Uncertain on which classes to take next semester

In summary, the individual is nearing the end of community college and has two more semesters to finish up their math and physics major classes. They found differential equations easy and introductory mechanics challenging and tend to do better with abstract concepts rather than real-world applications. They are unsure which route to take next semester, with options including a poorly rated linear algebra professor and a highly rated E&M professor, or a highly rated linear algebra professor and a so-so rated thermodynamics and waves professor. They are also taking a discrete math CS course. The individual is advised to speak with their advisor and prioritize courses that are necessary prerequisites for other required courses and those that are more heavily weighted on the Physics GRE. They should also consider taking the PGRE early and ret
  • #1
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I'm nearing the end of community college, 2 more semesters to go to finish up math and physics major classes. I took differential equations and physics 1 (mechanics) this semester - found ODE easy and intro mechanics challenging; I tend to do well in math classes, but am not the most talented spatially and tend to do better with more abstract concepts v. the real observable world. Next semester I can either take linear algebra with a poorly reviewed professor and physics 2 (E&M) with a highly rated professor, OR linear with a highly rated professor and physics 3 (thermodynamics and waves) with a so-so rated professor. I'm not certain which route to go.

How is the difficultly between physics 2 and 3 (as described)? Is it advisable to take EM or Thermo/waves in a certain order? And is a first course in linear algebra difficult enough to warrant avoiding a poorly rated professor?

Along with whatever combination I choose here, I'll also be taking a discrete math CS course next semester.

Advice?
 
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  • #2
kepherax said:
I'm nearing the end of community college, 2 more semesters to go to finish up math and physics major classes. I took differential equations and physics 1 (mechanics) this semester - found ODE easy and intro mechanics challenging; I tend to do well in math classes, but am not the most talented spatially and tend to do better with more abstract concepts v. the real observable world. Next semester I can either take linear algebra with a poorly reviewed professor and physics 2 (E&M) with a highly rated professor, OR linear with a highly rated professor and physics 3 (thermodynamics and waves) with a so-so rated professor. I'm not certain which route to go.

How is the difficultly between physics 2 and 3 (as described)? Is it advisable to take EM or Thermo/waves in a certain order? And is a first course in linear algebra difficult enough to warrant avoiding a poorly rated professor?

Along with whatever combination I choose here, I'll also be taking a discrete math CS course next semester.

Advice?
For what it's worth, I found E&M (even with a good professor) a lot more difficult than Linear Algebra.
 
  • #3
I recommend speaking with your advisor. We know nothing about the school you are at, how the curriculum is structured, what the prerequisites of the courses are, etc. Not all schools do things the same way, so random people on the internet are not likely to be as helpful as your advisor.
 
  • #4
I advise students I mentor not to base decisions on professor "ratings" if these are nothing more than unverified anonymous input from other students. There was an Air Force Academy study a few years ago that showed students did better in downstream courses after classes with more rigorous professors who tended to have lower ratings from students. There are important differences between what students like (that leads to higher ratings) and what students need (which can lead to lower ratings, but yields greater success downstream.)

The biggest recommendation I have for scheduling is to carefully consider, of the courses offered next semester, which are necessary pre-requisites for other required courses. These have the higher priority, especially for courses that are not offered every semester and/or if taking the course sooner is the only way to complete all one's physics major courses on time. My next recommendation is to give the priority in the remaining courses to those subjects that are more heavily weighted on the Physics GRE (for students considering graduate school). I recommend a first try of the PGRE early enough to recognize weaknesses and re-take it, and one is better served by completing more core courses before the first try.
 

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