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Degree / College Advice Help

  1. Jul 14, 2009 #1
    I'm almost finished with my associates in science at my community college which means I have to pick a real college end of this coming semester. My question is if college name really matters? Going through middle school and highschool I was always thinking I'd go to MIT and what not, but I just don't have the money, nor do I want to move away from home that far. Does college name really matter when attached to your degree? So I started going to community college to try and give me a few extra years to decide on what to do.

    Well that time is almost up and I still haven't really decided. I live in kentucky and the 2 colleges I've been considered are Western Kentucky State, and University of Louisville. The main issue is that I really don't know what I want to do for my career. I enjoy being the smart person, learning all different kinds of stuff, but there isn't one thing I could really say I "love". I mean during middle school I studied calculus/geometry on my own and programmed video games and stuff in my spare time. Do I want to be a paid programmer? No way, I love programming my own stuff, I couldn't stand to program something I was uninterested in or someone elses idea.

    I've also enjoyed reading up various physics topics (string theory, quantum physics, etc...) I have a ton of books I've read on the subjects and I always imagined that it would be a cool job to be a research scientist or something and get to play with a particle accelerator :). From what I understand though is that this requires a really high college degree such as a phd. I don't really have the money though to go through college that long nor do I really want too.

    Another one of my job ideas was to get a job helping to develop something like virtual reality. So my present plan is to go louisville and dual major in bioengineering and computer science which I believe would make up the skillset required to work on a project like that. It's a new field though (these majors are combined in some colleges to create a "neural engineering" degree program), and it would suck to spend all this money at college and not be able to find a job in that field.

    The main trend is I want to get a job where I get to create and be inventive. I mean I have all these plans and ideas I'd like to try and learn about in my head (I'll give you a list in a second) but they arn't really associated with any one paticular job and it requires money to do on my own which I don't have. So mainly I guess the reason I'm going to college is just to get a high paying job so that I can try and learn about the things I really want do.

    I'll end with my list of dream things to do (some/most are ubsurd but they are things i'd like to try given the money)...

    1. Build a submarine
    2. Play with a particle accelerator
    3. Build a EEG machine and experiment with my own brain waves. ($400 to build one with OpenEEG, but I just don't have even that kind of money, it all goes to paying off community college as I didn't want to get a loan).
    4. Build a Wind Turbine
    5. Build some solar panels
    6. Experiment with genetic engineering

    there are more but you get the idea, thanks in advanced for any advice.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 14, 2009 #2


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    The name of a school doesn't matter all that much in physics and engineering. What I would do, if this is a concern is look at the departments you're interested in and see what recent graduates are doing. If many are going on to graduate school, professional school, or getting the kinds of jobs that sound interesting to you, you have likely found a match.

    As for figuring out what direction to go in, that's something you have to do on your own. One hint I have is to remember that university gives you an education - not necessarily job training. It sounds like you have a lot of interests. Explore them all.

    And remember that even in the 'best' jobs you will have at least some work that you don't absolutely love.
  4. Jul 19, 2009 #3


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    I know the feeling. "Congrats! You've been admitted to a $50,000 per year university! You've been given our maximum scholarship amount of .... $25,000 per year! Isn't that wonderful?" I also got invited to do this thing called Quest Bridge where they try to hook you up with a scholarship to a Ivy League or upper-tier university, but guess who regularly forgets about paperwork? As for college name, what matters more is what the University teaches you. Granted, there is a socially-conditioned response some people go through when they see 'Harvard' plastered on your resume, so I won't say that it doesn't matter at all. But it won't matter much.

    Thought I was alone here. :biggrin: (I'm at UK for computer engineering/math) What highschool did you go to, if you don't mind me asking.

