CC -> University Concerns

Orthogonal_Vector
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2017 6:01 pm

CC -> University Concerns

Postby Orthogonal_Vector » Sun Mar 19, 2017 2:57 pm

Hello all,

I am a prospective physics graduate student, about to graduate from high school and begin college this fall. As my decisions are pouring in, I've been accepted to some schools in the UC system (I'm a California resident) that I'd like to attend, but my financial situation prevents me from living on-campus. Thus, I've been considering going to community college to complete my prerequisite courses whilst working, and then transferring a UC, such as UC Berkeley.

My concern, however, is how this will affect how graduate schools view my application, relative to my peers going all 4 years at the same university? Also, for anyone who has trekked the same path, was it difficult to adjust to the new upper-level coursework of the university coming in from CC? Finally, as I would like to engage in physics research of any sort as an undergraduate, will transferring from CC limit my opportunities within the university or to get an REU?

Thank you.

quarkcharmer
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 4:27 am

Re: CC -> University Concerns

Postby quarkcharmer » Sun Mar 19, 2017 8:59 pm

I wouldn't worry. Just work hard. I transferred from CC to UCSB and I did research at Caltech during the summer before senior year. I also was just awarded the NSF GRFP and I'm going to graduate school for the upcoming fall.

IMSSEQMC
Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Dec 25, 2016 1:28 am

Re: CC -> University Concerns

Postby IMSSEQMC » Sun Mar 19, 2017 11:16 pm

Edited a bit (8:55PM):

Hi, disclaimer I'm a current undergraduate who also transferred from CC to UCSB, less successful (but not hopeless and ideas of success vary widely anyway) and applying to grad school next year.

I have many thoughts on this subject, but I'd reiterate the above that it probably won't matter too much. To answer your questions directly:
1. How they will look at it will vary from school to school. Obviously it's far better to have more research experience than less, most of all, and going to a cc will likely severely limit that. At least during the school year and summer research is difficult to obtain, but luckily there are many summer research programs that reserve spaces for cc/liberal arts college students (like those REU's so in a way it could be "easier" because you're competing with other cc/liberal arts college students, as opposed to university students).
2. Personally it felt like a train hit me, in terms of change in difficulty in classes, plus the semester to quarter system change was intense as well. Specifically for UCSB it is a bit weird in that its probably the easiest top ten in physics to get into for undergrad, but they basically "super-train" an already stellar group of students in a "research honors physics major" (CCS Physics, google will explain it better) that you have to compete with in upper-division classes, on top of the other regular physics majors that have had 2 years of lowers division physics classes tailored to preparing them for physics upper division classes at UCSB as well. So you're "competing" against students who have arguably 1 to 2 higher levels of intensive preparation than you do. However my performance was largely my fault (of course) since I did not prepare as well as I could have in lower division and have been trying to catch up ever since. But on the flip=side I am also doing a couple of grad courses in my 2nd year here, >1 years worth of computational/theoretical research under an undergrad fellowship with a reputable professor/grad student "theory group" (including over the summer), and will likely submit something for publication soon, so that's just my experience.
3. I answered more or less your research question in 1; in short it'd probably help to get an REU, but hurt in ease of getting research opportunities in general. In my CC (and possibly nearby state school) there was little to no Physics research and it was very difficult to obtain research in general in my hometown, so I started research my winter quarter at UCSB. I suppose my main question is which UC you got into to help answer this more in-depth.

Personally if you got into any of UCI, UCLA, UCSD, UCD, UCSB, UCSC maybe UC Riverside, I'd just go. Although what you actually want to major in and if you actually still want to go to graduate school eventually has a high chance of changing, you would probably be better off going to just any tier 1 research institution that's doing physics research you can participate in and enjoy, especially if you stick on this route. Especially if you get into UCSB CCS Physics, believe me I was a die hard "transfer to UC Berkeley or bust" kind of guy and there was nothing you could have told me if I actually got into UC Berkeley that would have stopped me from going. But really, go to a university you have a higher chance of getting all the stuff grad schools care more about like research experience, great letters, higher grades (especially for grades closest to application date, I imagine my CC grades weigh so much less than my UC grades and while your GPA "resets" when you transfer, that can be a good or bad thing), maybe publications, and etc.. The weight of all of these vary from graduate admissions committees of course, but are generally the most important from what I gather, you can see for yourself on the application results thread that it matters farrrr less what undergraduate institution you actually went to than what you accomplished there.

