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Back to School: 2010

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Its that time of year again when everyone goes off to huddle in classes and try to decipher the coded messages that are being taught to them. Some gather in groups of a few dozen and others in mass congregations of over 400 bodies. I gather in both.

 

The following are the classes I'm taking this semester. Its a little funny and easy for me because I have already finished all my 400+ classes. I'm just working backwards in my education.

 

Anthropology 220: Peoples of the World

 

Economics 202: Microeconomics

 

Spanish 305: Culture and Institutions of Spain

 

Spanish 308: Proficiency in Reading (Poems)

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Intro to Film Studies

Cultural Anthropology

Intro to Philosophy

Ways of Seeing (the world)

 

And then I have an athletic class (Fitness and Jogging)

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French Revolution (lecture class; just bought $130 worth of books for it - though a Barnes and Noble gift card took care of the first $75 smile ).

 

World War II (also a lecture class).

 

Thesis writing (not a class, but I'm taking credit hours for it).

 

12 graduate credit hours.

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I'm ahead on the 3000 levels, myself. A pretty easy, pleasant semester:

 

Physical Anthropology (~100 students)

 

Archaeology (Ditto)

 

Music Appreciation (Not sure Yet)

 

Travel Writing (~12 students)

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I need to get my minor finished up, so I'll be pretending to be a computer science student this semester:

COMP SCI 520 : Intro to Theory of Computing

COMP SCI 536 : Intro-Progm Langs & Compilers

COMP SCI 726 : Nonlinear Optimization I

 

I was going to take a set of classes entirely about numerical methods, on the grounds that I really could benefit from that for the type of work I do, but thanks to schedule conflicts I'm getting to instead take classes that have no particular justification in terms of usefulness, but which I've wished I had an excuse to take (primarily the languages and compilers course).

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How are y'all getting by with only three or four courses in a semester? When I was an undergrad, five was the normal full load, and keeners would sometimes handle six.

 

But of course, that was back when the sun was brighter, and gravity was stronger, and men were real men.

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I had to take 15-16 credit hours (5 classes) when I was an undergrad, but that was because of a scholarship; 12 hours (four courses) was technically enough to be considered a full-time student. In grad school, from what I've seen, depending on the system one's department uses, 9 or 12 hours (three courses) is a full-time load (depending on whether the courses are all for 3 credits, or all for 4 credits). My classes here are all 4-credit courses.

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Okay, that's more what I had. You could be counted as a full-time student with fewer than five courses, but since an honors or engineering degree needed 40 semester-courses, you'd be at it longer if you did. Or you'd have to take summer courses.

 

Grad school loads are normally lighter in lecture hours, but you're probably actually working harder.

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I've started an associates degree in EMS. I've enjoyed myself so far and I'm really looking forward to the next few semesters. It feels good to finally be serious about learning something and entering the working world, rather than paying through the nose to go to school, just to go to school.

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CHE 101 - Introduction to Chemical Engineering

CHEM 201 - Chemistry for Scientists and Engineers

MATH 182 - Calculus II

ENG 102 - Composition II

MUS 121 - Music Appreciation

 

Going from a small town to college is kind of odd because there are more people in my lecture classes than there were in my entire high school senior class.

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Ancient History, Algebra I, and Reading Comprehension.

 

EDIT: I had the same experience, Excalibur. My high school class had 57 people left in it by the time we graduated.

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chemistry

alg2

How does it work (really badass elective)

Comp Syst Maint, Networking

Cooking

US history

speech/drama/debate

 

jr in high school.

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I applied for my BA this year (to start in January), so I'm just waiting to see if there's a place on the course for me then. Otherwise I'll have to wait until September. frown

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Well im moving down to Arizona soon, out to Flagstaff, so I still havent applied for any courses yet. Being lazy is great.

 

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Originally Posted By: Nikki
I applied for my BA this year (to start in January), so I'm just waiting to see if there's a place on the course for me then.

