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Are these overwhelming classes?

  1. Jun 7, 2012 #1
    I've laid out a general plan of studies for my next few semesters here at my community college, and I have already completed the first semester (all 'A's with the exception of Physics in which I received an 'A-'):

    I had to take into consideration the prerequisites:
    Linear Algebra - requires Calculus II
    Differential Equations - requires Calculus III
    E&M - requires Physics III
    Thermodynamics - requires Calculus III
    Modern Physics - requires Physics III

    So I can't really rearrange the last semester unless I get approval from the Physics dept. head (who I think is away or something, which is why I am asking on this forum) and I don't want to get ahead of myself.

    I wanted to throw in a computational physics class and a physics engineering mechanics class as well but I don't think I can fit them in because they both require Calculus III which means I'll have to cram those into my last semester also, which appears to be being pushed to the limit already.

    However, I have no idea how difficult these classes are, so based on personal experience I was wondering if you guys have any input on if I can take these classes without sacrificing good grades, or if they're not worth impressing schools that I want to transfer to.

    Just to clarify the content of some classes, 'Intro to Physics Research' and 'Physics Research' are pretty much self-explanatory. They have no prerequisites except 'Physics Research' which is Physics II, but I thought it'd be smarter to take the introductory class the semester before the actual research one to prepare myself for the more advanced research topics. Both classes will involve presenting a dissertation of sorts at an undergraduate conference (both will be different research projects). I pushed these two towards the end because I wanted to build up some foundational knowledge in Physics before I can even start doing any research.

    I will also be applying to an REU/internship for the summer.

    'Modern Physics' encompasses relativity, astro, atomic, nuclear, and basic particle physics and I had been warned that this class involves extremely heavy mathematics.

    Do you guys think this is too much workload? Too little? My goal is to transfer into a more competitive undergraduate school, otherwise I'd just take the bare minimum classes required to transfer to some cheap 4-year city college and take the upper-level courses there.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 7, 2012 #2
    Your last semester looks challenging because you have 3 second year physics courses, which all have a heavy workload and require a large time investment for labs and write-ups. You are also going to be spending SO much time on the physics research course, with pressures of coming up with a topic, spending time in the lab, presenting your findings, etc. The good news is that, from my experience at least, intro to differential equations isn't particularly hard.

    All that said, your last semester is going to be very difficult, but doable. The fact of the matter is that it's impossible to get a degree on time without having a few semesters that are as hairy as the one you've scheduled.
  4. Jun 7, 2012 #3
    What do you mean by "difficult?" Are the subjects' concepts just unintuitively difficult to understand that I'll have a hard time grasping them just in time? Or is it because time factor will be an issue?

    I schedule my studies by dividing them pretty much evenly every semester; i.e. if there's approx. 110 days in a semester, I'm in school for 11 hours or a total of 1,210 hours in classes and studying. I usually consistently study during the day so taking into consideration time lost from walking, short breaks, etc. I think I'd say I study for about 10 hours per day. So I split those 1,100 hours between all of the subjects which means that leaves 275 hours per subject if I'm taking 4 classes or divided into 220 hours per course if I'm taking 5. I can always adjust depending on the ease of the class or if I'm having trouble understanding something in particular, but that hasn't been an issue so far. So on average I'm spending about 3 respective hours self-studying per every 1 hour spent in a given class.

    Considering an average learning curve, would you say that my time constraint is enough to study to maintain 'A's for all the classes listed? Or is it more difficult than that?
  5. Jun 7, 2012 #4
    I think you will have to see for yourself. Your 2nd semester and 3th semester seem very doable. If you manage to do them alright and get mostly A's, then I'd say to go for your proposed 4th semester.
    However, if you feel overwhelmed, then you should take a lighter load.

    Be prepared to study more in your 4th semester than in your previous semesters however. And don't be afraid to drop/retake a class if necessary.
  6. Jun 8, 2012 #5
    I might consider dropping the Chem classes altogether because I had considered going into the Materials Science field, however my school does not offer any materials science classes therefore I would be well behind if I do transfer into a Materials Science program elsewhere. Might just get a degree in the Physics department instead (I think Materials Science is usually categorized under Chemistry) and possibly do my Masters in the Chemistry/Materials Science field before I go to graduate school, unless a graduate program will accept me into their Materials Science program directly after I graduate.
  7. Jun 8, 2012 #6
    I would suggest that the difficulty of a particular course load depends on the aptitude of the student. My "easiest" semesters were those loaded with math and physics. The difficult ones were those with Russian, to satisfy my language requirement, or 100 pages of readings in an English class. Everyone's brain works differently. I am somewhat amused by the general notion that math is hard or physics is hard, or.... For me, learning a foreign language or memorizing names and dates is excruciating. Do what you enjoy, if you don't have sufficient time, drop a class.

