How to get 2nd Bachelor's Degree from UCLA after foreign-based Bachelor's?
April 17, 2012 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Seeking 2nd Bachelor's degree in Applied Mathematics from UCLA, then PhD. Details below.

Dear MeFi,

I have rigorously sifted Metafilter for "2nd Bachelor's" questions that may provide some of the answers I'm looking for, but I've yet to find anything similar to my situation.

- A little background:

I have a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Saudi Arabia. I came to the United States in 2006 with my father in order to look after him while he waits for a new liver.

Between my care-giving duties, I've managed to take the odd job here and there, and mustered the time and the means to put myself through graduate school. In a few short weeks I will also have a Master's degree in Computer Science from San Diego State University.

Over the past year and a half I've worked at a world-class Visual Effects facility, providing technical and programming support. However, there are certain "nuts & bolts" aspects of Visual Effects which require great mathematical fortitude, an area of which I'm currently lacking.

I've always had a strong affinity for Mathematics, but there was simply no opportunity to pursue or develop it when growing up in a developing country like Saudi Arabia. As outlandish as this may sound, the "Computer Science" degree I took was %80-%90 laced with Wahhabist propaganda, and only minimal instruction towards programming and software engineering towards the end of the degree. Every practical programming skill I've accumulated so far has been self-taught. I will painfully admit that my undergraduate experience has been simply abysmal.

As I've already mentioned, I refused to become a refugee of my sub-par education, and managed to hustle through a both a graduate program here in the U.S. and a get a well-paying job at a top VFX facility. However, since Mathematics have always been a passion for me, I am now intent on going back get another degree in Applied Mathematics. My ultimate goal will be to get a PhD in the field and apply my knowledge towards research.

- My Main Problem:

Since my academic experience is embarrassingly lacking in Math, I will essentially have to start from scratch. More importantly, most accredited institutions aren't too keen on giving out 2nd Bachelor's degrees to those who have already been through the academic gutter.

I'm really keen on UCLA for a multitude of reasons, mostly because they apply the kind of research I would like to participate in.

Through personal research and asking around in both UCLA and community colleges, I've been told that my best bet is to take some "required" Math courses through a given choice of California community colleges, and then transfer from there. My current choice is Santa Monica Community College, due to proximity, decent reputation, and Math instructors that also happen to work at UCLA.

I came here to the MeFi community seeking any advice and/or useful insights into my situation.

Things To Note:

I realize that it is a fairly bold decision to give up a fairly secure employment opportunity in this economy to start over academically. That said, I am now in a position to pursue this dream of mine on my own terms. Challenging as it may sound, putting myself through the throes of academia again does not seem challenging at all; in fact, I find a great since of peace and relief when I know I'm making positive steps towards my true calling in life, however small and far between they may be.

Last but not least: tuition money (thankfully) is not a concern.

If you feel like I need to provide more details, please don't hesitate to ask.

You have my unbridled appreciation and gratitude for any thoughts you may have.
posted by Hassoon to Education (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think taking the classes at the community college will definitely help. I dont know much beyond that in terms of University academics programs and issues. I just wanted to add that I have a degree in applied math and ended up teaching myself programming too. I loved my math classes and I hope you will too!
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:17 PM on April 17, 2012

An undergrad degree in math will involve a lot of Not Math. Have you tried talking to the grad school directly to find out what you need to get in there? Maybe you just need to take a lot of math classes as a non-degree student.
posted by jacalata at 9:22 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hey there! I was an applied math major at UCLA -- class of '11. Their applied math program is pretty damn solid, I thought, and once you have the core courses (upper division real/complex analysis, linear algebra, etc.) you have a lot of leeway in which courses to take. I used to be a heathen probabilist (turned statistician), so take what I say with a grain of salt.

However, you should keep some things in mind:

1) the majority (or so it seemed to me then) of upper div courses are taught by new adjuncts / assistant professors. This might or might not be a big deal to you, but I thought most of my upper div coursework was a little inconsistent quality-wise. Grad courses are lots of fun, though, and you should ultimately aim to take those!

2) some of the professors within the dept. who do the sexy research in applied math that you hear about in the news (I'm thinking of people like Teran) can be kind of tough to get in touch with. However, even though I never got the chance to meet her, I heard (hear?) that Andrea Bertozzi (who does some work in image processing) is big on getting undergrads into research: check out her page as well as That might be just right up your alley, especially if you're looking to go to grad school! Try going through professors' websites and see if they have any undergrads working with them or if they participate in programs geared towards undergrads. As long as you put yourself out there and get in touch with as many professors as you can, present yourself & the work you've done well, you won't have trouble finding research to do.

3) most courses skew towards the theoretical, as you take a lot of classes with pure math majors, and the material seems to be more geared towards them. Part of what that means is that you won't be doing any programming or computer work unless you take numerical analysis, etc., which I thought was kind of a shame.

However, I can't speak for the transfer process, but SMC is no slouch -- a lot of students from SMC end up at Berkeley or UCLA after two years. So, as long as you're prepared to maintain a high GPA, you should definitely be able to get into either of the two to do the last two years of your applied math degree. You might already have some math pre-requisites done (I don't know if your previous CS coursework, which I'd assume would include calc, etc., would carry over or not) so you might not be starting from scratch. Check out the transfer requirements, if you haven't already:

Well, I think that does it for now -- if I had a better idea of your interests within applied math, or if you had any specific questions about the program, I could tell you more, but please don't hesitate to MeMail me if you have any more specific questions!
posted by un petit cadeau at 9:41 PM on April 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

More importantly, most accredited institutions aren't too keen on giving out 2nd Bachelor's degrees to those who have already been through the academic gutter.

I don't know the details of the precise programs you're looking at, but this is a false statement in general.

The institution I work at, which is the flagship university in Alaska, is totally happy to give out second bachelors degrees, and you don't have to do any of the core. So, basically, to get a second degree at UAF, I think you have to take 24 credits at the undergraduate level. (or maybe at the upper-division). The point is, not only can you get a second bachelors, but it's easier than the first one.

Now, it seems to be true that University of California system schools don't admit students for second bachelors degrees.

The University of Illinos Springfield has an extensive set of online course offerings, including a math major, and does offer a second bachelors degree. You need to complete 30 credits.

(and if you're not restricted to California, have you considered Fairbanks? You can certainly do a second bachelors here, and while we don't have a separate applied math department, we do have several folks who do interesting stuff in applied math and some relevant courses. )
posted by leahwrenn at 12:29 AM on April 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Now, it seems to be true that University of California system schools don't admit students for second bachelors degrees.

Where are you seeing this? I'm attending UC right now with a friend who is getting her second Bachelors, from the same institution no less.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:55 AM on April 18, 2012

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