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Transferring to a top school from community college (math/science/engineering)

OrganichuOrganichu Registered User regular
edited March 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
So I am beginning class at a community college in the fall. I'll be turning 25 a couple months after classes start. I plan to major in comp sci and go right into the workforce after graduation (while this could theoretically deviate, I don't expect that I'll change majors or aim for graduate school). I'm very excited!

Here's the situation, though. It feels like the entire ecosystem at my school is aimed at either awarding associate degrees or matriculating students to local universities with which they possess transfer agreements. I am not excited about going to any of these local schools. Not only are most of them academically not in line with my goals, but more to the point they are non-selective, and give very little aid. My EFC is 0. I won't be able to contribute anything at all to my educational costs (aside from those federal loans I'm permitted to take as an independent student). I have no credit-worthy cosigner. My ambition is to transfer to a more competitive university after one or two years. I'm aiming at schools that meet 100% of demonstrated need (which is not a huge list, and it's even smaller for transfer students).

So, I have contacted those schools which are most attractive to me (Cornell, USC, Lehigh, UVa, Rice, a few others) and asked their advice on what steps I should take. Unfortunately, their advice doesn't always align with what is offered by my school. For exxample, USC told me that if I want to transfer first year as a comp sci major, a 'strong' first semester would be calc 1, programming 1, calc-based physics 1, and writing. But my school doesn't allow you to take calc-based physics 1 concurrently with calc 1.

That's just one example but I am sort of preparing to be 'babied' by my academic advisor and I'm really not looking forward to it. I am going in with this tenuous plan of hoped-for classes:

fall:
calc 1
programming 1
english writing 1
???
???

spring:
calc 2
programming 2
linear algebra
english writing 2
calc-based physics (mechanics, heat and sound)


I think this is about as strong a schedule as I can assemble and realistically handle. I expect my advisor (based on previous experience with the school) to glance unhelpfully at one of his or her course rubrics and go 'are you sure you don't want to take remedial algebra...' or whatever. Every official I talk to makes me feel like I'm the first serious STEM student they've ever encountered. But I personally know multiple people who transferred OoS from this school and got BSc's in comp sci. I'm hoping they'll assign me specifically to an advisor who handles STEM students and can give me a realistic approximation of whether I should scale this up or down in difficulty.

But assuming they don't, advice?

It feels like the second semester will be too difficult, especially with the physics (and its lab hours) tacked on but I'm not sure. I don't plan on partying on weekends, and I don't mind putting in lots of hours out of class. But is this too much? More importantly, is it a competitive schedule for a comp sci transfer?

(Disclaimer: I know that transferring to a good school is not easy and I know it's even harder to do without two years under your belt; I am totally prepared to accept that everyone will reject me and I'll go through the entire process again after a second year at community college)

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Posts

  • Dunadan019Dunadan019 Registered User regular
    your spring semeseter has 20 credits, while that is doable I suggest a lighter load for someone just starting out.

    IMO save the linear algebra for the following fall.

  • EshEsh Tending bar. Eating out. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    I'd definitely drop a class or two in your first term or you're going to rather quickly find yourself overwhelmed. 20 credits is a lot for anyone.

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  • physi_marcphysi_marc Positron Tracker Registered User regular
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    your spring semeseter has 20 credits, while that is doable I suggest a lighter load for someone just starting out.

    IMO save the linear algebra for the following fall.

    Actually, I'd recommend saving the physics course for the next year. Physics is much easier once you master the tools for it: calculus and linear algebra. I did my undergrad degree in physics and once I got my math load out of the way, my physics classes were easier and made much more sense.

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  • EshEsh Tending bar. Eating out. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited March 2012
    Tiny highjack here. I need to take Stats 243 and 244 (for non-business majors) but Math 95 is a pre-req and I'd rather avoid wasting my time with it. But, it's been quite a while (18 years) since I've even take a math class. Can any of you mathy people recommend a good prep-workbook so I can test out of Math 95?

    Esh on
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  • OrganichuOrganichu Registered User regular
    Ok y'all, thanks.

    So I'll try and lighten the spring load- and omit either linear algebra or physics.

    Could you suggest a fourth (maybe fifth?) class for this fall? I was thinking an easier math course that wouldn't strain me too much but that would still look science-y/math-y on. Stats, maybe?

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  • UsagiUsagi Feminazgul ~*special snowflake*~Registered User regular
    @Esh, what is Math 95? Pre-calc/algebra? Calc 1?