Good luck!

Dikiyoba's classes for the fall are Environmental Politics, Organic Evolution, and Literary Journal Practicum.

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I'm a freshman in college and my first class will be CH 107 General Chemistry I. My second class will be CH 100 Studies in Chemistry: Materials of Life. The title of this second class makes me think it will be BioChem for dummies. No idea what Classes 3-8 will be.

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Like several others in this thread, I am a junior. My schedule's going to look something like this:

 

AP US History

AP Language Arts/Composition

(Policy) Debate 2

French 2

Psychology

Algebra 2

 

Exciting? Maybe not. There are some classes in there that I'm sure will be a blast, though.

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So how exactly do classes work in the US? I know if I get onto my course I will be required to take classes in only one subject - the area I've chosen to study for a degree in.

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Originally Posted By: Empirically, no.
So how exactly do classes work in the US? I know if I get onto my course I will be required to take classes in only one subject - the area I've chosen to study for a degree in.


It varies widely, depending on your degree / department / school. (I assume you're asking about college and not high school.) Some are very strictly laid out, and once you start that degree program pretty much every one of your classes for the next couple years is set. But another school might offer the same degree and do it totally differently. And other degrees offer huge flexibility to take what you want and still meet the requirements (I earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies that was like that).

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CGS 2: Intro to Critical Gender Studies: Social Movements

CHEM 140A: Organic Chemistry I

COGS 101A: Sensation and Perception

COGS 107A: Neuroanatomy and Physiology

 

I might take Math 20A also. Calculus for science majors.

 

Not that I'm a pure science major.

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Originally Posted By: Triumph
It varies widely, depending on your degree / department / school. (I assume you're asking about college and not high school.) Some are very strictly laid out, and once you start that degree program pretty much every one of your classes for the next couple years is set. But another school might offer the same degree and do it totally differently. And other degrees offer huge flexibility to take what you want and still meet the requirements (I earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies that was like that).


Right. I guess I just don't understand why somebody who is studying towards an undergraduate degree in one subject, say Psychology, needs to take Maths or French, for example.

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Yeah -- most colleges in the U.S. require you to take at least one or two basic courses in different "core" areas like math or writing, "distribution requirements." And I can't think of any U.S. colleges (except maybe St. John's) that don't give you a fairly massive amount of space to take electives.

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Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
Okay, that's more what I had. You could be counted as a full-time student with fewer than five courses, but since an honors or engineering degree needed 40 semester-courses, you'd be at it longer if you did. Or you'd have to take summer courses.

Grad school loads are normally lighter in lecture hours, but you're probably actually working harder.

That was my experience.

Grad school has less course work because you are expected to either be a teaching assistant for 20 hours a week or a research assistant working on your master's thesis or PhD dissertation.

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That said, not all colleges/universities require random courses in various areas. It's just hard to load a schedule completely with a single subject. If not logistically, then mentally.

 

—Alorael, who thinks most degrees can be completed with far less than 40 courses, or even 30 courses, especially if you begin your university career with a solid background under your belt. As noted, American universities are big on electives.

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My university has somewhere around 12 'general education requirements' that have to be met to graduate. These include things like math, science, English, history, art, philosophy, and a bunch of other useless stuff the administrators think we need. tongue

 

Math 360: Differential Equations

Physics 301: Modern Physics

Physics 313: Intermediate Laboratory

Accounting 201: Fundamentals of Accounting

 

I'm going to be doing soooooo much math this semester...

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In Britain and in Germany, where I also know the systems at least roughly, university education is pretty narrow. You pick a subject, and take courses in that subject.

 

But in Canada, and I thought also in the US, a bachelor's degree is still supposed to be a broad education, despite having a particular focus (your 'major' subject). And it's common that people don't really settle on their major until after their first year, since in that first year there will usually only be one course each semester that is required to begin the major, so you can keep your options open for up to five different majors, until second year.