    If these chem classes are first year then you will probably have to complete them if you intend to earn a degree in physics in the US.
  8. Jun 8, 2012 #7
    Oh, well, in that case I guess I am back to:

    I admit at this point I am now slightly intimidated because I would really, really like to maintain a 4.0 (or close to it)..
  9. Jun 8, 2012 #8
    I guess part of my point was that you are worried that math and physics will lower your gpa then maybe it's not right for you. I am a little puzzled though. This looks like quite a comprehensive course of study for a community college. If you can only go there for 2 years and then transfer, wouldn't you be better off trying to fulfill as many required courses as you can in the humanities, social sciences, etc? I'm only speaking of the 4th semester. Those 3 physics classes are generally junior and senior level courses and you're not going to run out of time once you transfer unless you're running around trying to take an English class or a foreign language. I would also drop the notion of the research at a community college. It will not be anything of consequence at this point and it will not help you to transfer. Remember, as an undergrad transfer, no department has to give approval. The important thing is your gpa and satisfying first and second year requirements.
  10. Jun 8, 2012 #9
    I believe they're freshman sophmore courses we usually call Phys II, III/IV.
  11. Jun 8, 2012 #10
    No, he has his 3 semesters of calculus based physics in semesters 1-3. He's talking about higher level courses.
  12. Jun 8, 2012 #11
    Oh, I didn't see that. I've never heard of a CC offering UD thermo, E&M or anything though? And Modern physics is not usually UD? Seems a bit odd.
  13. Jun 8, 2012 #12
    No he's not, because if you look at the prerequisites you'll notice they are second year physics courses.
  14. Jun 8, 2012 #13
    I thought it was a bit odd that there are these advanced classes here as well, but they must be here for a reason even though the school only offers 2-year degrees. Otherwise, what's the point of holding those classes when you can most likely take them after you transfer?

    But for instance, take a look at the UIUC transfer course requirements (http://admissions.illinois.edu/pdf/transfer/handbook/las2.pdf [Broken] and scroll down to the 'Physics' section): Calculus I/II/III, Physics Mechanics, E&M, Thermodynamics, and Quantum Physics. I need to have those fulfilled before I can even apply to transfer, apparently.

    I've also been hearing conflicting advice on transferring...some people are telling me that "good" undergraduate schools will look at things like research when applying as a transfer. Otherwise, how do they distinguish picking out a dozen students out of a candidate pool of several hundred applicants? Most of those applicants must have near 4.0s, so wouldn't research experience show that I have drive in the field and stand me out from the rest of the transfer applicants?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  15. Jun 8, 2012 #14
    I mean that those courses require a lot of time, regardless of whether you think the material is easy. But given the amount of time you say you're studying, you should be able to do it. However I noticed you didn't take into account labs. Expect to spend 5-10 hours on each lab.
  16. Jun 8, 2012 #15

    I looked at the UIUC link you provided above. They are requiring the normal 3 semester engineering (calculus based) physics sequence. The normal sequence of topics is mechanics first semester, E&M second, and a mix of modern topics in the third. They are not listing additional courses, they are telling you the normal topics covered in the freshman-sophomore sequence.

    Would you care to share the CC that you attend? We could probably help you to figure it out pretty quickly. It would be a shame for you to take extra classes that might not even transfer. I would certainly venture to guess that the research course you are planning will not transfer for credit. Not sure about the others.
  17. Jun 8, 2012 #16
    I attend Queensborough Community College (http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/physics/ ; if you click on the 'Physics Course' link on the right hand side, a PDF file with all the Physics courses will show)

    If you take a look at MIT's undergraduate Physics program sequences of courses (http://web.mit.edu/physics/prospective/undergrad/index.html), in just the sophmore year students take:
    Physics III (I guess the equivalent of our Calculus Physics III)
    Relativity (http://student.mit.edu/catalog/search.cgi?search=8.033&style=verbatim)
    Quantum Physics I (http://student.mit.edu/catalog/search.cgi?search=8.04&style=verbatim)
    Statistical Physics I (http://student.mit.edu/catalog/search.cgi?search=8.044&style=verbatim)
    Classical Mechanics II (http://student.mit.edu/catalog/search.cgi?search=8.223&style=verbatim)

