Community College Experiences?

In summary, the conversation discusses the experiences of a student who transferred from a community college to a university for their studies in physics. They initially pursued medicine but found a passion for math and physics. They also mention the benefits of community college, such as dedicated professors and lower costs, but also mention some challenges, including a fractured student community and unmotivated students. The conversation ends with a word of advice for the student to connect with other physics students, get involved in research, and utilize the resources available at the university's library.
  • #1
colin.mcenroe
81
0
I am new here and unfamiliar with the site. I am wondering if anyone has experience with community colleges in their areas, and how the experiences varied.

A little history:

I did fairly well in high school, had no clue what I wanted to do with myself, had a girlfriend that I was (and still am) in love with, and etc. Her and I decided to go to the community college for financial reasons, ease of transfer, and in order to stay near one another.

At first I wasn't sure what I wanted to do; I mostly saw $$$ and felt like I wanted to attain a status of prestige perhaps, so I chose to pursue medicine.

For about 2 months :smile:

I took calculus my first semester, and all of a sudden math just hit me. I didn't like it in high school and figured I would never take it again, but for some reason I signed up for Calculus and everything clicked, and I new I wanted to do more math.

I also loved physics in high school, though it was all conceptual physics, I was very interested in the relationships and felt that the intuitive sense was very nice as compared with biology or chemistry.

After one semester of chem, I didn't want anymore of it, so i opted out of medicine in order to avoid 3 more semesters of it. I also began to realize the impracticality of studying medicine. I felt like the odds were against me, and I didn't want it badly enough to continue. Since I enjoyed math and physics, I figured engineering would be a good synthesis of the two.

I started out doing mechanical engineering my second semester, moved on my my fourth semester to electrical engineering, and now in my (I know, third year sophomore) 5th semester I know that physics is what I wanted all along. During my third and fourth I began to realize this, but held on to engineering as a practical alternative. I took statics, which I did well in but hated, and circuits, which had the same result, I did well but hated it. I knew after about 2 weeks of my fourth semester that engineering was not for me.

During my fourth semester I applied for a Transfer Admission Agreement with UC Davis as a physics major. They accepted my application which means that I will be leaving for Davis' winter 07 quarter this coming January. (My girlfriend, who has been led to fashion design, was thrilled to find out that UCDavis was the only UC, probably the only school in the area, that had an actual fashion design major, and is going to live right downstairs from me. :cool:. )

Right now I am taking ordinary differential equations, second semester chemistry (Chem 1B), English Lit, Fundamentals of Music, and Java.

Overall my experience with the community college has been excellent. I have been lucky to have excellent professors in most areas, notably in physics, math, and engineering.

Since the professors have no research to worry about, many of them actually enjoy teaching. My physics professor had been teaching at that particular community college for his entire 35 year career and it was apparent that he continues to teach because he enjoys it. I have had rigorous training in math, with the exception of vector calculus, which I am currently making up right now by auditing a course taught by a professor who does not skip this material.

The main negative side of the experience involves the fact that the community of community college students is rather fractured and disjointed. There is also a problem of unmotivated students. Since the cost is low and there is no threat of acedemic probation due to a lack of progress, I have met students with twice as many units than required to transfer who are beginning their 4th, 5th, and even 6th year at the community college. The statistic I have heard regarding students moving on to receive a bachelor's degree is rather harrowing: the number I have heard is around 20%

Although I have had a great experience, I am nervous about transferring. I have registered for Advanced Linear Algebra (half of which I covered in my linear algebra course at the community college), Intro to Abstract Mathematics (a proof course), and two general education courses. I need to take Modern Physics in the spring and then in the fall I will begin my rigorous upper division physics study. I am uncertain how well my education thus far has prepared me for what is to come; hopefully it will have fared as well as I feel it has.

Does anyone have any suggestions? What should I do when I get up to Davis while I get adjusted? Thanks to anyone who stuck with me through this sentimental rambling, hopefully some of you will have had a similar experience and can give details!

