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Which college?

  1. Jul 1, 2008 #1
    Hello all

    I would like to study math in college in the hopes of someday becoming a mathematician. I'm going to be a senior in high school with about a 3.4 GPA (taking IB classes). Not great, I know. I self-studied Calculus BC (being in the AB class) and got a 5 on the exam. I also got 5s in French and English Language (I lived a year in France though, so the high grade in French is natural). There is an upward trend in grades from my freshman year to now. (I got a C in algebra and some other stupid things ... ack!)

    I will have taken Calc 3 and linear algebra by the end of high school. I am sure I'll get an A in calc 3 and who knows about linear algebra (which I'll be taking online through Stanford's EPGY program.)

    I don't have any of the great extracurriculars nor the GPA eneded to get into *really* competitive schools.

    Which colleges could I reasonably get in to that have the best possible math programs? Thanks for the advice.

    P.S. I know I've asked a similar question here before but I was much less precise and specific. I hope I'll get some good answers :-)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 1, 2008 #2
    Haha forgot to mention I got a 2370 on the SAT (first try). The 770 was in writing.
  4. Jul 1, 2008 #3
    I don't understand the perception of a 3.4 as "not great".
  5. Jul 1, 2008 #4
    Well most of the people I know in high school have higher GPAs. It's good, sure, but not exceptional. That's all I meant.
  6. Jul 1, 2008 #5
    You seem bright and motivated, though your low GPA makes it unlikely you'll get into MIT, Harvard, etc. However, you might still want to toss out some applications to places like these. I think you have a very good shot at getting into places like Rice or some UAA schools. But what kind of school are you looking for? For example, are you interested in doing DIII sports? Or do you want to get as far away from home as possible? Big or small?
  7. Jul 1, 2008 #6
    I think it's important to determine first the non-math things that matter to you, like the examples durt gave, and then find a school that maximizes those things as well as a math education.

    A 3.4 isn't so bad, and if you aren't limited by financial constraints, it doesn't hurt to apply to places like MIT or Harvard, though I wouldn't hope for too much. The nice thing about a 3.4 is it won't hurt you in applying to prestigious but less selective institutions.
  8. Jul 1, 2008 #7
    UAA = University of Alaska at Anchorage is the only interpretation of that acronym that comes to mind. ???

    I don't play any sports and don't care about college sports at all. I'd prefer something like New York or Boston, but a medium-sized city will work for me. Nothing really rural. But honestly location geography isn't that big a deal to me as long as there's some form of civilization not too far away.

    Getting far away from home would be fun, but I'm sure I would still be happy at my state's flagship university (in Tucson). Maybe it wouldn't be as interesting as the National University of Singapore, but it's not life-or-death.

    The main things I care about are the quality of the education and my chances at a good graduate school, along with the caliber of my fellow students. I don't want to spend four years with a bunch of misguided bros who are only going to college because everyone always told them it was the next stop after high school. This is the impression I get of Arizona State (the closest university to me, and somewhere I absolutely don't want to go). I want to spend four years with bright, talented, interesting, culturally diverse people.

    And obviously the caliber of the math department is very important.

    Getting into Harvard etc. seems totally unrealistic. Would that dream really be worth the $60 app fee?

    Thanks for the input.
  9. Jul 1, 2008 #8


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    A 3.4 in an IB program isn't shabby at all! If I were you, I'd try to diagnose the reason you got the C in algebra, and fix whatever it was that wasn't working (you've probably already done this :smile: ). Getting an A in Calc and a 5 on the AP exam will more than make up for that grade, IMO.

    Your high school library probably has books about colleges, such as "Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges," by Loren Pope. Books such as this may not guide you to your "perfect fit" college, but may as a guide to how to judge if a college is a good fit for you.
  10. Jul 1, 2008 #9
    Okay, semi-urban campus, high quality math department ([tex]\Rightarrow[/tex] decent students), with the opportunity to move up a tier for grad school... That's it?
  11. Jul 1, 2008 #10
    Of course not, but those are the most important.

    And I'd change "semi-urban" to "anywhere from semi-urban to megalopolis", and append "culturally diverse and interesting students".

    Being a good overall school would be a plus as well as I may double major or get a minor in something other than math (probably either linguistics or computer science, but nothing's certain...) I.e. I don't care only about math.
  12. Jul 2, 2008 #11
    Right, right... I was seeing if I understood your minima correctly. I'd say your chances are reasonable for any of the well-ranked state universities (Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Maryland, etc.)

    Since you plan to go to grad school, something else worth considering is if you can get a rough idea of what subfield of math you'll be interested in... As an undergrad you won't have to specialize, but if you grow to discover some deep love for, say, algebraic geometry only to discover that no one at the school you end up at really cares about it, well, that sucks. This usually isn't a problem at the large universities though.
  13. Jul 2, 2008 #12
    I've been self-studying Artin's "Algebra" and Apostol's "Mathematical Analysis". I'm three chapters in to each. That's about it for "advanced" math. As for choosing something narrow and specific like "algebraic geometry" to be interested in, I'm not really there, at all.
  14. Jul 2, 2008 #13
    That's okay, you really shouldn't be yet, and that's another reason that large departments are nice. My advice always comes with a pound of salt, but I think you should stick to well ranked flagship state universities and then shave away the ones that don't mesh with your personal preferences (e.g., UIUC won't meet your civilization criteria, but Wisconsin will) and apply liberally! $60 to Harvard might be flushing money, but you never know how the admissions process will work out elsewhere.

    By the way, do any of Arizona's neighbors offer out-of-state tuition deals for Arizona residents?
  15. Jul 2, 2008 #14
    Thanks again for the advice.

    I don't know if Arizona has any deals like that. I've heard rumors that they do with other Western states (Washington, Oregon, etc.) but I have no idea where to find out if that's true.
  16. Jul 3, 2008 #15
    A quick search turned this up, I didn't read it too thoroughly, but it might apply:

    Washington has a good reputation (but I'm in physics) and I had a friend really interested in Oregon (math and physics), and obviously all of the UC schools are great.
  17. Jul 3, 2008 #16
    That isn't valid for any of the schools I was thinking of applying to, unfortunately. Notably the University of California schools and the U. of Washington are not included in the program.
  18. Jul 3, 2008 #17
    Well, crap, so not much help there, then. I hate out-of-state tuition.
  19. Jul 3, 2008 #18
    The UAA is these schools. They tend to be midsize (3000-6000 undergrads) with decent academics and located in major cities. Chicago in particular is supposed to be good for math, but that might be difficult to get into. I myself go to Case Western. They gave me a big fat scholarship, and I'm sure they'll offer you one, too, so you should apply :smile:. Anyway, schools like these will give you the opportunity to take grad classes and stuff like that, but they're tighter-knit than big state schools. Also, their students are certainly brighter on average than at state schools. I'd also look into Harvey Mudd (a little techy school outside LA). That place seems awesome.
  20. Jul 4, 2008 #19
    I made a short list of schools to apply to and e-mailed one math professor at each introducing myself and asking some basic questions about their math department.

    Is this a good way to gain information about prospective schools, or am I just wasting my time?
  21. Jul 4, 2008 #20

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    Are you 100% sure that the basic questions are not answered on the school or department's web site? Otherwise, the message you are sending is, "I am too lazy to look this up for myself, but I am more than willing to have you spend time on this." This is not impressive, and probably counter-productive.
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