    @Organichu, does your school offer any logic classes? Yeah, it's not exactly science-y but it might help with the programming mindset. Barring that, stats or economics would be a good choice.

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  • EshEsh Tending bar. Eating out. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited March 2012
    Usagi wrote: »
    @Esh, what is Math 95? Pre-calc/algebra? Calc 1?

    @Organichu, does your school offer any logic classes? Yeah, it's not exactly science-y but it might help with the programming mindset. Barring that, stats or economics would be a good choice.

    @Usagi, It's "Intermediate Algebra". I'm an Anthopology major (Archaeology focus) going for my BS.

    And @Organichu, There's no rush. You don't realize it now, but wait until the workload comes down on you and you possibly fail out of a bunch of classes. I've seen it happen more often than not. I didn't start school until I was 32 (35 now). Don't wreck yourself trying to get it finished as fast as possible.

    Esh on
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  • InfidelInfidel Heretic Registered User regular
    First-year Stats is a requirement in most CS programs and will serve you well daily.

    I would take that over the logic / critical thinking type course if you had to fit just one, but both were first-year requirements at my school anyways.

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  • adytumadytum Registered User regular
    Another vote for taking a lighter course load. I did a couple 17 credit hour semesters (5 - 6 classes) and it was brutal.

    A better alternative is to load up on classes in the summer, particularly requirements you don't have as much interest in. This might be history, science, art, etc. Summer classes tend to be more intense but less academically rigorous. You can knock out two or three a summer, which would put you a semester ahead by the end of your associate's degree.

    Without knowing exactly where you want to go, it's going to be impossible for you to tailor your coursework appropriately. You'll just need to roll with the punches, so to speak. If you're expecting to transfer out of where your CC has agreements with, you should expect (though it's by no means a given) to have to retake classes or do additional coursework when you get there. It will mean that you'll take an extra semester or two to finish up, but you can make up that time with summer classes- and like Esh said, it's not a race.

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  • TychoCelchuuuTychoCelchuuu ___________PIGEON _________San Diego, CA Registered User regular
    Talk to the multiple people you know who've transferred from the school and earned BSes in CompSci. Their advice will be as good or better than anything your academic advisor says.

  • Dunadan019Dunadan019 Registered User regular
    also, I'd like to mention that a 'strong semester' would be one where you got straight A's in courses that you needed for your degree. loading up on lots of math and science and getting worse grades is not a better Idea.

  • Pure DinPure Din Rhode Island Registered User regular
    Does your community college offer a course in discrete mathematics? It's usually required by most CS degrees (though sometimes it goes by different names or is taught in the CS and not the math department), and is often taken in the first or second year.

  • KistraKistra Registered User regular
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    also, I'd like to mention that a 'strong semester' would be one where you got straight A's in courses that you needed for your degree. loading up on lots of math and science and getting worse grades is not a better Idea.

    This is excellent advice. Also, most schools will be happier giving you credit for getting a bunch of non-major reqs out of the way rather than giving you credit for courses in your major. Things like logic and stats may therefore be of greater use to you. Look over the websites of the schools that you are interested in and figure out what non-major classes they want their own students taking in the first few years. I doubt you will be able to select classes that are perfect for all the schools, but pick some that work for several of them.

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  • zepherinzepherin Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    That's pretty heavy, pull physics or linear algebra and put a gimme elective, or ethics. Keep in mind heavy classes are going to demand 4-8 hours of homework a week per class So your looking right now at 30-40 hours of home work a week depending on the difficulty of the English class, and it honestly doesn't matter how smart you are because the work is just time consuming. Front loading your classes doesn't make your college career any easier, trust me on this. Also class scheduling does not always fall the way you want it too. There will be conflicts.

    You say you don't want to be babied however your college adviser is probably going to be better at putting together a schedule than you.
    Keep this in mind, you've put together probably a few maps of college courses for this college, a few for community college trying to line things up, maybe 7 or 8 for high school. I'll be kind and say you've done 20.

    The person who you are dismissing unless this is their first day has done hundreds, or thousands of schedules, with people who are smarter than you. Let this person do their job. Use the resources of the school. If you don't like the result, tell them, they can make adjustments, but understand they have done this more than you, and have seen people burn out because they were too arrogant to actually use the schools services.

    And I'm not trying to be insulting, I just don't want to see another person burn out like that. It happened a lot when I was in college, happened to me, at which point I swapped to a gimme degree finished it out and got a masters, but some people just get sick of it and go. Pace yourself.

    zepherin on
  • SpacklerSpackler Registered User
    edited March 2012
    Kistra wrote: »
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    also, I'd like to mention that a 'strong semester' would be one where you got straight A's in courses that you needed for your degree. loading up on lots of math and science and getting worse grades is not a better Idea.