    Welcome to the little >1% population of the Earth infected with a disease known as autodidacticism. But seriously, based on this and the fact that you have so many varied interests, I would recommend that you pick a general major like physics that allows you (as Choppy suggested) to explore a variety of paths. In a major like engineering (especially at Louisville, where you're in a mad-dash from the start to meet a deadline), you might find it difficult to check out something farther away from your degree; I know at UK as an engineering student your classes are almost entirely preplanned from the time you are a freshman, with only electives relating to your major. One note about Louisville though: they require all engineering students to buy a *really* expensive laptop (someone I know said it was >$2000, but you'll need to ask someone who actually works there) for engineering (you mentioned you are hard up for money), but I'm sure someone would help you out there. Also, I understand that you are treated like a child in some of your engineering classes at U of L (mandatory note checks and crud like that). While I could know some really bad sources, I have heard this from multiple sources, so I figure it's only fair to further spread the FUD; this would drive me up a wall. However, these are all things you should consider and ask about when you meet with someone from the University (I am not a University representative, or a planted troll from a rival school despite what those last sentences sound like). You might wonder why I didn't mention WKU until now; the school is awful and the engineering department is brand new, so I can't help but wonder how well it functions. However, WKU's engineering is ABET accredited, while U of L's was 'going' to be accredited for a while now, which does matter.

    Also, have you applied/are you eligible for scholarships?

    Remember: this is all opinionated, so take it with a grain (or twelve) of salt.
  5. Jul 19, 2009 #4


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    Just a couple of things to mention, Kalagaraz: if you like programming, that's something you can easily do as a hobby, so you don't necessarily need to make a career out of it. Ever thought about contributing to an open-source project? (You can also write your own programs, but if you want your work to be recognized it's easier to start with a project that people are already using) Also, physicists use computers a lot, so even if you go into a physics career you'll still probably have opportunities to write code.

    Also, regarding the possibility of getting a PhD: you only have to pay for school while you're getting an undergraduate degree. Once you get to grad school, you work as a TA or RA (research assistant) for which the school pays you. Or you might be able to get a fellowship (free money! :wink:).
  6. Jul 19, 2009 #5

    When I graduated highschool I didn't even try to get any scholarships because of my 2.0 GPA. I have like a 3.8 now in community college, but I'm not sure where to go to apply for scholarships? The ones I find online are all contests where you have to write essays and stuff and I don't really have the time to write 2-3 page essays when i'm not guaranteed to get the money. If i knew I would get the money I wouldn't mind writing the essay.
  7. Jul 19, 2009 #6

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    To be perfectly frank, if you can't be bothered to write an essay, you probably don't deserve a scholarship.

    Let me explain what a scholarship is. Someone else worked hard and is using some of the fruits of that labor to give other people opportunities. It's not an entitlement.
  8. Jul 20, 2009 #7
    This is easy. Go to Louisville for the basketball.

    There's more to college than physics. And, IMO, undergrad education is pretty standard everywhere.

    I sincerely believe that any college worth its money ought to deliver some kind of respectable sports program. Its an amazing feeling, live sports.
  9. Jul 20, 2009 #8
    If it's not guaranteed, my time would be better spent working a real job than writing the essay.

    When your trying to feed your kids do you gamble $20 in hopes of winning of $400 to buy food? No. I'm not going to gamble 5-6 hours of my time writing a decent essay that MAY win me $500 when I can work a real job at $11 an hour for a guaranteed $55-66
  10. Jul 20, 2009 #9


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    Do you know if you are eligible for any financial aid then? It's probably going to be either that or non-traditional student scholarships. However, once you're in school, some departments will award scholarships for a top sophomore, junior or senior. Some also have scholarships for just anybody who is in a particular field of study. Again, you really just need to talk to someone at U of L.

    U of L has a nice financial aid page http://louisville.edu/speed/academics/departments/computer-engineering-and-computer-science.html" [Broken].
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. Jul 20, 2009 #10
    Sadly I do not qualify for financial aid because my mom makes too much money and for some reason I am required to put her on my financial aid information even though she does not pay ANY of my college.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  12. Jul 20, 2009 #11


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    There might be some procedure by which you can get "certified" as financially independent, so you don't have to put your parents' financial information on the form.

    In the normal case, unfortunately, you're required to provide financial information as if your parents will be contributing to the cost of your education - and the colleges assume that they will contribute, but your parents are under no obligation to do so :frown: I had trouble with that too as an undergrad.
  13. Jul 21, 2009 #12
    Yeah if you're under 24, you basically have to be married or have a kid to get around that.

    http://www.fafsaonline.com/fafsa-blog/2007/05/18/dependent-vs-independent-status/ [Broken]

    My parents also make "too much", but not enough to contribute to my education, so I don't qualify for any aid. And for that reason I've been working nearly full-time and attending school more than full-time for that last two years. =/ Fun stuff.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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