Advice for Oberlin math majors

Although I suspect that my colleagues would agree with most of what follows, please understand that these are my opinions, not the department's.

  • Linear Algebra is one of the most important math courses you will take at Oberlin, as the subject underlies virtually all of pure and applied mathematics. If you are planning on attending graduate school in mathematics, consider taking a reading course in advanced linear algebra.
  • Although Differential Equations is not required for the math major, it should be. If you are interested in analysis, applied mathematics, or going to graduate school, then be sure to take Differential Equations.
  • Oberlin has a wonderful library. You should use it! Spend time browsing the mathematics section. This is a great way to learn about new areas of mathematics and find alternative treatments of the material being covered in your courses.
  • You should take as many 300-level math courses as you can. That the department requires you to take four 300-level courses does not mean that it is a good idea to take only the four required courses.
  • You should aim for depth as well as breadth when choosing 300-level courses to take. For example, if you enjoyed Group Theory, then take Rings and Fields. If you enjoyed Foundations of Analysis, then take Complex Analysis.
  • If you are interested in learning what it is like to do mathematical research, then be sure to attend a summer REU. Not only are they a lot of fun, but they will greatly strengthen your graduate school applications.
  • Learning how to code is incredibly important, especially in mathematics. You are required to take CSCI 150, but consider learning how to use one or two computer algebra systems as well. As an Oberlin student you can get Mathematica and Magma for free. And if you are at all interested in algebra or number theory, you should definitely learn Sage (which is built on top of Python).
  • If you did well in your math courses at Oberlin, consider applying to the honors program. The first step is to talk to one or two prospective mentors. Consider approaching the professor(s) you had for your favorite courses. If you know that you would like to work in a certain field, try to find a professor with similar interests.