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UG Physics and Mathematics double major: questions and concerns about my future

  1. Jun 27, 2012 #1

    Greetings, my name is Tyler, I am new to the forum! Lately I been reading a lot of articles stating that High School graduates can be just as successful as the common college graduate that has incurred student loan debt. I will tell my story and the options that I have.

    Fist I will give my educational background (relevant to major(s)): In high school received credit for AP Calculus AB/BC (calc 1 & 2) and AP Physics (which at my current university is meaningless since its not calc based). I graduated at the top of my class in 2010 and now attend UNC as a BS physics and BS mathematics double major. At the college level I have now taken both calculus based entry physics classes (newtonian mechanics and E&M), C++ programming, Chemistry, Calc 1-4 (4=vector calc), Differential equations, Linear algebra, and Intro to Topology. In these courses I have scored all A's with exception to linear algebra and programming. I have completed most of the GEP's and classes which I don't care about and am 3 credits shy of a Junior by credit hour. This coming semester I am registered for: modern physics, advanced lab in classical mechanics, Intro to modern algebra, calc based probability and statistics 1, and advanced calculus.

    If I stick with the double major I won't be able to graduate until Fall 2014 (1 semester late) due to the sequential nature of physics at my school and the fact only some classes are offered in the fall. Who know how long it could take if I had problems in a physics class.

    I am now considering (not very strongly considering) doing only the BS in Mathematics and I would already have a minor in Physics. If I were to take this route I could graduate Fall 2013 (1 semester early) due to being a head in math.

    This may seem like an easy decision......GO FOR THE DOUBLE MAJOR! But I would like to factor in my financial situation as well. I come from a family of non college graduates and my father is a single parent so he was never able to save money for my college unfortunately. So this has led be to take out student loans and my current debt after I accept loans for this coming semester is around $12,500. If I were to graduate early with the BS math and minor in physics my final debt would be around $16,000. If I go for the double major my debt will be around $21,000.

    Going back to the articles I've read about college being pointless for kids my age these days makes me wonder if my student loan debt puts me into the category of students who should have just went to work out of high school. Although with my gift academically my father would have been disappointed if I had done this. So would I.

    I am very passionate about Physics and truly do love it even though I just now am getting into the juicy good physics. To be honest I have no clue what I want to do for the rest of my life, but this is what I'm good at, and what I enjoy doing.

    If possible please respond with what you would do if in my situation considering all information given and what careers both options will offer. Is it really worth the extra money and time to go for the double? I know science is not the track to becoming wealthy. All I want is a good career in math or physics that I will enjoy and be able to comfortably support a family with. Sorry if this was too long. All advice is appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 2, 2012 #2
    Thanks for all the help guys, I suppose my rant was not taken seriously, great forum this is.....
  4. Jul 2, 2012 #3


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    Science Advisor

    Hey physicsfanUNC and welcome to the forums.

    With regard to picking a university course, you should assess what kind of skills you will get out of the degree and how they will be used in the workforce for any job, and figure out what kinds of things outside of university you can work on to be competitive for these roles.

    With regard to the double major, my advice to you if money is a problem is to learn enough so that you can end up learning the other stuff on your own.

    Doing the entire calculus sequence along with linear algebra as well as some probability and statistics along with various applications that you will do throughout uni should prepare you for a lot of other stuff that you can do either in your job or in your spare time.

    Once you are able to learn independently enough, you'll find that the idea of having to take a course in something will be a past-time and you'll have the mental outlook and preparedness to do whatever you need to do to learn something on your own. Since we have the internet, there are many ways you can do this very effectively (these forums being one of those).

    If you want to do analytic work (especially outside academia) I would become proficient in basic programming, presentations, report writing, and more importantly being able to communicate in a way that the people you end up working for can understand. Many jobs require people to do technical stuff and then explain what this all means for someone who doesn't either have the background, the time, the desire or any combination of the above. It's pointless knowing technical stuff without being able to tell anyone else why that is important for their needs.

    So in short my suggestion if money is tight, is to not do the double major, but get in the mindset of becoming a truly independent learner over the course of your degree because you'll get to a point mentally where you will not have a knee-jerk reaction to take a course in something, but rather be used to just having the initiative to do what you need to do to actually learn what you need to learn.

    Good luck!
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