1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Best undergrad choice for transfer student

  1. Aug 6, 2006 #1
    i'm currently attending a community college in california, i'm a physics major, and i will apply to transfer to universities this fall. by looking through alot of the threads here, i realized that prestigious universities probably have bad undergrad programs. so now i'm really looking towards harvey mudd and uc santa barbara since they supposedly have good physics programs for undergrads as opposed to just primarily ucla and berkeley. i was wondering if anyone could advise what my chances are in getting into harvey mudd, or whether there are other good schools in california besides the uc's and caltech. here are my stats:

    gpa: 3.88 (will probably increase to 3.90 after the summer is done)
    part-time job of about 17 hours/wk
    SAT I: 740 math/470 verbal
    SAT II: (i'm don't remember if these are accurate) 720 math IC, 740 math IIC, 680 writing, 740 physics
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 6, 2006 #2
    Harvey Mudd is a very prestigeous undergrad school that is pretty tough to get into. To be all honest with you, I think you are right on the bubble. I couldn't say you have a good chance at getting in and I couldn't say you have no chance at getting in because they would both be lies. I think the biggest factor to your acceptance would be your extracurricular activities (mainly in academics (science fair projects, research, etc)) and volunteer activities. It may also come down to your essays too. Make sure you spend plenty of time on them.

    If you think you are going to apply, START NOW. Spend lots of time on your essays and give your teachers ample time for a great recommendation.

    Good luck. By posting this thread, it is obvious that you care about your education more than most. Keep being passionate about your education and you will be rewarded.

    Paden Roder

    Edit: Also, look at the average SAT scores at Harvey Mudd. If you are below average, seriously think about retaking them. You'll have to do it quickly though. Applications are usually due before Christmas.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2006
  4. Aug 7, 2006 #3
    Are there restrictions on when you can transfer from a california community college to a UC? I thought there were like a minimum number of units or something...

    I can't help you really except I guess I can plug my university (USC) which has a fairly good undergrad physics program. Right now I'm doing a BS Physics/Computer Science and BS Electrical Engineering double major (you can do a regular BS Physics) So far I'm really happy. There are lots of opportunities for undergrad research which is important if you want to go to physics grad school.

    Plus you will probably get into USC for next fall with that GPA.
     
  5. Aug 7, 2006 #4
    Thanks for the responses, but:

    "I think the biggest factor to your acceptance would be your extracurricular activities (mainly in academics (science fair projects, research, etc)) and volunteer activities."

    Unfortunately, I've never done any science fair projects, research, or anything similar that involves math and science. All the volunteer work I did was in high school, and I hardly did any at all. The only thing I got is a part-time job, which isn't related at all to physics, but I may get a tutoring position at my school for the fall term.

    "Edit: Also, look at the average SAT scores at Harvey Mudd. If you are below average, seriously think about retaking them. You'll have to do it quickly though. Applications are usually due before Christmas."

    well if harvey mudd is the only school i'm thinking of applying to that requires the SAT (unless i also apply to caltech), then is it even worth going through all the trouble of studying for the SATs? (i'm not too familiar with how the new SAT's work)

    "Are there restrictions on when you can transfer from a california community college to a UC? I thought there were like a minimum number of units or something..."

    I just need 60 units done before I transfer, which shouldn't be a problem for me

    "I can't help you really except I guess I can plug my university (USC) which has a fairly good undergrad physics program. Right now I'm doing a BS Physics/Computer Science and BS Electrical Engineering double major (you can do a regular BS Physics) So far I'm really happy. There are lots of opportunities for undergrad research which is important if you want to go to physics grad school."

    But if USC's undergrad program is no different from the UC's, then I might as well go to the UC's instead, as its much cheaper.

    "Plus you will probably get into USC for next fall with that GPA."

    Yes I probably will, but my gpa is misleading since its mostly non-major classes and I had very easy professors for my major-related classes
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2006
  6. Aug 7, 2006 #5
    I wouldn't say USC's program is "no different" than the UC's. Both the UC's and USC have their own benefits, plusses and minuses. For example class size is much smaller here and there is more faculty/student interaction opportunities.

    Also I would wait until you get your financial aid package from USC before deciding that it's too expensive. They are really quite generous.

    Finally I don't know about other schools but as long as you did well in introductory general ed classed (college writing) and a few intro major classes (calculus I, II) then your GPA is very competitive. You will most likely have to take a lot of major requirements wherever you go anyway, because (for example) USC will only let you transfer the 3 semesters of intro physics (mechanics, e&m, and intro to QM and atomic physics)
     
  7. Aug 8, 2006 #6
    ok ill definitely consider looking at usc. but my big question is: is it worth taking the sat II's over again just because harvey mudd requires it? i mean since harvey mudd is the only school that I'm applying to that requires it, is it even worth it? is harvey mudd that good of a school for physics majors? since harvey mudd has a very rigorous undergrad program, wouldn't it be very difficult to catch up with my fellow students after transfering?
     
  8. Aug 9, 2006 #7
    My two cents (which is somewhat biased towards my own experience): don't count out big research universities as automatically having poor undergraduate programs. True, the professors aren't there primarily to give you the best lecture you've ever had; however, these universities also have the resources to get undergraduates involved in research--which is what you really want to get into if you're looking to go to graduate school. ((Undergradaute research is practically prerequisite for any of the top graduate programs in physics.))
     