Thanks,

Colin
 
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  • #2
One word of advice - I transferred from community college to a UC and did very poorly the first semester I was there because I just wasn't prepared for what was expected of me. Every transfer student at my school that I've talked to has said that community college does a bad job of preparing you to transfer into physics/math. I'd recommend finding a group of physics students in your classes and get to know them, work on homework with them, etc. because you usually end up seeing the same group of people in your classes and it's good to have friends. Find out what research is going on at Davis and try to get involved ASAP. Also, look into the libraries. The physics library at my school has an amazing number of books on any topic you can think of. Congratuatlions, enjoy yourself, and don't get discouraged if your first semester doesn't go as well as you hoped.
 
  • #3
In what way did you feel underprepared? How did it compare with students moving up from the lower division courses to the upper division courses?

I think it may be helpful that I have two extra quarters before I start my upper division courses. I think it will give me a chance to become acclimated with the school, the systems, etc. The courses I am taking don't seem too difficult save for the proofs course. Only time will tell!
 
  • #4
I am currently going to a community college, and I know that the physics program there is one of the worst around, the labs ae only slightly more difficult than the ones i supervised in my high school physics class.

I also know the problems given on the tests and all are about 1/4 the difficulty of the problems that you would be expected to do in an AP exam, and because those are supposed to be equivalent in difficulty to real college courses the class's are pretty much worthless.

sometimes you can get lucky in a community college and find a professor who gives you a quality course and is knowledgeable enough to give you a good course, its the exception rather than the rule.

the main problem with community college teachers, is that they don't do research, they don't know what's important in the book, so they teach the entire thing and place equal emphasis on every part of the book. They also don't know when and how the simplifying assumptions that led to one derivation for say the power in a wave don't translate to anouther problem that you have.

maybe your CC was better than mine, but be ready for a challenge
 
  • #5
no offense, but community college is a joke. Its difficulty is nowhere near a university. Undoubtedly, it is a great transition between university and high school. But all community colleges that I have attended are childlish. If you want to learn more, transfer fast. However, if you just go to school for a piece for paper, it is good to start from there.
 
  • #6
Here is the professor's website if any are interested.

http://www.smccd.net/accounts/goodman"

Here are three exams that he has provided for students if you don't want to poke around looking for examples. These are comparable to the one's that I took, although they are from his second exam, which was easier than the first and last in both of these courses (in E&M they were all hard except for the easy section on circuits).

(Don't worry, he gives these to students to study from.)
 

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  • #7
heh I did that first problem in my halliday and resnick book the other day.

its in chapt 14 one of the three dot problems.
 
  • #8
leon1127 said:
no offense, but community college is a joke. Its difficulty is nowhere near a university. Undoubtedly, it is a great transition between university and high school. But all community colleges that I have attended are childlish. If you want to learn more, transfer fast. However, if you just go to school for a piece for paper, it is good to start from there.

Can you give any examples of what you are talking about? I am curious about some specifics.

I have always held to the idea that my education is my responsibility. What courses made life difficult for you?
 
  • #9
CPL.Luke said:
heh I did that first problem in my halliday and resnick book the other day.

its in chapt 14 one of the three dot problems.

That was the text we used in class. When my dad took physics back in the 70's it was the same book they learned from then at UC Berkeley, and another guy I know who studied Geological Engineering at UCLA used the same one too :)
 
  • #10
I agree Community college is a lot easier. I actually found Penn State Dubois a branch campus of Penn State easier than high school.

But I only want to Dubois for a year. Then to Penn State Behrend, which is also a branch campus but actually goes faster, covers more material and is more challenging than Penn State Main Campus. So its not always true that the "main" university will be more difficult.

So my advice is, enjoy the ride and GPA boost while ur at community college then get ready to work hard when you transfer.

Also it will help with scholarships a TON.
 
  • #11
Hey, that's my community college teacher! Goodman's cool, he's really nice and really cares about his students. I think the only problem with the physics courses are that they are not rigorous enough and the problem sets aren't hard enough. I'd be more worried about your math classes than the physics classes. The teachers at Skyline (if that's where you're at) are great, but the courses simply aren't rigorous enough!
 
  • #12
colin.mcenroe said:
Can you give any examples of what you are talking about? I am curious about some specifics.

