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College: Late Start

  1. Jun 25, 2006 #1
    After the loss of a child, I recently became divorced. I'm thinking of going to college and pursuing a new career. I'd like to be an electronics engineer and I've decided to get a 4-year degree for this. I don't have the resources that most teens do in their parents, so I'll be attending a local 2-year community college first.

    Can anyone give me any advice on where to begin and how? My math is rather weak for the time being because it's been a while since I've been in school. Not a good sign for an aspiring engineer, I know, but I'm sure I can get back up to speed.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 25, 2006 #2
    Where to begin? If you already have a school in mind, then see if you can set up an appointment to talk to someone about getting you in, and what you need to do. The people there will know a lot more about your specific school.

    Academically, though, you will most likely need to take a placement exam. This exam will probably be over English, Math, and maybe Reading. To prepare for the exam (if you want to) you could check out an ACT preperation book. This book will have a lot of practice stuff that should get you going in Math, English and Reading. However, you should ask someone at the school as they will know what exactly is on the exam.

    You should also look at the transfer requirements, general requirements, and Electrical Engineering requirements at the four year university that you will attend when you decide to transfer to help with choosing what classes to take at the community college. Also, make sure that the 4 yr university will accept all the classes you are planning on taking (you don't want to have to take the same classes twice).

    Also, every semester I would try to take a math class, because if you are majoring in Engineering you will have quite a few math classes to take, and most of these classes must be taken in a specific order, and many of your Engineering classes will probably have math prereqs.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2006
  4. Jun 25, 2006 #3
    The community college will likely give you a placement exam. Even if you do poorly in math (I did), take the refresher courses and work your way up until your in calculus etc etc. I started out at community college in a pre-algebra course. Now, two years later, I'm finishing up calculus 2 at a university, and am doing better than anyone else in the class and they were better prepared. You just have to want it bad enough, and you'll get there.
  5. Jun 25, 2006 #4
    Thanks for the advice and inspiration. I made an appointment to take the placement exam in two weeks and I'm rummaging through my old high school math textbooks. I hope that will help refresh my memory enough to do well.

    I suppose the next step is to meet with an educational counselor and lay out my courses for the next two years so I can transfer.
  6. Jun 25, 2006 #5
    Also, try to plan in advance some general education courses (sociology, psychology, blah blah) that will transfer. Take them at community college, and then transfer them into whatever university you end up at. It is likely that the courses will be easier at community college. However, my english professor at community college was a real hardass, but I really enjoyed his class because of it. His course really improved my writing skills too. I had the highest grade out of all of his sections with an A-. He was tough!
  7. Jun 25, 2006 #6

    Just start with your math where you feel most comfortable. I started with arithmetic when I was 22 years old, and I just chugged along. Don't ever think you aren't a "math person" either... That's all b.s. American schools screw us over mathematically, and we think we suck at math when we really don't. Since I started with arithmetic when I was 22 (I continued by teaching myself algebra, trig and pre-calculus), I've taken 3 semesters of calculus, differential equations, 3 semesters of calc based physics, and linear algebra... All with straight A's. And I was very bad at math before I became interested around the age of 22.

    I'm 28 now and I just got accepted as a transfer from my community college to Northwestern University as an electrical engineer and they gave me a huge financial aid package (almost a full ride). So I would also advise you not to rule out the more expensive private universities. Do well at your community college, develope good relationships with your teachers, write good essays for your transfer applications, and you will stand a good chance of getting into an elite private school. I'm not advising this path simply because such schools are "elite" (you can get just as good an education at less selective schools), but they have a crapload of money and give really good aid. So if you are low income and get into an elite school, it's very likely that they will give you very good financial aid. (Even better than most freshman, since you would be considered as an independent student.) I would have ended up paying more if I went to my state school!

    But what you need to do right now is to start working on math problems every day. Get yourself warmed up by doing maybe only 15 minutes of math a day. But stick to it until it becomes a habit. If you eventually start doing an hour or so of math a day, you will be amazed at how much you will learn. But just don't get overwhelmed. Just do something every day. If after a few months of preperation you start at a community college, and take the appropriate class, you'll probably blow all the younger students out of the water. :biggrin:

    Engineers need to be very efficient self-learners. That's the skill you need to start developing now more than any other.

    Hope I've helped! And good luck!


    I forgot to mention that I dropped out of high school when I was 16. So trust me, just about anything is possible. Apply as a transfer from your cc to MIT, if you feel inclined (although I'll warn you, they only accept 4 or 5 transfers per year :biggrin:).
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2006
  8. Jun 25, 2006 #7
    Amazing advice.