    Even if they don't transfer over, I'm willing to take a few of the "upper" classes (if they even are considered that) to impress the schools I'd like to transfer to, and to try and keep up without feeling terribly behind the 1st tier Physics schools.
    I believe the Research class does not count for class credits, only lab hours/credits. I'd like something to show for when I apply as a transfer which is mainly why I want to get the research experience, and to prepare myself for a more advanced REU program such as something in the U.S. Department of Energy (http://science.energy.gov/wdts/cci/) or the RISE program at DAAD (http://www.daad.de/rise/en/) if I ever get the opportunity to apply to any of those during my stay at CC or the school I will transfer to. This is in hopes that it will pave a way for me to get into a top graduate school.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2012
  18. Jun 8, 2012 #17
    Okay, I did some checking for you PhyzKid. It looks like UIUC will accept as transfer credit your phys 1, 2, and 3 and give you credit for their phys 1 and 2, you would still have to take their phys 3. They will give you university credit (not physics credit) for your thermo class. They will not give credit for the other classes or for the research class. This isn't unusual so don't get discouraged. Go to the UIUC website. Click admissions>transfer>transfer credit to find the course equivalency guide. So, as I said earlier, your best bet really is to concentrate on the normal freshman and sophomore courses, get a good gpa, and go for it. This may be anecdotal but my daughter just completed her freshman year at the University of Michigan. They receive about 40,000 apps for about 6,000 spots. But their transfer admission rate is well over 50%, even higher for the winter semester. You are not at a disadvantage by being a transfer student. In fact, you are proving that you can do freshman/sophomore level work already.
  19. Jun 8, 2012 #18
    I'm not sure what the difference between university credits and physics credits are...I thought credits were just credits?
  20. Jun 8, 2012 #19
    University credits will count toward the total needed for graduation but won't count towards the physics credits need for the major.
  21. Jun 8, 2012 #20
    That's so peculiar they wouldn't give any Physics credit for Thermodynamics!

    So would there be absolutely no point in taking the E&M, Thermodynamics, and Modern Physics classes? It wouldn't even be considered by transfer admissions that I took more "advanced" classes and make my transcript stand out in comparison to the competition?

    When you say "no department has to give approval," what does that exactly mean? Is it just that the general transfer advisors will look at my transcript and not the Physics department? Even so, wouldn't they know that I went above and beyond to take those classes and hold me in higher regards than someone who just takes the minimum classes required to fulfill the Physics degree?
  22. Jun 8, 2012 #21
    And what about more competitive schools? i.e. Caltech, which had about 208 transfer applicants from 2-year colleges over 3 years (so like 70 applicants every year), but they only accepted 15 students (or 5 students per year) from that pool (which is like a 7% admission rate, slightly higher than MIT which I think is like 1-2%).
    It'd be very hard-pressed to track down any of those dozen or so students and somehow ask to convince them to provide some advice and see what their academic resume looked like that they were accepted, so I can make a realistic decision (maybe they were all anomalies, like legitimate genius-level intellectuals who somehow ended up in a 2-year college, which I definitely am not). Or maybe if what you say is true, and all of these students only took the typical freshman/sophmore classes, did they get literally straight 'A's in every single class? How were they picked from those couple hundred applicants?
  23. Jun 8, 2012 #22
    I doubt there would be any point if you get no credit. The university has looked at those classes and decided that they are not equivalent to their courses. My suspicion, although I don't know, is that at the CC these are classes geared more toward the technology students so they really aren't what the university considers advanced.

    When I say that the department need not approve, I mean that you are applying for admission to the university, not the physics department. When you send the application for admission the decision is made by university admissions, not the physics department. Once admitted to the university you simply declare a major in physics. So spend your time getting good grades in what they consider freshman and sophomore coursework. Show good standardized test scores. I really do recommend getting the required coursework out of the way while it's cheaper. I had a mix up when I was supposed to graduate as an undergrad and spent my summer before grad school taking an art history class because I needed 3 credits in humanities to graduate. It wasn't fun.

    Getting into CalTech is not easy. I think the school is the anomaly. My guess is that every one of their students did, in fact, get all A's and has scored 99th percentile on at least the qualitative portions of the SAT or ACT if not on the whole test. If you can't get into CalTech or MIT to study physics you shouldn't be ashamed of UIUC. They have a great program.
  24. Jun 8, 2012 #23
    The problem is different schools have different core curriculums so I don't know which ones I should take because I might take too few and be behind graduation, or too many and have it be a waste of time and money.

    My last standardized test was the SAT from 2005, and it was a pretty bad grade. Should I re-take it for transfer's sake even though some schools don't require an SAT score for transferring (I think Caltech and UIUC among others don't require them at all, but other schools like MIT require a recent SAT [newer than 3 years] as well as two other SAT II exams which I have not taken)?
  25. Jun 8, 2012 #24
    Every school has a transfer equivalency guide similar to the one at UIUC, you just have to find them. I can only speak in general terms but I would expect most good universities to have similar policies regarding transfer credit and I would expect most of them to require an SAT or ACT score (although you say that UIUC does not).
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