I have always held to the idea that my education is my responsibility. What courses made life difficult for you?

I sat there and did nothing, but i still receive As. An econ teacher in my CC was always like, 'if you don't take note, you are going to fail.' for 35 mins each class. In the end, I still received an A without taking any note (but don't get me wrong, i do study after class.) He wasted so many times that he couldn't teach until the last 20 mins of the class.
Perhpas the fact that I want my teacher to leave me alone makes my opinion biased.

PS: I went to community college and an university for 3 semesters at the same time.
 
  • #13
I'm also currently attending a community college and am worried about the transition I will have to make once I transfer to a university. (I plan on transferring to UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, or UC San Diego). My professors currently are really easy as well. In fact, my physics professor has our exams being open-book and he also PICKS SOME EXAM QUESTIONS RIGHT FROM THE BOOK! So we can check the back of the book if the problem from the book is odd-numbered to see if we got it right or not! Well anyways I still push myself to be trained as a university student by going beyond what the professor expects. I also do plenty of self-studying subjects not related to what I'm currently taking.
 
  • #14
eep said:
One word of advice - I transferred from community college to a UC and did very poorly the first semester I was there because I just wasn't prepared for what was expected of me. Every transfer student at my school that I've talked to has said that community college does a bad job of preparing you to transfer into physics/math.

What classes did you take in your first semester?
 
  • #15
I think the problem some students run into when coming into the the UC schools (except for Berkeley - I think they are on a semester system) is just getting used to the pace of the quarter system. "Wait, what - there's a midterm next week? But we just got started!"
 
  • #16
proton said:
What classes did you take in your first semester?

The science-related courses I took were lower-division linear algebra/differential equations, 3rd semester honors physics (which was em waves, special relativity, and very basic quantum mechanics), and a general astronomy class.

I think the biggest problem that I had, and a lot of transfer students that I've talked to had, was that they spent the first month or so thinking that things were as easy as they were in community college - little to no note-taking, hardly any studied, spending as little time as possible on the homework sets, just expecting to do well on midterms. Then all of a sudden I found that we had moved past the material I knew and I was lost. I spent the rest of the semester trying to catch up but was never able to.
 
  • #17
The role and quality of community colleges probably varies a lot from one state to another. I think I read somewhere that California's situation is somewhat different from most other states in that the four-year state schools are all at least somewhat prestigious and don't have enough room to accommodate demand, so the state uses the community colleges to soak up the extra students and filter some of them out. It's probably cheaper to hire faculty for the CCs than for the four-year schools, and the CCs don't need as many ancillary facilities like dormitories because most students commute from home or off-campus housing.

In the Midwest, most states have two tiers of four-year state universities: the prestigious flagship campuses (e.g. U of Michigan, Michigan State) that can be hard to get into and/or more expensive even for in-state students, and the lesser schools that are easier to get into (Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, Grand Valley State, etc.)
 
  • #18
eep said:
Hey, that's my community college teacher! Goodman's cool, he's really nice and really cares about his students. I think the only problem with the physics courses are that they are not rigorous enough and the problem sets aren't hard enough. I'd be more worried about your math classes than the physics classes. The teachers at Skyline (if that's where you're at) are great, but the courses simply aren't rigorous enough!

Hey, that's pretty cool! So you know about the physics profs at CSM that everyone dreads taking courses from. I have been to all three of the schools in the district. I took one math course at Skyline from professor Tadashi Tsuchida. While he was a great person and a very nice professor who made the material clear, I felt that the course was completely too easy and lacked depth required of multivariable calculus/vector analysis. I am auditing a course taught by my DiffEq professor who has, mid semester, reached the material on vector calc and gone to great lengths to really dig into the material.

Goodman's class didn't always have hard homework problems, but the problem sets he had students doing every other week in lab were really hard, and probably would have been impossible had it not been for the group work. His exams always managed to throw people for a loop after they sat around memorizing equations all night and realized they didn't know anything relevant. Hell, look at his Physics 250 grades, I count 10 failing grades out of thirty students. Of course that seems to be an exception to the rule; usually people seem to do well.
 
