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Offline whatabohr

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Worried about majoring in chemistry
« on: February 10, 2013, 02:49:06 PM »
Ever since I first took chemistry my sophomore year of high school, I knew I wanted to major in it. I loved the subject and thought it was so applicable to what I wanted to do in the future (do research/be a college professor). I excelled in Honors Chemistry and was chosen to participate in the ACS exam, but I had to put a lot of work in. I am now a senior in AP chem and am doing alright. I got an 89 my first semester (which my teacher rounded to an A because he does not curve tests, really). Second semester just started and I have gotten Bs on the first few tests. I also got a 79% on a lab report :( I love chemistry and find that I do very well in some areas, but not so well in others (I hate orbitals, sigma bonds, and all that hybridization stuff). I am going to an Ivy League school in the fall and am worried that the competition is just going to crush me. If I am not the best chemistry student in my class NOW how can I even expect to compete with the rest of them? It just frustrates me because I want to be the best chemistry student, but I'm not. Any advice from current chemistry undergrads or graduated chemistry majors? Also, it is my goal to obtain my phD in chemistry. Not sure how that is going to work seeing as I am not amazing at something as easy as general chemistry...

Offline Dan

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Re: Worried about majoring in chemistry
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2013, 07:28:40 PM »
I think you just have to come to terms with the fact that you might not be able to be the best and be comfortable with it. That doesn't mean you can't be good, it doesn't mean you can't do a PhD if you want to, and it doesn't mean you can't be successful.

For the vast majority of people, there will always be areas of a subject you are so not good at. You just have to grit your teeth, get your head down and work hard through the nasty stuff and really get into the aspects you are most interested in.

I was never the best in my year group at university and there are plenty of areas of chemistry I find very difficult and some I find relatively uninteresting, but I still managed to to get a good degree and go on to finish a very enjoyable and productive PhD.
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Offline Raphael

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Re: Worried about majoring in chemistry
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2013, 10:01:21 PM »
Stop trying to be better than everyone else. It can drive you crazy. There will always be someone better than you. And unless " Ivy League" schools work in some strange way that i never realized, the "competition" with others shouldn't be a huge part of you doing well or doing poorly. It is about your own growth. I'm not trying say it  doesn't feel good to be the one in the classes scoring in the top 99%, but the goal of college should be to learn something, not beating or being beat by others.


You have to come to terms with the fact that "chemistry" is a huge field and almost, if anyone, is great at all parts of it at one time. I know physical chemist that don't remember much of any organic, but they got through it and went on to get their phds and it goes the other way around for organic chemists getting through P-chem.

If it was me, I would go in as a chemistry major and see how it is. You can change it to another major later. It's going to be hard, sure, but if it's something you really love than that's what you should be doing.

ok. rant off. good luck.   

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Re: Worried about majoring in chemistry
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2013, 04:48:23 AM »
No matter how good you are, there is always an asian kid better than you.  >:D
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Offline formaldehyde23

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Re: Worried about majoring in chemistry
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2013, 03:06:05 PM »
Hi whatabohr,

I am not a chemistry major, but I definitely want to be one and I'll try my best to give you any advice as a high school student aspiring to study chemistry later on.
First of all, if you love chemistry, you shouldn't be scared about the competition surrounding you. Once you love anything and truly are devoted to the subject matter, you become fearless; you realize that people around you don't matter as much as your knowledge and hard work does. Yes, chemistry is a gigantic field, but other people should not stop you from doing what you really enjoy. You might not be the best now, but you have the opportunity to improve yourself. Try studying by yourself; if you really enjoy chem, this should be a hobby whenever you are free.
I will have taken chemistry classes for 3.5 credits (.5 credit per semester) at the end of this year. Until just last month, I tried to avoid hybridization as well; I hated it because it was hard for me to visualize. Then, I decided that I will face my fear and try to overcome the intimidation factor. I knew that I would eventually need to understand this and I couldn't let it take the best of me. Yes, the hybridization isn't the easiest part of chemistry, but that doesn't mean that you can't learn it. Spend some time on it and most importantly be patient. I can't tell you how important this is when studying any difficult or uninteresting field. If you believe you can do it, you will be able to get to the top. But, you need to put in the effort to do so, which means working extra-time on chemistry.
Happy trails,
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Offline JGK

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Re: Worried about majoring in chemistry
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2013, 04:05:01 PM »
You need to take the proverbial "chill pill" and lighten up.

