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Best UC colleges for Physics?

  1. Jul 31, 2008 #1

    I am currently a student at a community college. I was curious if anyone can give me insight into the best undergraduate UC programs in astrophysics, theoretical, and particle physics. I know that UCB is highly ranked, but I am concerned that my GPA is not sufficient to get accepted. I have quite a few acquaintences who have applied into Engineering programs at Berkeley with 4.0's and were not accepted.

    I have heard that UCSB and UCSD were good, but I am not a partier and I am concerned that my peers will not be serious about their studies. I would prefer to be at a research oriented university. Additionally, do you think it will hurt my future career if I were to attend a Catholic or religiously oriented school such as Notre Dame or Mt. Saint Mary's?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 31, 2008 #2


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    While I would rank Berkeley at the top, Santa Cruz and UCLA are also up there, especially for astrophysics. Santa Barbara is also a good school. Notre Dame also has a good reputation; one of my professors graduated from there. I'm not familiar with Mt. St. Marys. I'd say the religious part won't hurt you unless the school is more known for it's fanaticism than anything else (Bob Jones, Liberty, PCCC).
  4. Aug 1, 2008 #3
    UCSD is such a big school, same with Berkeley and UCLA. If you are worried are partying, don't. If you don't want to party, those schools are so big, you can find your crowd.

    I think UCB, UCSB, UCLA, UCSD are the top 4, probably in that order. I don't know where the rest would shake out; Santa Cruz, Irvine, Davis, etc. Santa Barbara seems to be very good for string theory and seem to have the most "popular" faculty, if that means anything to you.

    I know someone who went to Notre Dame for undergrad (this is math) and got into Columbia math phd. I think Notre Dame is a good program. I think it has a big faculty, but it's also EXPENSIVE.

    Again, UCSD, UCB are some of the best undergrad research schools!!! Don't think just because some people party, you'll be distracted. You don't think Notre Dame is a party school? Please.

    If your priority is studying, then go to the best possible school for physics.
  5. Feb 20, 2011 #4
    Ucsc is amazing for astro and santa cruz has top of the line research facilities. Does anyone know anything about uc irvine
  6. Feb 20, 2011 #5
  7. Feb 20, 2011 #6
    Ive gone to both UCI and UCLA. UCLA is a much more social school (if for no other reason, its dead smack in the middle of LA, so youve got Hollywood, the Sunset Strip, the Beaches etc...plus Westwood itself is awesome). But UCLA is also MASSIVE, it is literally a city onto itself, if you don't want to party, you don't have to.

    UCI is a bit more laid back. Pretty good professors there too. It really doesn't matter which you go to, the physics programs are all about the same for the undergrad. Id say apply to them all and see who gives you a shot. I would not hesitate at all going back to UCLA, UCSB is gorgeous and UCSD is cool too. Probably the best thing to do is to visit all the campuses and see which one fits your style the best.

    Seriously, it really does not matter where you go. The curriculum will be the same, hell you can even find some gold in the Cal State schools. I seriously consider visiting the campuses and talking to some of the students while you visit, see where you feel most comfortable in.

    Out of high school I got into Santa Cruz, San Diego, Berkeley and LA, after visiting LA none of the other schools mattered to me. Now that I've gone back to school to get another B.A., I chose UCI mainly because Orange County is where I've settled at and I wanted to stay local. Its not the exciting social campus that UCLA was, but I am not 18-21 years old anymore either (I am 32 years old with a family now), so it's not like Ive gone out of my way to seek a social scene here either.
  8. Feb 20, 2011 #7
    That's good to heat hitmeoff. Is it good to choose also like what they are good for undergrad research? If yes the what are each good for
  9. Feb 21, 2011 #8
    All you have to do to find out what each campus specializes in is go to each department's website, look up the professors and see what they are researching.

    When I was at UCLA, I was not a math or physics major, but I did do research in Psychology (my major then). I am planning to do research next year at UCI, but still trying to figure out in what (physics or math) and with who (I am getting to the point where I have had certain instructors a few times, and they now know me). What I have noticed is that a great deal of my classmates are doing undergrad research, so the opportunities are definitely there. Also don't forget that there are always chances to do summer research programs at other campuses (UC and non-UC).

    I wouldn't worry too much about being tempted to party. I got myself into some trouble at UCLA partying too much as a freshman, but I was immature. Partying too much is usually something that freshman deal with because:

    1. They don't have mom and dad restraining them anymore and
    2. They probably breezed through high school without much effort and thought that college couldn't be THAT much tougher. They never really learned good study habits.

    I actually think that the community college students are BETTER prepared to succeed at a 4-year than freshman because the CC transfer has had time to learn responsibility and has been exposed to difficult classes. It also seems they are more likely to have experienced some sort of academic difficulty at some point (most of the transfers I know were at one point drop outs, worked for a few years and then came to appreciate schooling), which means they come into the 4-year institution expecting to work hard and expecting to struggle a bit.
  10. Feb 21, 2011 #9
    Thanks for the information. Yes I agree with you community college is a very good transition from high school to a university and affordable
  11. Feb 21, 2011 #10


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    Don't let your acquaintances' experiences affect your decision. You should apply there if you want to go; the worst that could happen is you don't get in. Besides, the engineering programs at UCB are in a different department than the physics program.
  12. Feb 21, 2011 #11
    I'm sure you've already done this, but just to cover all the bases, have you looked into the TAG program? It makes it much easier for community college students to transfer to UCs than anyone else to transfer to a UC. Also as lisab said, at UCB and most schools the engineering departments are in a different college than the physics department. So if I were to apply to UCB for physics I would have to be accepted by the College of Letters and Sciences, not the College of Engineering, which as far as I know is slightly easier.

    Just some things to keep in mind.
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