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With so many schools to choose from, how do I decide which to consider / visit?

  1. Dec 10, 2011 #1

    I really appreciate this and thanks for any help before hand.
    I'd like to start looking at schools and I'm having trouble even finding an idea where to start.

    I want to go back to school as a 27 year old transfer that was a college drop-out but did get an associates degree in a non-related field (marketing). Please don't laugh.
    I want to either major in physics or electrical engineering.
    I'm not a genius, I got an 1200 on my SATs (old 1600 format), approx 3.5 GPA, have limited knowledge and no credentials related to physics or engineering. What I do have is an extreme passion and desire to learn, (or I would not be going back to school). I feel a love for the science and I've always been a strong Science student. I took an SAT II in biology in highschool and scored well, but I admit I was much more of a screw up then and now I am mature enough to appreciate knowledge. I know in my heart I will be a great student, but I doubt I look like that on paper. I've been out of school for about 5 years.
    I do a google search and it's all about Cal tech vs princeton vs stanford, MIT, etc... Realistically, I don't think I can get into any of these schools with my current statistics so I'm looking for a good school (not great/best) that fits me. I know you guys aren't college counselors and don't get paid for this but I could really use some help.
    What'd I'd look for in a school in a good physics department with a great lab, perhaps smaller classes open more for discussion rather than lectures. A strong electrical engineering department and a level of maturity among the student body. I don't want to party, etc.
    So my questions are these:
    Is there anything I can do, any test I can take, that can help me with getting into the best school possible?
    Then in finding the school: Is there any resource or recommendations you have?
    Do you recommend any path as an adult going back to school? Should I take night classes that are easier to get into and then try to work my way in?
    Where and how should I get started?
    Does being older and "low-threat" have a positive or negative impact on college admissions?
    Do you recommend any GOOD (not the best) schools?
    Are tech programs/schools easier to get into than "regular" college?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 10, 2011 #2
    I am also a returning student, 25 years old in March, and have been out of school about 5 years as well. I'm not able to really answer your question about picking a good school, except maybe look at the course offerings. Schools with smaller and/or worse physics departments (and I may be wrong, this is just an opinion) offer less varied upper division physics courses.

    I am returning to the school I dropped out from, which is one of the smaller state schools where I live. But I will be transferring to the bigger state school that has more funding and a bigger physics department once I raise my GPA, so I can take advantage of their undergraduate research and more upper division physics courses. There is generally not going to be a more mature campus, we have to remember that we're dealing with 18-22 year olds. Even MIT students party. For night classes vs. day classes, it is harder, in my experience, to find night classes for the sciences and math. I'm taking a night Calc 1 in the spring, but that seems to be an exception at my school. Maybe just stop by a local university and see if you can pop in and talk to one of the physics advisors. Even if their school isn't a good fit for you, they might be able to recommend additional resources to help you. Hope this was at least a little helpful, best of luck. It'll be kind of funny being back on campus, everyone looks so young.

    P.S. If you have any other questions or anything, feel free to message me.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2011
  4. Dec 10, 2011 #3
    the thing you want to be concerned with imo is money. as in the debt you will have when you graduate, or the amount you will have to pay to finish your degree.

    the best thing to do is to start at a community college, taking calc1-2 (calc3, linear algebra, and differential equations if offered), gen chem 1-2, and engineering/calc-physics 1-2.

    it would probably be safe to take some electives as well. i would look at a local state university that has a good engineering program and coordinate with them to transfer, and see what they recommend.

    this will complete some of your degree, and save you a lot of money.

    also, i'd go for EE as the job prospects will be better than a physics degree.
  5. Dec 11, 2011 #4
    So a great resource is the collegeboard college match maker here:

    The search left me with 44 schools. Which I thought was around the perfect number to condsider. I went down the list and clicked on about half "add to my list". Basically some made the cut because I liked the location better and they had a better name (meaning I've heard of them before in a good way). Now I have 20 schools to really take time and inspect, and so far the first 3 already look good!
    I just thought I'd relay this info and process to anyone else who is returning back to school. It was a great first step. Now for the research :)
  6. Dec 12, 2011 #5
    I would also suggest, from an efficiency standpoint, to go back to school starting at a Community College. The classes at a CC will be significantly smaller and if you go in with a plan - you can transfeer nearly everything.

    As for a University to get the engineering degree at: I think whatever state/large school nearest to you is great. While, sure, it would be nice to go to Stanford or MIT, a large accredited school nearby will carry as much clout with local employers.

    (I'm 29 and have just gotten back into school after several years away)
  7. Dec 12, 2011 #6
    Awesome, congrats on getting in. Yea, I agree with the CC, but the physics and engineering classes can be limited. Are you saying I should put in the 2 years and get an associates degree or put in about a year just to take some of transferable classes?
    I have an associates degree in marketing, but as I look at my transcript not much will transfer to my major besides maybe the english, gen eds, and pre-calc. I think I will go to the CC here to take Calculus, Physics 101, etc., but first I'll go in a speak with an advisor and give the game plan. Thanks for the recommendation.
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