Getting depressed during my Oxford Physics degree Watch

anogaki
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I'll try to cut this short but might get a bit too long eventually!

I did Maths, Further Maths and Chemistry A levels. I applied for the Oxford Chemistry course and I got an offer for it. Then I realised I wanted to do Physics instead (I hate labs), but I didn't know any physics, and in 4 months I learnt the 2-year course A level material in Physics having absolutely no knowledge before (during my A2 year) I was allowed to change my course in fresher's week but then it was painful to do the physics course. I got 60% at the end of my first year for the exams, and 60% was the average of that year. I got 69% on average at the end of my 2nd year which is above the 65% scaled average, but my tutor told me that I only improved a few places in the ranking list (yes there is a list where the department ranks all the students), so I'm probably in the top 45-50% of students in my year. I worked so crazy hard and compared to that other people worked less and got better grades than I did. I just feel like I don't understand a lot of principles of physics properly, and when we do homework together or something and some really "obvious" and basic things just never occur to me that immediately occur to other people. I'm slow at understanding everything and I feel so stupid. For months and months now I feel like I should just give up wanting to be a physicist because I suck at it. I've even seen counsellors but they're unhelpful, I can't afford good enough private tutors, I've tried studying with others but I'm a burden for them and that makes me feel even worse, I've tried reading extra books and extra problem solving from Olympiad papers but nothing helps. I would need to get 70%+ average this year to get a First class degree which is what I'm aiming for. When I try to talk to tutors etc about this they just covertly say I'm probably not good enough by "oh this is Oxford there are so many smart people" or "someone is always better than you" or "lower your standards". I never said I wanted to be top 1, I just want advice on how I can become top 30%. I'm kind of desperate for some useful advice on how you think I should study physics. I feel like I've tried a lot of things and they don't work.

Any thoughts?
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LeapingLucy
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You're at Oxford. You're with the top 0.05% (maybe less) of physics students. You have to lower your standards. Not everybody can be the very best of the very best, or even in the top 30% of the very best. It sounds like you're doing absolutely fine. You're not failing - you're on course for a 2:1 from one of the best universities in the world. Not getting a first just isn't the end of the world.
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ThatBlonde
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Unfortunately, this isn’t going to work with everything in physics. Flash cards. I used them to get 98% in Physics (granted it was not gcse//A level) But it honestly works for me. If that basic method doesn’t work (it unfortunately doesn’t work for everyone) you need to figure out if you are a visual, auditory or kinetic learner by doing a wee bit of research. I then recommend you go online and figure out what methods are best for your type of learning. E.g auditory learners may revise their best when listening to classical music, visual learners when they make spider diagrams and highlight them, kinetic learners may make up a song which they hum during the exam. Hope this helps!!
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anogaki
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(Original post by LeapingLucy)
You're at Oxford. You're with the top 0.05% (maybe less) of physics students. You have to lower your standards. Not everybody can be the very best of the very best, or even in the top 30% of the very best. It sounds like you're doing absolutely fine. You're not failing - you're on course for a 2:1 from one of the best universities in the world. Not getting a first just isn't the end of the world.
I'm sorry but this isn't what I asked for. I clearly stated I'd like to improve, and it's undermining to go against that and say what everyone is telling me, and I understand why people say that, but I'd like some thoughts on how you think I could possibly improve. Top 30% in Oxford is not the very best of the very best. I think it's an entirely reasonable aim, because many of the people who get there don't look smarter than me. Also don't think that everyone is so smart at Oxford. Many people clearly aren't.
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anogaki
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(Original post by ThatBlonde)
Unfortunately, this isn’t going to work with everything in physics. Flash cards. I used them to get 98% in Physics (granted it was not gcse//A level) But it honestly works for me. If that basic method doesn’t work (it unfortunately doesn’t work for everyone) you need to figure out if you are a visual, auditory or kinetic learner by doing a wee bit of research. I then recommend you go online and figure out what methods are best for your type of learning. E.g auditory learners may revise their best when listening to classical music, visual learners when they make spider diagrams and highlight them, kinetic learners may make up a song which they hum during the exam. Hope this helps!!
So I had paper based flash cards, now I'm thinking of moving onto Anki (have you heard of Anki?), computers do better spaced repetition than my human brain. I haven't used computer based spaced repetition system yet, it's one thing I'll definitely try. Thank you for your reply! I'll try to figure out what type of a learner I am, I actually don't know ?! Nobody ever pointed this kind of stuff out before.
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Reality Check
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(Original post by anogaki)
I'll try to cut this short but might get a bit too long eventually!

