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Studying Is university any better?

  1. Feb 19, 2017 #1
    So just to as quickly as possible give an overview of my situation, I'm currently a Highschool Senior part way into my second semester at my local community college, and to be honest, I'm starting to hate it. I was homeschooled my whole life and while I don't think that was ideal, I never hated schooling at all. I typically really enjoyed it, actually. I'm currently planning on going to university next semester in the fall (waiting on application decisions atm), but the education quality of community college has really got me down about university, because so far the education I've gotten at CC has been an absolute joke, and I specifically chose classes where my teacher is the head of his/her respective department. Is university any better?

    I like being challenged, and honestly, I was really excited for challenges of college, and I get it's only CC, but it has me worried uni won't any better. The lectures feel like a waste of time, the homework is untargeted, the pacing is so slow, and everything I learn seems to be about the final and not actually learning. I'm want to get a degree in Computer Science, but it seems the only decent things I learn are from outside the classroom from MOOCs and other online resources.

    I wasn't excepted to my top state university (UNC - chapel hill), so I'll likely be going to a regional university nearby (Appalachian State University). I'm starting to consider not going and looking around for internships and self-studying so I can at least challenge myself more. What's your guys' opinion on this? I hear often studies say that people who don't get a college degree make $xxx amount less than those who do, but they never mention people who chose to forgo college and go for work experience instead. I don't know, I'll probably go and at least try uni, but my hopes aren't high. What do yall think? Does it get better? I hope so...
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  3. Feb 19, 2017 #2


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    Better likelihood to get experience if you have some college education. Lab exercises in homeschooled high school? My guess is lab sections at the community college would be better. You should be earning high grades at your CC if your courses there are not challenging you. Maybe the courses which follow will be tougher.
  4. Feb 19, 2017 #3
    Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I got all A's last semester and I'm on track to get all A's this semester. The only time I get B's on homework was when I make stupid mistakes (missing a question, reading it wrong, etc). And I'm taking a full college load (I think last semester was 14 credit hours). Next semester I should be going a university, so hopefully the courses will be tougher.
  5. Feb 19, 2017 #4


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    One thing I've learned about university is that eventually almost everyone gets to a point where it becomes a challenge.

    Often with community colleges the approach to teaching is a little different because the typical student is not as likely to go on to graduate school. Students are taking the courses to get a practical understanding of the material for purposes of professional application. At university, the courses are often more rigorous because, potentially, the students are going to go much deeper into the academic field and eventually conduct research in the area. So as a general rule, going from community college to a full university often comes with an increase in academic rigor.

    That said, there is still a lot of variation, from school to school and from course to course.

    As an example of course to course variation, when I took first year physics at university, there were four different streams. One was for humanities majors, one for life-science majors (pre-med), one for engineers, and one for physical science majors. The first one was algebra-based. The latter two were calculus-based. The life sciences one touched on calculus, but wasn't as rigorous as the other two.

    There's also variation between individual professors. Some live for teaching and stay up late trying to make their courses as interesting as possible. Others are simply going through the motions, reading passages from the textbook.

    Once you get into your university, if you find your courses are not meeting your expectations make sure you bring this up with your academic advisor and get some guidance on which courses you should be taking. You're likely paying a lot of money for your education and have a right to the quality that you want.
  6. Feb 19, 2017 #5
    Now I don't know about these weird American community colleges (typically for dipl.Engineers in Europe, they make the 1st years particularly rigorous and difficult to weed out students) but, eventually everyone will reach a point where they'll start struggling. I guess for you it'll be university.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2017
  7. Feb 19, 2017 #6
    Thanks for your question.

    I don't have much specific advice since I don't know you. But here are some questions for you to ask yourself.

    My first question is do you enjoy programming? I assume you do, since you mention wanting a computer science degree. In that case you are fortunate. I think many doors are open to the skilled programmer (or software developer, to use a fancier term) and many of them have little or nothing to do with formal education or degrees. It's intelligence, knowledge, and work ethic that counts the most. There are billionaires who never went beyond high school, and there are PhDs who are living paycheck to paycheck.

    Do you have a specific long-term goal in life? For example, what kind of work would you like to be doing five years from now? What kind of life style would you like to be living then?

    If you think ahead a few years, do you see yourself applying for work with your computer science degree as your credential, and then, if you get the job, perhaps working in a little cubicle for someone else who may be getting rich from your efforts?

    Is your interest specifically in making a living as a software developer? If it is, do you realize you can do that as an entrepreneur, without any degree?

    Also, you may wish to apply some lateral thinking. Suppose you do want to get a degree, and then go into the software development business or some other computer related business. But also suppose you don't want to get into the details of computer technology. Maybe you are more of a 'big picture' type of person? Perhaps a computer science degree would be less valuable than a business degree?

    If you do work for a company, do you want to be a lowly cubicle worker, or a manager and perhaps ultimately a CEO?

