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When is it time to quit pursuing math?

  1. Sep 16, 2007 #1
    I'm currently entering my senior year. Anyway, I really think math is taking it's toll on me. I get very stressed out from mathematics and I truly think that one of the only reasons I don't quit math is because I have put so much time and effort into it.

    One of my main problems with math is just how it takes so much committment. I have given up a lot to become a good math student. I probably spend 20-25 hours studying a week, and add together the 15 hours in class, i know that's only a 40 hour week, but it's just draining. I am completely exhausted.

    I'm currently taking 3 research projects and 3 undergrad courses (1 advanced seminar, measure theory and a regular course in topology). Maybe I'm just overwhelmed by my workload since it is pretty insane for an undergrad. But my whole plan was to challenge myself as much as I can during undergrad, specifically with research so that grad school isn't too big of an adjustment for me.

    Perhaps i'm just talking because it's been a long long year. Last year I took 12 math courses, went to an REU for math and then did an independent study for the rest of the summer at my school. That adds up to over a year straight of studying constantly. Then entering this semester, i'm taking the above mentioned schedule and need to study for the GRE and GRE math exams.

    I feel absolutely overwhelmed.

    When is it time to really quit?

    Also i'm going to apply to grad school just to keep my options open. I heard if you don't plan on becoming a professor that lowers your chances of admission.

    If I don't quit math, I really want to get my PhD and work for a hedge fund or get a financial math masters.

    Also, how difficult is it to get into a top 10 university for PhD? In general, if I'm not the darling of the math department at my undergrad, do I have a shot at schools like Princeton or Stanford? What about Columbia or Cornell?
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 16, 2007 #2
    I do it for my love of it. I dont feel anything even I am doing it for like 10 hours a day. You are exhausted because of classwork, not of mathematics. Perhaps you can re-think your question again.
  4. Sep 16, 2007 #3
    I think the problem is in your load just like my heavy load last semester. What is the normal load in your uni?

    There have been many times I wanted to quit pure maths but lucky for me I haven't yet. I just dropped the other subjects and concentrate on maths.
  5. Sep 16, 2007 #4


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    well you can always comfort yourself by the notion that there are children's prodigy who finish bsc in maths after only two years, comapre your coursework load to them.
  6. Sep 16, 2007 #5
    How did you find your summer research? I think that as long as you've enjoyed your research projects you have nothing to worry about. Classes have a lot of artificial stresses.

    Part of the problem seems to be that you're "giving up a lot to be a good math student". You will just make yourself unhappy if you stop doing other activities you enjoy in order to do math. So go to parties, play sports, take a non-math class for fun.... And it's the beginning of the school year - you can drop a research project if you're feeling overwhelmed.

    Happiness is not about getting into Princeton. (You already knew that, but sometimes it helps to be reminded!) Talk to your research supervisors and their grad students and you'll probably get some good grad school suggestions - it's always easier to be upbeat when you can see some options on the horizon.
  7. Sep 16, 2007 #6
    Man I feel you!!! I am in my final year of undergrad (pure) math and I had to put it to an end. I think I could handle one more tough year, but then you have grad school, which is 2-5 more tough years, I had to get out. I had actually finished enough math at the end of last year for my B.S., and did the summer REU, and this semester I was originally signed up for a grad analysis class, topology, advanced data analysis, and on top of those classes I was wanting to finish some more work on my REU project, study for GREs, it was way too much for me. So I dropped the analysis and topology, and I am now taking a probability theory class. I also decided that I can't be in school for an additional two - five years so I am not worrying about the GREs, so now I have a very easy schedule, and I am basically getting ready to enter the job market, I also joined the water polo club :biggrin:. I am minoring in statistics, so I hope to play up that angle to get a job by the time I graduate, and then relax :smile: Good luck with everything, I am sure you will find something that works for you in some way or another!
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2007
  8. Sep 16, 2007 #7

    I'm almost in your exact same situation. I finished out my math major last year, none of the classes i'm taking right now are mandatory except for my topology course.

    I think I'm going to stick it out this semester. I hate quitting on things. If I do terribly this semester and bomb the GRE's, then grad schools wasn't meant for me to begin with.
  9. Sep 16, 2007 #8


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    your questions seems very strange to me. you admit you purposely loaded yourself up to almost the breaking point, then you wonder what deductions you should make from the fact that you feel your load is breaking you down. duhhh!
  10. Sep 17, 2007 #9
    Perhaps you lack the mental capacity to comprehend complicated mathematics. Have you considered getting a liberal arts degree?
  11. Sep 17, 2007 #10
    If he can mange to last in a maths programme until the final year, I think he does have the mentality to go on. He just overloaded himself that is all. I doubt that he would try to take 7 graduate courses if he goes on to grad school.
  12. Sep 17, 2007 #11


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    You don't need to quit maths, you just need to stop overloading yourself. Everything in moderation, friend.:smile:
  13. Sep 18, 2007 #12


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    Just chill out a bit -- take some time out -- everyone feels like their work's too much for them every now and then -- it should pass.
  14. Sep 18, 2007 #13
    Yea, cool down and take a break or something. dont let maths give you headaches and just relax. take your time to get the hang of it and soon you will start enjoying maths. have fun. and good luck.
    (visit my blog!)
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