I am an economics major in my second year looking to pursue a master's in statistics after graduation. This semester I am taking calculus 2 and will be taking calculus 3 this coming summer. I am weighing the pros and cons of taking the class at a community college in my hometown. Obviously the class will be more rigorous at my university, but it would be far cheaper to take the class at a CC. Would taking the class at CC have an effect on applying to master's programs?

  • One thing to consider is that Calculus III at a community college is possibly the most advanced math class that they offer. At a University, it's still pretty much introductory calculus. You may end up with a better teacher because of that.
    – Flydog57
    Mar 22 at 22:33

I am assuming this is the USA.

Before you take a course away from the university where you are enrolled, find out if the course credit will transfer. Probably a minimum grade is required for transfer. Courses that do not transfer will not help you complete your degree. Rules vary.

Also, beware that courses can fill up.

Obviously the class will be more rigorous at my university

Well, maybe. This would vary a lot. The individual teaching it matters more than the institution.

Summer courses are often taught by different faculty from regular-semester courses. This is true at both elite universities and community colleges. Either way you are probably getting a surprise.

but it would be far cheaper to take the class at a CC.

This should be a very important consideration.

Would taking the class at CC have an effect on applying to master's programs?

No, but you will have to order a second transcript, which will be inconvenient. It might have an effect if you took an advanced class from a community college. That would cause confusion because community colleges normally have not got advanced classes.

  • 1
    "No, but you will have to order a second transcript [when applying for a masters]" In my experience this has not been the case. I switched universities for my graduate degree, I did not have to send my community college transcripts to do so, I dual enrolled in highschool, and took classes at a community college in my undergrad. I only needed to send my undergraduate institutions official transcripts.
    – Krupip
    Mar 22 at 14:43

Actually, some community colleges do a fine job with courses at that level, since it is their reason for existence and the faculty is more focused on teaching. It isn't obvious that a university course would be better, especially if it has a lot of students in one class or is more "online"/remote. A class with 25 is probably better than one with 125, for example, when it comes time to ask questions and get help.

But taking it at the U will have the advantage that you will have only one transcript to deal with and there won't be any issues about the equivalence of the classes, as sometimes happens. That effect would be short term, however, if it exists at all


First step: ask your major advisor. When you consult them, be prepared to compare the syllabi for topics covered.

Further thoughts:

For a Master's degree in statistics you will need the best math you can master. Lots of linear algebra will be even more important than more calculus.

Since you are only in your second year, you will be able to take more advanced mathematics at the university along with your economics. That means a summer class at a community college after your second year won't weigh heavily in your application. But if this Calculus 3 class is the last math in your major I would recommend taking it at the university.

  • 2
    Hmmm. don't underestimate the importance of calculus, and analysis generally, for an understanding of statistics. Not everything is discrete.
    – Buffy
    Mar 21 at 21:39
  • 3
    The university's advisor is probably not allowed to tell students they should take courses somewhere else. Mar 21 at 23:15
  • 9
    @AnonymousPhysicist When I was advising students who asked this question I sometimes agreed that taking an equivalent course elsewhere for a good reason was OK. I always saw myself as working for the student, not the university. Mar 21 at 23:27

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