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Slacker to Physicist?

  1. Feb 15, 2012 #1
    Physics seems to catch my attention. I took a class in my Freshman and Sophomore years of high school called Principles of Technology, even though I hadn't even completed the recommended math courses prior, and I loved all of the problem solving. It wasn't the easiest course, but I loved the challenge. That's where I learned how interesting it all was to me. I liked the idea of understanding the mechanics behind the universe- the greater mysteries of every driving force around me.

    Here's where I feel ashamed though... I'm not anywhere near a straight A student. I'm a senior in high school, and I've been a hardcore slacker all four years. I'm the kid who could very well achieve a near perfect GPA if he really tried. I generally just don't have to put much effort to get by, but I guess that's where my downfall is- In the world of Physics, I don't want to just "get by". I have great aspirations, but I know I won't be getting there with my current mindset of "do enough to get by with decent grades" (3.28 currently, thanks to AP and honors courses). I failed my pre-Calculus class this year (but this isn't a new thing for me; Algebra I took me my second go-round to get it), and it makes me feel like an idiot that I hope to study something as math intensive as Physics, but struggled in that class. Still, something seems to keep drawing me to this field of study, and I guess I've decided that I'm not going to quit and let a slight struggle with mathematics keep me down.

    I'm probably going to a public university (mostly due to the fact that I really don't have a whole lot of money), but my dream would be to go to graduate school at Caltech or University of Chicago. I know, so does everyone else. Seems like a stretch coming from a guy like me, but I don't want to give up.

    So, has anyone here been in my situation? Where they had to completely turn around all of their habits for the better? Maybe you weren't a super genius, and mathematics wasn't ever easy as pi (-ba dum tiss-) for you? I'd love to hear it, and if you could give me any resources to practice Physics and Mathematics, that would be great too! I'm just hoping my optimism isn't foolish of me. Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 15, 2012 #2
    Yes, you remind me of myself (and many other people I know) in high school. I was a huge slacker and did not care about school at all. I had no college plans until my parents convinced me to put in a few applications for the hell of it. I ended up enrolling at a state school instead of joining the Navy (my original plan) and then spent most of my freshman year continuing to slack. I had a vague interest in physics, and when I took intro physics 1 I became really engrossed in it and decided that slacking just because I can is really lame, and I could do much better than that. So I switched my major to physics and decided to work hard.

    Fast forward a few years of very hard work (which took a lot of getting used to), I have recently graduated with a double major in math and physics and have acceptances to a couple of top 10ish math PhD programs starting in the Fall, with plans to study mathematical physics. So, yes, be optimistic! You still have plenty of time to turn around. I didn't really get on my feet until my 2nd year of college. I really had to make up for it by working my *** off for a few years (my social life essentially only existed from Friday night to Sunday afternoon) and grabbing every opportunity that came by, but now it feels like the work has finally paid off now. I am just working an easy 40-hour/week job as a lab tech on campus now while waiting for the fall.
  4. Feb 15, 2012 #3
    You still have time to turn things around. Its worth remembering that because physics isn't a very desirable career (lots of job uncertainty, low pay for the required education, very short average career length), its much easier to get into a good physics program than, say, medical school. Just focus on your studies and make sure to get some research experience while you are in your undergrad.
  5. Feb 15, 2012 #4
    @ Monocles:
    Thank you, that actually makes me very hopeful! I just hate feeling directionless and clueless at the moment. It makes me wish I had worked harder before, but what can I do? What's done is done, and all I can do is learn from my mistakes and move on. It'd be pretty wonderful to get into a top university for graduate school too. I just gotta' do my best, and see where I can take myself. Also, congrats! I bet that's all pretty exciting. (:

    @ ParticleGrl:
    Yeah, that was honestly the main thing that had me worried. It's not as stable as my other idea, Nursing. It's just that it really draws me in for some reason. I guess it's the wonder of learning the mysteries of the universe, and all of the good that can come from Physics research (I just wish more people understood how many advances came from Physics research, and how much it really does benefit man-kind; Biology isn't the only field that benefits medicine or people in general, folks lol :P). And I am planning on it! I have been looking at the research each college I have applied to is doing. :D
  6. Feb 15, 2012 #5
    I was also like that in high school. Now, I'm finishing up a PhD in math.
  7. Feb 15, 2012 #6
    Yeah, same here. Unfortunately, I never valued education even through my first year in college. I had always liked science, but had never taken it seriously in school. Anyway, I've turned things around and this semester I'm finishing my B.S. in physics with a GPA of 3.8ish. So yeah, it's definitely possible.
  8. Feb 15, 2012 #7
    I was accepted to both Caltech and University of Chicago this year and I flat out failed out of high school. I only completed Freshman year with most C's and 1 A. At some point though, you have to change your attitude and that's really it.

    I personally found the structure of college made it much simpler for me to change my attitude however. It felt like I was actually doing something, I wasn't stuck in class 7 hours a day, the homeworks were to the point. It was just easier to care about what was going on.
  9. Feb 17, 2012 #8
    I am in a similar situation, but mine is a bit worse. I have attended a state college and dropped out without doing any paper work. I received F's in all of those classes. I just now realized I want to pursue physics. I hope I can still make something of it.
  10. Feb 17, 2012 #9
    I did that, too. I dropped out of my university some years back with a very low GPA, and I am just now restarting at a local community college (I'm three terms in). I'm holding a high GPA and having a blast learning everything I can. It's amazing what a few years of growing up can do! While I did very well in high school, I obviously wasn't ready for college. At 27 years old now, however, I'm more than ready. It's a hell of a lot of fun. Granted, my idea of fun may be a bit different than that of the majority of people out there.

    OP, if you are not sure if you're ready for the demand of college...take some time off after high school and work a minimum-wage job for a year or two. There is nothing shameful about doing this, and a lot of those jobs teach incredibly valuable lessons about you and the world you will later re-enter with a degree. I highly recommend it, but everyone's different so..../shrug.

    Good luck!
  11. Feb 17, 2012 #10
    I graduated in the bottom 50% of my high school class. Graduating university with a 4.0 now to a top 10 grad program.

    That said, I wasn't a complete idiot in high school. My SAT was high enough to get me a full scholarship to a decent state school and I placed near top in a national science competition in HS.
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