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Best schools for astrophysics/math in Illinois?

comfortablycurtcomfortablycurt Registered User Posts: 2,182 Senior Member
edited January 2013 in College Search & Selection
Hey everyone! I'm Curt, and I'm a new member here, and I'm also new to the college life. I'll give you a brief summary of my situation.

I dropped out of high school when I was 16 for several various reasons, mainly that I felt like I had better things to do and felt like I wasn't getting much out of my high school experience. I got my GED when I was 18(which was a cakewalk), and I'm now 26 and finally going back to school. I'd planned on going to college shortly after getting my GED, but life got in the way and it kept getting put off.

I'm about finished with my first semester at my local community college, and I'm starting to look into schools to transfer to. Right now I'm in elementary algebra, and English 101(composition 1). It's been a while since I've had to use math, so I needed a refresher. Spring semester, I'm taking geometry and intermediate algebra, and I plan to take college algebra this coming summer. I'm also starting chemistry next semester, and going into English 103. Getting caught up in my math courses is priority one right now. I'm a good student though, averaging about 99% in algebra, and about the same in English 101. I'm planning on getting an associates in the sciences for physics at my community college, which is Sauk Valley Community College, in Dixon, IL. I've developed a rough course plan that will allow me to finish the full calculus sequence here, as well as take either differential equations or linear algebra my last semester here. I'll be here for about two more years after this year ends, so I've still got some time to get a plan laid.

I'd appreciate any advice on schools to transfer to. I'm planning on majoring in astrophysics and mathematics, with possible minors in philosophy or english. I've looked at several schools, and I'd love some advice on other schools to check out.

My top school at this point would have to be the University of Chicago. They have one of the best physics programs in the country, and I'd love to go there. As a high school drop out though, should I even be considering a school like that? They require ACT scores, which I don't have...but I'm planning on taking my ACT's once I get a little closer to having my associates.

I've also looked at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, which seems to have a very solid physics program as well.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, including what kinds of courses I should look into taking, or other schools to look into.

Thanks in advance, and I look forward to spending some time on these forums in the following years. :)
Post edited by comfortablycurt on

Replies to: Best schools for astrophysics/math in Illinois?

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,271 Senior Member
    You probably want to complete all of the sophomore level math (multivariable calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations) as well as the full introductory physics sequence (for physics and engineering majors) before transfer, since many universities are most friendly to transfers who come in at the junior level.

    For many universities in your region, you can use http://www.transfer.org to match up your community college's courses to those at the universities you are targeting to transfer to.

    Remember to check the net price calculators for your target universities to see if you can afford to attend.
  • comfortablycurtcomfortablycurt Registered User Posts: 2,182 Senior Member
    Thanks for the tips. By the full introductory physics sequence, do you mean just General Physics I and II, or should I take the full engineering sequence too? My school has a three course engineering sequence, should I take that here before transferring? I'm going into research/theoretical physics, and not engineering, but obviously a lot of the same principles still apply. I'll likely be taking the introduction to Physics course over the summer, then starting General Physics next year. Would that be sufficient?

    I'm taking the introductory chemistry course this coming semester, and next year I plan on taking General Chemistry I and II sequence. Should I worry about taking Organic Chemistry here, or should I use that time for other courses?

    My math plan is basically as follows-
    next semster-Geometry and intermediate algebra
    summer 2013-college algebra
    fall 2013-trigonometry
    spring 2014-calc I
    summer 2014-calc II
    fall 2014-calc III
    spring 2015-differential equations or linear algebra
    My school doesn't actually have a dedicated multivariable calculus course, but multivariable calculus is covered in calc III. Would it be ill advised to take differential equations and linear algebra at the same time? If I could take them at the same time, that would probably be the way I'd prefer to do it.

    Thanks for the link! I'll definitely give that a look. :)
  • whenhenwhenhen Registered User Posts: 5,638 Senior Member
    Just a warning, many of the top schools take almost no transfer students, and those that they do often were students at another four year school (I don't have any idea about Chicago's transfer policies though).

