Any life advice for a high school senior?

Posted by $ qhrjk 6 days, 10 hours ago to Ask the Gulch
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I haven't been on this site in a while, but I was wondering what advice you all have for someone my age! I will (hopefully) be going to college next year as a physics major.

Thanks!

Edit: I appreciate all the amazing advice shared with me! I've been reading every single comment over and thought I might as well include some of the colleges I am applying to in case anyone has any information regarding them. Plus, it would be great if there are any alumni here. I'm applying to the University of Chicago (my dream school), the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois at UC, Case Western Reserve, Northwestern, GeorgiaTech, Rutgers, Rice, Johns Hopkins, and Wooster College.

Again, thank you all.


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  • Posted by Idiocracy42 6 days, 4 hours ago
    Figure out what inspires you then focus on that.
    Think carefully about taking on debt.
    Be kind.
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    • Posted by NealS 5 days, 8 hours ago
      Good advice. I never learned to use debt, the last time I financed anything was a GMAC loan on a '57 Chevy during high school, except for my homes and rental units. My last and final home I paid cash. It worked for me and a good book to read is The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey.
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  • Posted by BobCat 6 days, 8 hours ago
    Long time ago, I graduated with a degree in physics. I wasn’t interested in teaching nor doing research in a lab somewhere .... so I went back to school and studied engineering. That is the profession I worked in for many many years. My advice... get a degree in one of the engineering fields instead. You will be more suited for employment. And you will become more self reliant. Just my two cents worth.
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    • Posted by $ 5 days, 8 hours ago
      I don't know much about engineering, but I will definitely keep an open mind and look into it! I'm not completely sure what direction I would like to go in, but I love the sciences in general. Research- despite how competitive it can get- fascinates me. I'm applying to some schools with great engineering programs (it just so happens haha) so I'll cross my fingers and hope I can get in to at least one of them. From there I can see about switching majors/programs if I change my mind about physics.

      Physics doesn't seem very practical, but it's so interesting to me- especially its strong foundation of mathematics. I hope I can develop a passion for it in the future and, if not, I will find another area of study :) Thank you for your insight!
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      • Posted by BobCat 5 days, 7 hours ago
        At the risk of offending the physicists who have commented, keep in mind that physics is a pure science - its all about discovery and mathematically explaining the discovery. Engineering is an applied science - its all about taking the principles and discoveries in mathematics, chemistry and physics and developing a practical use for man.

        Both are needed and both can be challenging and rewarding. Now you have the exciting task of pursuing your studies to develop your interest and passion in a particular career field. Don't fret over it ... let your natural abilities blossom and your passions develop as you keep your eyes wide open and talk to instructors and professionals.
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      • Posted by preimert1 5 days, 7 hours ago
        As a Georgia Tech engineer (IE 54), I can tell you that a lot of engineering is based on "applied physics" and math--lots of math Its not easy, but rewarding.
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        • Posted by $ 5 days, 7 hours ago
          I definitely need to look into it. I'm not sure why I've been so hesitant about going into engineering in the first place. Also, I'm applying to GeorgiaTech. Any recommendations or thoughts about the school?
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          • Posted by Mamaemma 5 days, 6 hours ago
            I went to Emory. Atlanta sure is fun! I loved Physics, and I am a dentist! Your first year or two will be basics to some degree, so maybe you have some time to decide.
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  • Posted by term2 5 days, 10 hours ago
    Dont bother with college. You will learn little except the evils of student debt firsthand. I went to MIT for mechanical engineering. Back in the day (1966), jobs were plentiful if you could show that you were one of the 10% that got into a prestigious school like MIT. I had over 20 job offers upon graduation. Today, seeing as though so many go to colleges, you wont get automatic acceptance into the job market like before. Plus, there are a lot of other ways to actually gain the skills you would need in your chosen profession. Check out the youTube videos from the famous physics professor at MIT (before they blacklisted him for some supposed texting encounter with a foreign female living outside the country). I think his name is Lewin. That was from a bygone era, as now MIT is filled with liberals more concerned with reparations for the blacks and climate change than actually learning about the world and life. Thats my two cents.
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  • Posted by BryanBentz 5 days, 10 hours ago
    I was a Physics major, contrary to many of the points here it is an excellent major. When talking to one faculty member in a dept where I was considering a Comp. Sci./AI Ph.D, he remarked that Physics is a great education, as it's based on a kind of pyramid of ideas that you move up, providing excellent intellectual discipline. You can take EE/CS/other related courses, but you'll have a very solid factual and intellectual foundation.
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    • Posted by $ 4 days, 22 hours ago
      I'm surprised there are so many physics majors here. It's great haha... Physics interests me because of how it attempts to rationalize fairly abstract ideas. I don't know much about it, so I'm not exactly sure how accurate that statement is... but- well, I hope it's accurate :)
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  • Posted by VetteGuy 6 days, 7 hours ago
    I concur with BobCat. I worked for an engineering company for 33 years. In that time I only know of one physics major that we hired. While he worked there, he went back to school to get an engineering degree, because the pay scale was better, for essentially the same work.But without an engineering degree, he was unable to 'sign off' on work projects. Whatever you decide, good luck to you!
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  • Posted by $ Abaco 4 days, 12 hours ago
    I have always said that they needed to add a class to my engineering curriculum. That class would be titled "Office Politics". I went to (I think) one of the top engineering schools in America - Cal Poly, SLO. It was a fantastic education. One of the facets that was so nice was that it was on a quarter system. Things went fast, but it allowed us to learn all kinds of things. I had three quarters of ethics from the philosophy school, as one example (including an engineering ethics class). Macro Econ. Engineering Econ. Critical Thinking.