  • #19
eep said:
The science-related courses I took were lower-division linear algebra/differential equations, 3rd semester honors physics (which was em waves, special relativity, and very basic quantum mechanics), and a general astronomy class.

I think the biggest problem that I had, and a lot of transfer students that I've talked to had, was that they spent the first month or so thinking that things were as easy as they were in community college - little to no note-taking, hardly any studied, spending as little time as possible on the homework sets, just expecting to do well on midterms. Then all of a sudden I found that we had moved past the material I knew and I was lost. I spent the rest of the semester trying to catch up but was never able to.

Interesting, I have always felt that note taking detracted from the experience of a lecture, but perhaps my mind will change once I get started at UCD.
 
  • #20
jtbell said:
The role and quality of community colleges probably varies a lot from one state to another. I think I read somewhere that California's situation is somewhat different from most other states in that the four-year state schools are all at least somewhat prestigious and don't have enough room to accommodate demand, so the state uses the community colleges to soak up the extra students and filter some of them out. It's probably cheaper to hire faculty for the CCs than for the four-year schools, and the CCs don't need as many ancillary facilities like dormitories because most students commute from home or off-campus housing.

Yes, if I remember correctly UC was regularly deferring student's applications for a semester and having them enroll in courses at the local community college. One friend of mine was accepted to Berkeley but deferred, meaning that he would be considered a UCB student, taking UCB courses, but at CSM (College of San Mateo). It was very strange. He went on the next semester to register for classes at UCB. Also, from what I know this was not based upon anything more than a lottery, but I might be wrong about that.

I always figured that if the UC system will articulate an agreement between two courses, that the UC agrees that the courses are equivalent.

EDIT:
PS.

As far as I know CSM is one of the best community colleges in the state based upon transfer rates to UC. I don't know how meaningful this is in a science context, but I am sure it means something in terms of "the other side of campus" (i.e. liberal arts majors, business, life sciences, etc.).
 
  • #21
Ah, yes. I heard physics at CSM was really bad. I had multivariable calculus with Tadashi as well and I completely agree with what you said - just simply not enough rigor. I did extremely well in Goodman's physics classes (I took 250 and 260 before I transferred, got A's in both), but I know what you mean by those problem sets he gave in lab. The weekly problem sets at Berkeley are at least on that level, if not harder, and you don't have webassign to tell you whether you got the right answer or not. Much more derivations rather than plug-and-chug formula work. I also thought note-taking was a waste of time until I had a midterm to study for. Studying straight out of the book is hard, you have no idea what your professor feels is important. I'm sure you'll do fine once you transfer, it'll just be nothing like what you expected!
 
  • #22
This is weird talking with someone else who has taken Professor Goodman's class. When did you transfer? More importantly, what terms did you take these courses? I wonder if I know who you are.
 
  • #23
colin.mcenroe said:
Interesting, I have always felt that note taking detracted from the experience of a lecture, but perhaps my mind will change once I get started at UCD.

If you don't take notes, and the lecturer does a step you don't understand, it can be difficult to pick up on what you msised, and to keep up the rest of the lecture. Plus, if you write it down, it gives you a second chance to understand what he's doing. I've found that note taking is good when important things come up, but writing down every word that's spoken is a bit silly

Of course, it all depends on your learning style too.
 
  • #24
My first semester at Berkeley was Fall '05. I had Goodman for 250 Fall '04 and 260 Spring '05. I think I had Tadashi during Spring '05 too. When did you take the classes?
 
  • #25
Goodman is probably the best physics instructor in the district, but many don't llike him cause his tests are hard and that he is a hard grader. I've known a few people to go all the way to Canada college to take Partlan for physics, because he is easy...

Tadashi is way too easy. Most of the math instructors at Skyline are too easy or just not good at all. I had a Calc 2 instructor that decided to skip trig substitution and just told us to use the tables in the back of the book! This came back to bite me when I took diff eq.

Rick Hough is probably the hardest math instructor there, but he usually gets stuck with teaching applied calc or algebra. He also shares an office with Tadashi. CSM or Canada college is way better for mathematics. Engineering can be taken at either Canada or CSM, but you might get spoiled by the amount time you get for exams at Canada.