    This is excellent advice. Also, most schools will be happier giving you credit for getting a bunch of non-major reqs out of the way rather than giving you credit for courses in your major. Things like logic and stats may therefore be of greater use to you. Look over the websites of the schools that you are interested in and figure out what non-major classes they want their own students taking in the first few years. I doubt you will be able to select classes that are perfect for all the schools, but pick some that work for several of them.
    At the same time, you do need to show aptitude in the subjects that your major relies on. Be sure to take some classes that are technical pre-requisites for your intended major. 16 years ago at one of the schools on your list, you would have needed calc 1, calc 2, linear algebra, programming 1, programming 2, physics 1, and a few qualifying electives (i.e. intro to engineering) before you were allowed to affiliate with the major on schedule (after first or second semester sophomore year). In those classes you needed a B average and no more than 1 C, or a special exemption. There are also out-of major "breadth" electives (2 semesters of writing classes, 2 semesters of a humanities class)

    If you're transferring in, you may need higher grades in those major pre-req classes. Also, if you are planning to get the degree in four years total, you can't leave too much of the technical work until later.

    For reference, most engineers I knew took
    Semester 1:
    4 hours - math (calc 1 or calc 2 if placed)
    4 hours - science with lab (physics 1 if calc 1 already completed, else bio or chem)
    3 hours - intro to engineering
    3 hours - humanities elective
    3 hours - freshman writing
    1 hour - gym

    Semester 2:
    4 hours - math (calc 2 or linear algebra)
    4 hours - science with lab (physics/bio/chem)
    3 hours - programming 1
    3 hours - humanities elective
    3 hours - freshman writing
    1 hour - gym

    While 20 hours is rough (been there and it was dumb), 18 hours is very doable if you're focused - and most freshman aren't going to have the maturity that you will right off the bat.

    It's also probably worth finding out if there are any lecturers at the CC that are particularly good or bad to help you choose which classes or sessions you want to be in.

    I'll echo that stats is a good one to take if you have the math already - most CS majors I know took it second semester sophomore year, but it's another requirement for the major.

    Spackler on
  • OrganichuOrganichu Registered User regular
    updating this thread.

    on a lot of people's advice (including some of you!) i decided to stick with just four classes the first semester. i'm registered for calculus, discrete mathematics, programming and algorithm development, and english comp. three of those classes are four credit hours, so it's still 15 credits. the people i talked to (including an advisor) seemed to agree that it was better to take a few challenging classes instead of less strenuous classes where i'd have to keep five professorial styles in my head all the time.

    so anyway i start september 4th. thanks all!

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  • Gilbert0Gilbert0 North of SeattleRegistered User regular
    Organichu wrote: »
    updating this thread.

    on a lot of people's advice (including some of you!) i decided to stick with just four classes the first semester. i'm registered for calculus, discrete mathematics, programming and algorithm development, and english comp. three of those classes are four credit hours, so it's still 15 credits. the people i talked to (including an advisor) seemed to agree that it was better to take a few challenging classes instead of less strenuous classes where i'd have to keep five professorial styles in my head all the time.

    so anyway i start september 4th. thanks all!

    Always better to take it slow and do what you can handle/

    A little late but I'll throw my thoughts/experiences in here. I was an A student in high school and then 1st/2nd year University I was doing the "recommended" of 5 classes. I was getting B's and C+ . With the addition of moving out of my parents, working more, I knew I wasn't going to keep up the 5 class pace, especially with labs and homework, so I dropped a class down to 4. My grades went up 15% across the board. It extended my stay at University an extra semester but for 3rd/4th year, I averaged much higher, my transcript looked much better and was able to find a job (i'm assuming) easier because I had the grades to back it up.

    Eventually talking with the adviser near graduation about workloads and finalizing requirements, the adviser had actually said that come 4th year, more people end up doing 4 classes, NOT 5, even though that's what all the documentation says.

  • Casually HardcoreCasually Hardcore Registered User regular
    I personally would see if you can transfer in a technical writing class instead of English.

    Cause:

    1) technical writing is what you're going to be using when you write up lab reports and stuff

    and

    2) If you end up working in a multinational coporation, 2/3's of everyone you'll be communicating with will know English as a second language, so fancy English writing skills is a bit moot.

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