    What I wasn't prepared for was the office bullshit that can occur in the workplace. I've always been focused on the solution. You'll find that many people in the workplace aren't like that at all. This causes conflicts. I've also made lifelong, like-minded engineer friends over the years - really good people.

    I think there's something to be said for being your own boss eventually. It can be tough. You have to be disciplined. I've worked for people who were jealous of me and/or threatened by me and that can very tough. You need to really know your shit. But, at the same time you need to recognize that you're unusual in that regard and there are times you need to softly reassure people that you're not a threat (not that you can control their boss, though...ha).

    Being educated and intelligent in America comes with challenges that will surprise you. On the bright side...it's kind of fun being surprised all the time...
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  • Posted by Tavolino 5 days, 8 hours ago
    Two things as you leave the comforts and security of your family.
    1-You will encounter many social choices, especially if you're away at school. If you have to think twice about doing something, DON'T.
    2-The world is your oyster and dreams should be unlimited. It’s yours for the taking and anything is possible, but it takes diligent effort framed around the productive longer-range goal. What may seem unachievable needs to be broken down, one day at a time in small reachable steps. These will continuously enhance the intermediate phase of success, adjusting the proverbial sails as the wind changes, ultimately realizing that “impossible dream.” When this productivity is achieved, a sense of pride will be fulfilled promoting further accomplishments. Always give it your all, 110%, performing at your highest level, not only for your personal satisfaction, but you never know who is in the “audience.” Life is a continual growth process. It's more important to know what you don't know rather than what you think you know. Shoot for the stars and your integrity is of paramount importance as you develop lifelong relationships.
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  • Posted by NealS 5 days, 8 hours ago
    I offer two pieces of advice to all young people I meet and like. Don't Smoke, Save (Invest) Your Money. I kid people that I probably still have some money from mowing lawns, pulling weeds, and my paper route.
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  • Posted by $ Abaco 5 days, 9 hours ago
    Get in the habit of socking away money as soon as you enter "the real world" post-college. Enjoy college...it's arguably the best part of your life. Being with the wrong woman is the most enjoyable way to completely, irreversibly screw up your life.
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    • Posted by Orwellian 5 days, 3 hours ago
      Here is a simple rule for saving $. Every time you get a raise half goes into investments ie savings and half you spend on yourself. Do this and you will retire early with a big nest egg of cash.
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  • Posted by malonejr 5 days, 9 hours ago
    Do not let people deter you or dissuade from your goals or dreams. I was recruited out of the U.S.M.C for my technical expertise in systems' diagnosis and repair. As I realized I was going to need that degree, I applied to pursue the Electrical Engineering route only to find my path blocked. One of my mentors saw the situation and asked me if I liked Physics. From that step on, I have not only enjoyed my profession but have been able to enjoy my path for ove 50 years now. If you find something you enjoy, it is not hurting anyone but is a helpful, then go after it no matter what your peers will say!
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  • Posted by $ Thoritsu 5 days, 10 hours ago
    Choose and education and job that you enjoy. You will spend about one third (one half of your waking) life on it.

