School is harder than I remember it being. That’s probably because up until now, I’ve always been a very bad student. I rarely studied for anything, and sometimes wrote papers on things I hadn’t even read. I generally did okay on tests, but never turned in any homework.
Since day 1, I’ve been worried about Calculus II. I’ve been a bad math student for as long as I can remember, only doing enough to get by. I think I did okay in Calculus I, but last time I took Calculus II (back in 1999), I only managed a D. That was good enough to continue, but D’s don’t transfer which meant I needed to take it again. Calculus II relies a fair amount on Calculus I as one might expect, but also requires some fairly good algebra skills. It’s been over a decade since I’ve done any math and that makes it hard. I’ve spent hours on the internet relearning ridiculously basic things like the properties of logarithms, the intricacies of the trig functions, and the basic rules of differentiation. I’ve done all the homework (usually a week ahead of time), and lots of extra non-assigned problems for practice. On average, I spend something like 16 hours per week sitting in the library doing Calculus.
Physics II is my other seriously challenging class, but I’ve always been pretty good at Physics, so I wasn’t expecting much difficulty. Furthermore, it doesn’t rely too heavily on things in Physics I, so it’s okay that I’ve forgotten much of that.
Last week I had a Physics exam on Wednesday and a Calculus exam on Friday. The Physics exam was the first real test I’ve had since coming back to school, and it crushed me.
I wasn’t expecting anything I couldn’t handle, but for some reason the sorts of problems which seemed perfectly doable on my homework seemed impossible in the confines of an hour long test. Furthermore, the noise of 75+ people scribbling, calculating, sniffling, even breathing sometimes seemed to be astonishingly pervasive and oppressive. I don’t know how generous he’ll be with partial credit, but I don’t think I could have scored higher than about 75% or so.
The calculus exam, on the other hand, ended up being just fine. I just got it back today, and managed a 107%. The professor mentioned that 4 people in the rather large class had gotten over 100%, so I guess I’m somewhere in the top 4, which means I can probably stop worrying. She was very generous with partial credit, as I actually made mistakes on 3 of the problems. While she didn’t “curve” the grades, I managed over 100% because there were 110 points on the test, plus a 20 point extra problem, but the grade was only “out of” 100 possible points. It’d be okay with me if the rest of the exams are similarly structured.
Still, a large portion of the class failed the exam. It seems to me that UCCS has quite the range of student ability. Overall, the standards are higher than I worried they might have been, but still a bit lower than UD, though that was to be expected. I’m guessing that overall it’s pretty typical of a large state school.
I’m enjoying my C programming class. The instructor is entertaining and knowledgeable. My Java class, on the other hand, bores me to tears. There was an exam the same day as the calculus exam, and it was actually quite a bit more difficult than I expected. I’m hoping to find out how I did on it today. But the lectures range from off-topic to boring and the assignments are pedantic, tedious, and boring.
Fortunately, I shouldn’t have many more classes like that. Most of the upper level computer science classes look to be challenging. I should be able to take Assembly Language next semester, and that promises to be challenging. I’ve still got to take a lot more math: Calculus III, Discrete Math, Linear Algebra and Statistics. I’ve also got to take Technical Writing, which promises to be awful. But other than that, I’ll be taking Computer Science classes plus two technical electives, so it should be reasonably enjoyable.
If I can figure out how to stay in school. My unemployment expires soon, and I can’t really get enough in federal loans to make ends meet. I tried to get a weekend job flight instructing, but no one’s really interested in a part time instructor on the weekends… Those are the busy days, so they’re also the days that instructors want to work. I can make it through this semester, but next semester I’m either going to have to find a job, borrow money, or figure out how to live a lot more frugally.