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How screwed will I be my Freshman year?

  1. Mar 12, 2014 #1
    Alright guys, let me give you the low-down:

    • I'm a senior in high school
    • Last math class I took was Pre-Calc last year (None this year)
    • I'm going into electrical engineering
    • They want me to take Calc I my freshman year

    How common is it for an engineering student to start with Calc I? Will it be looked down upon if I "re-take" Pre-Calc my freshman year? I mean, I'm good with math but I haven't done any hardcore stuff since last year. Should I try and do something online over the summer? I'm starting to get the college heebie-jeebies so I'm freaking out a bit.

    If it helps I'm going to the University of South Florida this fall. Does anyone here go there and can give specialized help?

    Thanks for the help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 12, 2014 #2
    How comfortable are you with exponential, logarithmic, and trig functions? Can you deal with logarithms and exponential in any basis? What about when the base is e? Can you shift a trig function? Can you shrink or dilate the period of a trig function? Those are the big ones from pre-calc that you will see in Calculus I.

    It's normal to have to review some before a course. I had to relearn a lot of material from pre-calculus in Calc II my freshman year of college. Many students in the calculus sequence (myself included) forget how to reduce the power of trig functions, how to combine sin(u)cos(v) into something more manageable. The power reduction for sin^2(x) and cos^2(x) in terms of cos(2x) and these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...#Product-to-sum_and_sum-to-product_identities are wonderful to have on hand.

    If you're comfortable with all of those things, then you should be fine in a calculus I class. You also have 5 months or so to re-familiarize yourself. If you intend on taking a calculus based physics class in the fall (you'll need a couple courses for engineering), then I would advise against waiting for calc I. They can be difficult even if taken at the same time.
  4. Mar 12, 2014 #3
    Nobody is going to look down on you for taking pre-calc in your freshman year, so don't worry.
    That said, I think you should just bite the bullet and take calculus. Just take the summer before and some time in the semester off to refamiliarize yourself with the math. I normally recommend "Basic Mathematics" for Lang for math majors, but maybe it can be of use to you too. It's a book that contains everything you need to know before starting calculus. So it'll help you to go through that. The book is perhaps a bit more theoretical than you like though.

    Also, many people take calculus without even taking precalculus. So you'll be fine.
  5. Mar 12, 2014 #4


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    You haven't done yourself any favors by taking a year off from mathematics in high school. The other kids aren't going to care what you did or didn't do because they're going to be too busy keeping up with their own assignments. It's always a good idea to get as much exposure to the basic science and math courses before you enter your first semester at college because that experience means you have already gone over some of the basics and you can take a little time to adjust to life as a college student. The students in my freshman class who hadn't taken calculus in HS and who were taking it for the first time as college freshmen had to scramble to learn it not only for math class, but they were also behind when basic mechanics (rectilinear motion and such) was covered in the intro physics course.
  6. Mar 12, 2014 #5


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    You'll be fine.

    You will likely be a little more rusty than most students, but the rust will come off with exercise. And something to keep in mind about university is that in the first year you'll have students with a whole range of abilities and experiences. Some will have been out of any school for years. Some will have come from horrible high schools and despite innate intelligence, be struggling on those first days. For others first year calculus will more or less be a review.

    Rather than ask "how screwed" you will be, I might also encourage you to step back for a moment and consider the bigger picture. You will have the opportunity to attend a university, in a program that's going to give you all sorts of challenges, but teach you to create things that few other people in the work can create. You'll have the opportunity to socialize with others who think the way you do, network with professors - some of whom are quite likely involved in some really cool research - and join teams or clubs that do some pretty things.

    Being a little rusty on the math at the start is really going to be a matter of putting in the time to brush up as you need it. That's all.
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