I did Maths, Further Maths and Chemistry A levels. I applied for the Oxford Chemistry course and I got an offer for it. Then I realised I wanted to do Physics instead (I hate labs), but I didn't know any physics, and in 4 months I learnt the 2-year course A level material in Physics having absolutely no knowledge before (during my A2 year) I was allowed to change my course in fresher's week but then it was painful to do the physics course. I got 60% at the end of my first year for the exams, and 60% was the average of that year. I got 69% on average at the end of my 2nd year which is above the 65% scaled average, but my tutor told me that I only improved a few places in the ranking list (yes there is a list where the department ranks all the students), so I'm probably in the top 45-50% of students in my year. I worked so crazy hard and compared to that other people worked less and got better grades than I did. I just feel like I don't understand a lot of principles of physics properly, and when we do homework together or something and some really "obvious" and basic things just never occur to me that immediately occur to other people. I'm slow at understanding everything and I feel so stupid. For months and months now I feel like I should just give up wanting to be a physicist because I suck at it. I've even seen counsellors but they're unhelpful, I can't afford good enough private tutors, I've tried studying with others but I'm a burden for them and that makes me feel even worse, I've tried reading extra books and extra problem solving from Olympiad papers but nothing helps. I would need to get 70%+ average this year to get a First class degree which is what I'm aiming for. When I try to talk to tutors etc about this they just covertly say I'm probably not good enough by "oh this is Oxford there are so many smart people" or "someone is always better than you" or "lower your standards". I never said I wanted to be top 1, I just want advice on how I can become top 30%. I'm kind of desperate for some useful advice on how you think I should study physics. I feel like I've tried a lot of things and they don't work.

Any thoughts?
What college are you at?
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anogaki
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(Original post by Reality Check)
What college are you at?
Well, clearly not at Merton. Why are you asking?
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Reality Check
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(Original post by anogaki)
Well, clearly not at Merton.
If you say.

Why are you asking?
You said you were at 'Oxford'. There's more than one university at Oxford. Plenty of TSRians use 'Oxford' as a cover-all term to include Oxford Brookes.

Asking which college you're at (a) eliminates the latter and (b) gives an indication as to the tutorial/pastoral support you might/might not be have.
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ThatBlonde
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(Original post by anogaki)
So I had paper based flash cards, now I'm thinking of moving onto Anki (have you heard of Anki?), computers do better spaced repetition than my human brain. I haven't used computer based spaced repetition system yet, it's one thing I'll definitely try. Thank you for your reply! I'll try to figure out what type of a learner I am, I actually don't know ?! Nobody ever pointed this kind of stuff out before.
Never heard of Anki before, shall have to do a bit of research myself it seems lol. It’s a shame no one had ever told you that before. I find that to be a very big disappointment in the educational branch.
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Nihilisticb*tch
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You really need to put things into perspective. I know this is what people have already said but you are at oxford which is made up of the best of the best at physics. Of course you can't expect to be the best and you need to accept that it's okay not to be the best. By being at oxford you are already among the best in the country so if you put it in perspective even to be average at oxford (in fact you are above average) is an achievement in itself. There are lots of people like you that build their entire self esteem on being the best academically, most people at Oxford will have been the top of the class at school but you need to change your attitude. There are always people who "get" things quicker than you and there are always people who are smarter than you and that's OKAY. You don't need to be the best to be successful. A lot of it comes down to hard work and determination.
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Joinedup
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(Original post by Reality Check)
If you say.