I'm in my first quarter at ucla and it took me awhile to adjust to the quater system and get used to the new formats of exams. In the community college i usually had exams that could be complete within 1-2 hours. In the UC i have to fight the clock and basically just answer as many questions as I can in the alotted time.

Now that I think of it, probably the only instructor I had at the CC that made the course load resemble the university system was the chemistry instructor at skyline, AJ Bates.

Edit: I just noticed your username. Did you take circuits last spring.
 
  • #26
Rick Hough is the man. I came to that guy with the weirdest questions and always had answers. I don't understand why everyone thinks Goodman's tests are hard, the questions always seemed really straightforward. Chemistry with AJ was fun, but the homework was exhausting. Teknodude, perhaps we know each other? I used to spend most of my time in the MESA center.
 
  • #27
eep said:
Rick Hough is the man. I came to that guy with the weirdest questions and always had answers. I don't understand why everyone thinks Goodman's tests are hard, the questions always seemed really straightforward. Chemistry with AJ was fun, but the homework was exhausting. Teknodude, perhaps we know each other? I used to spend most of my time in the MESA center.

Hmm maybe we do. I spent a ridiculous amount of hours in the MESA center. Were you a tutor of physics, chem, and math there? If you were, then i think we know each other.
 
  • #28
Yeah I used to tutor in MESA.
 
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  • #29
HOLY ****

on second thought, check your pm
 
  • #30
Yeah, I had circuits last spring. Now that was a hard class. TONS of work.

I took 250 Spring 05, 270 Fall 05, and 260 Spring 06.

Goodman's tests were not all straightforward, he was somewhat tricky.

I also knew people taking Partlan's class. From what I heard, it was a joke. Not only was it easy, but he sounded awful, like he must have hated teaching or something. I knew students to take Physics 260 (E&M for those who are not in on this San Mateo Community College District topic) over the summer with him because it was just so easy.

Small world?
 
  • #31
For what it's worth...I wanted to give my opinion on the whole community college thing. I'm currently attending a local CC (Diablo Valley College)...my understanding is that it's regarding as one of the top on California and though I don't know the exact figures...I know they transfer a bunch of students to the UC system. I'm a Civil Engineering major and am currently working on the engineering core classes (all the math, physics, chem, and engineering lower division).

My experience has been that the students themselves are to blame for the CC's having to lower their expectations from them and as a consequence not being able to prepare them for when they transfer. When the time comes to choose courses, most students would rather go by "who's easiest" and by online reviews of professors instead of by the quality of instruction that they would be receiving had they taken the "harder" professor. However, I've been fortunate enough to take professors who in a CC classroom are teaching at a UC level. My physics professor this semester told us that he is basically teaching from the material he was taught from at Berkeley and he models his tests the same way. A chemistry professor I took was also the same way. If the CCs would have nothing but professors of this caliber, I can see the lack of preparation problem going away once people transfer to a UC.

Now...I haven't transferred yet, but my wife just did, from the same CC I'm attending to Cal (as a Statistics/Math major). She feels that she didn't have the preparation necessary from the CC. She transferred with a 4.0 (the woman doesn't even know what it's like to get a B), but once she got to Cal...she didn't necessarily hit the ground running as expected. Simply put...the classes at Cal are way harder than anything that she took at the CC. However...she has pointed out to me several times that she wishes that she had taken professors like the ones I mentioned above because she feels that professors like that would have prepared her better for what was to come. She has run into people from our CC and they feel the same way, the teachers were too easy.

The only thing that I have noticed and am pretty certain about is that part-time instructors are the worst thing that a CC can have. For the most part they are working in the field as engineers and chemists or whatnot but it seems that when it's time to teach...the classroom "gets in the way of their lives". When I've been unfortunate enough to have to take en evening class with a part-time instructor...it's been nothing but frustrations and disappointments. Basically the class ends and you feel that it was a waste of time. It's the full-time instructors who provide the better education...and of the full-time instructors...the ones that people seem to avoid are the ones that should be taken.

