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Programs What should I major in if I'm not passionate about anything?

  1. Jul 17, 2016 #1
    So I’ve just turned twenty-one years old as of May 2016, and I will be a third year physics major starting in August for the Fall semester. I always hated school growing up, all throughout elementary, middle, and high school; I didn’t find any of the subjects interesting at all. When I was in my senior year of high school I was part of the Marine delayed entry program; aka DEP (a program where recruits were basically on standby until their ship date for boot-camp arrived.) Towards the end of my time in the DEP I started to have second thoughts and basically told the recruiters that I wasn’t going to go.

    So after I graduated high school in the summer of 2013, I spent approximately the next six months working random jobs; some of which were very physically intensive, such as welding with my father at his company, and others that weren’t, like working at gamestop. I HATED working with my father as a welder, even though it did teach me what it was like to work for each and every dollar. At around October or November of the year I graduated high school, I started to think about the possibility of going to college. I was always terrible at school up until this point, though I had never really tried due to lack of interest. For some reason I latched on to the idea of becoming a physician; it seemed like a grand goal that was almost too unattainable. But I loved a challenge, there aren’t many things that’ll get me going like a good challenge. I started to do all my research on becoming a physician, and I started to see how science and math intensive it would be(I never took beyond algebra 1 in high school).

    After all my thinking, I decided to go for it and register for classes at my local four year college. I was registered to take intermediate algebra, which is roughly equivalent to what algebra one is in most high schools. I tried to self-study some basic algebra from youtube videos and other sources; I found that I was actually enjoying the process of learning this basic math, though it was just mechanical methods, no proofs. After several semesters of college I decided that I hated the way I had to learn for classes like Biology and decided that becoming a physician was probably not going to suit my personality very much. By this point in time I had taken up to calculus 1 and like two biology and chemistry classes I believe. The only thing I had really learned by this point was that I liked to understand the way that things worked, I didn’t like to simply memorize facts. I had and have a TERRIBLE memory.

    After thinking about what I wanted to do some more, I decided to take a physics class to see if I’d like it, and it was awesome. It was the first college class that actually stimulated me and forced me to study; it was a challenge. So I eventually took the whole calculus 1,2,3 and differential equations sequence and I took the first three calculus based physics classes. So I got my A.A. from that four year college and I just now transferred to a new four year university where I’ll begin as a third year physics major in August. My problem is that I’ve always had this habit of getting bored of things, so I’ll start something and I’ll never finish it. I’ve had this whole summer off and I haven’t been able to motivate myself to open up my physics books to refresh on some things. I feel like I just like physics, not like its my passion like I thought it originally might have been. The only two subjects which I’ve really enjoyed in college were math and physics, but I don’t think I really have a passion for either. I took several other courses while I was in college such as various liberal arts, programming, and science classes.

    I don’t know what I should study. I feel like I can keep studying physics and probably enjoy it, but I don’t think I’d be motivated enough to go to grad school in it or anything. I’ve also thought about switching my major to mathematics as i have a great admiration for the way that mathematicians think about problems( I had a Russian mathematician teach me calculus one in a pretty rigorous epsilon-delta fashion). I have also perused several real analysis, topology, and abstract algebra books and have found the material seems more interesting to me at first glance, than say quantum mechanics. But again, I don’t know that I’d be motivated enough to go to grad school in math either.

    I have A’s in all my college classes up to this point, except for one B in my second biology class, so I’m in good academic standing.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 17, 2016 #2


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    One issue that you could be facing is a kind of academic burnout.

    When people initially start out in physics (or many other subjects for that matter) they can be really inspired, but then after taking a couple years of classes, really diving into the core topics, moving from assignment to assignment, etc. they can get bogged down with a lot of material that "has to be done." Essentially as a student it's very easy to spend all of your waking hours on assigned work. As a consequence, you can go years without any opportunity for self-directed learning, of your own interests. Some students even get to the point where, when they have the time, they don't even know what to do with it because they are so used to being told what to study.

    If this sounds like your problem, the key is to really take some time to explore your own ideas. Read. Read some popular science stuff if that's what inspires you. Read up on current research that sounds interesting. Check out Physics Today, or Science Daily or some of the Insights here on the Physics Forums and then follow your nose for a while. It can also help to just take a break for a while. If you have the summer, take a break from the books and go earn some money. Sometimes working a tough job for even a few weeks is enough to remind you how much interest you have in a subject.

    Another possibility worth considering is that you just really haven't found a passion yet. With an academic ,subject like physics, it's probably not a great idea to force yourself through it if you don't feel that graduate school is at least a possibility. It's not unreasonable in this situation to take some time off to figure this out. University is expensive and going just for the sake of going can sometimes lead you into trouble - like when you need that motivation to put in those long hours of study. So maybe an option would be to take a year off, work, earn some money, and then re-assess your situation next year. Another option might be to transfer into something that's less academic and more professional-oriented like engineering.
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