Remedial math instruction has been a fact of life for many who start at two-year or four-year colleges. Colleges have offered non-credit remedial math instruction to help incoming students become more prepared for the more demanding academic work that happens in the later semesters. Depending on how these courses are designed and taught, and the motivations of the students who are taking them, they can make or break a college student within two semesters.
If you are still in high school, and struggle with math, ask for help from your teachers, or seek a tutor. Virtually every college major will require some competency in mathematics. Even statistics courses will require some understanding of concepts taught in Algebra I and Algebra II. Competency in Geometry, in combination with these courses, is necessary for understanding Trigonometry, which is part of a Pre-Calculus course, and necessary for learning Calculus. Success in these courses can also help to prepare for success on standardized tests as well as the placement exams that you might need to take after being admitted to college.
If you would like some guidance, your community college might be able to help. Mercer County Community College (NJ), as one example, posts a paper mathematics pre-test online to help prospective students see, then solve, examples of Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II problems before they take the Accuplacer, a computer-based test where they need to solve math problems of increasing difficulty. A low score on the Accuplacer may put an incoming student all the way back into Algebra I, even though s/he has been admitted to college.
Community colleges offer remedial math instruction because they are also more likely to welcome new students who have been out of school for a while. But a four-year college will expect more of incoming first-year students when it comes to competency in mathematics. High school students who have had their struggles in math, but have some thoughts about a major, should check out the math requirements to enter that major at a college close to home.
For example, these are the introductory math courses for an Accounting major at four public colleges in New Jersey:
If you were a New Jersey resident who was going to graduate high school without having taken Calculus, and you wanted to study Accounting, the opportunity would be available at two of these New Jersey colleges, without having to take a remedial math course for no credit. However, you would need to do well in either the Business Math or Pre-Calculus courses to be prepared to take Statistics as a sophomore. The other two schools would be a less realistic option for admissions.
Now suppose that you want to go to college outside New Jersey. You could use this information to help you consider schools outside of the state. Here are the introductory math courses for the Accounting major at three state schools popular with New Jersey residents:
These three schools will all require Statistics as well as the introductory math course. They will all be more likely options for admission if you graduate high school having taken either Algebra II or Pre-Calculus as a senior.
Each of the New Jersey and out-of-state colleges mentioned also has their own policies and procedures for placing students into Math classes. Depending on the intended major—each college has its own business school—the registrar could still decide to place a student into a remedial math course, if the college offers one.
As college admissions become more competitive, or more competitive for specific majors, it is quite possible that those applicants who will require remedial math instruction will receive a lower priority, especially for majors that will require more than two semesters of mathematics and statistics. Rising juniors and seniors should be aware of this now, as high school classes resume for the fall.
Need help in comparing the academic options offered by the colleges that might, or might not be on your list? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 609-406-0062.
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