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Student Needing Some Support

QB18ND23QB18ND23 83 replies3 threads Junior Member
edited June 25 in Parents Forum
I didn’t know where to ask for help, so I thought I’d reach out to some experienced adults who may have had kids with similar fears.

I was accepted to the University of Notre Dame through Questbridge. Up until recently, I was very excited about the opportunities I’d have. I was certain I’d be taking the most challenging physics (my intended major) classes on offer, doing exceedingly well in them, while also participating in research under a professor. Now, all I see myself doing is choosing the easiest classes and hiding in my room all day studying (and still performing below my expectations despite my efforts).

On paper, I should be set. I was valedictorian, had A’s for all my classes throughout high school, had a 1540 on the SAT after studying for 6 months (although I got in with a 1390), and got a 770 and 800 on the Math II and Physics subject tests, respectively. Everyone I know seems certain of how easy I’ll find college academics. I, on the other hand, feel completely inadequate.

I’m not completely sure why. Part of it is natural; I’ve always doubted myself. For example, I was considering not even taking AP Calculus AB when choosing classes last year. But I think part of it also stems from the AP Physics exam I took. Of all 7 AP exams I’ve taken, this was the only one where a 5 was in doubt after I left the testing room. It was also the exam I cared most deeply about. Given my experiences with the SAT prior to that 6 month study period, I think I may have severe test anxiety. Therefore, even if I may be able to learn the material in college, I may be unable to show it during exams. In school, this usually wasn’t a problem because we only ever had “tests,” and many of them at that. No single test felt like it mattered all that much. But in college, with midterm exams and final exams, I fear the very terminology will be enough to throw me off.

It doesn’t help that I haven’t heard encouraging stories about college physics. In engineering, for example, I’ve heard of multiple people who were subpar students in high school, but who went on to have the grades needed to get into prestigious graduate schools for engineering; determination was all that was needed. I’ve yet to hear similar stories about physics, which makes me fear that mere determination to be excellent will not be enough.

Now, you may be thinking why I’m so focused on being excellent and why I won’t settle for just “well.” That’s probably because I’ve never had a source of self-worth outside academics. My grades are my life’s work. It is only in them that I find purpose and happiness. There’s just nothing else for me. This gets to the crux of my fears about college: if I will be unable to meet my standards, then I will have failed as a person. And that sort of failure is nothing short of terrifying.

All this has been building up in my mind for the past few weeks, and I just needed a place to put it all out. What advice would you give me? Do you know of anyone who struggled with similar issues? I think I need reassurance above all things.
edited June 25
78 replies
Post edited by ccadminkris on
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Replies to: Student Needing Some Support

  • happy1happy1 24023 replies2407 threads Super Moderator
    edited June 2019
    My S went to a college that we felt was a bit of a reach and we spoke to his (excellent and no-nonsense) guidance counselor about how he might do there. She reassured us that college admissions officers do an outstanding job of taking students who have the ability to be successful at their institution. Our S did attend that reach college -- yes he worked very hard and yes there were a couple of bumps along the road but he sought out help as needed and got through them. That said, he absolutely loved his college, made amazing friends, grew in every way possible (academically, socially etc.), graduated with honors, and went on to grad school to a top school in his field (which happened to be ND LOL) .

    So take a deep breath, understand you were accepted for a reason and understand that admissions feels you can do the work. Make learning, not just grades the end goal. ND will provide a supportive environment. Be prepared to work hard, seek out help if you need it, and enjoy the ride.

    edited June 2019
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 10193 replies119 threads Senior Member
    You've already gotten very good advice but I'll my own thoughts.

    Forget about needing a 4.0 in college to be successful. From your other posts, you aren't planning on med school. Your GPA doesn't need to be perfect. Re-read blossom's Fact #2. Failure is one of the biggest paths to self growth and discovery. Sometimes we learn more from failing than success.

    You are NOT your GPA!

    Absolutely be willing to ask for help when you get to ND. My D's freshman orientation included a ropes course and trust building day. One of their tasks had no way to success without asking help (which was the whole point of that exercise). Go to study sessions, office hours, enlist the help of tutors, etc.... Asking for help is a necessary life skill and you don't need to go it alone.

    Your insecurities are very common. You aren't alone in worry about this.

    You've got this OP! You are going to a great, supportive school. Booper said it right - ND wants you to succeed!
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  • QB18ND23QB18ND23 83 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Might I ask what your kid ended up studying?
    As far as what I love is concerned, that would be linguistic anthropology (taking that as an elective in my first year hopefully). The thing with physics is that it gives me intellectual satisfaction like nothing else — there is a certain pride I feel when I’ve solved a tough problem. I’m definitely not committing to the PhD route, but even a bachelor’s in physics would make me feel accomplished. For a long time, I struggled a lot in math. In high school, I improved exponentially. For me, doing well in physics is proof, both to others and to myself, that I have the ability to excel in a math-heavy subject.
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  • QB18ND23QB18ND23 83 replies3 threads Junior Member
    By challenging classes, I was referring more to electives I would take in my junior and senior years.
    Thank you for all the links. I must say, the amount of resources is overwhelming; I wouldn’t know where to start.
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  • QB18ND23QB18ND23 83 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like exploration of majors is all that possible at ND. I did my course preference form yesterday, and I had to pick a major (even though majors are declared during second semester). That choice comes with a required course sequence for the first year. My original plan was to take a look at both plain physics and engineering, but that’s not really possible because of the aforementioned required course sequences. I have to pick one and can only really dabble in majors from the college listed on that form.
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  • happy1happy1 24023 replies2407 threads Super Moderator
    edited June 2019
    You can change majors at ND -- you would work with an advisor to do so. https://al.nd.edu/advising/academic-policies/declare-change-major/
    edited June 2019
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  • chaphillmomchaphillmom 121 replies12 threads Junior Member
    @QB18ND23 - I'll add in to @threebeans on this one. Talking to someone about this can be really helpful. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took me until I was (well into) my 40s to talk to someone. They helped me understand how I was basing my sense of self worth on how close I was to perfection. It helped me so much, not just with how I felt about myself, but with relaxing and enjoying my career. You have some great advice up above! People want you to succeed, and they want you to enjoy yourself along the way. Hugs.
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  • QB18ND23QB18ND23 83 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Within the same college, yes. Doing so across colleges, especially when involving something with as many required classes as physics and engineering, could add on an extra year.

