How to get ready to return to college
September 24, 2012 8:27 PM   Subscribe

25 years old and going back to engineering school next year. What can I do to get back up to shape in the meantime? I'm in the army so online coursework is out of the question, but I can get textbooks. What should I be learning and how?

I have two years of a cs degree that I dropped about 3 years ago, and I want to go back for ee or maybe cs. All of my math and cs skills are out of shape. What specifically should I be focusing on and what are some good offline or printable resources for studying it?
posted by jrsnr to Education (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm not a college professor, but I was a CS student and TA.

Do you know what school you are going to? Will you be having to retake all your first year math courses or will your existing credits count for some of them?

a) If you don't know what school you'll be at, then one of the most straightforward things you can do is go back to your old math courses and make sure you know everything in them perfectly. Then when you enrol at your new school, you will either have to retake similar courses, which will be a nice easy way for you to just get accustomed to the school and studying because you know the material, or you will be able to skip over the equivalent courses because you have the credits already and you will be ok with this because you actually know the material and will be able to handle the upper level courses.

b) If you do know what school you'll be at, try and find out which courses you'll be able to skip with your existing credits (email or regular post) and if there are any that you aren't confident you know backwards, get all the course material you can find (if you have no internet access, ask someone back home to collect it all and print it for you) and work through the material on your own so that you aren't missing anything when you skip the class.

c) If you know what school you're going to but can't get info on which classes you can skip, just start from their beginning classes and work through them the same as in (b) above.

I would be prioritising the math classes, as you'll need them for both ee and cs, and if you do get to skip any intro courses you'll get in trouble if you don't actually know the material you skip.

However, if your English skills aren't great then maybe work some of that in as well: read some novels and write an essay or two on them, see if someone you know back home would 'grade' them for you. If you haven't applied yet then there will likely be an essay required in the application, so you could start working on that.
posted by jacalata at 8:45 PM on September 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

one more note: if you have your old textbooks, that works for (a). If you know what school you're going to, find out what textbooks they use and get a second hand copy.
posted by jacalata at 8:47 PM on September 24, 2012

Best answer: Brush up on your calculus. I recommend Hurricane Calculus.
posted by bswinburn at 10:49 PM on September 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am applying to schools here in Israel, specifically the Technion. I believe my old credits will count towards my new degree - I'll find out next week. You're right about review, maybe I'll try to take the practice gre to see what I need to brush up on. Also since Hebrew isnt my first language, I'll look into improving it.

Thanks for the Hurricane Calculus link.
posted by jrsnr at 1:06 AM on September 25, 2012

Best answer: Definitely brush up on calculus. I did a BSEE (although with a concentration in power systems, which meant that it was a bit more mathy than some CS programs), and I wish I'd been sharper at the math analysis (fourier and laplace transforms, for instance). Slightly less extreme mathematically, matrix manipulations kept coming up as I recall.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:32 AM on September 25, 2012

The math skills covered in the GRE are very basic. Your time is probably better spent working on refreshing your calculus and other higher math skills than testing yourself on how to find the area of a circle.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:37 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The GRE computer science subject test I mean.

I just ordered a calc book and a linear algebra book, thanks for your advice. I just remembered that I have my old algorithms book as a pdf - so I can review that too.
posted by jrsnr at 8:41 AM on September 25, 2012

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