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16 years old and an aspiring physicist

  1. Feb 12, 2015 #1
    Hi, my name is Matt, I'm 16 years old and an aspiring physicist. I've recently found myself in a position of great uncertainty. I'll provide some background. I was a reasonably successful High School student although academics were secondary to leisure in my life. At the beginning of my junior year I began getting bullied by a few unfavorable human beings, and without getting into all the details, me and my parents decided that withdrawal from the high school was the optimal and frankly only option. As the search began to find a viable alternative to my former school, I became extremely interested in science in general but specifically physics. I never could've fathomed such a curiosity irradiating from me given my prior lethargic attitude towards academics. Anyway, my search for an alternative high school to attend has not yielded ideal results given my states absurd policies pertaining to my situation. I'll only be able to attend a local community college for the next year and a half. I'm worried this will severely inhibit my ability to attend a adequate university. Has anyone else been through a similar process? Any advice at all would be appreciated greatly and I apologize if this was too vague, any feedback at all would be helpful. Thanks, Matt.
     
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  3. Feb 12, 2015 #2

    Quantum Defect

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    I think that if you have to attend a community college, that this is not such a bad deal! You will be surrounded by older (more mature) people who are at community college for all sorts of different reasons.

    Depending upon the particular community college, you are liable to have teachers who have PhDs in their discipline! My high school physics teacher had a BS in Chemistry (along with a teaching certificate).

    I think that you have hit the jackpot!

    This should not hurt your chances of getting into any college, I think, and may actually help prepare you for better colleges.
     
  4. Feb 12, 2015 #3
    My main concern is that the community college will not offer courses such as calculus and/or statistics, both I believe are prerequisites one must obtain/learn during high school to be considered for acceptance at a university for studying physics. My community college is one of the top 5 in the USA so I certainly agree that the academics will be superior to that of my former high school. I am scheduled to meet with the admissions office at the community college tomorrow so hopefully I'll learn more then. I might be overly skeptical but I don't want to take chances with my future. Thanks for the reply!
     
  5. Feb 12, 2015 #4

    Quantum Defect

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    My high school did not offer calculus, and I went to my community college to take it. I would be surprised if yours did not offer calculus too.
     
  6. Feb 12, 2015 #5
     
  7. Feb 12, 2015 #6
    Did you take calculus at CC and attend high school simultaneously?
     
  8. Feb 12, 2015 #7

    berkeman

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    I would be very surprised if this is the case. Have you checked out their course listings? These courses may only be offered in certain quarters, but you will be there long enough to take them. What math classes have you completed so far? You may need to take a math class or two before Calc, depending on what you have had so far.
     
  9. Feb 12, 2015 #8

    QuantumCurt

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    Worrying about a community college not offering calculus or statistics is a very needless worry. If there are any community colleges that don't offer these classes, then there can't be more than a handful. These are standard classes that all colleges basically have to offer.

    Neither calculus or statistics are prerequisites to studying physics at a university. Physics majors obviously must take calculus, but it is typically taken in college. I've never seen a physics degree that required statistics, but statistics is definitely a worthwhile class to take for a physics major.
     
  10. Feb 12, 2015 #9
    In strongest possible terms: Go to your local CC and talk to a counselor immediately. Do not worry for a second that CCs are less rigorous than universities. They have identical educational content, and you will learn more in a year than you ever did in high school. Your CC probably has an Associates of Science in Physics degree program, or something similar.

    If nobody has explained it yet:
    Associate's Degree - 2 years - AS (Associates of Science) AA (Associates of Arts)
    Bachelor's Degree - 4 years - BS, BA
    Master's Degree - 5? years - MS, MA
    Doctoral Degree - depends
     
  11. Feb 13, 2015 #10

    QuantumCurt

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    To clarify the above timeline, for a CC transfer student, they will typically attend the CC for two years and obtain an Associate's. After completing it, they transfer to a 4 year university to complete their Bachelor's. This will typically take two additional years after completing the Associate's, making four years total to complete the Associate's and the Bachelor's. This timeline varies quite a bit though. I'm in my third and final year at CC. I'm transferring to UIUC in the fall, and I'll complete my Bachelor's in 4-5 semesters after transferring.
     
  12. Feb 13, 2015 #11

    Quantum Defect

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    I took an evening Calculus class while attending high school. I also took a Biology course in the summer, because I could not fit the HS biology course into my schedule.
     
  13. Feb 13, 2015 #12

    jtbell

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    This is not true in general. First, at most colleges and universities in the US, you apply for admission to the school as a whole, not to a specific major. On the application, they will probably ask you what you plan to major in, if you've already decided. This is mainly for informational purposes, and maybe for assigning you to a suitable academic advisor on the faculty. Many students put down "undecided" at this point.

