.0 GPA already after about 4.5 years of college/uni) would take too much time and money. I'm on grants, which pay for all of my tuition; but I don't feel like taking the time to fix a poor grade.

    I have a very good work ethic. The hardest class I've taken was organic II, so I know what it feels like to pour 40 hours a week into a class with a lack of sleep. But people still tell me that Physics I and II is harder than Organic II. If that's really the case, I'm very much not interested in taking the course if I am ill-prepared.

    I have 132 credit hours and a 3.54 GPA. Getting a C in a 5-credit class (Physics I or Physics II) would just make things really chaotic, as I attempt to obtain a 3.6 GPA. At the moment, I need 20-credit hours (about 7 classes) of A grades. I could take a complete year of easy classes, but I suspect that would be frowned upon by an admissions committee.

    I'm graduating this semester, but I'm considering taking the year's worth, thus also keeping me in school until Spring 2012.

    I think I'm better off not taking the class, studying physics I and II on my own during the spring and summer of 2012, taking university physics (fall 2012) after studying and preparing, and then getting a good grade. I've also considered taking the course at a community college to save money.

    I'm good at math. I'll admit that. I was put into gifted school at a young age, because I'm good at math. But it's not my interest. And my skills have somewhat dulled down in the past few years, but I still do a good job of visualizing mathematical ideas in my mind's eye.

    I'm almost 25, getting older, and am really starting to dislike wasting my time. But as my goal is medical school, the prospects are great, and it's something I wouldn't mind doing for a life-time, I suspect waiting a year or two to get into medical school is not such a bad deal.

    And as a final note, I have a roommate who is a Ph.D physics student (just came in from Boston). I don't know if I should ask him if he would be willing to help tutor me (as I believe new Ph.D students will have a lot to deal with on their own during the first year).

    Otherwise, I plan on getting my B.S. in Neuroscience, moving back home (away from Chicago), and then taking physics later on at a community college or nearby uni.

    Sorry for the long post, but I thought I'd give as much detail as possible.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 21, 2011 #2
    The difficulty of physics really varies from student to student. I know doctors who cringe just when they hear the word physics, and I know people who do well in physics but poorly in other subjects. The key is to have an open mind and be willing to actually care about the subject. Most of the people in introductory physics are not physics majors and are only doing it because it's required. They don't actually care about the class but still expect to get a good grade. But that attitude doesn't work with physics, it's different than other subjects because you need to treat it specially, like it is an important class within your major. That is what's difficult for students, they often don't want to treat it with respect or put in the time commitment necessary to be successful with it. I personally believe this is why introductory physics gets such a bad reputation with the general student population. If you're not a math-based major, chances are you will dislike introductory physics. At least that is what I found to be true at Large State University.

    It's hard to say whether or not you should take it at your uni though. If you know you can put enough time and effort into the class, I would go for it. But it will take a lot of time and a lot of effort to get the A.
  4. Aug 21, 2011 #3
    Stengah, I notice that you are still an undergraduate.
    Have you taken a year of physics? How much time did you put in? What level of preparation did you have?

    Also, could only people who have at least taken a year of a physics comment?

    I'm not interested in replies by individuals who have not already dealt with the courses.
  5. Aug 21, 2011 #4
    I have taken two years of physics. I took two physics classes in high school and two in college last year. The high school preparation helped me a lot in the college classes. Also, I took the recitation class when in college, which was basically just time to ask questions. That was really helpful as well. We had a few online homework assignments per week that probably took an average of an hour to complete each. The tests were the hard part. You would basically study as long as you could but it's hard to gauge when you are fully prepared.
  6. Aug 21, 2011 #5
    hmmm, for what it's worth, I think a very big part of succeeding in physics when you're learning the basics is having good teachers/lecturers. It's not that the stuff is particularly complicated, it's just that it can seem that way because it's all unfamiliar, and some students get a bit flustered by it all.
    If the standard of help/teaching that you will recieve isn't very high, I probably wouldn't reccomend it.
  7. Aug 21, 2011 #6
    You may be getting a skewed impression if you're mainly soliciting the advice of other premeds. In general, it seems like premeds tend more towards the "tell me how to do the problem so I can memorize that and pass the exam" side of things, and as Stengah said, this doesn't work very well in any decent physics class. As a physics tutor at a school where easily a third of each incoming class is premed, I've seen countless students ask, "How are we supposed to memorize all these equations?" or "Which formula do we plug things into here?" when all they really needed was one fundamental equation and some math. The key to a lot of intro physics is not what you remember as much as what you understand. This gives a lot of premeds a shock, as for many of them, it's the first time when studying furiously won't help you past a certain point if you don't also try to understand the underlying principles. Along with the big role math plays in physics compared to the relatively small one a lot of premeds are used to from their chemistry and biology classes, this element makes physics qualitatively different from what one might be used to in a science class, and therefore difficult if one isn't prepared for the change in mindset.

    My advice to you, Bio-Hazard, is that I don't know how easy or difficult you'll find physics. A good gauge of that might be how comfortable you are with algebra and, if intro physics at your university is calculus-based, calculus. If you do end up taking the class, be prepared to spend a lot of time working problems--not until you get the right answer or until you've memorized how to do that kind of problem, mind you, but until you understand why that problem-solving strategy worked and what the general principles that can be applied to similar problems are.

    Bear in mind, of course, that while you may have gotten a skewed impression from your premed classmates, you probably won't get a completely objective one here, either. A lot of people who hang around here enjoy physics, and quite a few have gone on to graduate school or further in it, so take this advice with a grain of salt.
  8. Aug 22, 2011 #7
    Thank you for the advice.

    After dealing with my course load today, I've considered dropping physics, because it really conflicts with open office hours for professors of other classes, forming study groups, having a recitation section (a group study course that is offered), and so many other issues, such as not being able to visit my discussion section TA during his open office hours.

    I suspect much of this is due to my late registration.
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