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Community College Experiences?

  1. Nov 29, 2006 #1
    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 :rofl:

    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% :surprised

    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!


  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 29, 2006 #2


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    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.
  4. Nov 29, 2006 #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!
  5. Nov 30, 2006 #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 highschool 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 knowledgable 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 whats 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
  6. Nov 30, 2006 #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.
  7. Nov 30, 2006 #6
    Here is the professor's website if any are interested.


    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.)

    Attached Files:

  8. Nov 30, 2006 #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.
  9. Nov 30, 2006 #8
    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?
  10. Nov 30, 2006 #9
    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 :)
  11. Nov 30, 2006 #10
    I agree Community college is alot easier. I actually found Penn State Dubois a branch campus of Penn State easier than highschool.

    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.
  12. Nov 30, 2006 #11


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    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!
  13. Nov 30, 2006 #12
    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.
  14. Nov 30, 2006 #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.
  15. Nov 30, 2006 #14
    What classes did you take in your first semester?
  16. Nov 30, 2006 #15

    Math Is Hard

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    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!" :surprised
  17. Nov 30, 2006 #16


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    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.
  18. Nov 30, 2006 #17


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    Staff: Mentor

    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.)
  19. Nov 30, 2006 #18
    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 in to 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.
  20. Nov 30, 2006 #19
    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.
  21. Nov 30, 2006 #20
    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.


    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.).
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