    Just remember to use resources. This forum is amazing. Being good at math (for the average person) equates to practice; the more of it you do, the better you will be.
  9. Jun 25, 2006 #8
    Outstanding. Thanks, guys and gals. I do have a pre-algebra book laying around here where I can start brushing up again. I'm really looking forward to school here.

    I'll keep everyone posted and if there's anything else someone can add, please feel free to do so. I've received pretty good advice thus far.
  10. Jun 25, 2006 #9

    Math Is Hard

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    I think that's a great decision. I took about 15 years off after my Freshman year and when I went back I started with community college night classes. I spent about three years doing that while working full-time. It was tiring, but it was all worth it. I'm transferring to UCLA in the Fall to finish my degree.

    I've gotten a lot of help with coursework here over the years. Be sure to take advantage of the homework/coursework section as you are progressing through your classes. You'll get help from the best here.:smile:
  11. Jun 26, 2006 #10


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    Sincere condolences Blue. One of my best friends lost his wonderful little daughter to a negligent teenage driver. That has to be one of the most difficult things in life to have to go through.

    On your movement into electronics, I'd like to recommend that you read the book "The Art of Electronics" by Horowitz and Hill. It's a great and easy read, and it takes you from the basics of resistors and caps through opamps, transistors, and digital electronics. It's a very practical and honest book about electronics, and if you read it cover to cover, you will have a very good understanding of basic elecronics, and you will be able to figure out where you want to go with your EE studies.

    Please feel free to PM me if you have questions or want to talk about EE stuff or whatever. Best, -Mike Berke-
  12. Jun 26, 2006 #11
    I'm looking forward to taking advantage of this forum for the help that I may need. Of course, there is tutoring available at the school, I hear. It's free, but we have to sign up and wait so I'm not sure I'll have that kind of time. However, nothing beats free, that's for sure!

    Thanks for your offer, berkeman, I'm sure I'll take you up on the EE material sooner or later.

  13. Jun 26, 2006 #12
    Really try your best to nail the algebra. I think that's what will pay off in the long run. Try to take the toughest math teachers that are still fair. There may be some that will give you easy grades. Don't take those ones. I took the toughest math teacher at community college and worked really hard in algebra. By the time I got to Trig and Calculus it was not much of a challenge for me at all. That's my 2 cents. Oh yeah and I agree with the person who said take a math course every term/semester. But take summers away from it because you can get burned out from all the homework.
  14. Jun 26, 2006 #13
    My girlfriend is practically a mathematical genius... a member of all the math clubs in high school and is currently blowing away her peers in college. The problem is, there is a terribly huge issue of pride getting in the way of my asking her for help.
    Anyway, I think it's better off that I do it on my own and really work on it as you have all suggested. Besides, asking my girlfriend for help would probably bring more distractions than any actual learning.
    I'm sensing that math is really the big issue here and I can see why. I'll do my best to get back up to speed.
    Thanks again.
  15. Jun 27, 2006 #14
    Good luck Blue! Im currently attending a community college and majoring in Physics..I had about a 3-4 year break between high school and starting college because of retarded residency laws:grumpy: anyway, when I took the CPT I totally bombed the math section LOL I thought I was good (went through Calc in HS) I had to start at MATH1010!!! ouch.....fast forward.... this coming fall semester I will be in Calc2...When I look back,I am pleased that I went through all those classes again..Has made me understand things much better.
  16. Jun 27, 2006 #15
    That driver must have been drinking so much Tequilla. True, i have seen many cases like that.
  17. Jun 27, 2006 #16
    That reminds me of my failure over math169o8. Sadly enough I have never passed it, and of course no credit from anyone for me to go up although test problems are pretty similar each time
  18. Jul 4, 2006 #17
    I started class yesterday! I had a Computer Security class and Computer Information Systems... I think I like the latter much more.

    Anyway, I have a math, english, and reading placement test tomorrow. Wish me luck, all, and thanks for all the help and advice!
  19. Jul 4, 2006 #18

    Math Is Hard

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    That's awesome. You might like the security class more than you think. I've got a great book for you related to that. It's called The Cuckoo's Egg:
    It's a true story and it's so interesting it's hard to put down. Of course, you probably have plenty on your summer reading list already, but I highly recommend this if you have a chance to do some light reading.
  20. Jul 4, 2006 #19


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    My condolences. That's rough - twice even. :frown:

    Go for it! :cool:

    We're here to assist - if necessary. :wink:

    Good luck on the tests!
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