Sophomore Undergrad Feeling Hopeless

  • #1
anim3t1ddy
5
4
This is just meant to be a subtle energy releaser as I feel pent up about this situation.

I have always been an A+ (B at my lowest) student and going into my harder physics classes has been proven a bit more difficult for me to adjust. I am retaking theoretical physics as I withdrew last semester because I was not satisfied with the outlook of my grade there. I am retaking it again and I seem to be falling behind again, even with the curve. These are applications of higher mathematical concepts that I tend to need a bit more time on than others.

I have been experimenting with study methods and have been vocal about help from other students/ professor. I suppose I would just like to hear if anyone else is currently having or had these problems and if there was something that you did to really help. I am trying not to be so demotivated that I let everything go, as even though I may have a hard time performing... I still think all of this and the application of mathematics in physics is incredibly fun and interesting.
 
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  • #2
anim3t1ddy said:
I am retaking theoretical physics as I withdrew last semester because I was not satisfied with the outlook of my grade there.
Please clarify what topics are covered under "theoretical physics" . Which textbooks are you using?
 
  • #3
CrysPhys said:
Please clarify what topics are covered under "theoretical physics" . Which textbooks are you using?
Absolutely, main topics that have been introduced: complex index notation, application of Fourier Series, Bessel Functions, Divergence, Green's, and Stokes Theorem, and Stirling's. These are just the main titans.

We use 'Mathematical Methods in the Physics Sciences' by Boas.
 
  • #4
anim3t1ddy said:
Absolutely, main topics that have been introduced: complex index notation, application of Fourier Series, Bessel Functions, Divergence, Green's, and Stokes Theorem, and Stirling's. These are just the main titans.

We use 'Mathematical Methods in the Physics Sciences' by Boas.
Interesting. So at your school, this is normally covered first semester, sophomore year (you said you dropped it last term)? Is this given in the physics or math dept? What math did you have in your freshman year (and which textbooks did you use)?
 
  • #5
There is an academic bottleneck effect that a lot of undergrad students experience. When it happens often depends on a number of factors: the quality of their high school education, the details of the university curriculum, management of prerequisites, etc.

In high school your peers are, for better or worse, a sample from the general population. But when you get into university physics (or whatever STEM major), your peers are those who have chosen to be there. That sample tends to be biased in favour of those who where decently good at STEM subjects and had an affinity for them. Unfortunately, because this sample of students tended to have natural talent in physics in high school, many didn't develop rigorous study habits. It was sufficient to study the night before the exam, do the assignments and get an A. Now, all of a sudden, your peers are all nerds and keeners and for about half the class, it's a fight just to be average.

In first year university depending on the program, you can be mixed in with a more general population. Physics majors will take classes with all the "pre-med" majors for example. And in some programs the first year is kind of an equalizer... leaving those who did AP courses bored and others whose high school was underfunded, had unqualified or disengaged teachers, etc. struggling.

But then you get to second year (or thereabouts), where your education is suddenly led by professors who are really teaching to the next generation of researchers. All of the material is new and challenging. Suddenly students who have been A+ students their entire lives now feel like they can barely manage average grades. They need to develop new study habits quickly and often need to survive an identity crisis.

This whole effect can be exacerbated when students bored with first year classes jump into advanced classes that are really meant for third or fourth year students.
 
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  • #6
CrysPhys said:
Interesting. So at your school, this is normally covered first semester, sophomore year (you said you dropped it last term)? Is this given in the physics or math dept? What math did you have in your freshman year (and which textbooks did you use)?
Well, my situation is a tad more complicated than the usual roadmap for this course/ I gained my associates at my old community college and transferred out of state to my current university. At my community college I completed all the related math course works: Cal 1-4, Linear Algebra, and Diff eq. My professor did not use literature to support his teaching and everything was based on lecture that I gained.

This course is given through the physics department as only physics students have to take this course. I am technically a junior as I have my associates but certain classes and credits from this new school reflects that I am a sophomore.
 
  • #7
Choppy said:
There is an academic bottleneck effect that a lot of undergrad students experience. When it happens often depends on a number of factors: the quality of their high school education, the details of the university curriculum, management of prerequisites, etc.

In high school your peers are, for better or worse, a sample from the general population. But when you get into university physics (or whatever STEM major), your peers are those who have chosen to be there. That sample tends to be biased in favour of those who where decently good at STEM subjects and had an affinity for them. Unfortunately, because this sample of students tended to have natural talent in physics in high school, many didn't develop rigorous study habits. It was sufficient to study the night before the exam, do the assignments and get an A. Now, all of a sudden, your peers are all nerds and keeners and for about half the class, it's a fight just to be average.

In first year university depending on the program, you can be mixed in with a more general population. Physics majors will take classes with all the "pre-med" majors for example. And in some programs the first year is kind of an equalizer... leaving those who did AP courses bored and others whose high school was underfunded, had unqualified or disengaged teachers, etc. struggling.

But then you get to second year (or thereabouts), where your education is suddenly led by professors who are really teaching to the next generation of researchers. All of the material is new and challenging. Suddenly students who have been A+ students their entire lives now feel like they can barely manage average grades. They need to develop new study habits quickly and often need to survive an identity crisis.

This whole effect can be exacerbated when students bored with first year classes jump into advanced classes that are really meant for third or fourth year students.
I completely agree, as this identity crisis has me reading books on finding better study habits and taking time in the morning before anything else to review as much as I can. I do know that I am in the right place as I find genuine passion in what I am learning and see a future in this.
 
  • #8
This being time number two I’d find a study group. If that wasn’t an option, a tutor, and fast. This is the difference, a study group hasn’t seen the end of the course. They don’t know how this turns out. A tutor most likely has put many students through the course. Find such one. They know how this ends. They will come to know where you need to focus. Part of getting over the hill is BEING ABLE TO SEE THE TOP. You may not ace the class regardless but you’ll be better off than without.
 
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  • #9
davidjoe said:
This being time number two I’d find a study group. If that wasn’t an option, a tutor, and fast. This is the difference, a study group hasn’t seen the end of the course. They don’t know how this turns out. A tutor most likely has put many students through the course. Find such one. They know how this ends. They will come to know where you need to focus. Part of getting over the hill is BEING ABLE TO SEE THE TOP. You may not ace the class regardless but you’ll be better off than without.
I appreciate your comment. I actually have been talking with some upper classmen to see if they would find time to tutor with compensation of course, but most do not have the time and the others I have reached out to usually do not follow up. I am absolutely still looking for a tutor
 
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  • #10
I remember my own challenging classes like it was yesterday, but in fact my youngest of two is graduating from college in May.

In all likelihood this is the hardest, most uncomfortable period of life both before and forever to come, and that’s meant be good news. There’s a common stress dream of a college test that was totally unprepared for, sometimes for a class never even attended, and it never goes away, I’m 52. Life gets easier, happier, richer. 👍

There may be young adults who aren’t students, that tutor as a job, or maybe even online tutors these days. I don’t know. But probably avoids all the possible hassle of study group socializing, uncertainty, and competitiveness.
 
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