From Community College to Yale

  • This has become our largest and most active forum because the physics GRE is just one aspect of getting accepted into a graduate physics program.
  • There are applications, personal statements, letters of recommendation, visiting schools, anxiety of waiting for acceptances, deciding between schools, finding out where others are going, etc.

iHeartless
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:31 pm

From Community College to Yale

Postby iHeartless » Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:48 pm

Hello,

I am currently enrolled in my second semester of community college and will be transferring to Virginia Tech after 2 years to major in physics and minor in astronomy. I received all A+ for my courses (18 credits) and will most likely do so for the remainder of community college. My general question: Will it be possible (realistically) to be accepted into Yale for Astronomy with community college as my first 2 years? I plan on doing absolutely everything possible to build my application competitively.

If I have the GRE scores, research experience, letters of recommendation, strong purpose statement, etc... would simply having "community college" on my application destroy most probability of being accepted? I imagine community college to PhD is not a road often traveled.

Reasons for Yale: Family friends attended, beautiful campus, brilliant staff, and I want to research dark energy/dark matter.

Thank you for any and all responses.

shep23
Posts: 50
Joined: Thu Oct 30, 2014 11:18 pm

Re: From Community College to Yale

Postby shep23 » Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:54 pm

I can't imagine they would care if you went to community college if you had good GRE scores, good letters, research experience, etc. So yes, it would be doable. I think most people would assume you went there for financial reasons and focus more on your two years at Virginia tech than the fact that you went to community college.

PathIntegrals92
Posts: 190
Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2014 12:42 pm

Re: From Community College to Yale

Postby PathIntegrals92 » Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:12 pm

You can certainly do it! If you look at the past profiles from 2008-2014, you'll see that there are students who have successfully went from community college ---> PhD

No, it won't matter to graduate schools that you took this path. As long as you represent yourself as a research successful candidate, why should it matter? Keep studying and working hard! Good luck!

iHeartless
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:31 pm

Re: From Community College to Yale

Postby iHeartless » Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:16 pm

Thank you both for your replies.

djh101
Posts: 97
Joined: Tue Jul 15, 2014 4:08 pm

Re: From Community College to Yale

Postby djh101 » Tue Jan 27, 2015 5:12 am

You might be getting ahead of yourself (and is there any particular reason why you're already completely determined to attend one specific school?), but I suppose it is a valid concern even at this point in time. To answer your question, nobody is going to care if you went to community college anymore than they'll care how you did in high school. Community college to Ph.D is most certainly a road often traveled. Your UCLA or Harvard or Caltech degree will still be the same degree even if you attended your first two years at community college. I went to UCLA as a transfer student, got decent grades, did a little bit of research, and scored highly on the GRE and will be heading to New Mexico (pending acceptances from other schools) to start my Ph.D in fall.

Of course, there are some indirect reasons why community college might put you at a disadvantage. At community college, you won't be able to start upper division classes or research so you might end up rushing a little bit during your junior/senior years which could affect your grades, overall research experience, and connections. If your community college courses are significantly easier than your university courses, you might stumble a little after you transfer. Acceptance tends to be easier for transfer students, so if you get accepted to a school that you probably wouldn't have gotten into as a freshman, you may find it to be a little harder than you can handle (at UCLA there were a lot of chemistry transfers that got in with questionable applications and seemed to really struggle with the coursework). Don't let any of this get you down, though. For the most part, community college shouldn't put you at a significant disadvantage relative to traditional students.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: From Community College to Yale

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:48 am

Definitely, as others have said, community college is no obstacle. And as djh101 has said, it feels a little odd to me that you've already decided on Yale for a PhD (which, in particular, seems a strange choice if your goal is to study DM/DE. Not a terrible choice, and belongs on a list, but I wouldn't say they're known for it). No doubt once you get to Tech (or wherever you end up) you'll have access to professors that can help you broaden your decision, or you can feel free to PM me. Not now--there are a hundred things that could change drastically before you start your PhD, both in your life and the field--but in a couple years, when you're seriously starting your search and application process.

As an aside, why so dead-set on Tech already? On one hand, I like the drive you have, and clear goals are important, but on the other hand, there are a LOT of schools, and wondering why Tech is such a good fit for undergrad.

iHeartless
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:31 pm

Re: From Community College to Yale

Postby iHeartless » Tue Jan 27, 2015 10:35 am

Yale has a certain pull to me and I really enjoy the faculty, facilities, and location.

What other schools should I look into for DE/DM?

Reasons for Virginia Tech: In-state tuition, family attended, have talked to the physics department about specifics, and of course the food!

Is it advantageous to apply to a more "prestigious" university for undergraduate? If so, where and why?

I am extremely strong in academic work, so I highly believe GPA will not suffer; although, I truly do hope in some ways that course work does become difficult (not as much to struggle) to expand my current understanding and test my academic strength.

Since I am only in my second semester of my first year- what is some advice that you wish you had been given early on? I'm trying to get an early jump on building my profile to reach my dreams.

Thank you everyone again for replying, every perspective adds a great deal of information.

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: From Community College to Yale

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:39 am

I'll tell you in a few years :) In truth, professors move and retire, and new stars are born. It's even possible that the Dark Matter question is settled by the time you're ready for grad school (dark energy would surprise me).

