Lacking academic motivation...
March 22, 2011 8:37 AM   Subscribe

It's finals week. It's an hour before my calculus exam as I'm typing this out right now. I finished up my reviewing, written up my formula sheet (we're allowed to bring handwritten notes on one 8.5x11 piece of paper). Still, I feel like I'm going to fail the class. If I'm lucky enough, I'll pass the class with a C.

What concerns me more is my physics class. I have an assignment due the same day of the final exam (tomorrow). There is too much material to cover, and I won't have enough time to finish the assignment. Sure it's just one assignment, but it's a problem set that's worth half as much as my midterm. To make matters worse, since the exam is based on the second half of the quarter, I haven't been studying for that material since I became too overwhelmed and frustrated at the amount of work that I had to catch up with. Eventually, it mass-piled into something that I have very little control over.

It's my fourth year at community college. I feel like I'm stuck here forever. I've been told that I have mild depression, and have been going to a counselor ever since the beginning of the quarter. Whenever I am overwhelmed with work, I seem to push it aside, only for it to pile up over time. I'm lacking in the self-confidence that I can transfer out of this hell-hole, just so I can continue my dreadful education for another few more years at a university level.

My calculus teacher made a very de-motivational speech about a few weeks ago. He told us that we shouldn't be in class if we feel so miserable. And I am fucking miserable. I dread going to class everyday, but I somehow managed to get perfect attendance for the whole quarter. And yet, I seem to fall short of my professors' expectations. I honestly wish he didn't make that speech. Now I'm having thoughts about quitting.

I should be reviewing more math rather than ranting right now, but I'm just really frustrated and demoralized. I hate being stuck in community college for so long.
posted by RaDeuX to Education (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't let this unkind professor get you down! Do they have tutors who can help you out? Don't quit.
posted by mareli at 8:43 AM on March 22, 2011

What is your question?

Get off the computer and go study.
posted by TheBones at 8:43 AM on March 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @mareli I tried going to the math tutorial center last week and yesterday, but they were overfilled.

@TheBones I'm lacking academic motivation, as well as my self-confidence to actually do well at the university level if I ever get there.
posted by RaDeuX at 8:45 AM on March 22, 2011

It's finals week for you? Lucky you: I have 3 weeks left in the semester before finals. One difference here: I'm on the other side of the desk. Trust me, after years and years of being here, this time of term typically just feels like this. I'm not saying that you should not re-evaluate what you want to do, and why you want to do it. What I'm saying is that THIS week is not the week to make those judgments or decisions. Focus your energy and attention on what you can do positively RIGHT NOW- and that might be one hour at a time- and put the rest of everything else on the back burner. When you get your grades back and after the term is over, then go back and evaluate what to do. But today, this hour, this minute, focus on doing what you can for this minute. The question is: OMG, it's March and it feels like everything sucks and is overwhelming and I've lost sight and hope, how can I cope? This is THE classic March end of term Question. Hang Tight!
posted by kch at 8:46 AM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

First off, take a deep breath, and remember that your professor is a person too, he was probably just having a bad day and had had a long semester of uninterested students staring up at him. I don't say this to make you feel bad, but to give you context on what he said. He did not tell you personally not to be there, he was just expressing frustration. Let what he said go, and focus on the work you need to do. After finals are over you can talk to an academic counselor about the problems you have been having in school in general and start working on the issues that have kept you there (study and work habits).

For now though, talk to the professor about getting an extension on the assignment due. Own up to your failure to get it done in time and being willing to except as many points off as your professor thinks is fair.

Stop reviewing for calculus and take a walk around to clear your head before that final. Once that is done, get a snack/lunch and then get into studying for the physics final. Make sure you do sleep tonight though, even if that means not studying as much, because it will make what you have studied soilidfy in your head. Studies have shown that you do better after sleep even if you study less. Get up in the morning, have a decent breakfast and then study up until the test. Do your best, that's all your professors want from you, not every student can be a star physicist. Repeat this to yourself as necessary.

After finals, talk to the academic counselor and make a plan that you can stick with to get yourself were you want to be, but this is all secondary to getting through finals.
posted by katers890 at 8:49 AM on March 22, 2011

Sometimes you need to suck it up and get it done. Put your head down and power through.

What are you doing this for? Is it because you want a good job once you finish? Is it because you love what you are doing?

Whatever the reason, keep it in the front of your mind while you push though.

Once it is over, the worry about the rest of this stuff.

Good luck.
posted by TheBones at 8:50 AM on March 22, 2011

Response by poster: @katers890 I dislike talking to the counselors at any community college. Though it was the transfer counselors that were the ones that gave me a lot of misinformation. I will give the academic counselors a shot.