    Obviously Northwestern is excellent, but it's almost as difficult to get into NU as UC

    Consider UIUC. While its astrophysics doesn't seem that strong, it does have plenty of general physics courses to choose from Course Listing: Fall 2012 | Department of Physics at the U of I as well as all of the math courses you could take as an undergrad Mathematics Courses | Illinois (note those are only the course offerings for one semester, so obviously, plenty of variety)

    Another good school is the Illinois Institute of Technology. While they don't seem to offer that many astrophysics courses IIT Science and Letters | Physics | Course Descriptions there are PLENTY of physics classes to choose from. Also it's usually fairly easy for qualified undergrads to take grad school classes. Its math offerings actually appear more extensive than UIUC's IIT Science and Letters | Applied Math | Course Descriptions
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,271 Senior Member
    By the full introductory physics sequence, do you mean just General Physics I and II, or should I take the full engineering sequence too? My school has a three course engineering sequence, should I take that here before transferring?

    Program: Physics - Sauk Valley Community College - Acalog ACMS? indicates that you should take the following to prepare for transferring into a bachelor's degree program in physics:

    Math 203-204-205 Calculus I-II-III
    Physics 211-212-213 Engineering Physics I-II-III

    For whatever reason, the following are not listed, but are likely required to complete a bachelor's degree in physics:

    Math 211 Differential Equations
    Math 231 Linear Algebra

    It looks like from your college's math department web pages, you can the Math 211 and 231 together after Math 205.


    Note that Physics 201-202 General Physics I-II is not intended for students majoring in physics or engineering, except as preparation for Physics 211-212-213 for those who have not had high school physics.

  • comfortablycurtcomfortablycurt Registered User Posts: 2,182 Senior Member
    Thanks so much for the help!

    whenwhen-I still need to look into Northwestern, I've heard that NW is an excellent school, but very difficult to get into. I need to do some research on them still. UIUC is basically my second choice right now...I'll definitely look into IIT too. Thanks for the tips.

    ucb-Thanks for the clarification. I think what I'll need to do then is get General Physics done next year, and then start the engineering sequence the year after that. I was really hoping I'd be able to transfer in two more years, but it's going to take a little longer than that to get the full engineering sequence finished. I'm thinking that I'd be best off to just take general chemistry here, and then not worry about going further in chemistry until after I transfer. This would allow me to focus more on getting the physics requirements done. That's actually what the recommended physics curriculum shows too, now that I look at it.

    When I was talking to my counselor at Sauk, she suggested that I at least get the calculus sequence done before transfer, but she never mentioned diff. eq. or linear algebra. I'm thinking that I would be best suited to get them both done here before transfer though...that's been my plan so far anyway.

    Thanks again for the help! :)
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,271 Senior Member
    Bachelor's degree programs in physics often (though not always) require general chemistry; they typically do not require organic chemistry or other more advanced chemistry courses. Check your transfer target schools to be sure.

    Taking any needed courses which are available at your community college before transferring is a good move so that you do not have to take them after transfer to a more expensive four year school.
  • comfortablycurtcomfortablycurt Registered User Posts: 2,182 Senior Member
    It actually looks like chemistry isn't a requirement for a bachelors in physics at UChicago. General Chemistry would still be a good class to take though, I'm assuming. Should I still plan on taking General Chemistry I and II next year, or would that time be better spent in another class?

    Here's the page with their physics requirements. Physics - University of Chicago Catalog For a specialization in astrophysics, it looks like you follow the same curriculum as a normal physics major, but with a 2 quarter sequence in astrophysics, along with either a third astrophysics elective or senior thesis project in the third quarter.

    Going by the sample program they show, it looks like they more or less expect you to be done with the first mechanics sequence, along with intermediate mechanics and Quantum Mechanics I by third year. Does this mean that I should try to have General Physics, Engineering Physics, and the Mechanics sequence done before transfer? That would end up taking me a year longer than I was thinking. Do you think I'd be fine without taking mechanics before transfer?

    Also, I'm sure this varies from school to school...but what are the odds of my core curriculum classes transferring from Sauk to another school? Things like humanities, fine arts and social science electives etc.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,271 Senior Member
    Note that Chicago is on the quarter system with three 10-week terms per academic year instead of two 15-week terms that the semester system that SRCC is on has.

