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Other Dropout, No idea where to start

  • Thread starter Ekphy97
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For starters, I'm 20 years old and live in the USA. I dropped out of school to work in the family business in a very small town of roughly 300 people, I have had no formal education since the first half of 8th grade when I was about 13. I would call myself a high school dropout, but it's more like a middle school dropout. I feel like this matters because I have absolutely no idea how current formal education works, especially college.

I have always been extremely interested in astronomy and that led me to physics. I have self studied concepts quite a bit, and I remain very intrigued years later, specifically in nuclear physics. I don't want to study physics for the ''romance'' of physics that is put on display by a lot of pop science shows, but more so because of the deep thinking process that is involved, if that makes sense. I do have my GED, I received it a few months ago and taught myself everything I needed to know in a few weeks which wasn't much, (basic algebra and geometry mainly).

Now, I am at a point where college is in my sights, I will be going to a community college my first two years that offers guaranteed admission into a university with a good physics program. I've saved up enough money and I am willing to go, but in all honesty I have very little knowledge of the math required. I use Khan academy and I have been working on all the material from the beginning for a month or so now. I would hate to be blindsided and ruin my shot at grad school by bombing my first year. I have never done basic calculus, let alone take calculus 3 with analytic geometry and physics courses in the same semester.

What should I be doing right now before I dive into college to better my chances at success and get a great start?

I appreciate any and all advice, please be honest and give it to me straight. I'm willing to put the work in and I understand that somebody with so little academic experience that hopes to go to grad school as a physics student, might seem a little crazy.
 

ZapperZ

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You should have an advisor at this CC. You should talk to him/her and tell your story and your background. There is still plenty of time to shore up your math, and it is not unusual for students to start with Calculus in college. CC are often familiar with students with your situation, but someone needs to know this to be able to help and tailor your courses for the next couple of years.

BTW, you never indicated what your goal is in doing all this. It appears that you are giving up this "family business" and pursuing a career in physics/astro/etc. Is this true?

Zz.
 

berkeman

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ZapperZ

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berkeman

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Oops, thanks Zz. I missed that part!
 

gleem

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While you seemingly found the GED fairly easy do not become overconfident. The GED does not really test all the knowledge that you will need when you enter college in the same way that the courses do. Entering even a CC with the goal of studying physics you should have at the very minimum math from basic algebra/geometry up to at least pre calc. Having been out of the formal educational system quite a long time and even missed the experience of the increase in expectations demanded of a HS college preparatory curriculum. You seem highly motivated which is very valuable but if you are overwhelmed you could loose confidence. As has been suggested you should seek counseling at the college but I would go a bit farther and suggest you talk to a professor at the university which you will transfer. It is possible that you might take five years to get your BS. You said you are thinking about grad school so you must not stumble going slow is OK at the beginning and you can accelerate as you gain confidence and success. Good Luck.
 

Klystron

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Each adult charts their own course through education. My course through De Anza Community College followed eight years in applied physics compliments of the USAF (sort of my family business <grin>). The first community college (CC) course I took was Astronomy 1, taught by a brilliant Navy veteran including healthy doses of celestial mechanics and a thorough understanding of Kepler's planetary motion equations based on Tycho Brahe's data collection. Tycho's ability to gather useful data prior to precise instruments remain an inspiration to us all.

I signed up for Calculus 1A but thankfully my math teacher reassigned me to a refresher course in Algebra II and Trig, then Analytical Geometry my second quarter, then Calculus 1A third quarter. My main point: discuss your education path with your teachers and advisors (as you are doing on this forum), and chart a course that fits your abilities, goals, and experience. From these beginnings I took all the advanced math courses my CC offered and eventually transferred to a university where I studied Combinatorics, Statistics and related applied math, later completing a bachelor of science (BS) degree in Computer Science (CS).

While still studying at my local CC, I applied for an entry-level system programmer position at NASA beginning a new career as a contract programmer on the wind tunnel system and flight simulators. The third course I completed that first quarter was an introductory programming course taught by an aeronautics engineer, intended to teach basic computer skills to incoming science and math students. I volunteered in the CC computer lab where I was able to help many, often younger, students learn computer skills while expanding my own abilities. CC led to a lucrative and interesting career even before completing my CS degree.

Apologies for the meandering anecdote. My message: be of good cheer, you have chosen a strong path.

--Norm
 

symbolipoint

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For starters, I'm 20 years old and live in the USA. I dropped out of school to work in the family business in a very small town of roughly 300 people, I have had no formal education since the first half of 8th grade when I was about 13. I would call myself a high school dropout, but it's more like a middle school dropout. I feel like this matters because I have absolutely no idea how current formal education works, especially college.

