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Courses Someone very close to me is struggling with university grades

  1. Sep 1, 2016 #1
    Hi everyone, this is my first time on this website and I really need help.

    Anyway, there is someone who is very close to me, who only achieved a third in second year of university and is about to go into her final year and she's having a crisis and I'm honestly really worried about her.

    She does physics at quite a high up university.

    She had to do her 2nd year twice for mental health reasons, she went through one of the worst experiences a girl can go through at 12 years old and she's developed PTSD, has Schizophrenia and depression and has honestly been through hell.

    I digress, she only managed to achieve a third in her second year and she's properly worried of graduating with a third class degree or a 2:2 and how that will affect her search for a job.

    Let's say that hypothetically, she does get a third or a 2:2, what then? She does physics and actually really wants to go into physics for a profession. I know that literally every grad scheme won't even consider any application below a 2:1, what are her options then? What do I tell her?

    The thing is though, she is really clever and works bloody hard and I know she understands the material just fine, the thing is she doesn't test well, she's one of those people that is very clever but cannot do exams.

    What is the alternative if she doesn't manage to get where she needs to be?

    I know she won't exactly get her dream job straight out of university but it's very rough and maybe a little unfair that her life is going to get more difficult because of the way she learns.

    Honestly, what do I say to her? I really care about her and want her to succeed and we're both worried that she's going to have a really tough time in life after uni getting work and following what she wants to do?

    Any advice, I would be eternally grateful for, thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 1, 2016 #2


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    As a supporter of a person who is struggling with the issues you have mentioned - post traumatic stress disorder, Schizophrenia, and depression - I think one of the big things to remember is that it's not really your job to solve your friend's problems for her. She has to work through her own healing process with professional help and she'll need you to be there for her as a friend more than anything.

    It's actually not all that uncommon for university students to struggle with mental health issues. And I think a lot those who do end up caught up in this idea that they have to "keep up" with everyone else, that it's somehow a bad thing to take time off. But that's like trying to run a marathon with torn knee ligaments. Sure you can limp along and eventually get to the finish line, but it's much better to go through the proper rehabilitation first and be in a space where you know you can perform at your optimum.

    But let's say that she's doing well, yet is still struggling in school. My (limited) understanding of the UK grading system is that a third class honours degree, or even a lower second class honours degree will not qualify her for graduate studies. That means that a job "in physics" is not likely to happen. It's even very difficult to become a physicist for those who successfully complete a PhD in most cases. So the next thing to think about is how this education can be translated into the working world. A lot of this will depend on the skills your friend picks up along the way, her interests, and whether she is willing/able to shift gears and do some more vocation-specific training. Although this tends to be very US-specific, the AIP keeps data on who hires physics graduates. This might at least give your friend some ideas on what industries or directions to look into after graduating. Though a lot of jobs are probably not what most students envision when they first embark on a degree in physics, the data suggests that most are reasonably satisfied with where they end up and that they do quite well financially.
  4. Sep 1, 2016 #3
    what is a third? I don't understand the terminology of the grades you are using and am use to seeing grades in terms of A B C D F, not sure what this 2:2 3 stuff can you explain it and what country uses such system?

    My thoughts on the question

    Also remind her that GPA =/= ability to become financial asset to a company that can pay her for the work she completes, pay her substantially less than the profit they make, and still make a good salary.

    Remind her that the goal of academia is to learn things! That's it. If the goal of academia was to get a job or make lots of money afterwards, than there doing it all wrong! The responsibilities of a university is to teach, and in the end you are presented with a paper that says you learned things, most of which you'll forget.

    Just my two thoughts. I really wished someone hammered in me when I was an undergraduate that GPA does not mean anything as far as becoming successful (unless perhaps your failing).

    I personally know immigrants who came to my country quite well for a long time that came over not knowing the native language of the land, and not even having high school diplomas. And know they essentially live in a mansion and own businesses. One of them still doesn't have a high school diploma. Acquiring fiat currency is all about producing a good product or service that customers want. And you don't need a 4.0 to do that, or apparently even a high school diploma. You just have to come up with a product that people will want. Depending on what it is you may need some education, in other cases you don't. It depends on what it is.

    I honestly believe there's a reason why they don't teach financial literacy in public education in high school.

    Also if her goal is stay in acadamia for a long time or teach herself than of course everything i said above is probably wrong. GPA probably matters for that. It depends on what the goals are, and money and a job ins't everything. If passionate about learning and staying in acadamia than GPA probably matters for that.
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2016
  5. Sep 2, 2016 #4
    I was thinking that maybe she wouldn't achieve her dream right away but maybe she could work after university in something a bit less and more importantly to work on her mental health and maybe in some years' time, she could go back to school as a mature student to work towards being a physicist. She really wants this and isn't motivated by money at all. What do you think?
  6. Sep 2, 2016 #5


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    Like others have said, it's something she needs to work on. There is no magic bullet here to alleviate the situation, all you can do is be supportive of her. She should look at why she's a bad test taker, and rectify that. She should seek criticism from professors as to why she is getting low marks, and rectify that as well.

    As for working as a physicist, it's impossible if she can't get into graduate school.

    There's really nothing more that can be done.
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