1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

University Physics without high school preparation

  1. Jan 27, 2017 #1

    First time poster here. I recently applied to the University of Toronto in which I intend to do the Math and Physics Specialist, this university has a particular bad reputation for killing GPA; however, I'm confident that its mostly myth and with hard work anything can be achieved. The only problem is that I never took Physics in high school. When I was a child, I did very well in math and was very interested in science, as I'm sure most children were. However, I did extremely poorly in high school and struggled with a lot of anxiety, self-esteem issues, and in general I was born with a high level of neuroticism. I failed every single math and science course I've taken and had to retake them in summer school to be able to graduate, and most of my class I would be in the bottom grade percent-wise. I wasn't decent at anything. In my final year, I was so discouraged I vowed to never take math or science ever again and honestly seriously contemplated just dropping out, thankfully I didn't.

    Anyway, long story short, I been at a community college, and been all to pull my life together as well as do well academically in math and science courses; I'm even the top of my program and I've been hired to tutor my peers by my college. I've taken Calculus, Biology, Chemistry and Physics and particularly developed an interest and deep respect for Mathematics and Physics. However, this is the first time my college is offering physics and they absolutely have no idea what their doing. Sigh, lets just say I didn't learn anything from those classes and the professors they got were absolutely insulting to the field I respect so much (seriously, one of them said "they weren't good at math" so only taught us (poorly) the theory, I'm literally more confused and know less about physics then before I took the course).

    Anyway, I'm now 19 and I've applied to university and will be starting in September 2017. I'm going to take the summer to catch up and learn any math and physics I missed out on in high school. Still, I'm having my doubts whether I can actually do this or not, especially without high school preparation. I'm adamant on doing my program I've chosen, even if I might end in a relapse of my high school experience. I've talked for long enough; knowing the intensity of physics itself, is it even possible that I can do well in that program without the high school preparation and if not, how can I prepare myself once the summer begins and how shall I go about it? I'll have 4 months.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 27, 2017 #2
    Really the biggest prerequisite for physics in my opinion is calculus. Even though I've never taken a physics class in high-school, I am in a calculus based physics class currently for my community college.

    If you can gain an understanding of calculus which usually comes with practice at problem solving, then I am sure you will do fine. Your success depends on your willingness and motivation to learn. Right now, I am at the beginning stages of my physics education also and I am too a 19 year old. The textbook given for my physics class is literally titled, "University Physics With Modern Physics."
  4. Jan 27, 2017 #3


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Your high school preparation is not too important. You need the Mathematics from your community college attendance. The first Physics course/s you will need would come at your university, being most likely Fundamental Physics - Mechanics, and the prerequisite Mathematics would be first semester of Calculus (Calculus 1, Calculus & Analytic Geometry), and you will need basic Trigonometry knowledge.
  5. Jan 30, 2017 #4


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    In the Canadian educational system, it is generally required that students taking first year physics (particularly at the University of Toronto) have already taken the equivalent of Grade 12 physics (known as SPH4U physics), along with calculus and algebra. See the requirements here:


    To the OP:

    To start with, I'm a University of Toronto graduate from the Math specialist program, and the reputation for GPA killing is greatly exaggerated, mostly from students who weren't willing to spend the time working hard on the material (I don't consider myself a genius, but I graduated with a decent GPA and finished off with a Masters degree in statistics -- not in physics, but that's because my interest changed).

    At any rate, since you have officially taken the community college version of introductory physics, you have at least the prerequisites to enroll in the first year Honours physics course. I can understand your nervousness about how prepared you are, but if you work hard to review the material, I think you should be adequately prepared.

    That being said, if you want to firm up the material from SPH4U physics (or its equivalent), I would recommend enrolling in online learning classes. I've found the following virtual learning class when I did a quick Google search:


    The cost for the course if about $549 + tax. I know that is a bit of an expense, but perhaps you can make some type of financial help in taking this course?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted