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Academic Guidance Academic Guidance - Academic guidance for those pursuing a college degree... what college? Grad school? PhD help?


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July 27th, 2016, 02:31 PM   #1
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I love math, however I am not sure what direction to take

I am now taking an algebra ii course as a college sophomore and I have realized that I have a real passion for math.

Math is something used in science, engineering, building, finance, etc and it goes back thousands of years. It seems to be much more elegant, logical and universal than computer science which until now I had planned on pursuing.

I dream of tutoring high school and college students and someday teaching in college. So many students drop of school because of math, I feel that a teacher who who understands the beauty of math may make a difference in many young lives. The professor I have now, a wonderful woman from China, has really turned me on to it.

I'm now at City College in New York City which has a good math department.

I wonder if I should plan on going to Colombia U, right next store, for a masters and doctorate. I wonder if that is realistic.

I also wonder how realistic a career in math is altogether. Some people ask me "What are you really going to do with a math degree?"

So is this a realistic plan?

Thank you.

Last edited by sarahwarschun; July 27th, 2016 at 02:34 PM.
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July 27th, 2016, 06:02 PM   #2
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When people ask me "What are you going to do with a math degree?", i tell them, "I don't care, i just like math".

But yes, it's a realistic plan. Do what you want, what you enjoy, and success will chase you down, regardless of whether or not you desire it.

And welcome to the forum!
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July 27th, 2016, 07:03 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sarahwarschun View Post
I am now taking an algebra ii course as a college sophomore and I have realized that I have a real passion for math.

Math is something used in science, engineering, building, finance, etc and it goes back thousands of years.
Speaking of Algebra II and going back thousands of years, do you know that some indigenous Australian kinship systems can be described using the language of dihedral groups? (That should be Algebra I but whatever).

Have you taken other advanced maths courses before? How do you find stuff like analysis and linear algebra?
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It seems to be much more elegant, logical and universal than computer science which until now I had planned on pursuing.
Probably because mathematics has more of a humanistic element to it. CS, by contrast, is very much a formal science. If you've looked at the theory of automata and formal languages, you probably know that. Hilbert, one of the greatest mathematicians of his day, attempted to characterise all of mathematics in this formal, string-manipulating manner, only to be disappointed when Goedel proved his programme to be mission impossible.

(I would suggest, however, that you continue to major in CS and do a second major in mathematics, or the other way around. Flexibility in career choice is very important and much of CS can be applied in mathematics and vice versa anyway. If you look up the curricula of the 'numerical analysis' course in mathematics and 'scientific computing' course in CS, you'll find that they're almost the same )
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I dream of tutoring high school and college students and someday teaching in college. So many students drop of school because of math, I feel that a teacher who who understands the beauty of math may make a difference in many young lives. The professor I have now, a wonderful woman from China, has really turned me on to it.
This +999999. I think Algebra I is when you begin to truly appreciate the beauty of mathematics as you find out the wide-ranging applications of group theory and symmetry, though for most students, that is too late - they have learnt to hate maths back in high school, where the focus tends to be applicability (often on rather ridiculous scenarios like farmers fencing enclosures with a river/barn on one side) rather than beauty. I've never heard of Hardy or A Mathematician's Apology until my second semester of university, but I probably should have. The first formal mathematics course where I was reminded of beauty was when I was introduced the formula for the determinants of 3x3 square matrices (we were not introduced to cofactor expansions yet).

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I'm now at City College in New York City which has a good math department.

I wonder if I should plan on going to Colombia U, right next store, for a masters and doctorate. I wonder if that is realistic.

I also wonder how realistic a career in math is altogether. Some people ask me "What are you really going to do with a math degree?"

So is this a realistic plan?
If you're confident you can do it, why not? Like Joppy said, do what you enjoy.
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July 27th, 2016, 07:43 PM   #4
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The study of academic subjects is seen in Europe and, I believe, the US as a sign that you can learn to a high level and thus opens doors t (almost) any career that you fancy.

Having said that, if you wish to teach, especially in schools, investigate the requirements. Usually in Europe and the US a teaching qualification is required. This doesn't in any way prohibit you studying a masters or PHD but such courses may delay your entry into teaching because you'll need to do the teaching qualification afterwards.
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July 28th, 2016, 12:12 PM   #5
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I am not sure that I can see myself standing in front of a high school class. Since high schools are compulsory, they seem to have the atmosphere of minimum security prisons or juvenile detention centers, which is basically what they are for about 80% of the students.

I am thinking in terms of either tutoring privately or teaching on a college level.

I noticed that the Federal government in the Washington DC area seems to be a major employer of mathematicians. I wonder what that is exactly? Breaking codes?

http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes152021.htm#top

One concern I have is that Colombia U has a highly selective admissions policy and I was not accepted as an undergraduate. I am wondering if it is more open when one is applying as a post graduate student, coming with a BS in pure math and a high GPA from a middle tier school like City College.

Last edited by sarahwarschun; July 28th, 2016 at 12:15 PM.
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July 29th, 2016, 12:12 AM   #6
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I noticed that the Federal government in the Washington DC area seems to be a major employer of mathematicians. I wonder what that is exactly? Breaking codes?
Could be.. But unlikely. Probably a lot of statisticians and data analysts, but i'm not really sure.

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One concern I have is that Colombia U has a highly selective admissions policy and I was not accepted as an undergraduate. I am wondering if it is more open when one is applying as a post graduate student, coming with a BS in pure math and a high GPA from a middle tier school like City College.
What do you mean by 'more open'? Easier to get accepted?
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July 29th, 2016, 02:20 AM   #7
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Yes, exactly. Are a greater percentage of applicants accepted to post graduate programs in comparison to freshmen accepted from high school.
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July 29th, 2016, 02:31 AM   #8
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So you want to finish your current major, then apply for postgraduate studies at Columbia uni? And you're wondering if you'll have a higher chance of being accepted? I think you answered your own question. Or i'm just confused.
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July 29th, 2016, 03:31 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by sarahwarschun View Post
Yes, exactly. Are a greater percentage of applicants accepted to post graduate programs in comparison to freshmen accepted from high school.
Each uni is different, so you should probably ask around and get information (look at their website for example). However, if the university has a highly prestigious postgraduate programme, it's bound to be hard to get into... According to their site, 10-12 students are admitted out of around 60 applicants each year.
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July 29th, 2016, 05:38 AM   #10
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Thank you, however the Columbia website says:

"The PhD program in mathematics has an enrollment of approximately 60 students. Typically, 10-12 students enter each year. While students come from all over the world, they form an intellectually cohesive and socially supportive group."

So a dozen are ACCEPTED however do 20 apply, or a thousand?

I guess I still have a few years to go to worry about post-graduate degrees.

It is interesting that they require a reading knowledge of one language, either French, German, or Russian. I do have some German, but that will need a lot of improvement. Are mathematicians usually bilingual? I had the impression that most publications today are in English.
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