@TheBones I want a good job. And no, I absolutely hate school. My teachers hate me for hating lectures as well. I guess I'm just frustrated because it's taking way too long to get my bachelor's degree.
posted by RaDeuX at 8:55 AM on March 22, 2011

Getting a degree -and I would say especially in a technical field- is not just about succeeding in the academic portion but also about all the other "stuff." By "stuff" I mean, the seemingly meaningless hoops you have to jump through, the emotional stamina you have to acquire to power your way through years of tough days like the ones you've been having, and the personal fortitude you need to keep up your self-esteem in the face of self-esteem crushing obstacles and de-motivational speeches from Calculus professors.
What you are going through is a normal part of the university experience. You are not the first person to take on a hefty amount of coursework to feel overwhelmed. I mean that to sound helpful and not judgmental. I've been there before. Lots of times, in fact.
I would suggest a couple of things. First, you may be less miserable at community college if you, in the future, re-evaluate your course load and refrain from taking two highly difficult classes at the same time. I understand this may increase your time at the institution but I think your peace of mind and happiness are worth another quarter or two of your life there. Secondly, I would try to recognize that this is a temporary situation and, even if you have to sacrifice a grade in one of these classes, you still have a good future in store for you. I'm in a professional job now, after getting a graduate degree, and I can tell you that no one gives a shit what I got in my two semesters of physical chemistry in my undergraduate studies (which was a C, for honesty's sake).
Lastly, if you are really miserable doing this type of work then I would ask you to consider finding something you do enjoy and find fulfilling. Take it from me, I've gone to school for ten years to get where I am now (all science and medical programs) and I really do not like what I do. I wish I had the courage to call it quits years ago, cut my losses, and find something that I loved doing instead of something that had good earning potential and stable job security.
Good luck.
posted by teamnap at 8:59 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My teachers hate me for hating lectures as well.

You know, you don't have to tell your teachers that you hate the lectures.

I should be reviewing more math rather than ranting right now, but I'm just really frustrated and demoralized. I hate being stuck in community college for so long.

Then stop ranting and get back to work so you can get done with it.
posted by The World Famous at 9:45 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you have a plan? Do you know which credits you need to complete at your current community college? Do you know what type of degree you hope to earn, and what type of career you hope to have after you earn that degree? I wonder if you feel so frustrated about how long your BA is taking because you haven't figured out which goals and milestones to set for yourself.

Your post reads like a high school student who has no agency--you don't talk about yourself as if you are an adult interacting with instructors and completing coursework to pass classes and get where you want to go; you talk like you're a kid whose teachers hate you, who is trapped in classes and a school you hate, and even if you manage to pass these classes you don't feel confident about your chances of success at a university.

You're an adult. You're choosing to take courses at a local community college so that you can achieve a goal (transfer to university, earn a degree). You're choosing to get help for your depression--and that's really great. You need to find a way to own your choices. Maybe poor study habits or depression or a work schedule or something combination of factors have led to this finals crunch time: ok. You have two decisions to make: a) How will you attack tomorrow's exam? and b) What will you do to make next semester's classes more successful? Don't worry about (b) today, but commit to working it out after your final. Your therapist, your community college, and your intended university will all have resources to help you achieve (b). Prepare for your exam as thoroughly as you can today, do your best tomorrow, and then get to work making plans and setting goals so that you can avoid a repeat of this situation next semester.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:28 AM on March 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

You want to talk about academic motivation? I can tell you about academic motivation.

I'm a month away from defending my Master's thesis in physics. "Wow!" you say. "You must be smart!" Well, debatable. Eight months ago I was spending 90% of my time dicking around on MeFi and trying to come up with ways to drop out of my program without it killing my chances of employment.

In September 2010, I had already spent more than 2 years in this program (2 calendar years being the usual time for completion). I had only about 20 pages of thesis written, and a giant gaping hole in my analysis that I had no idea how do deal with. I felt like a failure.

And I was a failure. But not because I was behind on my thesis. Lots of people take a long time to finish. I was a failure because I spent all my time avoiding my work because it was scary. I was a failure because I would hide from my supervisor when I saw him around campus. I was a failure because I would tell my parents and my girlfriend that things were "coming along", instead of asking for their help in getting back on track.

Finally, a friend was able to knock some sense into me. She told me that there's only one way out of school, and that's graduation. So if I didn't want to stay in school for the rest of my life (and holy Christ, did I not) it was time to nut up and write a thesis that's just good enough to get me out of there. I realized I had to take a step back to take two steps forward.

The next day, I walked in to my supervisor's office, and was totally honest about my situation. I told him I was really struggling, but that I was willing to do what it would take to finish. So we pushed back my completion date until April, and he gave me some realistic expectations for what needed to be in the thesis; which, it turned out, was a lot less than I was anticipating. And now here I am, studying for my defense. It will have taken me three agonizing years to get this degree, by goddam am I happy I didn't drop out.

OP, I don't know if I can help you make it through your physics exam (if you have any specific questions about it, though, feel free to MeMail! I tutor physics all the time). But in the future when you're struggling with a course, you need to show up at the prof's office hours and say "hi. I'm having trouble with this material. How can I do better?" I promise you that they will help you. Profs respect students who ask for help, even if the student sucks at the course. They don't respect students fail because they were too scared to ask questions.

You can do this.
posted by auto-correct at 10:30 AM on March 22, 2011 [8 favorites]

Quit school for a while. Come back when you're motivated to stay on top of things.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:16 AM on March 22, 2011

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