You said you were at 'Oxford'. There's more than one university at Oxford. Plenty of TSRians use 'Oxford' as a cover-all term to include Oxford Brookes.

Asking which college you're at (a) eliminates the latter and (b) gives an indication as to the tutorial/pastoral support you might/might not be have.
Didn't think Brookes has Physics :unsure:
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Reality Check
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(Original post by Joinedup)
Didn't think Brookes has Physics :unsure:
I didn't research this beforehand but you're right: they don't

Who knew!
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Joinedup
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(Original post by anogaki)
Any thoughts
This doesn't sound very rational - probably most of the people around you on your course were the special one at school and now they're struggling to stay in the middle of the pack cos it's Oxford.

Maybe you aren't thinking rationally cos you really do have depression or some other MH problem... you aught to get that looked at cos it'll cause you to do less well in your studies and in life than you otherwise would.
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markyw12
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(Original post by joinedup)
this doesn't sound very rational - probably most of the people around you on your course were the special one at school and now they're struggling to stay in the middle of the pack cos it's oxford.

Maybe you aren't thinking rationally cos you really do have depression or some other mh problem... You aught to get that looked at cos it'll cause you to do less well in your studies and in life than you otherwise would.
very true!!!
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anogaki
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(Original post by Joinedup)
This doesn't sound very rational - probably most of the people around you on your course were the special one at school and now they're struggling to stay in the middle of the pack cos it's Oxford.

Maybe you aren't thinking rationally cos you really do have depression or some other MH problem... you aught to get that looked at cos it'll cause you to do less well in your studies and in life than you otherwise would.
Oh yes, most certainly. I lack confidence anyway, I feel like I'm not good for anything, I'm the first person in my family to go to university, I was born in a very poor area and therefore I was often told I shouldn't have high aspirations. As I said I had that "looked at" but our welfare officers/counselling service weren't particularly helpful with it. They said go to NHS, but I've visited NHS before and they just wanted to put me on drugs. I don't really need drugs, I need someone to talk to who cares, but nobody provides that.
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anogaki
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(Original post by Nihilisticb*tch)
You really need to put things into perspective. I know this is what people have already said but you are at oxford which is made up of the best of the best at physics. Of course you can't expect to be the best and you need to accept that it's okay not to be the best. By being at oxford you are already among the best in the country so if you put it in perspective even to be average at oxford (in fact you are above average) is an achievement in itself. There are lots of people like you that build their entire self esteem on being the best academically, most people at Oxford will have been the top of the class at school but you need to change your attitude. There are always people who "get" things quicker than you and there are always people who are smarter than you and that's OKAY. You don't need to be the best to be successful. A lot of it comes down to hard work and determination.
I think I made it very clear I don't want to be the best. I just want to be better than what I am now, and I need reasonable advice for that, not shoulder patting that I've already done well enough.
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Joinedup
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(Original post by anogaki)
Oh yes, most certainly. I lack confidence anyway, I feel like I'm not good for anything, I'm the first person in my family to go to university, I was born in a very poor area and therefore I was often told I shouldn't have high aspirations. As I said I had that "looked at" but our welfare officers/counselling service weren't particularly helpful with it. They said go to NHS, but I've visited NHS before and they just wanted to put me on drugs. I don't really need drugs, I need someone to talk to who cares, but nobody provides that.
You'd probably get advice on navigating the available welfare services on an Oxford forum tbh...

I would note that it's pretty common for other people to :lie: mislead you about how much work they're doing in order to create an impression of effortless superiority
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honestly
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(Original post by anogaki)
I'll try to cut this short but might get a bit too long eventually!