    Consider Bill Gates. I believe his net worth is more than that of some countries, and he dropped out of university to start a business. I'm sure there are many PhDs who know a lot more than Mr. Gates about some advanced topics in computer science or other fields. If they are lucky, maybe one his companies will hire them some day.

    There are many examples in software of highly skilled programmers who made lots of money without a degree. One of my favorite examples is Notch (Markus Persson). He worked for a while for a game development company, then developed Minecraft. Now he is a billionaire. At least according to the information I can find online, he never attended university.

    If you do attend university, it may be very wise avoid student loans. I'm lucky that I finished my formal education with no debt. I always worked my way through university. So many people get trapped in student loans, which by the way can't even be discharged in bankruptcy. If you get in a bad financial situation with student loans, you may have no way out. The student loan system also encourages universities to jack up their fees. Horrible.

    These are just some ideas to ponder. I am not making any recommendations so far, just trying to provide some food for thought.

    Now for my advice. When you are thinking about your future, it is extremely important to be totally honest with yourself about your abilities and what you truly want out of life, then develop a realistic goal, and work out a plan to achieve that goal. I think this is good advice for just about anyone.

    [Sorry, I edited this a few times after posting. I'm really done this time. Thanks for reading.]
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2017
  8. Feb 19, 2017 #7


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    What's weird about them?

    To the poster above me, yes let's all drop out and become Bill Gates. Because I'm sure the only obstacle to our success is this damnable learning we're doing and without school we'll be raking in millions come tomorrow.

    OP sounds like a whiner, if it's too easy for you now you should enjoy it. Self study more advanced subjects, have a social life, hobbies. You're going to miss those eventually.
  9. Feb 19, 2017 #8
    No offence to you Americans, but my impression is that these community colleges, to a large extent, suck money out of students in the form of tuition just to reteach them high school level curriculum.

    Otherwise, good post.
  10. Feb 19, 2017 #9


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    I think you might be surprised to learn how much cheaper community college is compared to our universities. Most community colleges will provide enough coursework so that students can complete all their lower division work there, saving students who transfer to universities for upper division work two years or so worth of higher tuition.

    They also offer many remedial courses, which is a good thing. It gave poor students like me who slept through high school the opportunity to "catch back up" and then continue my studies at a university I would not have been able to be accepted into otherwise.

    All in all, the community college system is done pretty well here.
  11. Feb 19, 2017 #10
    Thanks for the answers guys :)
    Yeah, I definitely think that everything will get harder, I mean, I'm not all that smart. But, as it stands right now
    Apologies if sounded like I was whining, my education is just very important to and just I'm at a point in my life where the choices I make will greatly affect my future, and since I can't see into the future, I figured I'd ask the advice of people who have already been through the education system. Also, I'm doing a lot of self studying right now, half my problem is that I feel like my self-study time is 10x more productive than my formal education time. I mean, I have hobbies and I hang out with my friends pretty often (we play DnD weekly), but most importantly, I want to leave an impact on the world and the quality of my education will shape the impact I can make.

    I wouldn't be fretting about this so much if it wasn't for the fact that everywhere I look I hear stories of CS grads not knowing how to do anything when they graduate and companies having to extensive teach them what to do. If I was able to go somewhere where I could really trust the education, then I wouldn't be considering not going to uni and just self-studying while interning where I can.

    Anywho, thanks for all the replies guys, it means a lot :)
  12. Feb 19, 2017 #11


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    At the end of the day, you're in control of your own education. Lectures will be hit or miss throughout the time you spend in university. I've had amazing lectures at community college, and horrible ones. I've also had amazing lectures at university and down right awful ones. The lecture is only a small part of a course however, and is no substitute for reading the text and practice.

    It's great that you're both really excited about your education and worried. It shows a level of caring. It's when you suggest that looking at one small aspect of a course (the lecture) you can then extrapolate that to all aspects of a course does it meander it's way into whining territory. Homework being un-targeted doesn't make sense. Assuredly you're not in a lecture on data structures and then find yourself working psychology problems? The assigned homework in most courses is the bare bones minimum of what you should be doing. After you've done the assigned homework, you should be able to identify any areas your struggle with and then target those problems yourself. University courses will also require some degree of self motivation for self study and innate curiosity to obtain the most from the course. Studying for a test is another complaint that doesn't make sense. The tests are there generally to make sure you understand that bare bones minimum you were supposed to get from the course. It isn't made to test for other areas of interest you should be perusing in addition to the coursework.

    Many computer science students may end up lacking requisite knowledge through their own choices. If you take the right courses, maintain some degree of self exploration, and have a clear picture of what you want to do afterwards you'll be fine. Just remember, any new graduate is going to require on the job training to adapt to that companies standards and procedures, university is not a replacement for that.

    That said, you should definitely go to university. Not only will a degree provide a certain amount of assurance to an employer that you at least understand the basics and are trainable, but many better paying jobs won't even look at your resume without a degree.
  13. Feb 19, 2017 #12


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    This can easily be the case if you're an above-average student. Classes, by their nature, are rarely targeted at the best students. It would be a huge waste of resources to teach to the top 10% and leave the other 90% floundering. As a result, some students might find a class too slow-paced. If you're bored, you could always let the instructor know this and see if there's something different you could do.

