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Where should I go from here?

  1. Aug 26, 2007 #1
    My freshman year began at the University of Missouri-Columbia where I was majoring in print journalism. But I hated living there, so I transferred to the University of Washington to finish off my freshman year. While taking some general ed classes, I became interested in geology/earth and space sciences.

    In high school, I focused on liberal arts (newspaper editor, AP history and English classes, etc.) while happily neglecting math courses. (Just reaching finite math was a struggle!)

    But ES and other physical sciences require three quarters or more of calculus! And then there's the calculus-based physics courses! After talking with an ESS counselor at UW, I decided to withdraw during the fall of 2006 and return home to take remedial math courses at the local community college. There was just no way I would pay out-of-state tuition for lower-division math courses :) The UW, thankfully, makes it easy for students to return after an absence.

    I took intermediate algebra in the spring, then trigonometry over the summer, and I start precalculus tomorrow. Next semester I will finally reach calculus. I've also been taking trig-based physics, as certain ESS majors don't require calculus-based physics. They're also good prep should I decide to take calculus-based physics later on. At this point, I don't know if I should major in ESS or physics, though the latter would take longer.

    I haven't taken a "real" physics or math course yet. I've aced all of my intro or trig-based science classes, but so what? I'm terrified of taking upper-level physics or geology classes only to discover that I actually hate the subject. I love physics based on my limited experience. And at this point, I'm not interested in grad school, so will a physics B.S. do me any good by itself?

    Life, of course, further complicates things. Initially, out-of-state tuition wasn't a financial problem, but things have changed. Now I'm contemplating reapplying to the UCs that I didn't get in to the first time around. UC Davis has a transfer agreement with my community college at least. My fear is that my screwed up academic history (bouncing from college to college) will sink my chances of making it into a UC. Besides, I'll only have one semester of calculus by Fall 2008... Returning to the UW is still very much possible, though not preferred.

    So my question is: should I continue grinding away at calculus and physics, even if it will add years to my degree? I'm so flustered with my college experience, with my inane decisions, that I often contemplate giving up and reluctantly finishing off a poli sci major. There are no other courses I can really take until I complete a semester or two of calculus.

    Anyone else have a similar experience, with radically changing majors and having to take years of math, physics, etc.?

    Thanks for taking the time to read over my little story. I really don't have many people to talk to about this, so every bit helps.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 26, 2007 #2


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    Yes a physics degree will open up lots of areas to work in - even in earth science.
    One of the things about science is that you can generally work in a more applied area if you have a degree in a physics/maths.
    The trick to deciding if you want to do physics is do you enjoy calculus? A large part of a physics degree is (unfortuantely?) calculus. this is the basis of being able to do quantitaitive work in most areas of physics.

    I'm not american so I don't have any advice about courses/institutes/funding etc.
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