Yes, it's marginally advantageous to go to a more prestigious undergraduate school, because the recommenders will be better known, and the superior quality of the education will be assumed. I'd caution against choosing your college list too early based on tuition costs; financial aid packages can be surprising in their generosity. Tech is definitely not a bad choice, but I've noticed VA students seem to decide WAY too early where to go to school. When I taught high school in VA, I asked the freshmen in my Algebra class if they had thought about college--they all knew where they were going. That's not optimizing an important choice: you should become familiar with a range of schools with varying size and character, and make a decision that best fits you as a person.

EDIT: Advice, right! Well, I'd say it's never too early to get lab experience. I broke my first atomic force microscope the summer after my first year of college, which means I fixed my first atomic force microscope the summer after my first year of college. Early exposure lets you know what science is really about (the most important lesson I learned that summer was not to be a microscopist), and better prepares you to jump in the self-starter world of graduate school. If you have running dialogue with Tech professors, see if you can work in one of their labs in the summer--the details of the work itself doesn't matter so much at this stage, it's more about learning what working in a research lab feels like. And don't ignore programming: it's incredibly useful if you come into grad school with a working knowledge of a scripting/plotting language like Python as well as a fast object-oriented language like C/Fortran.

iHeartless
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:31 pm

Re: From Community College to Yale

Postby iHeartless » Tue Jan 27, 2015 12:00 pm

bfollinprm wrote:I'll tell you in a few years :) In truth, professors move and retire, and new stars are born. It's even possible that the Dark Matter question is settled by the time you're ready for grad school (dark energy would surprise me).

Yes, it's marginally advantageous to go to a more prestigious undergraduate school, because the recommenders will be better known, and the superior quality of the education will be assumed. I'd caution against choosing your college list too early based on tuition costs; financial aid packages can be surprising in their generosity. Tech is definitely not a bad choice, but I've noticed VA students seem to decide WAY too early where to go to school. When I taught high school in VA, I asked the freshman in my Algebra class if they had thought about college--they all knew where they were going. That's not optimizing an important choice: you should become familiar with a range of schools with varying size and character, and make a decision that best fits you as a person.


Thank you! May I ask where you taught?

bfollinprm
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: From Community College to Yale

Postby bfollinprm » Tue Jan 27, 2015 12:01 pm

iHeartless wrote:
bfollinprm wrote:I'll tell you in a few years :) In truth, professors move and retire, and new stars are born. It's even possible that the Dark Matter question is settled by the time you're ready for grad school (dark energy would surprise me).

Yes, it's marginally advantageous to go to a more prestigious undergraduate school, because the recommenders will be better known, and the superior quality of the education will be assumed. I'd caution against choosing your college list too early based on tuition costs; financial aid packages can be surprising in their generosity. Tech is definitely not a bad choice, but I've noticed VA students seem to decide WAY too early where to go to school. When I taught high school in VA, I asked the freshman in my Algebra class if they had thought about college--they all knew where they were going. That's not optimizing an important choice: you should become familiar with a range of schools with varying size and character, and make a decision that best fits you as a person.


Thank you! May I ask where you taught?


In Petersburg, at the governor's school there.

djh101
Posts: 97
Joined: Tue Jul 15, 2014 4:08 pm

Re: From Community College to Yale

Postby djh101 » Tue Jan 27, 2015 3:00 pm

Since bfollinprm is serving as the early research example, I guess I'll serve as the late research example. I actually didn't start research until the summer before my senior year. I had a late start on math (placed into trigonometry in community college and only stuck around for two years before transferring) so I was doing a lot of juggling during my stay at UCLA and looking for a research group wasn't the first thing on my mind. The group I joined was actually a geochemistry group (not even physics). As bfollinprm mentioned, programming is an excellent skill to have- I joined the group because my girlfriend was volunteering there which led to me hanging around the lab area and, noticing that everyone was complaining a lot about the LabVIEW program that ran the vacuum line being buggy and always causing problems, I offered to rewrite it. I ended up doing a quarter of lower division research units and another quarter of upper division units plus a poster presentation and then worked as a lab assistant for a few months after graduation. So overall, my research experience wasn't stellar, but I'm sure it boosted my application a fair amount nonetheless (along with all the other benefits of doing research, of which there are many), although I guess I'll be able to quantify that better after I get more admission responses back.

Strange_Beauty
Posts: 10
Joined: Fri Oct 31, 2014 2:11 am

Re: From Community College to Yale

Postby Strange_Beauty » Thu Jan 29, 2015 3:08 am

iHeartless wrote:Hello,

I am currently enrolled in my second semester of community college and will be transferring to Virginia Tech after 2 years to major in physics and minor in astronomy. I received all A+ for my courses (18 credits) and will most likely do so for the remainder of community college. My general question: Will it be possible (realistically) to be accepted into Yale for Astronomy with community college as my first 2 years? I plan on doing absolutely everything possible to build my application competitively.

If I have the GRE scores, research experience, letters of recommendation, strong purpose statement, etc... would simply having "community college" on my application destroy most probability of being accepted? I imagine community college to PhD is not a road often traveled.

Reasons for Yale: Family friends attended, beautiful campus, brilliant staff, and I want to research dark energy/dark matter.

Thank you for any and all responses.


I went to C.C (and waiting for decisions, I got one offer from a top 20s so far) and I think no one cares if you went to C.C, as long as you do well after transferring as well. the one disadvantage: It's hard to do research while attending C.C, you probably loose a couple of semesters/summer research compare to the proactive applicants. But that can be fixed - try to apply to summer research at Universities/national labs every year. Some people also start taking advanced physics courses, which you don't have access to, very early. But you can make up by taking all the maths available and working on your programming skills.




Return to “Prospective Physics Graduate Student Topics”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests