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Are Californian CC's really that bad?

  1. May 13, 2013 #1
    I am switching from art college to undergrad for aero/mechanical engineering, and my plan was to cover my gen-ed at community college for 1-2 years, switch to a UC for the classes that matter, and then going for a prestigious grad school. Even saving just one year of tuition is good for me.

    I already have 31 credit hours from art college with 3.0 GPA, but I don't know how this would work since art schools and academic universities are different. I am hoping that I won't have to spend all 4 years at undergrad since I already have some credits to graduate. The question is, which credit can transfer and I will soon talk to the UC counselors about that.

    Isn't grad school the most important, rather than undergrad? What's wrong with covering the necessary courses at CC's? I went over ASSIST.org with a CC counselor to pick my CC classes.

    My relatives (none of them from California and none of them engineers except one former chemical engineer) are saying that it's hard to transfer from CC's to universities, and that they're a waste of time. They're telling me to jump straight into a "real" university for my first year which is like thousand times more expensive. They're Asian, and I think it matters because Asians bias toward the "cream of the crop" schools and they tend to throw tantrums if they don't get to go to the very best of even the most trivial thing. If undergraduate school really matters and if I am misinformed, let me know.

    I can either start at Santa Monica College this summer, or I have to wait longer to go straight into a UC because the deadline already passed. And I would hate to wait for like another year, why should I? I would hate to write essays and fret over whether I got accepted or not when I could've gone straight to a CC for much cheaper.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 13, 2013 #2
    There are schools that offer rigorous undergraduate STEM educations, and there are schools that don't. I don't know where people get these ideas that this or that education doesn't matter.

    There are state agreements that sometimes guarantee admission into universities from community college. What you should be worrying about is whether the community college courses actually prepare you.
  4. May 13, 2013 #3
    What in the world is STEM? I thought it only stood for "science technology engineering math" and not a specific program. SMC (the CC I am going to) offers STEM but I never looked into it.

    There are agreements between Californian schools and CC's that ensure admission. I heard about CC's being "not preparing enough", that's why I want to cover the classes that don't mean much at the CC's like history, art (which already got covered in art school), and english. Good idea or am I misguided?
  5. May 13, 2013 #4
    If you do the bare minimum to get by, then you will not be prepared. If you work hard in your classes and go above and beyond by exploring topics outside of class, then most likely you will do great; particularly so if you carry over such a work ethic once you transfer. In other words, take control of your own education.
  6. May 14, 2013 #5


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    It sounds like you are significantly underestimating the rigor and challenge of the engineering curriculum at a top university. The education at a CC is likely to be significantly below that at a UC both in the level of coursework and in the sophistication of the students, so I'd worry about your preparation after two years. If you can, start at a CSU instead. You will likely get a better technical preparation at Long Beach, San Jose, or perhaps Northridge or San Diego States, and your chances of transfer admission to a UC will be higher, too. I certainly wouldn't wait until junior year to start your engineering coursework--you'll never catch up to the other students. Start right away with the standard freshman engineering and math curriculum. Plan on working hard, and supplementing your coursework with outside studies since your goal is to catch up with your peers who are at a UC. Or just go to a UC to start with, if you can get in. Finally, no, undergrad is more important than grad school. First, if you want to go to grad school then it is your undergrad school, grades, and knowledge that determine where (even if) you can go. Second, most engineers in industry do not do graduate work so your undergrad education can determine your job prospects right off.
  7. May 14, 2013 #6
    I heard the opposite. CC transfers and other UC students are priority before CSUs.

    I am not going to take mathematic or technical classes at the CCs unless it seems like something I need a bit of touchup on. Only things like history n english so I don't have to pay for any of those for grands each. What's wrong with that?
  8. May 14, 2013 #7
    If you are located near a UC (or CSU) then you can cross enroll for one course per semester at each (if you have both near you). This would enable you take science courses at a university before you transfer.
  9. May 14, 2013 #8


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    My information is decades old, so perhaps things have changed.

    So you already have a strong background in math, physics and engineering comparable to the first years of a physics or engineering bachelor's? Sorry, when you said arts college, I assumed that you didn't. In any case, take a look at the requirements for a BS in Aero/Mech Eng, and you'll be able to see how many courses you've already taken and how many you need.



    If you want to spend 2 years at a CC and fewer than 4 as an undergrad overall, you'll need to have completed most of your major before entering the UC. I've never heard of a CC that offers those classes, however, which is why I suggested a CSU or UC.
  10. May 14, 2013 #9
    I can only tell you about my experiences at two CCs on the East Coast.

    I took two physics courses here, along with an astronomy class. I've found that people who teach at CCs are generally bad teachers, and inept at their subject. The ones I've had don't care to put any real effort into the class.

    There was one guy in my class who had lived in California for a couple years before moving, he told me pretty much the same thing.