    Don't waste a pile of money on a big wedding. Spend the money on your honeymoon, and have the people there that you will enjoy sharing the event with.

    If you are a smart guy (sounds like you are), never accept an answer you don't understand. If someone can't explain it to you in terms you understand, they are the one's that don't understand the concept.
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    • Posted by $ 5 days, 8 hours ago
      Thank you so much for this.

      By the way, you don't need to worry about a big wedding from me :)
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      • Posted by $ Thoritsu 5 days, 8 hours ago
        You are quite welcome. Most are things I failed at, and wish I knew earlier (= experience). Dumb people don't learn from their mistakes and/or ignore the lessons. Smart people learn from their mistakes and grow. Real smart people learn from other people's mistakes.

        I so wish there was an internet when I was your age!
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  • Posted by $ blarman 5 days, 11 hours ago
    As far as I know, physics majors have only two occupations: deep-space astronomy and cryptography. And neither of those fields is easy to get into as a profession.

    I'd echo some of the others here and suggest a double-major, with the other being an engineering field which will crossover nicely. One of my brothers-in-law got an undergrad in astronomy or geology (maybe both) and a masters in information systems. Unsurprisingly, he now works for Exxon.
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  • Posted by GaryL 5 days, 11 hours ago
    Keep an open mind about the teachings from your HS and college professors. Accept the fact that many have a serious liberal lean and teach from this perspective. There is more to education than what many teachers would prefer for you to learn and being here at the Gulch is a great step in that process. I think in this current environment it will do you no good to argue but having an open mind also requires one to have open ears allowing crap to flow in one and right out the other when necessary.
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  • Posted by $ jbrenner 5 days, 11 hours ago
    You ought to come to Florida Institute of Technology and take part in my nanotechnology minor program. https://www.galtsgulchonline.com/post...
    You are why I advertise in the Gulch.
    Consider me to be like Quentin Daniels, the professor from Utah Institute of Technology, except that I am from Florida Tech nstead.
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    • Posted by term2 5 days, 10 hours ago
      Hopefully your school is not taken over by crazy liberals more interested in reparations and climate change than actual learning. Best thing you could do is teach your students that they can trust technology and their ability to understand it and use it in their own lives. I left MIT years ago with one thing really- the idea that I was capable of understanding anything and solving any problem if I kept at it long enough. I have used that every day since, even though I dont really remember a lot of the practical things they taught.

      Now they do climate change and raparations and "looking good" by being politically correct. Too bad.
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      • Posted by $ jbrenner 5 days, 9 hours ago
        There are a few liberals here and there at Florida Tech, including a couple who teach climate change. No one here teaches reparations.

        Our climate is changing. Is it a catastrophic change? No, but I definitely see a difference from 20 years ago here. The nights are a few degrees warmer because the oceans are indeed warmer.

        I focus on all the things that a proper Patrick Henry University ought to include, including the appropriate philosophy for being productive.

        I do have a small business that is starting to take off, so I haven't completely shrugged.
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  • Posted by $ Commander 6 days, 7 hours ago
    When you think or daydream of your future where do you see a passion?
    Have you had enough exposure to anything that may become a passion?
    To what level do you wish to explore a lifestyle versus a career?
    If you had the support to go walkabout and explore would you enjoin this before formal schooling?
    Are you going to spend you time making a living or making a Life?

