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Multivariable Calculus for Admission into MIT, Caltech?

potatomonkeypotatomonkey 15 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
Hi CC,

I am currently a senior in high school applying for colleges and my goal is MIT or Caltech. I already finished AP Calculus BC and AP Stats at my high school, and am enrolled in a community college multivariable calc course. This class runs until May, so I can only get an in progress grade (IP) on my transcript when I apply for colleges. It costs $70, for an online homework system not including the textbook. Including gas, textbook, and online HW system, it will cost around $300. Also, it does take some time for me to commute there 2 days per week. I am considering dropping this class, but then I will not have a math class in senior year. Will it be of any disadvantage to me in the admissions process if I drop the MVC class and is it still worth it to continue? I don't think $300 is worth it for a community college class personally. If there are any relatively cheap online courses for MVC, I would be willing to look into those as well. Thanks!
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Replies to: Multivariable Calculus for Admission into MIT, Caltech?

  • potatomonkeypotatomonkey 15 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited August 29
    If I could get some advice from current or former AO's of these schools, that would be great, but anyone is welcome to answer.
    edited August 29
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  • UMD2021&2023UMD2021&2023 29 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I think CalTech and MIT both want to see that you have taken a math class all 4 years of high school, so you will need some type of math your senior year. You should probably check with their admission requirements. I can understand why you don't really want to take it at your CC, but I'm pretty sure you will need some type of math.
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  • potatomonkeypotatomonkey 15 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks for the advice. If I stated I was learning it through a MOOC such as edX/MIT OCW/Coursera, would that be seen as less legitimate than taking a CC class?
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  • potatomonkeypotatomonkey 15 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I found another option to take discrete math which is a semester long and is mostly online. Is there a better class to take between discrete math and multivariable, or are they viewed as the same? Will MIT/Caltech not care too much about which math class I take, as long as I take one?
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  • dropbox77177dropbox77177 263 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited September 1
    I think discrete math is a better choice than MVC. In all likelihood, if you get into MIT or Caltech, you are going to want to retake single variable calculus, which will be taught at either school at a much more rigorous level - almost intro analysis "lite." Moving ahead to a non-rigorous treatment of MVC this year will not really advance you along your path.

    Discrete math - especially if it covers some basic number theory, set theory, logic, combinatorics, etc. - will help you to transition in a low risk way from the algorithmic "plug and chug" of high school math (including BC Calc and MVC as taught at every community college) to the more proof-oriented approach of higher math. You could also see if for your second semester you can pick up a linear algebra course at the CC. The intro course is often called something like "Matrix Algebra," which could be a fun and not very difficult preview of one of the basic courses you will want to undertake at a theoretical level if you want to go on to higher math.

    Who knows for sure, but I think MIT and Caltech would marginally prefer discrete math/linear algebra to simply a year long community college MVC course.
    edited September 1
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77793 replies678 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 2
    I think discrete math is a better choice than MVC. In all likelihood, if you get into MIT or Caltech, you are going to want to retake single variable calculus, which will be taught at either school at a much more rigorous level - almost intro analysis "lite."

    True for Caltech, but not necessarily for MIT. Entering MIT students with a 5 on AP calculus BC can skip 18.01 and go directly to 18.02. @sbjdorlo has mentioned that MIT does grant subject credit for math courses beyond single variable calculus taken at other colleges and universities.
    edited September 2
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  • sbjdorlosbjdorlo 4896 replies388 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Responding late to this post. My understanding is that current policy at Caltech states that students cannot bring in transfer credit from other colleges and universities, or at least that was the experience with a student I worked with several years ago who had both community college credits and at least one UC course during high school. It's always good to check the latest policy.

    As UCB alluded to, my own son did receive transfer credit for Calc III, Linear Algebra and Differential Equations taken at the local community college when he was in 9th and 10th grade. He had also gotten a 5 on the BC exam. We had to document it heavily as per their policy.
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  • dropbox77177dropbox77177 263 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited September 9
    There are students who do AP Calc in elementary school, and get a 5 on the test (AB and BC parts) and 800 on Math Level 2 by 8th grade. My own did this, and no doubt sbjdorlo's son did the same. These kids invariably get to some basic analysis and algebra courses by the end of high school, gaining exposure to the type of proof based math that someone who only sees MVC at a cc and AP Stats in high school will not. In my opinion, these advanced students should skip the intro calc sequence even at MIT or CalTech (crazy if CalTech doesn't let them). They would be bored. Many top universities already have special first-year sequences just for these kids (for instance, Math 216-218 at Princeton), because there are more of them than people would guess.

    But OP here is not that advanced, and won't have seen any proof based math in high school. That's why, despite the possibility of gaining credit, I'd suggest discrete math over MVC. Assuming acceptance at MIT, OP should probably not lean out too far over the springboard on the basis of just a community college MVC class and seek further placement beyond the single variable calc course.
    edited September 9
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1274 replies35 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 9
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    I think discrete math is a better choice than MVC. In all likelihood, if you get into MIT or Caltech, you are going to want to retake single variable calculus, which will be taught at either school at a much more rigorous level - almost intro analysis "lite."