I haven't the slightest idea of what studying engineering will be once I transfer to a UC. I know it's going to be hard...but the only thing I feel that I can do...is take the hardest professors at the local CC and do my best once I transfer.

Community Colleges are a good stepping stone...if you know how to use them.
 
  • #32
How much difference is there between CC and university classes if I were to just take the first 3 to 4 calc classes and the first 2 calc based physics classes at CC?

Also, how much responsibility falls on the student to make sure (s)he is prepared for university classes?
 
  • #33
I went to CC for the first 2 years and transferred flawlessly, I don't understand how people somehow think that calculus is different in CC than a university, its been pretty much the same for hundreds of years, same books, same chapters, same questions. The same goes for basic physics, chem and don't even get me started on soc/hum classes.

The tests at the University are way harder but that's kinda misleading, I would say that the average scores in my upper level classes are in the 50's-60's compared the the CC where that averages were 80-85%. So you probabally won't get 95-100 anymore but you can still expect to score 10-15% above average if you try hard and will still get an A-B even if you get a 75% on the test.

You can expect the tests to get harder, the competition to be a bit tougher (and since they usually grade on a curve there is competition now) but if you learned the material in CC and continue to work hard, no problem!

I would say that my average professor in CC was much better than my professors now who are some of the best paid professors in the Country (Pitt). Sure there are exceptions, but you will find that many univesity professors are really brilliant people who generage a lot of research money for the school, but couldn't teach a dog to play catch. Your CC teacher has only one job.

They are there to do research, teaching is just a required chore for some of them and you will find that they are far les acessable than a CC teacher. You will usually ber referred to the TA who has no teaching experience whatsoever.

In the end, its up to you how much you get out of a class.
 
  • #34
JSBeckton said:
I went to CC for the first 2 years and transferred flawlessly, I don't understand how people somehow think that calculus is different in CC than a university, its been pretty much the same for hundreds of years, same books, same chapters, same questions. The same goes for basic physics, chem and don't even get me started on soc/hum classes.

The tests at the University are way harder but that's kinda misleading, I would say that the average scores in my upper level classes are in the 50's-60's compared the the CC where that averages were 80-85%. So you probabally won't get 95-100 anymore but you can still expect to score 10-15% above average if you try hard and will still get an A-B even if you get a 75% on the test.

You can expect the tests to get harder, the competition to be a bit tougher (and since they usually grade on a curve there is competition now) but if you learned the material in CC and continue to work hard, no problem!

I would say that my average professor in CC was much better than my professors now who are some of the best paid professors in the Country (Pitt). Sure there are exceptions, but you will find that many univesity professors are really brilliant people who generage a lot of research money for the school, but couldn't teach a dog to play catch. Your CC teacher has only one job.

They are there to do research, teaching is just a required chore for some of them and you will find that they are far les acessable than a CC teacher. You will usually ber referred to the TA who has no teaching experience whatsoever.

In the end, its up to you how much you get out of a class.

I couldn't agree with your last statement more. It is good to hear from one person who had a good experience transferring.
 
  • #35
I went to a california JC before transferring to UCLA as a junior and feel the preparation was adequate. The coursework simply becomes more challenging when you transfer to upper division. I was also nervous when transferring but later realized that around 70% of my classmates were also in-state JC transfers who were in the same position as I was.

One disadvantage of doing the JC transfer is applying to grad school. While I noticed many students (who started off as freshman at UCLA) applying at the end of their junior / beginning of senior year to grad programs, I didn't notice any transfers applying this early. Most were simply not ready to apply to a new school after being at a new campus for only one year. I imagine that one year is not sufficient time to adjust to the pace of a new school, find a lab to do research in, and prepare for the GREs.

However, taking an extra year or so in classes is a relatively small price compared with the money saved at the JC. In addition, I would HIGHLY advise any people attending california JC's and planning to tranfer to an in-state college to finish IGETC. This process will save you from having to take numerous electrives at the university, and some UCs will not accept you if you do not complete it by the time of transferring.

Hope that was moderately helpful to the JC physics crowd!
 

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