Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Virtual AP Physics Class (Advice Needed)

  1. Nov 27, 2008 #1


    User Avatar


    I've lurked anonymously for quite a bit on these forums, and until now had no reason to register and ask a question.

    Background: high school senior with (otherwise) high GPA(3.9) and fairly good ACT score (31) seeking advice and consulting from experienced PF member.

    Now that that's out of the way, here's my problem: I regard myself as a fairly good student in math and science (A in Honors Physics, all A's in math classes, currently taking AP Calculus with a mark of 'A', etc.), so I'm growing increasingly frustrated with my situation in a virtual AP Physics C class. I was originally planning to take AP Computer Science, but at the last minute decided "Nah, I like Physics!." I'm now currently bogged down in the latter part of the class with a C, possibly a B (school refuses to specify which grading scale they will use). It's very upsetting. When I e-mail the professor for help, he will sometimes helps, but takes ~1-3 days to correspond. This wouldn't be so bad, as I'm a pretty self-motivated learner who studies University Physics by Young & Freedman regularly, and understands the problems in them. No, no, this part doesn't bother me at all. It's the 'plug-and-chug', sloppy, disorienting messes I suffer through that the teacher calls 'tests.' During these, one will spend 20 minutes mashing buttons on a calculator, trying to figure out what is going wrong, only to realize the teacher forgot to include information. This is happening repeatedly, and my grade is taking a nosedive because of it. The class is administered through a group whose name I don't wish to specify. However, when I called and reported this problem they literally told me that it wasn't their fault, and the teachers under their jurisdiction, well, aren't really under their jurisdiction.

    So at this point, I am so heartbroken I have just about ceased working in the class; I no longer have the endurance to suffer through 11-15 pages a week of badly written Free Responses. In all fairness, I am not one of the "I just took a hard class for the first time and got my arse handed to me!" types. I enjoy Calculus, and have been learning math subjects that I like from various books (vague, I know). Like I said, I have great grades other than this one garbagety class, but none of my teachers or counselors know what to say or how to help me. There are other students in the virtual class with me, who go to my high school, but at this point are either where I am, are worse of, or are 'consulting' with each other to make good grades on the tests. I keep hearing myself say "If you can't do AP Physics, you'll NEVER do engineering/physics/math/computer science!", but honestly, the class is horrible, and I don't learn anything. In fact, I've learned much from reading the textbook, and in retrospect, probably just should have bought the textbook and learned from that. Ugh. I still love physics and math, even despite this heartache, but wonder if I will blow my chance of getting a full scholarship and how admissions officers will view a B or C in this class. I'm on break now (and can't enjoy a minute of it!), but I'm talking to a counselor on Monday about leaving this blemish off of my transcript. The worst that can happen at this point, IMO, is losing a full scholarship or my love for math/science (and I don't see the latter happening).

    So what I'm asking I guess is

    a) has anyone here ever suffered through something so crappy pre-college?


    b) How did it affect your genuine interest in math and science, if it all?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 27, 2008 #2
    I suggest you keep working and learn the material with the class, despite much hardship. You are bound to have this happen to you again in the future, especially in the big universities as some professors will exhibit the "Screw you, you're just a requirement I need to fulfill before I can do my research!" attitude. Make sure you do well in your other courses to recover from this and try your hardest to maintain yourself in this situation. This should have been an obvious thing to you especially since you realize the consequences of failure.

    As to your other questions:
    I had a unfortunate pre-college. My science teachers were not knowledgeable beyond the textbook and refused to teach or explain concepts beyond the level discussed in the textbook. My AP Bio class, however, had a PhD student teaching it, who really knew her stuff; however, this class was bogged down by the general senior attitude. My passions for Biochemistry and Physiology, however, haven't been dented.

    What is a passion if it dies in a few weeks, months, or years, for such silly circumstances, anyway? At least, that is what I like to say.

    At any rate, best of luck with your current situation. Keep at it; it's harsh advice, I know, but it's the only thing you can do.
  4. Nov 27, 2008 #3

    Chi Meson

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Colleges recognize that AP Physics C is just about the toughest class a student can take in a public HS. Since you mentioned the ACT and not the SAT, I'm assuming that a full scholarship at an East Coast Private college was not on the line here, but still, any college that is considering you for a full scholarship should not sink you for choosing to take on the most challenging course that was provided in the least efficient manner (virtual classes are crap).

