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Updated on Friday, September 18

#21286

OMG: Why was every physics orientation event/speaker i listened to telling me to basically quit physics? literally every person who was sent to talk to my program told us that we won't be able to handle it and that we can drop out at any time. they also said it'll take a toll on our mental health.. but don't worry! Waterloo has counsellors for that!

wow they really love scaring freshmen

14 comments

  1. better than lying to you and saying "DO UR BEST *HUGS AND SIMILY FACES!!! :DDD*"
    I rather have people tell me the absolute truth than lies

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  2. I dropped out of physics, into computer science. My GPA has skyrocketed.

    Its that hard. CS isn't even easy, physics was just a god-tier of difficulty.

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  3. Grades in first-year physics aren't that great, and it can be pretty demoralizing that first time you get a midterm back with a grade below 60%.

    A big part of why they tell you this stuff is so that, if you're one of a reasonable number of students who just barely manage to pass by the skin of their teeth, you're willing to consider switching programs before you waste a lot more money on upper-year courses that get considerably harder.

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  4. ex-physics here, can confirm

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  5. Physics is pretty hard. Pretty much everyone I knew in Physics switched out of Physics into Mathematical Physics.

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  6. Mathematical physics? LOL.
    anyways, only smart ppl can survive physics.

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  7. Welcome to Waterloo. They do this to engineers as well. Some douche shows us graphs about how many will fail out and correlates our midterms to our chance of graduation. Apparently I should have failed but my cumulative average is 81 now. Just ignore the shit faculty at our school. Maybe change schools, that's probably best. Can't wait to graduate, going to tell that guy to fuck himself after.

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    1. I've never understood the idea of taking statistics like this personally. Most first-years at this school show up thinking they're god's gift to creation because they were at the top of the top of their class in high school. Some of them continue to get 80s, or their grades drop at first and then they get their act together. But many of them don't.

      The profs aren't trying to tell everybody "you suck, you will fail," and they're certainly not trying to tell you that personally. They just want to inject a little bit of realism into everyone's expectations.

      You did well in spite of all that? Great, congratulations! Clearly you're both bright AND a hard worker. But the stats aren't made up, and you're something of an exception, not the rule.

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  8. Recent physics grad here, speaking from experience, the program is totally doable! It's also not the easiest program, or even best for everyone who starts out in it. I know a lot of people that I started with who switched into Chemistry or Mathematical Physics. The class size will drop, that's just the reality of things. More people switch out than switch in.

    That being said, if you like the field, and find it interesting, stick with it! If you are willing to put the work in, and get help if you need it, then all the best to you! If you don't think you can handle it after the first term or two, it will get harder, and you may want to switch out, though I don't feel that the difficulty level outstrips your capacity as a student, which grows over time.

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  9. All UW programs are doable, but some really take their toll. Not all people are made equal in the intellectual capacities, and high school was intro level on easy mode. The first and/or second years of many programs are designed to kill off students who don't belong, and trust me, half the class in some programs drop because they do not belong.

    My first year class sizes were 300-600, my fourth year ones were 20-30.

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  10. They are saying it to justify the rotten system. The problem is say you make it through undergrad in physics. You will learn some cool stuff and have some fun along the way. Now to do some physics as career, you need at least a PhD. You will be faced with a choice of whether to switch fields or to continue frugal life style and get your MSc and PhD. A long the way you will work on the projects that your PI has funding for and will need to publish as much as possible so that your PI can apply for more grants :) Basically, working long hours and earning below minimum wage. So you will be about 30 when you are done, and you may naively think that now you will get to do some physics for yourself right? Well, not really. It is impossible to get a tenure track position without doing several postdocs and moving like a gypsy around the country while earning minimum wage. But say, you even make it through it. And now you are 40. Then, well you can get lucky and score a tenure track position or become an unemployed 40 year old with 0 days of work experience... There are just too many things that can go wrong with this plan and I am not even taking into account personal commitments(wife, kids, mortgages ...)

    I don't want to discourage you and you may think it will not happen to you since you are supper bright. I guess what I want to say is that physics is fun but think about a backup plan. BTW UW physics program is fun and doable.

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    1. There are jobs you can get in your field with a physics degree (that aren't "high school science teacher) that don't require you to have your PhD.

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    2. Sure, there are jobs. But with BSc mostly coding jobs ... and with just physics degree you will not be super marketable unless you learn some other skills on the side.

      By physics jobs I meant academia and there are just too few permanent positions and too many things that can go wrong(department politics, life, ...) along the way to ivory tower. But maybe things changed since I left physics and sold my soul few years ago :)

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    3. http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1144

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