There will always be "competition" around and if you obsess on it, it will crush you and leave you for roadkill.

If you enjoy the subject, enjoy it and don't worry what others do, just concentrate on what you do.

I speak as someone who barely made it through my degree, but has had a good career in chemistry (Analytical) for 25+ years.
Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

Offline eazye1334

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Re: Worried about majoring in chemistry
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2013, 08:02:08 AM »
Just look at MIT as an example. They don't have Dean's List or any class rankings specifically for that reason. It's not a competition with everyone else, you're there to obtain your degree and learn. It doesn't matter what everyone else does.

And once you get the degree, the rest doesn't matter so much. I've only had one person ever question my GPA in a job interview, and it turns out the next interviewer commented on how well I did at a tough school.

Just be happy with what you're getting into and the rest will come. You'll learn very early on that you just need to do what works for you. I didn't obssess and study every minute of the day; I knew there was a point each day when I needed to unwind and defragment. Without it, I wouldn't have made it through. Do what you want to do, learn what you what to learn, and don't worry about the other guy; you'll be much better off in the end.

Offline 408

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Re: Worried about majoring in chemistry
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2013, 08:09:27 AM »
I think you just have to come to terms with the fact that you might not be able to be the best and be comfortable with it. That doesn't mean you can't be good, it doesn't mean you can't do a PhD if you want to, and it doesn't mean you can't be successful.



I have to disagree.   Always be trying to do your best.  Always go for the win.  But at the same time, is realize your biggest competition is yourself. 
Early in university before I was convinced I wanted to continue, I was a mediocre student, and almost failed intro quantum and intro NMR theory.  Then, when I had the vision for my future, I knew I needed good grades and got motivated.  Things that I would have given up on and done poorly in, like intermediate quantum advanced NMR theory, and crystallography.  I went from a solid B-C student, to solid A+ in 2 semesters.  And it was because I wanted to prove I was the best. 

But your brain will fight this.
"oh, I would be fine with the B+"
"my average will be fine overall"
f&#$ THAT

Why do you want to be the best?
visualize it
what emotions would you have knowing you are the best?
Write it down.  Stick it on your mirror.  Your brain needs the emotional motivation, which is difficult to keep up.

When the goal is clear the path will be seen.
For me it was essentially having no life beyond eat, sleep, chemistry.  If you are not willing to make the sacrifices, the goal is not strong enough. 


Offline Dan

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Re: Worried about majoring in chemistry
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2013, 10:38:31 AM »
I have to disagree.   Always be trying to do your best.  Always go for the win.

Sorry, I think I was unclear. By "being comfortable it (not being the best student)" I didn't mean imply that you should be comfortable with mediocrity, you should always strive to achieve your personal best. Of course you should always push yourself to perform as well as you possibly can and always try to improve.

My point is that that I think it is important to accept that your personal best is unlikely to be the best in your class/institution/country/continent/planet etc. - it's a statistical effect and there's no sense in getting depressed about it - that's not the same as suggesting the OP settles with mediocrity.

I think the way you look at this depends on your personality. It depends on whether you see the fact that you are not the best as motivating or demotivating (as seems to be the case for the OP). Some people love to be competitive and that seems to work for them, that's great but not for everyone. I was often top of the class as a teenager in school, but then went to a top university where there was always someone better. It is statistically unsurprising that this kind of story is very common in good universities, and sadly I saw intelligent people just give up because they didn't see the point if they couldn't "win". Personally, I have never been a very competitive person, and the fact that there was always someone around who got a higher test score never bothered me in the slightest, but that doesn't mean I just sat back with fingers crossed for a pass - I'm just motivated by different things.
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Offline whatabohr

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Re: Worried about majoring in chemistry
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2013, 10:48:28 PM »
Thank you all so much for your advice and encouragement. I feel 100X better and am ready to work my butt off in order to get this degree. I've always loved chemistry and I won't let the fear of failure stand in my way. Now the next thing to worry about is job prospects  ??? especially considering I want to work in academia.

Offline 408

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Re: Worried about majoring in chemistry
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2013, 09:14:46 AM »
Now the next thing to worry about is job prospects  ??? especially considering I want to work in academia.

No matter what field you are in, if you are the best, you have job prospects. 


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