I have always been extremely interested in astronomy and that led me to physics. I have self studied concepts quite a bit, and I remain very intrigued years later, specifically in nuclear physics. I don't want to study physics for the ''romance'' of physics that is put on display by a lot of pop science shows, but more so because of the deep thinking process that is involved, if that makes sense. I do have my GED, I received it a few months ago and taught myself everything I needed to know in a few weeks which wasn't much, (basic algebra and geometry mainly).

Now, I am at a point where college is in my sights, I will be going to a community college my first two years that offers guaranteed admission into a university with a good physics program. I've saved up enough money and I am willing to go, but in all honesty I have very little knowledge of the math required. I use Khan academy and I have been working on all the material from the beginning for a month or so now. I would hate to be blindsided and ruin my shot at grad school by bombing my first year. I have never done basic calculus, let alone take calculus 3 with analytic geometry and physics courses in the same semester.

What should I be doing right now before I dive into college to better my chances at success and get a great start?

I appreciate any and all advice, please be honest and give it to me straight. I'm willing to put the work in and I understand that somebody with so little academic experience that hopes to go to grad school as a physics student, might seem a little crazy.
Not sure how your finance situation is or how your education will affect educational goals, but you are on the right path initially - the C.C. Consider maybe learning or aiming for something practical like maybe computer science or Engineering. You have some general education courses to get through and plenty of Mathematics too, to go through. Some of your life experience and maturity may help with the general education course-work. Your Mathematics path alone or combined with other courses may make you spend 2 or 3 years, before reaching Calculus 1.
 

symbolipoint

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I do have my GED, I received it a few months ago and taught myself everything I needed to know in a few weeks which wasn't much, (basic algebra and geometry mainly).
That is good. Even so, do not be surprised if you still need to begin Mathematics with Algebra 1 (Basic Algebra) at your community college. Placement testing or admissions counseling service might be required to help determine which Mathematics course you could start into. If that is the case, just know that you will learn it better than you did previously.
 
2
1
You should have an advisor at this CC. You should talk to him/her and tell your story and your background. There is still plenty of time to shore up your math, and it is not unusual for students to start with Calculus in college. CC are often familiar with students with your situation, but someone needs to know this to be able to help and tailor your courses for the next couple of years.

BTW, you never indicated what your goal is in doing all this. It appears that you are giving up this "family business" and pursuing a career in physics/astro/etc. Is this true?

Zz.
That is exactly what I am implying, I have a reached a point in my life where I want to do something more, I don't want to be sucked into what I am doing now for the rest of it. I will most definitely speak with an advisor, supposedly I am being assigned an advisor that helps me meet the requirements for the guaranteed transfer program and I can inform them of my goals.

While you seemingly found the GED fairly easy do not become overconfident. The GED does not really test all the knowledge that you will need when you enter college in the same way that the courses do. Entering even a CC with the goal of studying physics you should have at the very minimum math from basic algebra/geometry up to at least pre calc. Having been out of the formal educational system quite a long time and even missed the experience of the increase in expectations demanded of a HS college preparatory curriculum. You seem highly motivated which is very valuable but if you are overwhelmed you could loose confidence. As has been suggested you should seek counseling at the college but I would go a bit farther and suggest you talk to a professor at the university which you will transfer. It is possible that you might take five years to get your BS. You said you are thinking about grad school so you must not stumble going slow is OK at the beginning and you can accelerate as you gain confidence and success. Good Luck.
I agree, I have no idea where I will be starting in CC. But, to make one thing clear I definitely don't want to come off as I found learning the GED easy, I learned it in a few weeks but I put everything I had into it learning the whole algebra 1 category on Khan academy which was a lot more than expected actually! Thank you for the advice, I will definitely study up, I feel I may even want to study calc 1 myself before entering CC instead of just pre calc.
 

gleem

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To get a better assessment of your preparation for college you might want to try taking the SAT or ACT tests as most HS grads going to college have done.
 

Klystron

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Allow me to expand on my post. Course titles and objectives change but here is a synopsis of what I learned while studying pre-Calculus:

Algebra: how equations are formed and manipulated. Selecting variables. Recognition that some equations can be solved, others cannot, and how to tell.

Trigonometry: I just plain love trig functions. They are so useful. We learn that numerical series approximate transcendental functions.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendental_function

Analytical Geometry: how to recognize equations and "plot a curve" of solutions. Drawing in multiple dimensions. Common polynomials.

Calculus: how to analyze problems. Functions. Limits. How quickly we can solve some equations compared to algebra. Calc improves every subsequent course that requires analytical problem solving. Intro to Probabilities, Set theory, Number theory, Matrix algebra. Useful knowledge.
 

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