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Words of Wisdom for a Stressed out High-School Freshman?

  1. Apr 19, 2013 #1
    Hello, and as you can probably tell I'm a stressed out high school freshman. I understand that I'm a freshman and I should enjoy my high school years, blah blah blah, but high school is only four years of your life, so yes I'm worrying about which schools I get into as they will decide my future. I'm definitely interested in going into physics, probably astrophysics. I have a substantial amount of knowledge of physics for my age, and will egotistically say that I have quite a large amount of potential.

    Currently, I'm in the middle of the third quarter of my freshman year (as alluded to earlier), and am currently in the Pre-IB Program, planning on going into IB in my junior and senior years (If you don't know what it is, here's a link!). My current GPA is about 3.5, weighted at a 4.0, and it's been steadily going up throughout the year, so I suspect I'll be bale to get much better grades next year (It's been my first time in a normal school, so the whole thing was overwhelming when I first started.) I've definitely an underachiever, I've never had to try in the past and got straight A's throughout middle school. If I could work on not procrastinating and increasing my organization, I'll hopefully be able to get straight A's in the future... But enough of that, on to the meat of the subject.

    As I've stated, my GPA is 3.5, weighted at 4.0. My two undergrad schools of choice are CU Boulder or UF, depending on scholarships and money (I get a guaranteed scholarship to a Florida school because of IB, and am prepaid for a Florida school), and I'll see where that takes me for grad school. I haven't done any extracurricular activities this year, mostly for social reasons (I'm a total dork, and came to my school not knowing anybody so I never signed up for any activities), but may join a few clubs next year. I'm fairly certain I can get into UF, but I just wanted to post here with people who have gone through similar situations. What do you think of my potential? Do you think I may be able to do better than UF? I understand grad school is the most important, do you think I could get into more prestigious schools with my current grades, or will it be a turn off?

    Thank you!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 19, 2013 #2
    Just worry about getting a good high school GPA to increase your chances of getting scholarships. Apply to several universities that you would like to go to, and then decide from there based on finances, environment, etc. You are still a freshman in high school, focus on that.

    You'll do fine at any state school. Many of the physics departments at these schools are very solid; perhaps more so than some of the prestigious schools.
  4. Apr 19, 2013 #3
    As long as you go to a solid State school you'll have no doors closed on you for grad school or beyond. I went to a well-respected but not deified state school and now have my dream job (engineering research).

    I would give some serious thought to joining the cross-country team. Let me tell you, looking back, running cross-country and track-and-field taught me more and was the most valuable experience of anything else in high school. I learned how to not be an underachiever (running well is HARD), learned how to get along with people, and made a lot of great friends. I highly recommend it.

    No need for stress.. UF is a great school!
  5. Apr 19, 2013 #4
    As a current high school senior, I can speak from very recent experience. I got into the Ivies with a 3.6 UW, but I consider myself an outlier. I too was stressed about getting into colleges as a freshman, so don't feel alone. Probably the best advice that I can give is to find your passion (which you have expressed) and show that you have worked hard towards it: at least straight A's in Physics, at least 5's on AP Physics, IPhO, ISEF, summer research (if available), and other physics-related extra-curriculars.

    Also, IB is excellent in most schools. It, among other things, shows colleges that you have challenged yourself.

    To answer your main question, I can't say if it is or isn't a turn-off without knowing your whole resume. However, imagine if you had a twin with the exact same application profile as you except that his GPA was a 3.7 UW. No one can really conclude that he will get into Harvard and you won't, but it's certain that he has a better shot. So strive to improve your GPA, because it is an indicator of your work ethic, organization, and effort.

    P.S. I would disagree slightly with Mmm_Pasta. I don't mean to seem elitist, but there are clear benefits of going to a school with "prestige". Prestigious schools have more resourceful alumni networks, which make getting better jobs much easier in certain fields. Also, your peers will on average be more driven and talented at a prestigious school, leading you to compete with and strive to be like them. That being said, many very successful physicists did their undergrads at state schools and while a prestigious school does not guarantee a more successful career, it does help your chances.
  6. Apr 19, 2013 #5


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    Why would you associate lack of prestige with being a state school? This just shows ignorance on your part. You are clearly juxtaposing the two without merit. You do realize that schools like Berkeley, Ann Arbor, and UCSB are state schools right?
  7. Apr 19, 2013 #6
    I have to say, as someone who went through IB, and took some IB level classes, I don't think the program is worth the extra work and stress unless you're going to a VERY high level university like Harvard or Yale or something. (If anyone has a different experience, feel free to call me out). The only exceptions to this are the IB classes that are related to what you want to major in. So in my opinion, AP classes are more than enough to be prepared for the college experience.

    Also, I know this wasn't really what you were asking about, but I thought it was worthwhile enough to type out.

    Good luck!
  8. Apr 19, 2013 #7
    I should clarify. By state schools, I meant to refer to those that OP mentioned. I don't deny that the above colleges are great, but--without diverging into a college rivalry debate--by prestige, I mean those with very low admissions rates that I believe OP was hoping to gain insight on.
  9. Apr 19, 2013 #8


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    I don't intend to engage in a college debate either (I don't go to any of the schools I listed so it wouldn't even make much sense to get into one lol) but yes perhaps you should have been more specific beforehand with regards to your definition of "prestige" that you now elucidated.
  10. Apr 19, 2013 #9


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    @OP, the best advice I can give you is to stay up-to-date or ahead in all of your coursework so that you won't feel "under the gun" when the road gets a little bumpy. Having to scramble to catch up can lead to all kinds of stress and problems. Establish good work-habits right now, and you'll be golden when it's time for college. Good luck!
  11. Apr 20, 2013 #10
    Thank you everyone! I should point out Leonheart231, I'm doing IB A. Because Florida schools are terrible, and B. because the school I'd be zoned for is terrible for a Florida school, so I just decided to do IB at a different school.
    Carlgrace: I have to admit, I couldn't be less interested in sports, especially running. I actually have several extracurricular activities I'll be attending next year (model UN, chess club, possibly a writing club if I can find one, and an out of school physics club a friend of my mother's is trying to start up.)

    I'll also be taking engineering as an elective next year, and IB does chemistry/physics next year, and if my middle school grades are any sign, I'll do well in those.
  12. Apr 20, 2013 #11


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    Go on dates. Play some sports. Read widely in many different fields. Keep your grades high. Don't burn yourself out. Make sure you learn to write and speak well. Learn to play and enjoy music.

    You have the rest of your life to work yourself to death. Don't shoot yourself in the foot; get good grades. But use this time to expand your knowledge and experiences laterally, you will have plenty of time to overspecialize in undergrad and (if you choose) graduate school.
  13. Apr 20, 2013 #12
    Ah, that's definitely reason enough...I'd forgotten that that could happen, since the IB school I went to was the HS I was going to anyway. In that case, good luck! And don't stress too much (I know that's hard)!
  14. Apr 20, 2013 #13
    It's been a few years since I graduated high school. One thing I would tell a younger version of myself right now is to sign up for auto shop class. It had a stigma for having the "less than bright" students, but in hindsight it would have been really nice to know how to fix cars. I would have taken it every year if I had the opportunity to do it all over again.

    Do some practical classes that you might not get the chance to take in college (autoshop comes to mind, or other useful vocational stuff for everyday life). You will have plenty of physics, chemistry, and math classes in your future.
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