    Now of course, this doesn't go for all CCs (just the majority).

    It depends on the type of students attending, I guess. The CC I went to had a good chemistry department, because a lot of students take chemistry before transferring to a university, while the physics and mathematics departments where a wasteland to say the least.

    Check to see if the credits are transferable before signing up for anything.
  11. May 14, 2013 #10
    More likely they put in about ~2k-3k worth of effort spread over the semester (as thats what they get paid to teach the course, more or less).
  12. May 14, 2013 #11
    My CC professors were great. They were professional teachers and it showed. This was not in california though...

    As you progress to harder and more advanced material the pool of people capable of teaching it dwindles and you just have to take what you can get. Also, when you spend your life mastering an advanced field/subject you necessarily have less time to master teaching.
  13. May 14, 2013 #12
    Point taken, although if I were to evaluate them, and give them a salary scaled with their teaching, they (the ones I've had) aren't worth a dime more.
    Last edited: May 14, 2013
  14. May 14, 2013 #13
    I currently go to a CC in California. I'm transferring to university next fall as a physics major, having taken all my lower division math and physics at my CC.

    There are students in my class that have been accepted to both Caltech and Berkley, UCSB, quite a few to UC Davis, as well as a few that were accepted to Cal Poly for engineering, all transfer students. Of course I can't speak for all California CC's, but I don't think it will hinder your education much.
  15. May 14, 2013 #14
    Whoever told you that it is more difficult to transfer from a California Community College(CCC) into the UC system is wrong. Transfer students who are transferring from a CCC have higher priority than other applicants, and from what I've heard, UC's tend to prefer not to accept students who have attended a CSU.

    I am currently completing my final semester at a CCC. I have been accepted to UCLA for Fall 2013 as a physics major, and I know many people at my school who have been accepted to various different schools in the UC system, including the notoriously difficult-to-enter UC Berkeley. From what I've gathered from my peers, most students transferring to the UC system had a very high acceptance rate, including students with relatively low GPA's.

    As for only taking your GE's at a CC, that is probably not the best idea, especially for an engineering major. When I was applying for transfer, I contacted the schools and was told (by UCLA) that they prefer that I finish my major prep. that is listed on assist.org rather than completion of the IGETC (the list of GE courses needed for transfer into the UC or CSU system). I believe that the IGETC is more important if your major is in arts, humanities, social science, etc., but it seems that if you are a natural science or engineering major, they put more emphasis on your major prep. classes. I completed all but one class listed on assist.org for the physics major at UCLA (my school was not going to offer the course before I transfer) and am currently three courses away from IGETC certification. An important note, however, is that if you do not complete IGETC certification before you transfer to a UC or CSU, you will be subject to the GE plan for that particular school, which may or may not invalidate many of your GE classes taken to satisfy the IGETC. However, if you are one or two classes away from IGETC certification, you may receive a partial IGETC certification from your CC, allowing you to complete the last one or two classes at the UC or CSU. Because of this, I am going to take a course over the summer session so that I may receive partial IGETC certification, and I suggest that you look into this when you are attending your CC.

    As for the quality of teaching at CCC's, it varies drastically as I'm sure it does at many schools, including UC's and more prestigious schools. I've had the pleasure of many great professors during my time in CC, with subjects ranging from mathematics and natural science to sign language and social science. Of all the professors I've taken at my CC, the vast majority of the instructors have been quite good, with, naturally, a smaller subset of these good professors being absolutely amazing. Of course, on the other side of the spectrum, I've taken some horrible professors. The worst professor was, sadly, my classical mechanics professor. Because of the abysmal teaching provided by the professor, I am considering auditing a classical mechanics course when I transfer, that way I can fill in the holes in my knowledge.

    You will definitely experience some unimaginably horrible professors, but you will also inevitably get the pleasure of being taught by some brilliant, passionate professors who can make even the most dry subjects engaging. While there are times that I feel I may be lacking some important concepts in my major prep. classes, and you may feel the same way, as long as you put in the effort and seek supplemental material, I'm sure that you'll be fine upon transferring. Also, it is important to remember that the major prep. classes you take at a CC are very few compared to the junior/senior level courses you will be completing once you transfer.
  16. May 15, 2013 #15
    Called the admission offices of some UCs and they all recommended finishing up at a CCC and then transferring into UC as a junior. They don't take straight transfers from art school (and other unis in general) unless they're coming in as juniors with all the necessary classes. They don't take sophomore transfers and only high school students can apply as freshmen. Seems like the answer is obvious now.

    I am going to supplement my studies with books and tutors besides just CC classes, but I'd have to know what I am missing out on first.
  17. May 15, 2013 #16
    DM, you're doing fine by going to a CCC.

    I started at a California Community College and now I have a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from a UC.

    I was a *little* behind in math when I finished at my CCC. If you just make sure you study math to learn it, not just get an A, you'll do fine.
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