 

From there on your major program usually requires three courses each semester. A bachelor's degree 'with hono(u)rs' normally takes four years. Most B.Sc. degrees are always four-year, as are engineering degrees, as well as most newfangled professional programs like a Bachelor of Commerce. A three-year degree is generally a plain B.A., even if its major is in a science. (So a Bachelor of Arts in physics would probably mean that you had abandoned your B.Sc. after year three.)

 

To graduate, though, you still normally need to have passed five courses per semester. The extra two are 'electives', that can usually be any courses you could get into, though a few may be required to be in subjects related to your major. If you dedicate most of these elective courses to a single second subject, you may qualify for a 'minor' in that subject; but whether you do so, or just spread your electives around widely, is up to you. In a four-year program it is sometimes possible, perhaps with some extra effort, to collect two minors along with a major. Some schools offer the possibility of doing a double major, though this may require taking a few more courses in total, and leave virtually no electives.

 

So somebody with a B.Sc. in Chemistry will probably have a bit more than 20 semesters of chemistry and related subjects, but nearly as many courses unrelated to chemistry. If they took a minor in, say, English literature, they would probably have ten of these courses or so in English. The remaining electives would most likely be a random shotgun blast of first year courses in anything and everything.

 

Engineering degrees normally leave only one elective per semester, but then usually insist that it be in the humanities. Individual universities may also offer some special Bachelor's programs with a much higher concentration of courses within a single subject. My degree, for instance, made me take essentially all of the offered courses in theoretical physics, instead of just selecting the required few for the normal major. But it still left me with one elective each semester. I dedicated most of these to English literature, and by concentrating narrowly in Renaissance poetry, was able to work my way up to advanced seminars. But I didn't get enough English credits to qualify for a minor.

 

How does this system compare to the British or German systems, for instance? A bit hard to say. It is certainly broader. Germans seem to get a pretty broad education in Gymnasium (the academic stream of German high school), but the Brits specialize quite sharply already at 'A' levels, which is something like the second half of high school. So British people do often seem to have noticeably narrower educations than North Americans. A Canadian engineer will probably have written a few humanities term papers, but a British engineer may not have written much since age 15. UK government agencies periodically wring their hands over this, but the whole British education system is geared to pumping out university graduates after only three years, and broadening would mean forcing people to stay an extra year, paying extra fees for the same credential.

 

As far as the level of training within a specialty goes, the North American system doesn't seem to be deficient. The Germans and the English who show up in North American graduate schools do not significantly outshine the natives who have lolled through all those freshman electives, at least not in my experience. So on balance I think I prefer the broader system.

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Originally Posted By: Goldenking
Like several others in this thread, I am a junior. My schedule's going to look something like this:

AP US History
AP Language Arts/Composition
(Policy) Debate 2
French 2
Psychology
Algebra 2

Exciting? Maybe not. There are some classes in there that I'm sure will be a blast, though.


Debate 2 and Psych look fairly interesting to say the least, wish my high school had psych.

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Oh hey, I received a letter this morning and totally got in. Bring on the crippling debt!

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Originally Posted By: Empirically, no.
Oh hey, I received a letter this morning and totally got in. Bring on the crippling debt!


Congrats, Welcome to the world of higher academia, hope you have a strong liver.

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Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity
So a Bachelor of Arts in physics would probably mean that you had abandoned your B.Sc. after year three.

Or that your school has made an arbitrary decision that it will only grant B.A. degrees. At the school I went to for undergrad, there were originally physics programs in both the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering, which were actually identical except for the detail of the two schools' distribution requirements. The engineering school gave graduates a Bachelor of Sciences, while the school of arts and sciences gave a Bachelor of Arts. The engineering program was phased out a few years ago anyway, partially because it was totally redundant, and partially (at least the students suspected) because the school of arts and sciences didn't like students escaping its more thorough distribution requirements. From what I've seen, in the U.S., there's nothing meaningfully different (or no useful conclusion the observer can draw) about differing types of Bachelor's degrees, in the hard sciences at least.

