how do universities and degrees work? (US)

This may seem like a strange question, but I know nothing about universities and degrees and all that. I’m a student at a very small local college, which up until recently was a junior college. I will hopefully be graduating with my generall AA in December, and then going off to a much larger university.

So first, could someone explain about majors and minors? If I double major in History and French and minor in education, what will I get when I graduate?

Also, once I get my AA, do I have to take any more retarded required classes or do I simply take classes in my major(s)?

It may seem strange that I have no idea what I’m doing in college, but the problem is I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up (like I ever will). I’m just taking classes that interest me and I’ll figure out what kind of job I can get later. If I knew that I wanted to be a doctor or lawyer or MBA, I’d know exactly what kind of degree I need. This is a little messier.

Whether you still have to take required courses once you transfer to a four-year university depends on the university. Each one has different requirements, and different policies for how much credit they will give for classes taken at other institutions. Most places set up the system so that core requirements only take up the first two or three semesters, allowing students to focus on their majors during their last two years. There are exceptions however. (I take it you’re not transferring to St. John’s College, Maryland.)

You can either double major, in which you get a single degree containing two majors, or you can double degree, which you end up with two degrees. A lot of times you must get two degrees if they have a BA in one field and just a BS in the other. Its a stupid distinction IMO. The coursework is all the same in any extent, thats what matters.

The “retarded required classes” depends on the requirement for the degree your seeking. Ussually you are required to complete some core stuff, which your AA will probably cover. Your specific degree requirements might require you to take a science elective or something. I am getting a CS degree, we had to take two semesters of a general science, I took Geology for example.

Basically how it works is you have several level of administration that goes into defining what courses are required to get your degree. At a University, there’s first the general University level. The University might say that everyone that graduates from the school must do X regardless of the degree they are pursuing. This is in the form of English comp. classes, maybe some basic math, liberal arts. My school has “University Core Requirements” that have to be met by all who want a degree from the university.

Then the college gets together and formulates their own requirements. For example in the college of engineering, you might be required to take an engineering fundamentals course, regardless of degree, or maybe calculus.

A lot of the above is probably covered 95% by your AA.

Now then there’s major requirements. Here’s the example of what a history major at my school (Virginia Tech) has to do:

(There’s extra stuff in the requirments saying take 6 creds western history/ 6 nonwestern/ 6 US as part of the 39 req)

Number 2 covers the University/College level requirments.

Then the rest is just what the department (w/ input from higher levels) sets as its degree requirements.

Presumably youd go into school, transfer all your community college stuff, and just get into the classes that remain. How this works is that the University you are entering has a database with what courses at your community college match there’s and under what conditions does the University allow transfer. You might want to check into this. Ussually a University would have a database saying this course from this college is equivelant to taking this class at our University etc. If you wanted to plan out your degree based on your AA degree, you could using such a database.

Do not forget the College Level Equivalency Tests (CLEP tests).

By taking these, & filling out the right paperwork, you can get college credit, & complete your boring requirements without setting foot in the classroom.

If you know the material, you can shave years off your college time!

Each test costs dough, but if you flunk your test, you don’t damage your GPA.

Go to your Guidance Office, & ask for more info!

No college student worth his salt should miss out on this opportunity!

Actually, I already CLEPed out of English, and I’m probably going to do sociology too. Maybe a history class if I can.

Do you get paid to advertise CLEP?

No. I’m a State Employee in Tennessee, and only get paid by a technicality.
Actually, I covered approximately a year of classwork via CLEP.

Watch out though, the University you want to attend might put a maximum on the number of transfer/CLEP/AP credits you can bring in.

Whadda ya mean, “just” a BS? Everywhere I’ve been, the BS in a scientific field requires more specialized work while the BA requires a lot more supporting courses if both are offered. How can you directly compare, let along find the BS lacking? A BS in Chemistry will get you hired to a chemical engineering company before a BA in chemistry, I’ll bet.

Also, at the University of Maryland College Park (go Terps), a double major is fulfilling the major requirements of two disciplines in 120 credit-hours (meaning usually getting a lot of overlap between them), while taking 150 credit-hours gets you a double degree. The coursework in that case is most definitely not the same.

Talk to an advisor as soon as you can.

I work at a community college in Florida. Students who earn an AA degree here are guaranteed admission to a Florida public university, with all 60 hours of the AA degree tranferring. However, if a student doesn’t complete all 60 hours, nothing is guaranteed. Also, as others have mentioned, transfer requirements vary among universities.

In this system, the AA equals the first two years of a four-year program. I’m not sure if that covers all of the required classes, but I do know that it doesn’t cover any of the classes required for one’s major.


As you can tell by the other posts, what you can do as far as transferring really depends on where you are and where you’d like to go. For instance, here in CA there is a very-thoroughly-worked-out system for transferring Community College credits into either of the state’s University systems, but private colleges can be a different story entirely. I would keep any catalogs and syllabi you have, because the college you eventually wish to attend may not give much transfer credit to a course they can’t identify, and you want something to back you up in case there is some sort of transfer appeals process you can go through should the need arise.

Whether or not you would have to take required courses depends on the college as well. They have certain goals regarding the well-roundedness of the brains that leave their walls, and are trying to guarantee that through required coursework.

I assume by your post that you are approximately 19 or 20, which is probably a good age to start a 4-year college. I would really recommend, however, that you take some time for yourself to decide what you really want to do with the next several years of your life. College is a monumental expenditure of time and money, and it will all go better for you if you have a clear sense of why you’re there.

An AA degree is not quite as widely useful as a BA or BS in increasing you salary prospects for a job while you figure things out, but, depending on what you don’t mind spending your time doing, you should be able to keep yourself afloat for a short while until you really know what it is you want college for.

You will find many voices telling you that college is a waste of time, and that there is so much you could do with your time instead. Don’t listen. These are usually people who got degrees under the assumption that there was some sort of guarantee of riches coming out of college. It’s not the case, especially now, but it does tend to edge you up.

I myself, as a result of various dastardly circumstances, got my degree about 14 years later than the normal schedule, and the number of opportunities I was denied by simple virtue of the fact that I did not have documented recognition of my education (I did a lot of reading in the meantime) irks me to this day.

There are still a number of situations that don’t require a 4-year degree, but for the long term, if you have any sort of ambition whatsoever (however unforcused it may be at this time) and wish to keep your options as open as possible for as long as possible, you need full college to survive in this world.

But take whatever time for the short term that you need to really figure out the direction you want to head in. And don’t waste your twenties worrying too much about it.

I meant in the sense of “only.” People will give you a double major (two majors on one degree) if you have two BAs or two BSs from what I’ve gathered. At least thats how it is where I go to school.

I dont know if the distinction between double degree and double major is universal. You could be right, I’m getting a double degree and I probably have at least 150 creds.