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I need advice on where I should go

  1. Jul 15, 2011 #1
    Hi, I'm an undergraduate math major who needs some advice. I've been going to a local community college for the past 4 years and am just now getting enough credits for my associates. Now, I'm looking to transfer but I'm not really sure what I should do. You see, my GPA is laughably low (2.6 something) but I do want to get into the best transfer school I can. What I'm ultimately hoping to do is become a college professor somewhere and get a PhD from the best school I can get into.

    OK, so let me explain some things. See, when I first started college in 2007 I didn't really know what I wanted to do for a career or anything. I was pretty bad at math in high school and never would have considered it seriously back then. I decided to major in Computer Systems Tech. because I was interested in learning some programming but I didn't have enough math to be able to do Computer Science. A couple years in when I started getting classes training specifically in how to do IT type stuff I knew I had to get out. I have no interest in doing that for my entire life and I know people online that work in that field who had been saying around that time to get out while you can and that its horrendously unfulfilling. During this semester I was taking College Algebra for literally the 5th time (yes, not good on my transcript) and I realized that I had gotten really good at it and that it is a lot of fun and decided to switch to get into math. Since then I've taken up to Calculus III and Discreet Math and I've realized that I can actually get A's in these classes and am more sure now then I've ever been that this is what I should be pursuing.

    There are two colleges that I applied to: SUNY Anonymous and SUNY Buffalo. I already got accepted into SUNY Buffalo but am afraid I may have to decline now since it looks like I will be unable to afford it (I can still only get $7500 this year since I don't turn 24 until next year). Anonymous costs about the same but since its closer I won't have to live on campus and without the room and board costs I would be able to do it. However, I haven't been accepted yet and am unsure if this is the best school for a math major who is interested in pursuing a PhD in math later on. I've been looking on websites for the grad school programs at schools like Carnegie Mellon recently just out of curiosity and I've realized that a lot of classes require you to have undergrad prerequisites and I realize that if I go to a school that doesn't offer these prerequisite courses I may be shooting myself in the foot later.

    So what should I do? Should I go to SUNY Anonymous if I get accepted? Should I stay in my community college for another year? (I can still take D.E. and Linear there and I can take some physics courses too) and then after another year try to get back into Buffalo? (Since I'll have more money coming as an independent and there are other loans I can apply for next year that I didn't know about until after their deadlines this year.)

    I have a friend in the Community College who's also a math major who says that where you go as an undergrad doesn't matter and that the basic undergrad curriculum would be the same no matter where you go. What do you guys think? Am I worrying too much? Is a math degree just a math degree or are there colleges that offer course electives that others don't that would be more beneficial in the end? I also want to be able to take as many electives as I can and at Buffalo I can go for a BS and take like 7 electives (which I love) or at Anonymous they only offer a BA and could only take 3 electives. It should also be noted that Buffalo has undergrad. research opportunities that Anonymous simply doesn't have.

    Also, what are my prospects for grad school? I know that when I transfer my GPA will reset but any grad school I apply at will want to see transcripts from all colleges I've attended. I'm worried that my poor overall performance at the community college will greatly hinder me. Do I have any chance at all at getting into a top tier grad school? What if I do insanely well on the GRE tests? Or are those bridges completely burned down? And do you believe that top tier grad schools necessarily offer a better education than lower tier schools, or is it mostly reputation? Do grad schools see spending 4 or 5 years at a community college as a negative? Am I being too dramatic? Am I asking too many questions? Let me know what you think! :)
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2011 #2
    Your low GPA should worry you for a different reason than it does. You seem to be worried you won't be able to get into a good school with your GPA. You SHOULD be worried that you aren't learning the material well enough to make it through university, let alone grad school.

    Just curious, what makes you think you have any shot at all of doing "insanely well" on the GRE tests given your record?

    You remind me of students in almost every class I've taken, who think they have a shot at passing going into the final exam with a 50%. They say "Well, if I get a 90% or better on the final, I can get a C." Yeah, but if you know the material that well to get a 90% or better on the final, you wouldn't be walking into the final with a 50%.
     
  4. Jul 15, 2011 #3
    Hello Jack,

    I do understand the importance of having a good understanding of the material, and I should clarify that I have gotten A's in courses such as Calculus I and Calculus II. When it comes to my major I try not to mess around and I am not intending to be a C student when it comes to math courses. Last semester, for example, I took Discrete Math (learning proofs for the first time) and didn't get below a 96 in any test and got a 99 on the final. I do make a strong effort to get a firm understanding of the underlying concepts as opposed to just learning what rote things I need to do to solve such and such a problem. And I also kind of know what you mean as I've been annoyed by students as well - I know people who brag about how little they have to study or constantly point out irrelevant things to the professor to sound smart. If I'm annoying at all I apologize.

    My low GPA has a lot to do with classes outside of math although the earliest math courses I took I didn't do that great in either. Its my fault, I know, and I did allow other things to distract me from my school work too much in the past. However, there has been improvement in my grades over time and I do really feel like I'm more ready now than ever to put in the time and effort required to master these courses. I know that there's no guarantee that everything I take from now on will be an A or that I will do that great on the GRE but I will sure as hell try like I've never tried before. When I asked "even if I do insanely well in the GRE" I didn't mean to say that I definitely would, it was more a question of is there any chance in the universe now that I could get into a top tier grad school even if the best possible scenario were to play out.

    Thank-you for your input. I would appreciate any more thoughts or opinions from you or anyone else.
     
  5. Jul 16, 2011 #4
    Sure you could. You already demonstrate proficiency at lower level mathematics, and you demonstrated an ability to improve yourself. If your grades at university match up with your calculus records, then I wouldn't think any university is out of your grasp. Noone really cares how you did on your gen ed courses.

    What's SUNY Anonymous, by the way? I was trying to look up their curriculum to see just how bad it is (or how good it is), but you must be using some kind of slang.
     
  6. Jul 16, 2011 #5
    Thanks for the encouragement. Yeah, that's not really the name of the school I just kept it anonymous because I was saying relatively bad things about it and I didn't want to publicly bash a school. Especially when I'm not entirely sure I know what I'm talking about. I'll PM you the name of the school I'm talking about though.
     
  7. Jul 16, 2011 #6
    Hi PlayingMonk :) Congrats on your calc grades
    I think worrying about one's education is a good thing :) I am sort of in a similar situation as you as I am wondering if I should transfer from my college to university sooner than later. The key point of my concern with transferring is opposite to the suggestion of your friend. There are some contextual courses I am required to take at sophomore level prior to transferring in as a junior level student. These are not being offered at my college, although some lower level 1000 courses (not sure if they are remedial) are being offered. So I would recommend to check what the degree requirements are at the university you are transferring to with special attention to course code, and compare that to the courses being offered at your college. I have found that colleges offer courses titled the same as prereq 2000 level courses, but the courses are 1000 level and many students mistake this for being the same exact course as the 2000 level because of the course name---which of course it is not, and your prereqs will be lacking when you transfer.
     
  8. Jul 16, 2011 #7

    bcrowell

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    My wife went to SUNY Buffalo and got a great education there (in French). She went on to grad school at Yale (which is where we met), and is now a college professor.

    Buffalo is not an expensive city to live in. Why are you assuming that you would have to live in a dorm and pay for a meal contract? You just need to find some roommates who are willing to cram enough second-hand mattresses into a cheap apartment in a scary neighborhood. Eat ramen. Use public transportation to get to and from school.

    I'm a physicist, not a mathematician, but my experience as a grad student was that good preparation was critical. The students who had gone to poorer schools really were less well prepared for graduate work.
     
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