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

What do graduate schools look like?

  1. Jul 8, 2011 #1
    Is it just like a class where small number of people are gathered and taught by a professor like high school?

    Or is it simliar to 1 to 1 private tutoring?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2011 #2


    User Avatar

    Graduate classes tend to be small (in physics anyway - engineering classes can be large); my masters level classes had 5-15 people in them. When you start working on your thesis or dissertation, much of that will be one-on-one with a professor. But it's not like tutoring, more like discussion with reading and research assignments.
  4. Jul 8, 2011 #3


    User Avatar

    The classes tend to be fairly small - most of mine have had 4-18 people. One notable exception had 30, but that was very unusual (the professor remarked on it a couple of times in the first week, actually). It isn't one to one though, and it isn't really like tutoring.
  5. Jul 8, 2011 #4
    And also there is a lot of independent study. When you do your dissertation, you are largely on your own, and you meet with your advisor every so often. Also, you end up attending lots of seminars and attending the occasional conference.
  6. Jul 8, 2011 #5
    thanks for the replies. My biggest concern is, I suck at self teaching. Once I tried to self teach the concept of calculas (of course in high school level and also I did not try to invent by myself like Newton or Leibniz but read some textbooks) and failed multiple times. Now I entered high school and took calculas, and everything was so easy (in comparison to what I had attempted) although my teacher wasn;t that good (I don;t think he is bad at all but my classmates say he sucks)
  7. Jul 8, 2011 #6
    You don't suck at self-teaching, you probably tried it with the wrong strategy. One thing I like to say: "Study smarter, not harder."

    How did you self-teach yourself? You should always acquire the habit of studying math with a pencil and paper in hand.
  8. Jul 8, 2011 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    There is a lot of independent learning in graduate school. But if you're still in high school, I wouldn't worry about it. It's like worrying about grade 12 classes while you're in grade 8. A lot changes over the time in between.

    One of the skills that students pick up at the undergraduate level is learning how to learn. It's not really taught, so much as a skill that you acquire through trial and error. It's important to assess and re-assess your approach to studying as you advance and make modifications based on the successes you've had. Some students even find that attending lectures is not the best way for them to learn. Some find that a lot of reading helps. Some focus purely on problem-solving and pursue problem-based learning.

    The important thing is to keep trying to learn.
  9. Jul 9, 2011 #8
    To be honest, I never used any strategy when I self-taught myself. Also, I cannot focus on studying more than 5 minutes when I am alone. But I have no problem with staying in class room for like 1 hour
  10. Jul 9, 2011 #9
    That attitude won't take you very far in graduate school. You can't simply just go along with only following lectures. What major are you?
  11. Jul 9, 2011 #10
    actually I am a mere high school student...
  12. Jul 9, 2011 #11
    Well high school student or not, it sounded like you were saying that you have no inclination of doing practice problems at home or following up on material. Which brings me to the point that the attitude won't take you to graduate school.

    But I don't know anything about you or your choice of interest.
  13. Jul 9, 2011 #12
    This answers your question. You're not expected to be motivated enough to self-study in high school. After all, most HS students are too ambitious, grabbing a textbook, skimming through the foundational chapters (usually 1-2) and jumping straight towards the difficult, flowery concepts. Then they get bothered by how much they don't know and soon become disinterested, throwing away the book.
  14. Jul 9, 2011 #13
    hmm, I meant I have troubles with self-teaching theorems and concepts. I do practice problems (if they are applications of what I have been thought in previous lectures) and I don't know what follow of materials are. Sorry for not being clear
  15. Jul 9, 2011 #14


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Worked for me as long as I had another book as reference for the things I didn't know.
  16. Jul 9, 2011 #15
    That's my experience, too. Though I'm officially starting grad school this fall, I've already taken some grad courses. The more esoteric courses, and the courses that aren't required for the degree--our program requires 5 "core" courses; the other courses are optional--can be quite small. I took a fluid dynamics course, for example, that had five students in it. I also took a stat mech course that had more than 30 students in it. It was a required "core" class a class, and it also seemed to draw grad students from other departments (e.g., chemistry and engineering).
  17. Jul 9, 2011 #16

    I'll use my stat mech class as an example. There was no assigned text for the class. Not even a recommended book. However, the prof did have a list of his favorite books on the subject, and he would happily let you know what they were if you went out of the way to ask him.

    When it came time to do the homework assignments, I found myself surrounded by several different texts, one a library book and the others I bought online. One text might explain one topic better than the others; another text would take a different approach. In order to get full understanding of the material--not a superficial "gist," but a deep understanding--you would have to read several books. All of this took place outside scheduled class times, of course. Self-study is required in order to fully grasp the more complex concepts, and especially those topics that never got mentioned at all during the class (but still might show up on comprehensive/qualifying exams).
  18. Jul 9, 2011 #17

    Just shallowly reading a textbook isn't enough to learn the concepts. When you come across a new concept, read the material until you feel like you have a solid understanding of the theoretical concept, then attempt the example problems first without looking at the textbook solutions. If you make zero headway with the problem, at least make an "educated guess" as to the final answer, either its form (e.g., what variables it should have it in) or its order of magnitude. Then compare your solution to the correct one in the book. If you didn't get the correct solution, then take a moment to identify exactly where you went wrong and why. Then close the book and work the example again. Once you've understood the concept--in words as well as how it's applied to the example problems--then move on to the next section in the chapter.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook