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Overlearn in undergraduate College- good or bad idea?

I'm about 0.5-2 year(s) ahead of my course plan* depending on how you see it, but I don't want to waste my time so I want to self study stuff beyond my syllabus. I'm a Physics major freshman now, and I plan to get into research in my sophomore.

Let's say I have self-studied lots of Math/Physics stuff in my freshman year, and get into research in my sophomore. Will knowing advanced stuff give me an advantage in my research? (one of) My goal is to have a good grad school application

Here's a related question I asked previously on overlearning in college Overlearn in undergraduate College - good or bad idea?

*I was preparing for Olympiad so I learn Calculus and Introductory Physics. But I don't get to skip courses in college. So I'm relearning stuff all over again.

  • I find the question a bit ambiguous and too similar to the previous one, could you care to rephrase it in some other way. You are basically asking is learning more going to help my research, in which case the obvious answer is yes Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 7:19
  • This is a duplicate, and it's about undergraduate study so off-topic. Voting to close.
    – 410 gone
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 8:24
  • @EnergyNumbers: You're saying undergraduate study does not classify as "acedemia"? Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 9:32
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    @EnergyNumbers: Link please? Because the first sentence in the FAQ is "This site is for academics of all levels [...] as well as anyone in or interested in research-related or research-adjacent fields.". AFAIK, that generic enough to include undergraduates. The second entry on what questions can be asked here is "transitioning from undergraduate to graduate researcher", and a bit down it reads "a question that will help people like me.", so...not sure how you get to that statement. Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 11:09
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    @EnergyNumbers: 1) please spell my name right. 2) you still have not given a proper reference to a section in "the FAQ" that prohibits people from posting questions like these. I agree the question should be closed, but only because it's a duplicate. Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 13:54

1 Answer 1


I can't think of a single situation where having more knowledge than expected or required was ever a bad thing...

You will have to "suffer the system" here and there, that's a sad but simple fact (just because you say you know something, does not mean the schooling system will believe you. Nor should they--truth be told, most of the time you actually do learn something from courses you thought you mastered).

Anyway, always talk to your teaching assistants/professors about this. Work them a bit, see how flexible they can be. Often, you'll find that some could not care less if you come to class or not, as long as you pass the exams and do all the practical work required to pass the course. Others, unfortunately, will have mandatory attention and the likes, that they consider holy. Going against them and their reules at all costs is pointless and will cost way too much time and effort. Just sit out the classes.

In time, and when your approach is indeed successful, it will get easier and easier to pull off.

Whether it's a good idea or not, that depends entirely on how fast you can learn. No matter how good it might make you feel to know so much more than your peers and to be able to skip so many classes, and get into such high-profile research, the time you spend studying should never cost you your social/networking/extracurricular life. In time, the stuff you'll have to master will also become harder and harder to learn. Before you know it, sticking to this approach blindly will cause you to you spend all day and all night, all year round, in some dark corner of some smelly attic. And that, is never a good idea.

  • I have to disagree with "most of the time you actually do learn something from courses you thought you mastered". In shorter run, yes, you learn something. But in a longer run doing thing below one's skills or knowledge is devastating for motivation, de facto making learn less on this subject, in the future etc. Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 9:56
  • @PiotrMigdal: I didn't make any statement on the usefulness of following the class that is below your level. The intention of that statement was to indicate that this is the prevailing view in many educational systems. Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 10:02