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If I don't do well in community college, am I screwed for life

  1. Sep 15, 2013 #1
    Sounds ridiculous to not do well, right? I won't flunk, but I am shooting for at least a 3.7 GPA. I want to have a shot at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Caltech, and Harvey Mudd.

    If I get 3.7 or less (maybe around 3.6), will my chance of getting into my dream schools be null for life?

    I just began my first semester of community college after a few years out of high school, and I just took my first test in Calculus. I know my subject, I did well on the homework (which were harder than the test itself). However, I was overwhelmed with the nervous thoughts of having to get a perfect score. I believe I got around 90% at least, un-curved.

    I was raised with the 'all or nothing' idea, where one HAS to go to Caltech, MIT, or Harvard in order to have a minimal chance at being hired. I know I can't be right though, because not everyone can be #1, and I am sure it's not only the top percent who makes a living.

    I know that I should care about the learning more than the grade, but I getting into better schools mean more opportunities to learn. Obviously if my grades aren't good enough, it implies I am not learning.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 15, 2013 #2


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    no. life is long. hang in there, keep working, you'll be fine.
  4. Sep 15, 2013 #3
    No, you're not screwed for life. Try your best to overcome the 'all or nothing' idea, as it leads to nothing but stress and depression. if you had to go to Caltech, MIT, or Harvard to get a job there'd, be a... uh... 99% unemployment rate, or something.

    Getting a B in calculus reveals that you've learned a hell of a lot of calculus, actually.
  5. Sep 16, 2013 #4
    I did horribly in my first few years in college. I dropped out after my first year at a small private liberal arts school, then when I started at a community college I did the minimum to get by. I graduated with a two year degree and transferred to a university.

    When I started studying math, I found something I liked and excelled. Since I was awarded a degree at my previous school, my GPA started from scratch, so despite nearly failing all of my classes my freshman year I was able to graduate with highest honors when I was finished with my four years.

    It's important that you get straight A's if you want to get into one of those schools, and even then that's not enough. You need to be active in research, participating in projects with professors and attending and presenting original results at undergraduate research conferences. The AMS and MAA should have a few conferences a year in your state. A lot of time you can get travel grants or travel with the schools math club, I've been to conferences in Boston, San Diego, and Florida without having to pay for conference fees, airline tickets or even hotel rooms.

    I've been under the impression that transferring in to top 5 schools is next to impossible- they want you to take everything with them, from the ground up, and you know that your community college calc class is a walk in the park compared to an MIT course.

    But do everything you can to get in. There's always a success story here and there. And don't fret if you don't get in. You don't need to go to MIT or Berkely to work as a mathematician. There are a lot of great programs- most major research universities have a well developed math program. But as with getting into the top schools, getting a good job depends more on you- your experience and your mastery of the various aspects of mathematics- than it does the seal on your diploma. I've been to many national math conferences and seen talks by people from really prestigious schools that were just horrible, and people from tiny little programs I'd never heard of that were incredibly insightful and useful.

    In the end, you should find a place that suits your personality and interests. Look at the faculty research, and the size and diversity of the department. If you want to work in the industry, computational and applied programs will be best for you, or you may want to consider a dual major in computer science, software engineering, or actuarial science. If you're considering remaining in academia then you'll want to find a school with a strong and diverse graduate program, though you'll probably look to move elsewhere for a graduate degree.
  6. Sep 16, 2013 #5
    For UC Davis if you TAG, you're guaranteed to get in with a 3.2.

    Also, you should gain perspective. There are high school drop outs doing okay. I'm sure you'll do fine.
  7. Sep 17, 2013 #6
    A David, how would you graduate with highest honors while scraping through your freshman year? Isn't freshman year the foundation on which you accumulate other skills?

    I doubt I will fail, after all it's just my first test (the professor will drop the lowest test at the end of semester). I got a B, but I looked through the problems and I could solve them without issue, now that the test n pressure is gone. It seems other students in class got a similar score as I did.

    I need to get myself back in shape for studying. It's been 3 years since I've been out of highschool.

    "There are high school drop outs doing okay"
    Yeah I know, but I have specific places/jobs I want to get into and you only live once.

    Anyone found opportunities through usajobs.gov before?

    I want to do research, but I am not sure how I go about doing that when most positions want at least undergrad degrees. How in the world do undergrad students find research opportunities? Clubs? How do you ask the right questions to find the right answers and opportunities? How do you know what to look for?

    My dream is to eventually work on military stuff. Not too clear whether I want to do chemical or mech though.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013
  8. Sep 17, 2013 #7
    I got into UC Berkeley as a transfer student. It's not all it's cracked up to be man. Do you really want to subject yourself to the pressure here and stress involved? I've really given thought on my choice, and I'm not sure if I would come here again if I had to start all over. What's the point if you can get a degree at another institute, have a much less stressful life, and at the end of the day get the same exact job.

    Every homework assignment I get I have to ask for help on the PF forums, for practically all my classes. It's no fun when the homework is only mildly related to the lecture material, sometimes it's simply not related at all.