    True for Caltech, but not necessarily for MIT. Entering MIT students with a 5 on AP calculus BC can skip 18.01 and go directly to 18.02. @sbjdorlo has mentioned that MIT does grant subject credit for math courses beyond single variable calculus taken at other colleges and universities.
    MIT no longer automatically gives credit for 18.01 with a 5 on AP Calc BC. An additional diagnostic test is required for the credit. Transfer credit from another college is also not automatic and requires approval with a petition.

    Caltech doesn't give any credit for AP or college courses in any subject. A student can skip an intro class (but receives no credit) by taking its placement exam in a number of subjects. However, even IMO gold medalists are unlikely to have taken calculus at the level of Apostol in HS, so students need to think twice whether they want to skip it.
    edited September 9
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  • skieuropeskieurope 38927 replies6879 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    edited September 9
    MIT no longer automatically gives credit for 18.01 with a 5 on AP Calc BC. An additional diagnostic test is required for the credit.
    While true, it's a formality for all intents and purposes. And to be clear, everyone takes the math diagnostics test.
    In my opinion, these advanced students should skip the intro calc sequence even at MIT
    In addition to 18.01 credit for AP Calc BC, MIT also offers challenge exams for MVC (18.02), Linear Algebra (18.06), and Differential Equations (18.03). Nobody is taking the intro calc sequence if they already have it down pat.
    edited September 9
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  • CountingDownCountingDown 13403 replies110 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    UChicago and UMD-CP will also do their own math placement exams. One of my sons had done MVC, proof-based analysis, Discrete, Lin Alg, DiffEq, etc. in HS and would have had the opportunity to place out of anything beyond Calc BC at all the schools to which he was accepted. He went straight into Analysis freshman year, but that was based at least as much on the strength of his HS program as his own ability.

    MVC is typically a weeder class, and for an aspiring math major, MVC will be your first exposure to proofs. Lots of would-be math majors change their minds after this more theoretical approach! Lin Ald and Discrete are excellent foundations for a math major, and both are useful as foundational math for any CS courses you may choose to take in college.
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  • potatomonkeypotatomonkey 15 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    To petition for college credit at any general private university, what sort of documents do you need to keep from the community college course? I am keeping the syllabus, but do they look at worksheets completed or quizzes/tests?
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1274 replies35 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^For MIT, what's needed is on this form:
    http://uaap.mit.edu/sites/default/files/Documents/creditrequestform.pdf

    No need for detailed work in the class. The Transfer Credit Examiner may ask you additional questions, though.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 38927 replies6879 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    To petition for college credit at any general private university
    By "credit" do you mean credit and/or placement? In general, for private colleges, you're out of luck. Few private colleges will give credit for CC course, especially if they also earned HS credit. Some may offer exemption from the course, but no credit For the ones that offer either, what they require will be specific to the university, and may vary by department within the university. At the minimum, you would need the syllabus, including textbook information and chapters covered. Additional requirements may include copies of written work and/or taking a departmental exam.
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  • yucca10yucca10 1242 replies37 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Re Caltech: my son, who took MVC in school plus linear algebra and complex analysis in our state flagship, did the placements tests this summer. After looking at the test for skipping part or all of the first-year calculus he ultimately decided not to submit it because there were things he didn't know, and he felt that even if he passed the test he would still benefit from the Caltech calc sequence. I'm pretty sure he won't be bored.
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  • dropbox77177dropbox77177 263 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited September 10
    However, even IMO gold medalists are unlikely to have taken calculus at the level of Apostol in HS, so students need to think twice whether they want to skip it.
    Agreed, but a good number of advanced kids will have tackled baby Rudin by junior year in high school :)

    Anyway, not to pick on CalTech but I don't think it has gotten an IMO gold winner since it scrapped its merit scholarships a decade ago. CMU now gets them if they cannot afford Harvard or MIT.
    edited September 10
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1274 replies35 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^Physics, not math, runs in the blood at Caltech. It places much greater emphasis on the former. CMU is really into math competitions these days because of Po-Shen Loh, a graduate of Caltech and a math professor at CMU, who is the current and the most successful coach ever of the US Math Olympiad team.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77793 replies678 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    1NJParent wrote: »
    ^Physics, not math, runs in the blood at Caltech. It places much greater emphasis on the former.

    However, Caltech is (perhaps along with Harvey Mudd) the US university with the hardest least difficult math course and hardest math general education requirement.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1274 replies35 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    1NJParent wrote: »
    ^Physics, not math, runs in the blood at Caltech. It places much greater emphasis on the former.

    However, Caltech is (perhaps along with Harvey Mudd) the US university with the hardest least difficult math course and hardest math general education requirement.

    Yes, but its physics courses are even harder relative to the other places...
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