    Based on the course descriptions:

    Chicago PHYS 13100-13200-13300-15400 ~= SVCC PHY 211-212-213
    Chicago MATH 15100-15200-15300 ~= SVCC MAT 203-204
    Chicago MATH 22000, PHYS 22100 ~= no equivalent at SVCC, but MAT 205, 211, 231 appear to cover a significant portion of the same material

    The remaining courses in the physics major at Chicago are upper division courses that are not generally available at community colleges.

    Note that SVCC PHY 201-202 is not necessary, since PHY 211-212 cover the material in more depth with more math. However, courses like PHY 211-212-213 often assume a knowledge of high school physics, which may be why students without high school physics are recommended to take PHY 201 before PHY 211-212-213. Students without high school physics may have to work harder in courses like PHY 211-212-213.

    Of course, actual transferability and equivalency (of math, physics, and breadth courses) may only be determined after you are admitted and enrolled, if you transfer to Chicago. However, public universities like UIUC, UIC, SIU, NIU, etc. often have pre-arranged articulation agreements with community colleges so that you know what will transfer. See http://www.transfer.org .
  • comfortablycurtcomfortablycurt Registered User Posts: 2,182 Senior Member
    Thanks so much for all the help!

    I never took high school physics, so I think I'm going to need at least 201. I'd been considering the PHY 175 course that they have, but that course seems to be geared more as a gen ed elective for non-science majors. The pre-reqs for Phy 211 is only 201...it looks like you don't actually need to take 202 to get into it. I'll have to talk with a counselor some more about this, but if I could skip 202, and go right into 211, it would make things flow a lot more smoothly for me. SVCC, being a semi-smaller community college, doesn't offer all of their classes all the time. From what I'm seeing on their semester schedules, it looks like Engineering physics 1 and 3 are only offered in spring semester, and engineering 2 is only offered in fall semester. We only have one physics professor here, with one adjunct faculty member that does the introductory gen ed course, and this fact necessitates arranging the classes like this. This could actually work well for me. I don't know if this plan would work out or not...but I could take 201 next fall(2013), then start 211 in the spring 2014 semester. Then I'd be able to take 212 in fall 2014 and 213 spring 2015, which would allow me to get the whole engineering sequence finished withing two more academic years, after this year.

    The only concern still, is that they list MAT 203 as a prerequisite for physics 211. I'll be taking MAT 203 in spring semester 2014, which is the same semester that I'd be taking 211, hypothetically. I'd have to talk with a counselor or the physics professor and see if they'd make an exception and allow concurrent enrollment. After that semester, I'd be able to get back on top of things, because I plan to take MAT 204 over the summer 2014 term. They do allow concurrent enrollment between MAT 204 and PHY 212, but I don't know if they'd allow it for MAT 203 and PHY 211. Would 211 go over my head without having taking any calculus courses? Taking the extra step and going above and beyond to get the work done isn't a big deal, I take the extra step with everything I do, and I'm certainly willing to do what I've got to do to get it done.

    All that said though, am I dreaming a fruitless dream in wanting to get into University of Chicago? I know that's hard to say at this point in a college career, but with my being a high school drop out and having to start from a lower point, is this a dream that realistically probably won't happen? I'll still likely apply there either way, but I feel like I might be shooting too high, given my situation.

    SVCC does work closely with all of the University of Illinois schools, so transferring to UIUC or UIC or something would be a lot easier in the long run, as far as transfer credit goes.
  • comfortablycurtcomfortablycurt Registered User Posts: 2,182 Senior Member
    Is there a better section to post this thread in? I'm new here, obviously, and I'm still trying to find my way around. If there's a better section for it, let me know. :)
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,271 Senior Member
    Since you say that you are taking MAT 074-076-080-121-122 as a refresher, does this mean that you have had them previously (in high school)? If so, is it possible to test into a higher course, since you may already know some of the material well enough? That may allow you to take MAT 203 in the fall so that you have the calculus prerequisite to take PHY 211 in the spring.

    Another option, if you will be taking MAT 121-122 as refreshers, is to check the feasability of taking them concurrently in the summer to allow taking MAT 203 in the fall.

