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Berkeley v Cornell Undergrad for Physics

  1. Apr 12, 2012 #1
    I am currently trying to decide between Berkeley and Cornell, as the title implies. I plan on majoring in physics and attending graduate school. I am sure that there isn't a definitive answer to whether one is better than the other, so what criteria should I be looking at and what are your opinions on which is better? Berkeley would cost about $12,000 a year to attend, and Cornell would cost about $30,000 a year to attend. If I chose Cornell, I would probably have to take out a loan, so I'm not sure if that would be worth it or not.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2012 #2


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    Coming from Cornell, I'd say probably not worth 2.5x the cost when you've got an education at Berkeley in your back yard. Unless you really want to see some snow or something.
  4. Apr 13, 2012 #3


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    They also have really good food and gyms at Cornell. And lots of space... there's 200 miles of nothing around it. Are those factors you should consider? Who knows. OP, why would you even ask this question if you have no idea what you are looking for, but one school is much cheaper for you than the other one?

    Don't get me wrong; I liked Cornell. But this kind of question you can only answer for yourself after getting a hold of your priorities. If you cannot understand your own priorities, then one is as good as the other one.
  5. Apr 13, 2012 #4
    Is this number after financial aid/scholarships? Because if it is then go for Berkeley. Ask your self what the big difference is between the two that justifies an additional $18,000. If you see good reason then go for it. Best thing to do is to google random things about them, you might not know it but things like the dorms, food service, libraries, staff, and campus environment can have a huge affect on you.
  6. Apr 13, 2012 #5
    @cgk, upon reading my post again, I realize how vague that question is. What I meant to ask was what factors should I look at to decide which school has a better physics program, or if there is a discernible difference. I apologize for my vagueness. Were you a physics major at Cornell? If so, did you feel like you had good opportunities to get involved in research?

    @Nano-Passion, yeah it is. That sounds like a good idea; I'll do that to help me in my decision.
  7. Apr 13, 2012 #6


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    Undergrad curricula are pretty uniform across the country. Ours here at Cornell is pretty standard in that regard, and all the classes are quite strong (assuming you take the 'honors' track). If someone from Berkeley can comment that would be great to compare, but I simply assume they have a comparable if not better program in terms of academics. But at this level, it's largely how much effort you put into it, regardless of what school you're at.

    There's tons of opportunities for research here, and most of my fellow physics majors are doing research in one area of physics or another. I can't really enumerate them all there, but almost every group is open to taking in knowledgeable undergraduates. Peruse the website to see what's available! (This even applies to a few theory groups, I know an undergrad here who's doing research with a string theorist!).

    If you have the chance, visit both schools. It'll give you a good feel of the place and address a lot of the non-academic concerns Nano posted about.
  8. Apr 14, 2012 #7
    I'm an undergrad physics major at Berkeley, and although I can't really compare it to Cornell, it is extremely challenging and rewarding. I assume most undergrad physics programs at schools the level of Cornell and Berkeley are pretty similar. If I were you, I would visit both and make a decision based more on which school you like better. I was between UCLA and Cal, and ended up choosing Berkeley because I liked campus/atmosphere/people better.

    Good luck!
  9. Apr 14, 2012 #8
    Unless you really have a strong reason to favor Cornell over Berkeley the fact that Cornell costs 3x more and you would have to take out a loan I think pretty much decides for you. If you are majoring in physics and going to grad school you won't be making the big bucks anytime soon (if ever) plus school loans have become an increasingly dangerous proposition for american students: you can't get rid of them even in bankruptcy and the interest on them can become really outrageous.
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