EDIT: Missed reading Nikki's post the first time. Congratulations!

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I know that at the college I'm attending right now that B.A.'s have to take 4 classes of foreign language and that B.S.'s don't.

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Originally Posted By: Nikki
Oh hey, I received a letter this morning and totally got in. Bring on the crippling debt!

Woo!

Dikiyoba.

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In the US, currently, BA and BS are arbitrary distinctions made on a school-by-school basis. Some schools will give you a BS in the traditional humanities; some won't give you a BS in anything, and some use the BA/BS division to separate non-professional and professional degrees. Both are typically four year degrees.

 

—Alorael, who owes this knowledge to Wikipedia. He thought that at the very least the BS degree was awarded for sciences; this turned out to be possible but not necessarily true.

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Originally Posted By: CRISIS on INFINITE SLARTIES
Yeah -- most colleges in the U.S. require you to take at least one or two basic courses in different "core" areas like math or writing, "distribution requirements." And I can't think of any U.S. colleges (except maybe St. John's) that don't give you a fairly massive amount of space to take electives.


Argh. The curriculum at my college is so tightly regulated that I'm being arbitrarily blocked from getting an exam in a course I took last semester, just because it's officially a graduate-level course. Ironically, not only did I pass all its coursework, I'm the only one who did (it was a small audience).

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That is just insane. My experience at universities in the U.S. is that graduates and undergraduates just take whatever courses are interesting or appropriate; no one enforces arbitrary limitations on entry (or exit, in your case?). The idea is that you're supposed to make deliberate decisions about what classes you can handle which will help you complete your degree, and that your advisor is supposed to be available to help with this. (I've had good and helpful advisors, although I've heard stories from people who had useless ones.)

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Originally Posted By: Niemand
your advisor


My what?

Does everyone have, like, their own personal course advisor over there? Because over here there was pretty much one per faculty.

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CMPUT 551 -- Machine Learning

CMPUT 658 -- Applied Game Theory

CMPUT 603 -- Teaching and Research Methods

 

Grad school! Whoohoo! Eeeek! Whoohoo! Eeeek!

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Originally Posted By: Dintiradan
Grad school! Whoohoo! Eeeek! Whoohoo! Eeeek!


Start reading this. You will come to appreciate it.

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Originally Posted By: Lilith
Originally Posted By: Niemand
advisor

Does everyone have, like, their own personal course advisor over there? Because over here there was pretty much one per faculty.

In my experience (my parents have worked at various liberal arts colleges since before my time), a number of the professors act as advisors. It depends on the college how you're assigned. My mom is an advisor for incoming students since she teaches a first-year seminar. She helps students register for classes and so on. After you declare your major, you get an advisor from that department who helps you with choosing classes and whatnot.

Also:
Originally Posted By: Niemand
graduates and undergraduates just take whatever courses are interesting or appropriate; no one enforces arbitrary limitations on entry (or exit, in your case?)
I can't speak for graduates, but I've always been under the impression that a college has a few basic requirements that you have to either take or get credit (from AP classes or just testing out). Most commonly, these requirements include foreign language, math, and a few other things, depending on the place. One sibling of mine has a physical education (of sorts) requirement.

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Originally Posted By: Lilith
Originally Posted By: Niemand
your advisor

My what?

Does everyone have, like, their own personal course advisor over there? Because over here there was pretty much one per faculty.

For undergrads, the system I've seen is that some fraction of the professors agree to be advisors, and get assigned a number of students to take care of. This doesn't entail all that much work, since each student meets with his or her advisor about once per semester to get approval for the classes they plan to sign up for, and get any questions answered. So, each student has an advisor, who is not the same person as most other students' advisors, but who is still shared with a number of other students. (While I really only have one data point on this, only having attended one school as an undergrad, it's been my understanding that this is at least a reasonably common arrangement.)

