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Upper Division Preparation - Transfer Student

  1. Aug 9, 2012 #1
    Hello all

    I currently attend a California community college where I am preparing to transfer to a University of California campus - hopefully Berkeley - to study physics. I've had no difficulty in my lower division math and physics courses (calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, mechanics, E&M, etc...) and have even won the award for math student of distinction at my college this past year. I even hold a position as a sort of TA (called supplemental instruction at my school) for the mechanics class with calculus.

    The problem is I still feel that jumping into upper division courses at a university is beyond my capabilities. I am not so afraid of the math as I am for the physics. I have no problem understanding the concepts and I can solve just about any problem in my book (Young & Freedman: University Physics), it's just I feel I could have been challenged more in exams.

    So I ask you: should exams in lower division physics courses merely reflect homework? Am I expected to know every detail about the concepts laid out in these courses and use them at a moments notice? Or at this level should I just have a solid understanding of the fundamentals? I have another year at the CC to finish up (relatively easy) transfer requirements, how should I prepare in the meantime? Am I thinking too much?!

    Any comments or advice about the transition to upper division work is welcome.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 9, 2012 #2
    I had the same worries when I transfered in from a community college. You really are worrying to much. The calculus sequence is pretty standardized for undergraduates, as is Physics.

    If you have taken the courses on the transfer list and feel comfortable with the material then you are well prepared! Relax and keep up the good work and enjoy the fact you will have significantly less in student loans.

    One other note, is usually people transferring from a 2 year school to a 4 year school take a slight dip in their GPA in the first semester. That is usually just a transition shock, and not related to a person's knowledge base. In my experience the workload at the 4 year University is tougher, i.e. the assignments are more challenging but the exams and content have been comparable.

    If you are really worried just print out your syllabi for your physics and math classes. Find the departmental undergraduate coordinator (or similar title) for the school you are transfering into and set up an appointment to compare them. It's probably a good idea to talk with them anyways, you will get better advice from them than a generic advisor who is not field specific.
  4. Aug 9, 2012 #3
    Hey there. I went to a UC campus for undergrad so I can assure you that you are well prepared. The CC transfers didn't do any better or worse in my upper division courses than the students who went to UC for the first two years.

    The biggest hurdle for almost everyone in upper division courses is calculus skill. It takes lots and lots of practice. In my Signal Processing class, for example, almost everyone had more trouble doing the required integrations and stuff in homework than they did in setting up the problems. If you have a strong grasp of calculus, and know where to look things up to refresh yourself, you've going to do fine.
  5. Sep 4, 2012 #4
    Thanks! I feel somewhat better about it now. I've been going through my books and picking out any little details that I'm not certain about to prepare more. I just know I won't be "that one guy" in my classes anymore. :/

    On another note, today I discovered that I can take a course at my local university as I finish up my transfer requirements here. In the spring I will have a rather easy semester and I'm thinking about taking an upper division math course there. Any suggestions for math I will want to know if I continue physics in graduate school?
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