    I got more personal attention at my community college than I do here. At my CC I could literally spend an hour alone with the professor to get help. Here I have to share the 1 hour with 30 other students. The professor doesn't know me and going to office hours is almost like going to lecture again. I can't even ask my own questions. The GSI's office hours are similar. Go to cal state or a lower tier UC and get your degree and get a good GPA and go to graduate school
  9. Sep 19, 2013 #8
    woopydalan, what major are you? I am not looking into grad school as I doubt I need another degree, and if I am going to grad, might as well get myself whooped and whipped into shape at undergrad than later at grad.
  10. Sep 20, 2013 #9
    Yes, graduate from a good school doesn't make you a better worker. But I so wish I am closer to UC Berkley. I live in the South Bay, the only one close by is San Jose State. I am retired and I am not going to pay an arm and a leg to go to Stanford or Santa Clara just for the fun of it, and treat it like cross word puzzle!! I communicated with two professors in SJ State to get the syllabus of the classes. I even bought the text books, got the problem sets and even some pass exams. The standard were low. I end up study on my own right now. I just use their syllabus, then study 50% more. Get the more difficult book and study also.

    I think you can learn more in a good school. If you can be grounded, not thinking that you are superior being graduated from a good school, I think you can be a good worker and have a lot more knowledge.

    I was from a good school in Hong Kong. I got my BS in Chemistry from USF long time ago. When I was in USF, I thought the school was not very good, I didn't have to study much until the second year. It was not until I graduated, taking some classes from those community colleges, then I know how lax those community colleges are. The last and only class I took was ODE from Mission College in San Jose. I was lucky that the original professor was on leave and the dept. head took over the class. He made the class a lot harder. But still, we can take the 3 best out of 4 exams, questions were quite easy, close to 30% students got A's. There were a lot of students score 100%. There goes to show how easy the test were made. I was competing to get the first in the class and I did, because an A does not mean anything. I know those students, and those are cheap A's!!!! B is just and better way of saying you passed. a C is pity grade that the school is trying hard not to fail you and also make them look bad. You have to fail the class. At least, if you get a B in UC Berkley, it means something.

    Yes, you get more help in the community colleges, but it builds character if you survive in UC Berkley. This is just me........I do weights, I go to Gold's Gym that is 5 miles from home instead of going to some feel good gyms that is in walking distance and cheaper. It humbles me and make me work harder. Everyone there bench 225 lbs average and a lot of people curl 50+lb dumb bells. It's about being grounded and character building. You take things more serious, work harder in environment with higher caliber people.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2013
  11. Sep 20, 2013 #10
    OP, it's substantially easier to transfer to a good college from a community college or less prestigious institution than it is to enter as a freshmen. This is, however, contingent on the program you wish to transfer into. Some programs are nearly impossible to transfer into because they tend to fill up. These programs tend to be some flavor of engineering, especially the "lighter" ones like aerospace and mechanical, as well as engineering programs that are unique to certain schools, like materials, petroleum, mining, and so on. Fortunately, physics and math programs tend to be rather easy to transfer into. The trick with transferring is to satisfy enough credits that you will be evaluated as a junior-level transfer. Most schools will, for junior-level transfers, not even look at high school performance.

    Now, to directly answer your question, doing poorly in a community college would put you into a very tough spot. However, as I tried to emphasize in the previous paragraph, even a 3.7 GPA, which is quite mediocre by high school standards, is a solid goal coming from a community college. In fact, a 3.5 or 3.6 is quite alright for a transfer GPA. Again, try to satisfy as many credits as you can before transferring. If UC Davis or Berkeley looks at your transcript and sees that your GPA is above their minimum, you've satisfied enough credits for junior-level transfer, you've knocked enough credits and the proper classes so that you would only need to spend two years at their school, and the program isn't very competitive (physics and math usually isn't), then you'll almost certainly get in. They're very lax about transfers.
  12. Sep 20, 2013 #11
    I was looking towards Mech, pretty sure I have a lot more competition than in physics and math.

    Would tutors be worth it?
  13. Sep 20, 2013 #12
    ChemE...tbh I know nothing about grad school so I won't comment on it. But just saying that UC Berkeley isn't that awesome. It has a lot of annoying homeless people and other strangeness and it smells
  14. Sep 20, 2013 #13

    Have you done any research? The website for your program should state somewhere (although it may be hard to find) how competitive transferring into MechE is. This is something you should certainly be researching on your own. Fortunately, engineering majors coming out of all kinds of schools can find employment rather painlessly. If you maintain a 3.5+ GPA, then you should be able to transfer into a school with a good enough MechE program to greatly increase your employment outlook after graduation. This, however, may not end up being Berkeley or UC Davis, but that really depends. Try your hardest to get a 4.0, which really shouldn't be difficult if you care about the subject matter. Also, keep in mind the college, even community college, is a lot more difficult than high school, and as a result you may need to adjust old study habits to fit the added workload. Try to do side-projects as well. I'm not sure what a MechE can do (figure it out), but do something like a CS major would do to differentiate him or herself, like contributing to open source projects, writing computer, phone and tablet applications, or creating websites.

    I'm at a community college and am getting ready to transfer. You have to do a ton of research on the schools you're considering. The advisers are usually hit or miss and tend to recommend the wrong courses. There's a lot of information that isn't so conspicuous, such as how competitive a certain program is. There's also a lot of schools that don't even accept transfers or, if they do, transfer credit from community colleges. You have over a year to do some research. Use the time wisely.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2013
  15. Sep 20, 2013 #14
    I studied art my freshman year, then general studies at a community college. When I got into a university, I started at trig and worked my way up from there. Since I got a two year degree from a community college, my GPA started from scratch at the university so my previous grades didn't have a negative effect.

    You probably need to be at a university to get involved in research. Just to get to know your professors and ask them what they're working on. Sometimes they have problems they'll let you work on with them. I was taking a discrete math class once and our professor had an idea for his research that he didn't know how to approach. It took me a few weeks, but I wrote a program to solve his problem and we ended up publishing a paper, with me listed as an author, before I graduated.
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