    If the class is totally an elective, and if a full scholarship is really on the line, and if you have a sympathetic guidance counselor (a good cousnelor can do ANYthing), then perhaps your school can allow you to proceed "pass/fail." Usually this would not affect your GPA, but school districts are so different in policies.
  5. Nov 27, 2008 #4


    User Avatar


    I have A's in everything else (I calculated, and even a bottom-of-the-pit 'C' still leaves by GPA high enough for a full ride, so I'm quite cheery about that).

    As for your advice, I'm learning the material fine, but at this point it just a matter of learning how to work the system, so to speak (believe, I know the physics; I taught myself the Calculus necessary for the class before learning it in my Calc. class). Your comment on 'passion', however, is genius. I never felt like abandoning hope towards my love of math and science, but your thought made me feel better about surviving in the American school system. Thank you very much. I will, in fact, 'keep at it.'

    It's nice to talk to someone every once-in-a-while.
  6. Nov 27, 2008 #5


    User Avatar

    Chi Meson,

    Haha, that about sums it up.

    Not at all. I'm still wrestling with the idea of a undergrad major (can't decide between CS, Math, Physics or Engineering). I don't really care where I go for undergrad, so I'm going to everyone's favorite 'local state school.' I'm more concerned if and when I go to grad school, and for what.

    Never thought of this. Thank you so much!
  7. Nov 27, 2008 #6

    Always glad to help someone. I also have one more bit of advice for you as I was once a senior in high school; choose somewhere you're going to learn and somewhere you're going to be challenged to be your college. Look beyond the lists that state statistics and look for a place that will facilitate your passions. This statement especially holds true for research. I chose a program (a University Scholars Program or an Honor's College Program) that has placed me in a research lab since the summer before freshmen year; I am and was doing real research as well. Those programs would be the way to go if you're looking for the best educational opportunities.

    I hope this bit of advice, which is usually not given to many people, will help you.
  8. Nov 27, 2008 #7


    User Avatar


    Thank you again for the excellent advice. I want to stay in-state for undergrad, so I'm going with 'the best' school that I have found, as you said. that will facilitate my passion. I have a couple other, much nicer universities 'picked out' that I would kill to go to, could get into, but won't apply due to financial reasons (I'm funding this myself, as I suspect many other students on this board do). As for challenge, I'm pretty sure this one should be pretty good (based on what's in my state, that is) but then again I have only seen the entrails of a few classes in action. I'll definitely check on a research path though, since graduate studies stand a hearty chance of being in my future.

    Thank you for giving me a warm welcome to the PF boards. I hope I can someday look back on this instance and give just as much sound advice to a fledgling student as you did to me.
  9. Nov 28, 2008 #8

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    I'm a little puzzled by one thing. If it's all the teacher's fault, does that mean nobody is doing better than a C? Not even one person?
  10. Nov 28, 2008 #9


    User Avatar

    If you're meaning other people in my school taking the same class, I mentioned in the first post that they're either where I'm at, or "are 'consulting' with each other to make good grades on the tests." By this I mean they are using a 'brute force' method of getting test answer, i.e., submitting one person's test, finding the wrong answers, then having another submit with different answers, etc..

    It's possible that the others in the class are doing better (the ones who go to other schools), but I don't know. I can't see test averages and that sort of thing, and not one of them communicates so I don't really know.
  11. Jan 15, 2009 #10


    User Avatar

    Fun update:

    Finished the mechanics portion. Actually pulled my grade up to an "A" by working hard, only to take a nose dive to an 87% when the VIRTUAL CLASS LOCKED UP AND I COULDN'T FINISH. The professor refused to reset it, so I took a slew of 0% averages, I'm stuck with that grade (the 87). It isn't fabulous, but hopefully the scholarship department will understand the difference between incompetence and technical difficulty.

    Eh, I guess it didn't really affect my GPA at all. I still have a 3.9.
  12. Jan 15, 2009 #11


    User Avatar

    Sorry for the double post...

    @ kingdomof:

    I got high A's in everything else, including a grade above 100% in all of my AP classes other than Physics. My Calc. grade was particularly good. I hope this will help.
  13. Jan 15, 2009 #12
    You said you read the textbooks and learnt more... just do that!

    doing well in class does not necessarily equate to real learning. You could self study lots of AP exams and do well in them. Drop the class and self-study and take the AP exam. Go grab a book a start reading and doing problems. Don't be discouraged!
  14. Jan 15, 2009 #13


    User Avatar

    If only the friendly little committee that considers me for scholarships felt the same way (although I suppose a high AP score might convince them otherwise). I've started the E&M part, but I think I might stick with it because someone jerked the teacher's chain for being such, uh, a jerk. (;

    Thanks for the words of encouragement though!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook