# ryjm comments on [Requesting Advice] Applying Instrumental Rationality to College Course Selection Dilemma - Less Wrong Discussion

8 11 May 2012 05:15PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Sort By: Best

Comment author: 13 May 2012 10:26:38PM 1 point [-]

If you understand that you have to work very hard and you are able to judge how much you can handle, you'll probably be okay. I've just seen a lot of people doing a math degree because they were always good at math and they thought they could breeze through it. That won't happen.

I use SRS daily for math stuff, and the best thing you can do is get one of those cheap graphics tablets. I think mine was about \$60. Then you can just write out all your question answer pairs. I did the LaTeX route for a while, but the amount of time you have to spend inputting everything is not worth it. If you really want to get into this kind of studying, you can try this incremental learning technique. And definitely read ahead before each lecture.

Your course selection looks pretty good, but I would swap Differential Eq. and Calc III. I took Differential Eq. freshman year (stupid) while taking Calc III, and it was heavy on both linear algebra and calc III material. Your class may be different, but I would recommend a full semester of linear algebra before. Try to find some fellow students to ask though; professors can be either too strict or too lenient when it comes to what they require before taking a course.

You might want to consider throwing in some computer science courses too. Even a minor will increase your opportunities immensely after college.

Comment author: 13 May 2012 11:36:01PM -1 points [-]

Wow, I hadn't thought of using a graphics tablet before. I'll definitely look into that, as well as the incremental learning technique you linked to.

I had tentatively placed Differential Eq. before Calc III on a whim. I had no idea it drew on LA and Calc III. According to a prereq. flow chart I have, the only requirement for Calc III, Differential Eq., Discrete Math, and LA is Calc II. This very well may be a case of prerequisites being too lenient. I've penciled in the appropriate swap.

I'm looking to take some computer science courses. If nothing else, at least Foundations of Computer Science. Hopefully this summer. I'll have to look into precisely what the major/minor requirements are for CS. In the mean time, I'm trying to navigate the minefields of general education requirements.

Comment author: 14 May 2012 04:12:10AM 0 points [-]

The gen eds are tricky to deal with. You can't usually get out of them, but some schools are pretty good with what classes satisfy them. I would suggest ignoring the recommended gen ed courses (though try to get specific advice from fellow students and listen to them if it contradicts this) and going straight to the department which is related to the requirement. Look around and see what courses they offer, and then ask if it will satisfy a gen ed. I've found that taking department specific introductory courses is WAY more interesting than trying to slog through the default ones, which are usually filled with the same people you had to deal with in high school. It's also been my experience that most of the default courses are actually harder (I think this might be because they want to push freshmen into college mode). Again, this varies with the school, so take it with a grain of salt.

One more thing that I wish people had told me: find all the problem solving strategies you can, and use the hell out of them. You might think you are good at this and you don't need anyone's advice on how to think (actually you probably don't, since you are on this site...), but the falseness of this statement will become increasingly clear when you attempt problem sets. I thought I knew this, but looking back I would spend hours on one problem just trying the same method over and over, thinking I was doing something new.

If you don't see a solution or the path to the solution within 5 or 10 minutes, try something completely new no matter how close you think you are. Keep prodding your brain like this, and eventually one of those stubborn folds of tissue will spill its guts for you. But if you keep hitting the same part over and over again, you're just gonna have a pissed off commander in chief. Yeah, it does sound obvious... but if you don't check to make sure you're doing it, most of the time you're just going to keep hacking your way to nowhere.

Also, find or make a study group. I was too damn stubborn to do this - biggest mistake of my college career. It might be annoying when you know all the answers and everyone else doesn't, but that won't happen often.