    In my experience, there's a big difference between CCs and universities. At community colleges, the instructors have time to focus on teaching and helping students succeed. At a university, you have to take more responsibility for your education. If you're struggling, it'll largely be up to you to figure out how to resolve those issues. Some students can find the transition from CC to a university quite jarring.
  14. Feb 19, 2017 #13
    Thanks for the reply mate, I think you're right about attending university.

    Just for the sake of clarity, let me explain what I meant in some of my comments. (In retrospect I shouldn't have posted at 1 am, I wasn't making complete sense)
    In regard to the lectures, it's a 35 min drive to college, this semester I'm only taking 3 classes and one of them is online (CC makes me take 2 semesters of basic computer education (uni only requires one, sometimes) before I could take CS classes and since I'll only be there 2 semesters, I decided to take some MOOC CS classes instead), so every day except Friday, my math teacher either talks about his divorce or plays videos for an hour and my English teacher... I honestly don't know where that hour goes. So the lectures don't seem to be providing me with any real value, but they take up 12 hours a week in total.

    In regard to the homework, admitted this semester's math teachers homework is better (he uses Pearsons MyMathLab entirely), but last semester's teacher would give us homework that was 6 years old and wasn't in sync with the syllabus perfectly, and she couldn't give suggestion on where to find more exercises. And when I say "untargeted" I mean that #1 it wasn't always in sync with what we were learning and #2 like you said, it's the bare minimum, so I had to learn most of the contents of the course on Khan academy. It just often feels like if the lectures aren't useful, the homework isn't enough, and I'm having to learn everything from Khan academy or other resources, what's the point of the class especially when I have to keep up a 90% attendance record?

    What I mean about "everything I learn seems to be about the final," is that in almost every lecture, I'm reminded what material will be on the final, and what material won't be. If something will be in the final it gets brought back up in later classes, if it won't be you'll never see again after the first time. Just a lot of "it doesn't matter if you understand it, it's going to be on the final, this is the formula, this is how to plug it into a calculator, memorize it."

    I see what you mean about me sounding whiney lol. Sorry, it's not my intention, CC is just really been a bit of a let down in a way, and coming from someone how was homeschooled his whole life, I was really excited for "outside education." lol

    Again, thanks for all the help, I really do appreciate it. I've always wanted to go to uni, so it feels good hearing people say it's the right choice. I've been looking into the study plans for CS degrees at some of the universities I'm hoping to get into and it's making me a bit more hopeful :)
  15. Feb 19, 2017 #14
    I spent a semester at a community college while I was applying for university. It was very inexpensive, at least compared to universities. I took physics and chemistry. Compared to the teaching at university, it was better in some ways. In the chemistry lab, we were taught by a PhD chemist, not a teaching assistant. The lecture classes were smaller. Some of my university professors agreed that some of the teachers in CC are better, because they focus on teaching rather than research.

    As far as the curriculum, as I mentioned in my post about the grade 9 Soviet math textbook, the USA is pathetic. The same applies to physics. But never mind the Soviets for now. When I went to university and saw what Western European kids in my class had already studied, I was shocked. I realized how cheated we are, in terms of math and physics, by the American primary and secondary schools.
  16. Feb 19, 2017 #15


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    Community colleges do vary a lot from one state to another. In some states such as California (from what I hear), there is limited space in the 4-year state universities, therefore many incoming students are steered towards the CCs. These are considered almost on a level with the first year or two of the 4-year state universities, with curricula and articulation agreements designed to prepare students for the last 2-3 years of a 4-year university program. In other states they are much more focused on vocational training, and the university-preparation aspect may be more hit-or-miss.
  17. Feb 20, 2017 #16
  18. Feb 20, 2017 #17
    Since computer science imo is a theoretical subfield of mathematics, I recommend you start self learning logic and proofs. Theres a lot of challenge there.

    University quality can range from being a complete joke to a kind of legendary status. Go for the best universities. I go to a decent university but our syllabus is not nearly as challenging as the top theoretical institutes, and i still struggle a lot.

    . I read The students who are doing math bachelors at the top institutes in most countries can easily compete with most master students for math in other universities. Some places are really degree mills! good luck. I found that if you really want to learn you either:

    1. go to the top universities (I was an average student, not an option for me)
    or 2. self learn on your own time (try to make good friends on physics forums, discussions, join groups, study with friends, etc)
    3. study really hard and go to the top universities for masters/phd later on (linear approach). But follow your passion and dont go just for the "university"
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017
  19. Feb 20, 2017 #18


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  20. Feb 20, 2017 #19


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    Several personal/anecdotal/political posts have been removed. Several references to news reports on the academic scandal at UNC remain. The OP is encouraged to research the issue if interested, and the other respondents are encouraged to not focus on UNC since the OP has already stated that he will not be attending UNC
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