    I will speak with my advisor about the possibility of somewhow combining both paths for my first year.
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  • My5KiddosMy5Kiddos 125 replies4 threads Junior Member
    I think talking to your advisor at ND is a great place to start. Get all the info you need.

    My son is an engineering major. He found college physics easier than high school bc of all the resources...office hours, study sessions etc. He got solid As in Physics his freshman year in college. He also took high level courses in high school so College was not all brand new material.

    Sounds like you will do amazing at ND. It is a special place. Go Irish :-)

    Please make a counseling appt as well to work through some of your anxieties.
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  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU 14504 replies106 threads Forum Champion
    If you are thinking about physics vs engineering, then take the courses for the one that is more restrictive.
    I would think that the freshman courses for engineering would be a superset of those for physics...then you could drop back to physics if desired (if you are accpted into the engineering college i have no idea how ND works)
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  • dianesamiamdianesamiam 1 replies0 threads New Member
    Be ready for things to feel rough at first and for thoughts of running away or hiding, because it's very likely this will happen. However, it's critical to remember that the vast majority of your peers will be feeling the exact same way while all of you walk around with your head held high pretending like you're fine. I advise that you confide in those you meet that you feel this way because you are likely to find friends who can relate. It does sound like you've put too much of your self worth into your academic career, however. Learn to allow other parts of yourself to develop— hobbies, other interests, volunteer work because you WANT to do it, not because you think you should to impress someone. Giving to others and getting out of your own head is a healthy way to manage anxiety and self doubt.
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  • billchu2billchu2 92 replies2 threads Junior Member
    @QB18ND23 Please take a deep breath. i think it would be good to speak to an academic counselor. Do you have one assigned yet?

    As others have mentioned, your test scores and grades from high school say that you have the chops to succeed at Notre Dame. The university would not have admitted you otherwise.

    Your other thoughts are all over the place. You are undecided about physics or engineering. Let me assure you that in the first year (and possibly the first two years), engineers and physicists take the same courses. They may have different course numbers and departments, but the content is the same. All engineers must take multivariable calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra for math. All engineers have to take two or three physics classes. This is already built into your physics curriculum. Plus, your physics for physicists classes are taught at a deeper level. If you decide to make a switch to engineering later, you will actually be at an advantage. Just make sure you know what computer science courses are required for engineers and take those classes as part of your curriculum. More and more, computation is central to physics. Even if you go all the way and get a bachelors degree in physics, you can still go to graduate school and get a Ph.D. in engineering. Plenty of people have gone that route.

    Let me assure you that you can succeed in physics at Notre Dame. Now, you should really start to focus tactically on how to hit the ground running your first semester as a physics major at Notre Dame. There are plenty of people, myself included, who can provide you advice in this area. What classes are you signed up for?
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  • QB18ND23QB18ND23 83 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Technically I’m not signed up for anything yet, but these are the preferences I chose:
    Mathematics University Seminar
    Calculus I (will like get a 5 on AP Calc, but I’m redoing Calc I to be safe)
    Intro to Chemical Principles
    Intro to Anthropology (was going to choose Intro to Linguistic Antrhopology, but I saw that that’s a 200-level course)
    Physics A: Mechanics
    Also signed up for a voluntary first year course called Foundations of Academic Excellence
    For my language requirement, I’m doing Russian since I already speak it. Hopefully, I can test out of taking classes for it.
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  • QB18ND23QB18ND23 83 replies3 threads Junior Member
    That’s very similar to my mindset. How did you get over that though? I don’t really see much else I could put my self-worth in.
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  • QB18ND23QB18ND23 83 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Perhaps not 4.0, but certainly close to that (in the context of the major, that may just be 3.8 and above). My performance should be comparable to that of students who go to the most selective grad schools in my chosen field, even if I myself never apply to those schools. In other words, not going must be my choice rather than an inevitability arising from not being good enough.

    It is hard to see myself as more than my GPA. You must realize that, when I was in elementary (Russian system), my mother told me that if I didn’t get a satisfactory grade (the equivalent of a B or better), I needn’t bother coming home. Even if that was just to scare me into doing well, that sort of thing stays with you for the rest of your life.
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  • FarmerMomFarmerMom 94 replies18 threads Junior Member
    ND has great guidance and counseling. Please utilize both. My daughter is a civil engineering major who found the counseling center very help. ND is very challenging academically. She found it hard to accept being a B+/A- student when she was use to being a perfect A+ student in high school.

    ND has so many opportunities that will allow you to become more than your GPA. Please take advantage of all of them from research to service opportunities. ND will help you define your self-worth beyond your GPA and allow you
    to change the world which we live in for the better.
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