I did Maths, Further Maths and Chemistry A levels. I applied for the Oxford Chemistry course and I got an offer for it. Then I realised I wanted to do Physics instead (I hate labs), but I didn't know any physics, and in 4 months I learnt the 2-year course A level material in Physics having absolutely no knowledge before (during my A2 year) I was allowed to change my course in fresher's week but then it was painful to do the physics course. I got 60% at the end of my first year for the exams, and 60% was the average of that year. I got 69% on average at the end of my 2nd year which is above the 65% scaled average, but my tutor told me that I only improved a few places in the ranking list (yes there is a list where the department ranks all the students), so I'm probably in the top 45-50% of students in my year. I worked so crazy hard and compared to that other people worked less and got better grades than I did. I just feel like I don't understand a lot of principles of physics properly, and when we do homework together or something and some really "obvious" and basic things just never occur to me that immediately occur to other people. I'm slow at understanding everything and I feel so stupid. For months and months now I feel like I should just give up wanting to be a physicist because I suck at it. I've even seen counsellors but they're unhelpful, I can't afford good enough private tutors, I've tried studying with others but I'm a burden for them and that makes me feel even worse, I've tried reading extra books and extra problem solving from Olympiad papers but nothing helps. I would need to get 70%+ average this year to get a First class degree which is what I'm aiming for. When I try to talk to tutors etc about this they just covertly say I'm probably not good enough by "oh this is Oxford there are so many smart people" or "someone is always better than you" or "lower your standards". I never said I wanted to be top 1, I just want advice on how I can become top 30%. I'm kind of desperate for some useful advice on how you think I should study physics. I feel like I've tried a lot of things and they don't work.

Any thoughts?
I was thinking MIT online videos possibly? or anything on youtube? or how about paying a postgrad Physicist at your uni cash in hand for a few hours a week.

I don't mean to sound demeaning; you're probably very clever (ugh i hate that term, but anyway) sometimes students can be very good at the subjects in the category to which they belong - sometimes just *that* particular subject.

I have friends who studied say Classics at some of the best unis (oxbridge, UCL etc) certain friends changed subject like you; history, english, politics etc and they had an effortless transition. They just "picked it" up. But other friends who studied say History and changed struggled.

Same thing with science: in that top percentage of people who come out with top grades in A levels sciences there are two categories (subjective I know) the smaller proportion of students are literally good at every science; you could change them from chemistry to astrophysics, or medicine to engineering and they will just do it. Whereas other top students with straight As will find it hard to adapt.

Others have said you in the top 2 percent or whatever, but if you didn't study physics at A level, and your not one of those student who just "gets it" then clearly you may find A2 equivalent work challenging and certainly first year degree level (at Oxford no less) even more so challenging - there are I'm nearly so sure Physics A level students who *chose* to do physics at A level and now at Oxford who are struggling with first year work. So don't be too surprised that your finding it hard to learn all this physics stuff, at an intense (8 weeks! p/term) rate and in depth; you can do it - I believe in you (though I may not know you.)

Stop with the Olympiad stuff for now. Get to basics. If btw friend are offering to (genuinely) help you, dont feel bad, rather tell them thats how you feel. They will validate your ability and confirm their motivation in wanting to help. We all need a helping hand sometime. If your friends knew how you felt they may have wanted you to tell them. I would if my friend thought they were a burden: I would't want anyone who I offer help to to feel that way!

So i guess i would encourage you to get post grad (or even clever undergrad) to tutor you - is there a physics club where you can mingle and find someone?
Perhaps look at online tutorial, unit by unit - not all at once.
And dont whatever you do become overly focused on getting a 1st - focus on enjoying your course, learning and understanding.

I'm sure you will do well. Tutor (find), tutorials and don't overtly worry about future exam results - use it as motivation not as something to die for; you may actually kill of your interest, motivation and then the achievable first you so want.
hope this helps.
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anogaki
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(Original post by Joinedup)
You'd probably get advice on navigating the available welfare services on an Oxford forum tbh...