    I know...I'm a s**t! LOL!
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    • Posted by Exitstageright 5 days, 2 hours ago
      I have to agree with Commander about the passion part.
      I am 65 years old, and I have spent most of my adult life trying to instill in "my kids" a passion for anything that trips their trigger. My main focus has been engineering, namely aerospace, and I have mentored university students literally from coast to coast and worldwide. Google Cansat and USLI @ NASA.
      That all said, I see a lot of students who have no clue, thru no fault of their own, but of non exposure, what exactly is their trigger. I have some of "my kids" working for Elon Musk who can't stand their work environment. I have other "kids" who work for NASA as astronauts (Woody Holburg) or Lockheed running sim machines for fighter pilots and are "living their dream". And some "kids" who were brilliant and decided to run their own business. One of them is a rancher. Best looking cattle herd I have ever seen (I am also a rancher, as one of my side jobs).
      I joined the army at 18 because I was broke, inexperienced, couldn't afford an education, and had never been anywhere. The army rectified that, sent me to Vietnam moping up that mess, and to Laos to deal with Polpot. And then paid for my education. I wanted to be a historian (one of my favorite quotes was from Pres Truman "The only thing new in this world is the history you do not know". But I figured there was no money in that (I was born dirt poor, no dad, raised by my Grandma in a 3 room stucco house with no electricity, no running water, and an outhouse. Kerosene lamps for lighting. So When I was done with wandering, I went to school to be an accountant. Bored stiff. Used my people skills to become a major hospital personnel director. Bored again. Used my accounting and military background to get a job with the ATF as an explosives and weapons federal agent. Got in a shootout with some dirtbags in Lubbork, Texas and shot a couple of em. Mucho paperwork.Decided to start my own business. 5 branch locations in three states, 100 employees, sold out in 2009 and bought a ranch. In between all this, I was on the propellant team that engineered the motor that sent the first non government privately owned rocket into space (72 miles verticle,) have been on at least 20 shows with Myth busters, Sci Fi, Discovery, etc, on rocketry based episodes. (Google Mini Cooper rocket powered fireld goal on YouTube, I am the guy wearing a white cowboy hat).
      But today my dream I am living is working my ranch and installing solar power for people who want to be off grid.
      I guess, youngun, why I am telling you all this, is wait a tad if you don't already know your "trigger". If you do, realize it may change. So educate yourself with various sklls as a backup.
      Starting a new contract for a weapons mfg tomorrow in my shop. Sifting, in my shop, 3 different micron sizes, of Ammonium Perchlorate, 20000 lbs, to be shipped to China Lake to make Hellfire missile motors.
      What, me bored :-) ?
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      • Posted by $ 4 days, 23 hours ago
        That's incredible. I'm always surprised with how many different avenues and opportunities there are if only you search for them. It makes me look forward to the future! I am definitely waiting and trying different things, seeing if I can find my passion. However, I've always been the type of person who switches between things anyways. One day, I want to settle down on a field of study to explore and contribute to, even if I make miniscule change. That's what I want to do... go to the edge of human knowledge and expand it just that much further. I hope I won't "miss the starting gun," as Roger Waters puts it. Thank you for sharing your story and advice with me. Have fun with that contract!
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    • Posted by $ 5 days, 7 hours ago
      Nice to hear from you!

      I've never been interested in making a lot of money, but I'm sure that's what a lot of kids my age say. Or maybe it's supposed to be the other way around... not sure. I will admit, my daydreams are pretty wild. I find myself imagining a revolution/state collapse in North Korea, followed by a period of state reconstruction. However, I also daydream about doing research at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. Irrational and unrealistic? Absolutely. That's what daydreams are good for!

      I'm not even sure I'm the type of person who could do a walkabout of sorts before formal schooling. I certainly want to have an academic lifestyle, but I don't imagine it as anything luxurious. Actually, I imagine I will be a completely broke student, happily squinting at some lengthy proof. Again, pretty naive haha. We'll see where I end up in a couple years :)
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      • Posted by $ Commander 5 days, 7 hours ago
        I'll leave you with this: https://vimeo.com/85788972
        I didn't know if this had made the net until just now. Larry is a friend from S Mpls. Hanging out at an Irish pub we'd share insights and mischief. I got the original recording in 99...still qued up in my CD player.

