cameron432 wrote:Hey all, I'm in a bit of a predicament. I absolutely adore physics, which is why I'm majoring in it (alongside Math). This is my first semester taking upper-level physics courses (i.e. everything but the Intro courses that Engineers also take). Currently, I'm enrolled in Intro to Modern (which is easy), and Electricity & Magnetism (which... isn't).
I realized that I have to drop E&M, because I have about 15 points out a total of 100. But I just don't know where to go from this. I worked my butt off on the most recent homework assignment, thought I kind of knew what I was doing, expected hopefully a 50%, but no, I got sub 10%. I just don't really get all of the concepts for the class. It's more difficult than any class I've taken. Because of that, I put WAY more work into the assignment than I ever have for any other class, and I was just wrong. I straight up did the problems completely wrong and got completely wrong answers.
My question is, am I just... too dumb for a Physics major? I love it and there's nothing else I really want to do, but I don't understand what's going on. The other course, I'm completely fine with, but I don't get E&M.
A couple suggestions...
First, talk to your prof and/or TA during their office hours. Try to get them to go over the assignment with you, or any concepts in the course that you're having difficulty with. The sooner you can get help, the better. Floundering in the course and hoping you'll figure it out will never
work. Try to stay current on the course. Ideally, before lecture, you should read the section of the book that you're going to cover in class. Don't worry too much about getting all of the details, just get a general overview. Then go to class. After class, review your notes of what you just did. If there's an easy, related, worked example in the textbook, see if you can do that and get the right answer. At this point, you will probably have to backtrack a bit to try to figure out what concepts you didn't get as well...
Second, try to get into a study group. Having different people to bounce ideas off of and figure things out with is a huge asset.
Third, consider purchasing the book Schaum's Outline of Electromagnetics
by Joseph Edminister. It's about $10 on Amazon. This is not a theory book; it will not replace your textbook. This is a problem-solving book. It has literally hundreds of worked examples on every aspect of E&M you're likely to come across at this point. A lot of the time, the problem in a course like this is that there's too much theory and not enough examples (and the examples your prof is going to do for you are pretty trivial), so having a book like this is a fantastic asset. If you've only seen one example of a problem in class and one on your homework, it's going to be a much tougher slog than if you've already seen 30 worked examples of exactly the same kind of problem.
Make sure you understand the consequences for dropping at this stage in the game. This varies a lot between unis. Probably you will lose some/most/all of your course fees, if you pay by the class. Some unis will record all dropped classes on your transcript, others will not. It won't affect your GPA, but too many dropped classes might be a red flag to people looking at your transcripts later (a few is probably fine...) Look ahead in your course calendar to see what E&M is a prerequisite for as well. Make sure that it's not going to leave some huge holes in your timetable next year, or at least make sure that you're okay with whatever holes it does leave. Keep in mind that some courses are only offered once per calendar year, so you might have to wait until next Spring to take it again.
Finally, as a word of encouragement: E&M is probably the hardest subject in all of undergraduate physics. Most people have a hard time with it--that's another reason to get into a study group: moral support. If you can make it through this course, it is doubtful that there will be anything worse for you hiding around the corner (except maybe another E&M class).