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High school plan for engineering help.

  1. Apr 1, 2009 #1
    I'm a junior in high school just enrolling in the Physics course this year (after failing/dropping AP physics the first few weeks... I'll save that for next year), and I love it. My first two years of high school I moved back and forth from Los Angeles to other cities, so my knowledge of science/GPA for 9th and 10th grade are mediocre. (3.3GPA)

    After settling in a school this year (my first year of HS without moving) I discovered computer programming, too, and finally set my eyes on a career for engineering.

    The first question I propose is: What is the difference between Computer and Mechanical Engineering? (goals, salary...) I liked programming, but I'm unsure of what mechanical engineering does - seems kind of broad, my teacher says they also use programming.

    Number two: To pursue a career in engineering, would it be better to just major in Mathematics or Applied Math to keep your opportunities general, or would a specific category be better?

    Another: Next year I'm taking Computer Programming and AP Calculus B/C... But for engineering, my counselor recommend I take BOTH Calculus and AP Statistics ("The easiest AP Class") which would look better to my interests, but I would have to sacrifice AP Government or take gov't it during summer school. Anyways: Should I take two AP math classes, or is two maths superfluous and instead take AP Calculus and AP history?

    Finally: I wish to apply to UCLA, USC (I got mail from them saying I would be strong for their student body. Probably nothing, though.), Berkley, CalTech (A gamble..), and Cal Poly Pomona. If anybody has been accepted into these schools, what was your GPA/SAT/ACT scores?

    Sorry for the long string of questions (esp. as my first post) but going to my counselor is such a time killer for me, she's never free. And my physics teacher can't teach very well, he can only teach if we already know a lot of the subject, its frustrating, so most of my Physics knowledge just comes from the textbook, and not from the teacher... Maybe because it is a senior class or something.

    Anyways, thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 1, 2009 #2


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    Welcome to physics forums!

    I can help you out with a few questions.

    #1. the difference between the 2 should be obvious. CE's design computers/computing related parts etc... and ME's design just about everything, from can openers to car engines even elevators. As for salary comparisons that is very subjective. For the most part they can be the same.

    #2. To pursue engineering, you should get an engineering degree. There is no substitute.

    You should snoop around the forum a bit to see what others say about the jobs you are interested in (engineering section)
  4. Apr 1, 2009 #3
    The further you go, the more you learning will be done on your own, and less from your teachers. Thats the way the game works, for better or worse.
  5. Apr 1, 2009 #4
    The difference between Computer and Mechanical engineering is pretty huge. Computer engineers are going to learn a lot about how computers are built and organized, a lot of electronics, signal processing, communications, etc.

    Mechanical engineers are going to learn about how mechanical systems are built, thermodynamics, vibrations, etc.

    It really depends on whether you liked your electricity/electronics units in high school vs. the mechanics ones.

    Q2: Take as many maths as you can, it will only make things easier. Each school should list their entrance requirements, so make sure you check those

    The Subversive Guide to Engineering
    Latest Post: Grades vs. Effort: The Engineering S-Curve
  6. Apr 1, 2009 #5
    Somewhat off topic, but I couldn't resist:
    I tried the same thing, and ended with the same results. Fortunately, honors isn't as bad. Was it AP Physics B or C?

    I would go for Calculus BC, and Government. If you want, you can always take Statistics in college. If you take Gov, you would most likely be able to place out of a general requirement course.

    I'd be curious about the scores as well....
  7. Apr 1, 2009 #6


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    I would assume that Berkeley/Caltech would only take kids that have 2300-2400 SAT and 34-36 ACT scores or something close to that range...
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