        When you find yourself in the "I" of a storm, oh you shall at multiple times, I hope you can reflect on this offering, and all the others who really care about life, who've offered their respective perceptions. Find Happiness through the turmoil. Be the flowing river of life that cannot be altered other than by choice.
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  • Posted by JakeOrilley 4 days, 1 hour ago
    I graduated from University of Illinois with a BA Business (80). Best advise - stay out of debt! I earned my AA (Business, 76), worked full time until I could afford my BA, and then worked until I realized, again, I needed post graduate. Earned my MBA (FL, 88) and opened my own business. Pay as you go - do not become beholden to either the government or banks!! The next best bit of advise - do not collect ex-wives. They are EXTREMELY expensive!!!
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  • Posted by $ Stormi 4 days, 10 hours ago
    Interview the head of the dept. in which you will major! Are they into super liberal ideas, you can tell quickly. Do thye love their field? When I was deciding, I interviewed a prof. who was head of the English dept, surrounded by great books in his office, he had no enthusiasm and actually said it would be great to have more bodies in the classres! I went to a smaller school, but with full professos, no teaching assts. based on the Greek method of laying out the school. Always challenging and I learned a lot, even double major in Engish and philosophy, minor in biology and history. Johns Hopkins is a good school. Calif. and Chicago, be prepared to be expected to accept liberalism. My Gram wanted me to stay in Calif. with her, and go to a college here, but even at 18, I saw flaws in liberalism. Micxhigan is a good school, so says a former OSU employee. I Depends on whether you are into science, or some other field. I got an associates in computers, then a business school degree in accounting, then I went for the four year degrees, and found each contbributed to the next subject, either in expanding my knowledge, or making research more accessible. Go for what they can actually offer you, not just location. . Many will try to brainwash you. My brother took a required psychology course, and ended up with the prof. pushing Mao's Littel Red Book and said they should embrace it, he was in earonautical field. Our dauther went to a conservative school know for law in Ohio, and she had a liberal who tried to make them write essays expressing his views, not even wanting their take on them. She fought it, and won. Be strong, be true to yourself. Professors can be brilliant, or morons, remember that.
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  • Posted by $ Suzanne43 4 days, 23 hours ago
    Stay true to yourself. I went to Wayne State University in Detroit, which at the time I was there, was one of the most Liberal leftist universities in the country. My professors and some of my liberal friends never could persuade me to turn into a leftist. No matter which college you decide to attend, get with other Conservative students...if there are any. You will then have a good support group. Good luck. In today's universities, you are going to need it.
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    • Posted by $ 4 days, 23 hours ago
      I like this website because, for the most part, everyone remains respectful despite their different opinions. In college and in general, I would prefer to stay out of any political party or stick around with a specific group of people. Self-admittedly, I'll likely (and inevitably) seek out like-minded individuals, but I hope to encounter different perspectives and genuinely challenge my thinking. I think I could learn something from anyone, good or bad. Rather than expect the worst from everyone, I'd prefer to simply prepare for it. I hope that doesn't come across the wrong way (and I hope it doesn't seem as if I'm a very "malleable" individual haha). Thank you; I mean that sincerely. I will stay true to myself and I certainly won't be swayed easily.
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  • Posted by lkparkerjr 5 days, 6 hours ago
    Don't waste your money on college unless your interest is engineering, law, or medicine AND you are committed to advanced degrees and/or law school or med school.

    Virtually all other education at an university is not worth the money spent.

    Looking for what inspires you as a hobby. Preparing for a job you can tolerate and supports that hobby makes the most financial sense.
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  • Posted by $ pixelate 5 days, 6 hours ago
    I earned degrees in Computer Science 30+ years ago when it still made sense to do so. My first job out of school at IBM recognized the Masters Degree in terms of pay. As time went on, the degree's importance was replaced by experience and the ability to make delivery schedules. Before I retired, I was hiring software engineers with no degrees, just experience and the demonstrated ability to write performant future-proof code in the company of other successful developers. Degrees are now very costly in terms of both time and money. Do you really need a degree? Which of your potential employers require it and will they still require it when you roll off the end of the degree assembly line?

    One of my good friends from undergrad days went into physics - specializing in lasers. He is now the Chief Scientist and Exhibits Director for an interactive science lab for young people. He is not doing much with lasers or physics; rather, he is using his people-skills to the utmost in bringing in more grant money and in working with other scientists to create new exhibits. Consider a double-major in physics and some specific engineering discipline, then graduate with the engineering degree.

    If you must go to university, find a way to get an apprenticeship that brings in good money. Ideally, you walk out with your degree and no debts -- pay as you go. Work your network to find jobs related to your intended degree(s). Your network includes your immediate family, people that you've known over the years, parents of friends -- do whatever you can to get a foot in the door then further develop your network once In the Door.

    Additionally -- always be running your Cost to Benefits calculations. You might get half way into your degree and discover an opportunity that has greater benefit as compared to expected benefits on completion of your degree. Jumping off the education track and getting into a position where you are bringing in money and accruing real-world professional experience could be the optimal long term choice.
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