    Here is a diagnostic placement test (not behind a student wall or pay wall) that you can use to assess your readiness for calculus if you have already had the prerequisite math in high school: Calculus Diagnostic Placement Exam | Department of Mathematics at University of California Berkeley
  • happymomof1happymomof1 Registered User Posts: 28,436 Senior Member
    It would be perfectly fine for you to open up conversations with the major advisors in your target departments at the universities, and with the admissions officers who handle transfers and/or non-traditional students. Some if them may be able to help you plan your pre-transfer program.

    If your CC has a chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, one of your goals should be to have the GPA that will get you an invitation to join. There are a fair number of scholarships for PTK members, so check your universities' websites for that as well. If your GPA is good enough for PTK, it will be good enough for admission as many 4-year schools.

    Wishing you all the best!
  • FiftyFifty Registered User Posts: 185 Junior Member
    The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has an excellent physics department, one of the top ten or twenty in the nation. As a public institution, I imagine that it might be especially transfer friendly towards community college graduates.

    Your community college participates in the Illinois Articulation Initiative, which includes UIUC.

    Transfer Counseling - Sauk Valley Community College

    That webpage even includes a list of equivalent courses. You can use that list to see which SVCC courses correspond to which UIUC courses. Check out the UIUC requirements for a physics major and see if you can fulfill a good number of them with SVCC courses.

    The University of Chicago also has an excellent physics department, but I do not know how transfer friendly they are. They do not publish their CDS, so it is not easy to see how many transfer students they accept. They have a substantial core curriculum which might make it difficult to transfer in as a junior.
  • comfortablycurtcomfortablycurt Registered User Posts: 2,182 Senior Member
    ucb-I never got that far in high school math. I basically took the first introductory algebra course, and then I dropped out. So, the class I'm in right now is a refresher, but I never took geometry or other more advanced algebra classes. That said though, math is and always has been my strongest subject. Placing into a higher course isn't really an option though. I hadn't considered trying to take 121 and 122 at the same time over the summer. They have 121 listed as a prerequisite for 122, but they will sometimes make exceptions to that. I'm sure it would mainly depend on my performance in 076 and 080. I've got roughly a 99& average in 074 right now though, so I'm not stressing it too much. Would it be advisable to take 121 and 122 at the same time, or would there be concepts in trig that I might not understand, not having taken college algebra? Bear in mind that the summer courses are condensed down to 8 weeks. Those would be the only two classes I'd be in over summer semester though, and I'm not opposed to doing the extra work. I was planning on taking two classes this summer anyway, but the other class (introduction to public speaking) that I was planning on taking can wait a while. Math is the crucial thing for me right now.

    If I could work it that way, it would make things flow a lot smoother, being able to start calc 1 fall semester next year. That would put me right on track for finishing my courses within two more academic years after this year.

    happymom-I'm actually meeting with a counselor this coming Tuesday, so hopefully I'll be able to get some of these questions answered in a more official capacity. I'm also planning on stopping in and talking to the physics professor soon to get his input on it. I'll probably try to do that next week as well.

    SVCC does have a Phi Theta Kappa chapter, and that's something I've looked into a bit. What are the typical GPA requirements? It's invitation only, but do they invite everyone that has the required GPA level, or is it still selective beyond that point?

    Fifty-UIUC is basically my second choice right now. They do have an excellent physics program. Somehow, I'd never stumbled across that page on the Sauk website. I'll have to do some research and see how their courses match up as far as transfer credit.

    I don't know if I'm missing the obvious here, but how do I quote posts in a reply here?
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 72,271 Senior Member
    Would it be advisable to take 121 and 122 at the same time, or would there be concepts in trig that I might not understand, not having taken college algebra?

    Since 121 is the nominal prerequisite to 122, you may want to ask the instructor of 122 to see if that can be done.

    You may also want to try to get a head start by previewing the material:

    AMSCO - Geometry Book

    Intermediate algebra:
    Intermediate Algebra Textbook | Read Online, Open License @Flat_World
    Intermediate Algebra

    Precalculus Resources: Precalculus
This discussion has been closed.