Thief of Time (siete_reinos) wrote in premed,
Thief of Time

I'm failing physics, how screwed am I?

I am starting my premed degree this summer; my first class is Physics 1. I thought it was going well, I did well on the homework and felt like I did really well on the first test last week...but today I got it back and I failed! I also had to BS the first lab because I didn't understand it even after help from my teachers and tonight's homework I spent 3 hours on before I gave up. I'm just not getting it at all. It's like the entire class is in another language.

I don't have long to pull up the grade because the class is just 8 weeks. I'm thinking this is a bad idea. I am good at biology and always did well in biology and chemistry but never in math and I've never had physics. I want to be a doctor more than anything but all I can think is that I won't get into school because I'll fail physics. I just don't see myself understanding anything in this class. What do you all think? Should I drop it and take it again when I have the full 16 weeks? Is there a certain book that's great for explaining concepts? Or am I just screwed if I don't get physics? Help! I feel horrible about myself and like I'm going to be forced to give up on my dream. :(
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That's really tough. Unfortunately, I think if you really really struggle with physics, it'll come back to bite you later, because a whole section of the MCAT (1/3 of your score) is physical sciences, which will include chemistry and physics. So, even if there were some way to get through the class without really understanding it, the physics is an important component of the MCAT.

But I also don't think you should give up your dream over ONE CLASS. Physics is just one part of a well-rounded science education, and if you can find a way to pass and understand the basics, that'll be enough if other parts of your coursework look good. Have you tried getting a tutor? I struggled A LOT with general chemistry, and I just hit the books with a tutor several times a week to get a B+ both semesters of gen chem even though I got low scores on the first few exams!
So I looked back over the test and with the curve it averages out to a C. It's not bad but it's not ideal either. I'm pretty pissed at myself. I feel like this teacher moves too quickly; it is his first time teaching the basic course. With it being summer, there are no tutors on campus. And then I found out I can't drop because I'll lose my financial aid. :/ So I have no choice but to suck it up and finish it out.

I just really feel like ass. Maybe tonight I just need to forget about it and pick myself up tomorrow and keep trying. I don't see myself having much other choice than doing my best and retaking it if I have to.
That's great! A C isn't too bad, you can definitely recover from a C. I think it's important to not be angry with yourself though so much as try to analyze (like the people below me said) what you got wrong and why. I found with physics that practice problems are definitely the way to go. At bare bones, I would just memorize the equations and make sure you understand them/can use them; that's essentially what basic level physics is anyway.

You can do this! Yes, pick yourself up and just keep trying. Persistence is so important. I actually had to retake my Physics 1 as well, because I tried to take it over the summer in high school (big mistake! I was NOT mature enough to take that class when I was 17), and I did much better my second time (I went from a C to an A). So, worst case scenario, you end up retaking-- which is inconvenient, but not a death sentence. You can always spin it to the med schools and use it to show that you don't quit, you try harder when you're down, and you do your best to improve/fix what you get wrong.
DROP. You won't catch up in an 8-week class. See if the prof will let you informally audit the rest of the semester, and figure out what is really keeping you from understanding. Is it the math, the formulae? It might be the math, and if so you should practice your algebra and trig over and over (the key to math is PRACTICE) before you take the physics again.

The key here is definitely to find out WHY you don't understand, and FIX IT before you enroll for the class again. It's okay for your progress to slow down while you figure things out; it gives you a good story of transformation and growth. What's not okay is to hang in there and think things will be all right when they're not. If you identify and fix the problem, you can prevail.
I found out I can't drop without losing my financial aid. The summer classes move so damn quick they only give you a week. Honestly, and I do feel bad for this, but I think the issue is the teacher. He has not taught this class before and it shows; he moves incredibly quickly and glosses over a lot of stuff without really getting into it. I don't think I am the only one because I double checked and the curve makes my F into a C. :/

The whole thing just sucks and getting arranged to get back into school was bad enough without doing poorly in my very first class. If I fail I guess I'll just have to retake it because I can't drop it now.
Go see him.

Seriously. You are PAYING HIM to teach you. Look up his office hours, even during the summer, they have them. Be belligerent and assertive, if you want it, go get it!

If you still don't get it, say, "I don't understand that explanation, could you explain it another way?"

I totally understand where you're coming from, I had taken a class that was much like this and the teacher was just glossing over things, this was genetics, but the concept applies. Professors are usually more than happy to hear about problems at the beginning than at the end. Keep reminding yourself, you want this, so this is just another obstacle you have to face. Do it.
Okay, you may still be able to recover. I agree with seeing the teacher in office hours. I'd also try to form a study group since you're not the only one who's struggling. And I would suggest, if understanding is a problem, and if math is a problem, that you do the homework problems OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN. This helps the math, since to me math is 90% practice, and should help your speed on exams so you have time to check things over. If there is a place where there is a tutoring center, see if you can find out who the student peer tutors are and if you can find out if one of them wants to make some money over the summer.

If it happens that you do flunk it, or do poorly, my advice stands to find out why and fix it before you move on.

And is there anyway you can recover financially from losing your aid for the summer? Don't write it off as a choice until you really really think about it.

No matter what, don't give up your dream at this point. You can fail one class and still be a doctor. Just find and fix the problem (broken record, I know), before you move forward. If it's a math problem, that will plague you in chemistry as well, so you have to get past it.

Okay, now some practical survival tips. For a given chapter, write the formulae down. Write the words that each veariable means somewhere nearby (a= acceleration or gravity, for example). For motion problems, pick a direction that you use as positive. Maybe up is always positive. Stick with that.
Now as you read through a problem, look for words that correlate with the variables in the formulae. Write short sentence fragments from the ptoblem that correlate with information in formulae you have. The lever is this long. If a ball is thrown up at such and such a velocity, write the velocity is 10 m/s, or whatever.
Now write a list of the variables whose values are given by the ptoblem: v= 10 m/s (or -10 m/s--don't forget to assign positive and negative values to a given direction...and remember if you decide up os +, then gravity is -9.8 m/s^2). Write on your lest the variables you need: Time= ? seconds.

Now you're ready to go shopping in your equation store (your list of equations) to find the formulae that give you the answers you need. Sometimes you have two missing variables and you have to use one formula to get one variable and then you can move on to another equation to get the other variable.

Done ONE problem this way. Do it 3 times. Then move on to the next. I hope this helps.