I would note that it's pretty common for other people to :lie: mislead you about how much work they're doing in order to create an impression of effortless superiority
As I said Oxford welfare services aren't particularly helpful, and they admittedly only provide short term support for minor problems. Oh I certainly noticed that there are people who lie about how much they work so that they can brag they did little effort and got good grades! It's difficult to tell who's honest, but I don't care about others that much. My main objective is to improve my own skills in understanding physics and doing well in exams.
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anogaki
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(Original post by honestly)
I was thinking MIT online videos possibly? or anything on youtube? or how about paying a postgrad Physicist at your uni cash in hand for a few hours a week.

I don't mean to sound demeaning; you're probably very clever (ugh i hate that term, but anyway) sometimes students can be very good at the subjects in the category to which they belong - sometimes just *that* particular subject.

I have friends who studied say Classics at some of the best unis (oxbridge, UCL etc) certain friends changed subject like you; history, english, politics etc and they had an effortless transition. They just "picked it" up. But other friends who studied say History and changed struggled.

Same thing with science: in that top percentage of people who come out with top grades in A levels sciences there are two categories (subjective I know) the smaller proportion of students are literally good at every science; you could change them from chemistry to astrophysics, or medicine to engineering and they will just do it. Whereas other top students with straight As will find it hard to adapt.

Others have said you in the top 2 percent or whatever, but if you didn't study physics at A level, and your not one of those student who just "gets it" then clearly you may find A2 equivalent work challenging and certainly first year degree level (at Oxford no less) even more so challenging - there are I'm nearly so sure Physics A level students who *chose* to do physics at A level and now at Oxford who are struggling with first year work. So don't be too surprised that your finding it hard to learn all this physics stuff, at an intense (8 weeks! p/term) rate and in depth; you can do it - I believe in you (though I may not know you.)

Stop with the Olympiad stuff for now. Get to basics. If btw friend are offering to (genuinely) help you, dont feel bad, rather tell them thats how you feel. They will validate your ability and confirm their motivation in wanting to help. We all need a helping hand sometime. If your friends knew how you felt they may have wanted you to tell them. I would if my friend thought they were a burden: I would't want anyone who I offer help to to feel that way!

So i guess i would encourage you to get post grad (or even clever undergrad) to tutor you - is there a physics club where you can mingle and find someone?
Perhaps look at online tutorial, unit by unit - not all at once.
And dont whatever you do become overly focused on getting a 1st - focus on enjoying your course, learning and understanding.

I'm sure you will do well. Tutor (find), tutorials and don't overtly worry about future exam results - use it as motivation not as something to die for; you may actually kill of your interest, motivation and then the achievable first you so want.
hope this helps.
Thank you for your reply!

Even PhD students charge around £50 for an hour which is soo expensive! I feel like it would be a massive investment to get enough hours to study with a tutor. If I want to keep it affordable I'd need to get a Skype one, which I tried last year but then the tutor let me down... I also got an undergraduate tutor from Oxford, he didn't prepare at all for our tutorial and he didn't even look at the material. I feel like that's what you get for cheaper tutors unfortunately.

The thing is nobody is offering help, it's always me asking and now I just stopped because people don't look like they wanna help. I tried to talk about this with my friends but they just say "work harder" (I can't possibly work harder, I worked all the time last year. I need more efficient methods to work at this point which is why I'm asking for study methods advice)

I can't enjoy my course anymore. It completely killed my enthusiasm and I feel like I'm a loser. Some of my tutors here have been very useless and the Oxford tutorial system is nowhere near as useful as advertised. First I need to get some confidence (a lot of confidence actually), then make a plan for studying, revision and for exams. Luckily I'm doing an industrial research project which I like, and it counts for 25% of my grade this year so not everything is lost.
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