When done properly students are paired with an advisor in a relevant department, and the advisor is able to able to maintain at least a vague recollection of each student. As noted before, however, I've seen this fail, with frustrating results for the students in question.

EDIT:
Quote:
I can't speak for graduates, but I've always been under the impression that a college has a few basic requirements that you have to either take or get credit (from AP classes or just testing out). Most commonly, these requirements include foreign language, math, and a few other things, depending on the place. One sibling of mine has a physical education (of sorts) requirement.

I was referring there to requirements for individual classes, rather than for completion of a degree as a whole.

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Originally Posted By: Master1
...a number of the professors act as advisors. It depends on the college how you're assigned. My mom is an advisor for incoming students since she teaches a first-year seminar. She helps students register for classes and so on. After you declare your major, you get an advisor from that department who helps you with choosing classes and whatnot.

That's interesting. I've never heard of professors acting as college advisors. BA/BS thesis advisors, yes of course, but at my school and at -- I think -- every school attended by my friends, advisors were people whose jobs consisted solely of advising undergraduates. Either that, or advisors just didn't exist. I always thought they were kind of unnecessary and wasteful, personally. But I thought a lot of things about college were unnecessary and wasteful.

It's interesting to note that over the last decade or so, US colleges (especially private ones) have become increasingly reluctant to give credit for AP coursework.

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Different schools, even different departments, do undergrad advising differently. Some appoint one poor overworked professor to advise every undergraduate in the department; others farm the task out more, or hire some non-faculty administrator to do it. One way or another, pretty much every student has some designated faculty or staff member to go to if they just cannot figure out which course to take or something.

 

'Advisor' has a completely different meaning in graduate school. As in, "I advise you to finish this calculation by Monday, if you want to keep getting paid from my grant."

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It's probably a good idea to have advisors, as some students would likely fail to sign up reasonably or aim towards a major or something of the sort. That only works if advisors are mandatory rather than merely advisory, but at least someone's out there.

 

—Alorael, who gets the impression from the wailing in the news that over the last decade it has become more and more popular to slap the AP label on any and all classes. The test itself still has some meaning, but not a lot. You can pass an AP test with reasonable knowledge but nothing approaching a really good college level understanding of the material. Then again, many colleges also don't seem to strictly demand college-level understanding from intro-level college classes.

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I fived the AP Physics exam and my first Physics course in College was a breeze, so I think it did a pretty good job preparing me for the subject, but I guess that probably plays into your second point. College has become more accessible to the masses over the years, but it hasn't become any less expensive. I think that there's probably some correlation there.

 

A little off topic here, but am I the only "adult" here who isn't in, hasn't gone through, or isn't planning on going through grad school?

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Originally Posted By: Niemand
Quote:
I can't speak for graduates, but I've always been under the impression that a college has a few basic requirements that you have to either take or get credit (from AP classes or just testing out). Most commonly, these requirements include foreign language, math, and a few other things, depending on the place. One sibling of mine has a physical education (of sorts) requirement.

I was referring there to requirements for individual classes, rather than for completion of a degree as a whole.
Ahh, in that case, I concur. I'd never heard of such a thing.

Originally Posted By: CRISIS on INFINITE SLARTIES
It's interesting to note that over the last decade or so, US colleges (especially private ones) have become increasingly reluctant to give credit for AP coursework.
At my school, at least, so many people are pushed into AP that it's the new norm for anyone average and above, at least in certain topics.

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Originally Posted By: Rowen
Congrats, Welcome to the world of higher academia, hope you have a strong liver.


Haha, thanks (to you and to everybody else)! You really don't know me very well if you're unsure of the strength of my liver, though. tongue

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My adviser is a faculty member of the Foreign Language Department. She teaches 5 classes along with advising all of the Spanish Majors this year since her helper moved to another school.

 

One think can be said for the advisers on my campus, they make sure you get into the classes you want. More then once I've had an adviser get me into a class that was way too for to take more students.

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