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Berkeley vs. Columbia (Physics and Math Major)

  1. May 22, 2007 #1
    Hi everyone,

    For the past year, I spent my freshman year in college at UC Berkeley studying math and physics. Since tuition was expensive for out-of-state and because I wanted to go to the East, I applied for transfer. I'm now debating whether to stay at Berkeley or whether to go to Columbia (unfortunately I was rejected at Harvard and MIT which I preferred over Columbia). Obviously, I can't expect you to make my decision for me, and I can't expect you to be able to weigh all the personal things involved. I will have to make the final decision myself, but I wanted it to be an informed one. So, I would like to ask you to share what you know about physics, math, and general undergrad studies at each institution and how they compare. Also, I would appreciate if you share any transfer experiences and what you think about going to college in Manhattan. I'm afraid Manhattan will be too intense for me, but I don't know.

    Thus far, (in my majors) I have taken two introductory physics courses (mechanics+waves using Kleppner and French and themo+EnM using Purcell), finished all the low div math courses, and taken two upper div courses in math (abstract algebra using Herstein and real analysis using Rudin). I have gotten all A/A+'s at Berkeley; should I expect harder classes at Columbia, or would it be at about the same level? Also, any insights about Columbia's Core Curriculum? Is it good? Bad? Is it too much stuff required outside the major?

    Thanks for all the help! And, feel free to share anything at all if you deem it relevant.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 22, 2007 #2


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    The level of instruction and expectations should be about the same at the two schools, or possibly slightly higher at Columbia, but not enough for you to worry about.

    I would guess the primary difference is in the class size, which is greatly in favor of Columbia over Berkeley, as smaller and more personal. Manhattan is great fun for my son and his friends who live there.

    I think you wil be very happy there. Do not feel bad at not being accepted by Harvard, since they decided a few years ago not to take transfers except in very unusual cases. I also had a very strong student turned down for transfer to Harvard last year, who in my opinion was almost certainly much better than the average enrolled Harvard student. It turned out they even lost his transfer application, and he is now going there to graduate school.
  4. May 22, 2007 #3
    Manhattan is great fun provided that you don't live in a little shabby apartment.
  5. May 22, 2007 #4


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    Whats wrong with living in one?

    The truth is that decent apartments in Manhattan are dead expensive; even the studios go for over $1000. He would be better off living in one of the other boroughs, like Queens, where I live. The price tags there are somewhat better. Commuting time is well under an hour.
  6. May 22, 2007 #5
    Probably true; my cousin who used to live in Brooklyn moved close to east Harlem (he goes to Columbia by the way) only to move back to his family in Brooklyn after 1 semester!
  7. May 23, 2007 #6
    How about the quality of classes in upper div math and physics? How do they compare at each institution? Thus far, I have been very impressed by the quality of teaching in my upper div math courses in Berkeley.
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