    Second, at most colleges and universities in the US, except maybe schools like MIT and Caltech, the physics major program does not require incoming freshmen to have already taken calculus or even physics in high school. A typical physics major program starts out with calculus and intro physics, by default. It obviously helps if you've taken those subjects in high school, because having seen the material already makes the introductory courses easier for you. If you've taken AP courses and do well on the AP exams, you might even get to skip the introductory courses, but not all schools let you do this.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2015
  14. Feb 13, 2015 #13

    IGU

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    Good questions.

    First, people who homeschool use community colleges all the time. It's a perfectly reasonable way to take classes. They vary greatly in quality, and certainly require more self-discipline than the usual high school classes. People often do what is known as "dual enrollment", attending high school and taking CC classes at the same time. This is the cheapest way you can go about graduating high school with transferable college credit (pretty much just the cost of books). Of course the details vary by state and school district, but you should look to see what your local situation is. Note that there are various unusual ways of approaching this and many CC counselors and administrators are completely unaware of what's legal, usual, and possible -- you'll get lots of misinformation. So whenever anybody tells you what the school "policy" is, ask where it's documented and who has the authority to waive requirements. People who are putting their 11 and 12 year olds in CC classes have to deal with these sorts of difficulties all the time. It doesn't sound like that will be a problem for you though. But, if it works in your state, you can generally homeschool and do just the classes you want at the CC. Also, there are programs in some states where specific CC classes are pre-authorized to be accepted for transfer credit at state schools, so it's a good idea to know exactly how that works when you choose your classes -- some credits are more useful than others.

    Second, as to the quality of the classes. Check out ratemyprofessor and such sites. The professors who get low ratings because people say they grade too hard and require that homework is actually completed and give difficult tests; those are the ones to go for. Generally avoid big standard classes (like introductory calculus) if you can -- all the sharp kids took it in high school so they'll be teaching it slow and bad, generally from crappy texts like Stewart. Like all schools, there are good classes and bad classes. Choose wisely.

    Third, don't ignore the possibility of taking classes at real universities. My homeschooled kid took a variety of classes at San Jose State and Stanford and I got to give him credit for them toward graduating high school. Don't just jump into CC classes before you've looked over other possibilities. There's a lot to be said for just studying on your own if you're up for it, and MOOCs provide a great way to learn all sorts of things if you're serious about them.

    Fourth, the more independent of official schools you are, the more important it is to document what you're doing. Top schools accept homeschooled kids all the time. They love that they are self-motivated, independent, and capable. But they do question how serious their education has been, so you want to be able to answer the sorts of questions that engenders.

    Last, take a look around on the web for local homeschooler mailing lists and other resources. Join up and ask lots of questions. You'll learn what other people in similar circumstances are doing, what schools and classes have been valuable to people, and what new possibilities for learning exist, many of which you've never considered.
     
  15. Feb 13, 2015 #14
    Thanks for the helpful information! I'm curious about the type of documentation I need when self-educating. I've been reading many scholarly books/compilations of essays and have also taken some Itunes-U-esque courses, ranging from philosophy to economics, on my own but it's largely been sporadic and unorganized. I plan to do this in tandem with CC courses but I never thought it possible to formalize my "self-education" in a manor that would make it attractive to esteemed universities. Do you have any advice regarding this?
     
  16. Feb 13, 2015 #15
    Will the quality of your work at CC dictate which colleges are available to you? I have not yet obtained my diploma so I want to verify that hard work (and obviously intellect) will be the factors responsible for my choice of university.
     
  17. Feb 13, 2015 #16
    You take the GED yet? Or something equivalent in your country.
     
  18. Feb 13, 2015 #17
    I've taken Algebra 1 & 2 and Geometry in high school but I have since been educating myself in precalculus, trigonometry and courses of that nature.
     
  19. Feb 13, 2015 #18
    I'm in the process of earning that, I'm currently on schedule to complete that in about 9 months, and yes it's a GED.
     
  20. Feb 13, 2015 #19
    Don't underestimate the value of actual courses in learning about a subject. Autodidacticism will take you far, but there will be gaps in your knowledge - specifically, you will miss the boring, uninteresting little details that students are forced to work through.

    The GED is not difficult. Take it sooner. It's designed for working adults who never earned their diploma. Since you are directly out of high school...
     
  21. Feb 13, 2015 #20
    I started out reading books about physics and what not but have since upgraded to online courses offered by programs like Itunes-U and Khan academy. I found I wasn't submerging myself in the details of Quantum non-locality, for example. My high was certainly not intellectually intellectually stimulating for me but I feel CC will be.

    With regards to my GED, I wish I could earn it sooner but I'm too late for the spring semester so I have to take it during the summer, fall, and maybe the following spring semester.
     
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