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Took too many short cuts, suffering as a result

  1. Dec 19, 2013 #1
    I know this isn't a counselling website, but what the hell, here goes..

    A little bit of background:

    Hi everyone, I am a Physics student at a UK university currently in my 3rd year of a 4 year MSci (Integrated Masters) degree. I am doing well so far on my course, I achieved an average of 59-60% in year 1 (which didn't count towards the degree) and 73% in year 2. I have always done well academically (in Mathematics and Physics) as I have always found exams in these subjects (stressful like everyone else but also) quite easy. I narrowly missed an A* in Mathematics (Edexcel) at A-level, achieved an A in Physics (OCR - Rubbish easy exam board), a C in Chemistry (Edexcel), and a D in AS Biology (Edexcel). I have always been extremely lazy, I enjoy doing nothing more than a normal person should - my free time consists of doing things that involve almost no activity such as watching movies or mindlessly roaming the island of Grand Theft Auto. When it came to revising for exams, I used to put off revision for as long as I could - usually engaging in the sorts of activities I specified above. Once enough pressure and stress had built up I would begin revision by cutting out areas - predicting exam topics etc etc. This combined with some luck and some skill in figuring things out in an exam has seen me be successful throughout my education in Mathematics and Physics at least.

    In my second year I realised all of this (the exam revision part) was due to a fear of failure combined with a fear to commit. - It is less of a blow to the ego if one fails because they did not work as hard as they could have as opposed to failing in spite of having worked as hard as is physically possible. I overcame this in my second year, decided to take the risk of failing despite it being on the record that I was working very hard, and it paid off, I averaged a first and was very proud of the outcome.

    The new big problem
    Although I now have enough faith in myself and my ability to put in the maximum amount of effort for exams there are two problems I still have and need to solve.

    1) Shortcuts, having taken so many shortcuts through my education in order to succeed I am now faced with having so many knowledge gaps. A perfect example of this is my first year mathematics exam in which I avoided all of the statistics questions (because I knew no statistics), focused on everything else in my revision and got a good grade in that exam but walked away still knowing no statistics. This has been ongoing from day 1 and has resulted in me not having certain foundational knowledge that a person at my level in education should know. Having a good understanding of all previously met material is crucial to having a good foundational basis going forward.

    2) Laziness, my free time is still used up doing the activities I outlined above. I love Physics, but the degree/work/workload is so difficult and time-consuming (and made far more difficult by all of the knowledge gaps I have) that I spend a lot of my time on problem sheets etc. I still do well in these, but I feel like I am in a vicious cycle where a version of me that didn't take so many shortcuts in life would be better prepared since they wouldn't waste so much time on certain aspects since they would be able to spot things faster (due to a better foundational knowledge). Thus, the work is frustrating instead of liberating and the beauty is lost in frustration. It's this horrible vicious cycle where I don't have enough time to enjoy and read more Physics because I'm constantly suffering from the shortcuts I've previously taken and if I do somehow find myself in a situation with enough time (i.e. the holidays), I end up jeopardising any chance of getting any work done outside of the 'compulsory' work.

    The bigger picture

    I want to be a Physicist, the idea of being a professor of Physics, doing research and lecturing students is extremely appealing to me. Extremely. Everything else I think of doing in comparison seems dreary and dreadful. I think I could make a very good Physicist if I got my act together, I loved the feeling of finally understanding material at the end of last year during and after my exams (after which summer came along and I proceeded to engage in my free time activities and forget all the Physics I had learned). I am fearful, that I am getting left behind because of my personality and I will never make it through a PhD and onwards. I am confident I will achieve a first class degree in Physics - but for the wrong reasons. Not because I understand the topics very well, but because I am good at taking exams. I am also frustrated a lot, sometimes at myself, sometimes at Physics, sometimes at both.

    I'm not sure what sort of a reply I'm looking for here really, I imagine this will probably frustrate a lot of people reading this, however these are the genuine concerns I have, I don't know where better a place to post this than a Physics community. Perhaps someone has some advice or has been in a similar situation.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 19, 2013 #2
    Laziness and shortcuts seem correlated, I suggest you stop both of these and focus. How you do that is more up to you though. I would recommend going back and studying all the text-books you previously did and cover the topics you are feeling there are gaps in.
  4. Dec 19, 2013 #3


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    Gold Member

    I think it's probably too late to resolve these issues in the time you have left, maybe you should take some time off between your masters and PhD and focus on fixing your organizational, knowledge base, and procrastination problems. Start setting schedules for yourself now though, and try your best to establish a solid routine.
  5. Dec 19, 2013 #4
    Thank you very much to both of you for the constructive answers, I really do appreciate them.

    @Student100 I have considered this option before I changed from a 3 year BSc to a 4 year MSci, I was going to complete my BSc, take a year out doing what you said, and then apply for an MSc or MPhil (Masters degree) at another institution. I was advised against it, perhaps my academic mentors would have agreed with me if I'd spoken to them about it.. I convinced myself out of it because I thought that perhaps I could 'fix' these issues during the Christmas and Summer holidays before graduation/applying for PhD.

    I think I will do as you said, it was a scary thought though, I would be a year behind for the first time in my life. As difficult as it is to accept though, I do believe you are correct and it might be necessary to do this. I can start making changes now sure, but I think it will be inevitable. Thank you.
  6. Dec 20, 2013 #5
    I also am very lazy and I just applied to graduate school but I got my grades back for my class and they are very very bad. I don't know what's wrong with me I love science and yet I can't seem to focus. I hope I can get into grad school but if I can I wonder if I can make it.
  7. Dec 20, 2013 #6
    I can't cite the study (on my phone) but self control is sort of like a muscle. Some people naturally have more strength there, others naturally have to work very hard at it.

    The best thing you could do is accept that what's done is done and start studying tonight. You know where your knowledge gaps are so you can fill those gaps.

    I used to spend all of my time playing starcraft broodwar and refused to study, which caused me to have grades so poor in college I was on academic watch constantly, so I left. Now, a couple years later, I have returned and I am taking on a massive course load and studying like a madman.

    The best thing I suggest you to do is to do what was suggested above, take some time off and fill your gaps.
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