This unfortunately may mean going to say UCSB or UCD over UC Berkeley or UCLA if you feel your GPA will get wrecked (which it has a higher chance to, and no one feels their GPA would get wrecked initially so this is probably a moot point. Anyway, the UC's are probably all pretty similar in GPA wrecking ability) or if it would be harder to get a satisfactory research position as soon as entering the university. Yes it costs more to go to UC right away than to transfer (but to be honest you don't know if you'd get into the same or better places when you get to the transfer date and lots of people get "stuck in cc"), but I am of the (possibly regretful) mindset that this is an investment and if you have a higher chance of achieving you goals by taking these opportunities, despite the debt (which you can pay off if you succeed), I'd go to the UC over transferring.

So, if you get into say UCSB CCS Physics or think you can transfer into CCS Physics that is what I would do hands down looking back, and I'd do it over UC Berkeley and hell even over Stanford/MIT/Harvard probably (the program is that good). Otherwise, just do a bit more research into say STEM Summer/Quarter research opportunities/programs that are offered at the university, I'd imagine all of the UC's are good for these, and perhaps at the "lesser" UC's there's less competition for opportunities so you can focus on improving yourself and your application. I know for UCSB it's probably a bit easier to get into research earlier in your academic career thanks to an assortment of STEM research programs (although a lot are geared towards underrepresented students if that's a problem for you).

Hope that helps.

astroprof
Posts: 100
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2008 4:47 pm

Re: CC -> University Concerns

Postby astroprof » Tue Mar 21, 2017 5:03 am

As evidenced by the responses here, it is certainly possible to go to graduate school after starting college at a CC. However, there are "opportunity costs" associated with transferring from a CC to a 4-year school, and possibly additional financial costs that you should consider as you make your decision. First, the opportunity cost: (1) as you already recognize, it will likely be more difficult to get involved in research during the CC-years, whereas first year students can sometimes begin research immediately upon arrival at a 4-year school. (2) Transfer students may find it more difficult to find study-partners in the upper division courses, if these groups are already entrenched from previous lower-division classes. Finding a cohort of like-minded students to work together can be critical to success in upper level courses (and, of course, working on problem sets with others is much more fun!).

In terms of financial costs, it is often over-looked that many students who start at a CC spend more than two years completing their degree at the "4 year college." In particular, you should verify that your CC will offer the advanced level mathematics courses and rigorous introductory physics courses that you need for a physics degree. Specifically, some CC's do not offer calculus-based introductory physics, which are key courses for prospective physics majors. If you cannot take the relevant prerequisite physics and mathematics courses, you may end up needing 3 years to complete your degree after you transfer. At that point, it is likely better to simply start at the 4-year school, rather than paying for 2 years at the CC and 3 years at the 4-year school (not to mention the opportunity cost of taking 5 years to complete your Bachelor's degree instead of 4).

That said, there are many paths to graduate school, and attending a CC first may be the best option for you. Just keep your eyes open for opportunities and make the most of your time in school.

astroprof
Posts: 100
Joined: Fri Feb 15, 2008 4:47 pm

Re: CC -> University Concerns

Postby astroprof » Tue Mar 21, 2017 5:03 am

As evidenced by the responses here, it is certainly possible to go to graduate school after starting college at a CC. However, there are "opportunity costs" associated with transferring from a CC to a 4-year school, and possibly additional financial costs that you should consider as you make your decision. First, the opportunity cost: (1) as you already recognize, it will likely be more difficult to get involved in research during the CC-years, whereas first year students can sometimes begin research immediately upon arrival at a 4-year school. (2) Transfer students may find it more difficult to find study-partners in the upper division courses, if these groups are already entrenched from previous lower-division classes. Finding a cohort of like-minded students to work together can be critical to success in upper level courses (and, of course, working on problem sets with others is much more fun!).

In terms of financial costs, it is often over-looked that many students who start at a CC spend more than two years completing their degree at the "4 year college." In particular, you should verify that your CC will offer the advanced level mathematics courses and rigorous introductory physics courses that you need for a physics degree. Specifically, some CC's do not offer calculus-based introductory physics, which are key courses for prospective physics majors. If you cannot take the relevant prerequisite physics and mathematics courses, you may end up needing 3 years to complete your degree after you transfer. At that point, it is likely better to simply start at the 4-year school, rather than paying for 2 years at the CC and 3 years at the 4-year school (not to mention the opportunity cost of taking 5 years to complete your Bachelor's degree instead of 4).

That said, there are many paths to graduate school, and attending a CC first may be the best option for you. Just keep your eyes open for opportunities and make the most of your time in school.




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