  9. Aug 9, 2006 #8
    harvey mudd is considered an excellent school for engineering, I personally don't know about physics.

    If it's only one or two SAT2's you have to take, I would consider doing it. It's not a big deal, right? :)

    I suppose you can message this guy :) https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=128401
     
  10. Aug 9, 2006 #9
    UCLA actually has a decent undergrad program. I transferred there from Santa Monica and graduated Spring 2003, so my experience is pretty recent. It's true that there are some professors who seem to have very little time for undergrads, but there are some who enjoy talking with undergrads. If you decide to go there, PM me and I'll tell you the names of the "go-to" professors.
     
  11. Aug 9, 2006 #10
    "however, these universities also have the resources to get undergraduates involved in research--which is what you really want to get into if you're looking to go to graduate school."
    yeah but don't smaller schools like harvey mudd and cal poly slo also provide good opportunities for undergrad research?

    "If it's only one or two SAT2's you have to take, I would consider doing it. It's not a big deal, right? :)"
    yeah but harvey mudd also requires really good essays, and i hate writing essays, especially ones that just have to be as close to perfect as possible

    "UCLA actually has a decent undergrad program."
    Well at Princeton Review it says that UCLA has horrible professors but that 's not the most accurate report

    well anyways i guess ill try for harvey mudd (but I'll probably work no harder on the essays than i would have to for the uc's essays), cal poly slo, usc, and some of the uc's. Thanks to everyone for their advice!
     
  12. Aug 9, 2006 #11
    Yep, I guess I should have been more specific. Big research universities have more funding to support undergraduates (you really don't want to be working pro bono... at the very least that money could go to physics books), while smaller schools provide more attention for students who want to do undergrad research. At the risk of making gross generalizations, the bottleneck occurs in different places.

    Many big name research schools have summer programs for their own students to get them involved in the research going on there--and by and large, most of the interesting current research is going on in those places. You will get to learn how the top researchers (profs as well as grad students) in a field approach problems. It helps to have these people as mentors if that's the career path you're going for. Letters of recommendation from 'big name' professors also tend to carry a little more weight. Also, as an advanced undergraduate you can benefit from many of the graduate-level courses which may not be available at smaller schools. The compromise: usually you'll have to take more initiative to contact professors (this is more of a "life skill," really). For students who are really on the research path, your coursework will eventually take a back seat to research, anyway--don't expect to have a life-changing educational experience (though this may still happen!).

    Smaller schools: this wasn't my background so take what I say with a grain of salt. First of all, there are many small-school graduates who go on to get into competitive graduate schools. (Though there is some drop off in theoretical physics, where graduate level coursework helps a lot.) They tend to get very good instruction in their undergraduate courses as well as a lot of attention from faculty, but there are fewer "hot topic" research opportunities immediately available to them. This may be fine--since you're not looking to base your career on your undergraduate research, rather be able to stand out as a capable researcher. Also, you can always apply for the many summer internships at DoE labs.

    Either way, I think it's really important to make the most of wherever you end up going.

    A few other notes on your comments:
    1. Don't take college rankings as gospel. Once you get your acceptances, you need to go visit each school and try to get a feel for it. You're not looking necessarily for a "top ranked" school, but rather a school that fits you well and that provides and environment that you can excel in. (Especially your comment on "ucla having horrible professors," this is really, really a gross generalization--UCLA is a big school with lots of professors. If you're a physics student, you'll be taking classes from a small subset of those professors. That subset contains the profs you're interested in, not some generalization of the whole school... do you think Princeton Review's survey of undergrads who go to only one school can really compare the learning experiences at two schools?)

    2. I'm a little surprised you didn't mention Stanford on your list of CA physics schools. They don't have a reputation of being a "scienece" school because their name doesn't end in "institute of technology" and they're pretty good all around, but they have a DoE lab that specializes in particle/laser/synchrotron/astro-cosmo physics that makes them one of the physics hubs of the country.

    3. By the way, once you step into college, all this stuff about SAT scores and everything gets thrown out the window and you get a fresh slate to work with. :)

    Best of luck with everything,
    F
     
  13. Aug 9, 2006 #12
    Hey there. As a 2009 Mudd student and physics major, I'd like to add some of my input.

    The classes and professors here are out of this world. They can take really difficult challenging concepts and make them accessible to almost anyone. I really know newtonian mechanics and relativity, having taken those classes, and have the confidence and ability to attack a vast array of problems. So I do think the education here is worth taking those two extra SAT II's. It may very well be (arguably) the best school to get an undergrad physics education in the nation, and maybe the world. Skeptical and think I am biased? Mudd underwent external review from Swarthmore, Williams, and CALTECH in 2004. Read the comments:

    “The physics program at Harvey Mudd College is truly excellent and among the very best at undergraduate institutions across the country. The curriculum has been carefully conceived and is effective in providing an outstanding education to students, the faculty are skilled teachers who are extremely accessible and wonderfully supportive to students, the research experiences offered to students are top-notch, the department is an important contributor to the excellence of the institution, and the people in the department enjoy an esprit de corps that allows them to work together quite effectively. In short, the department enjoys the admiration of the administration, the faculty in other departments, the students, and now this review team.

    In reviewing one of the best if not the best physics program at an undergraduate institution, there are no major problems for us to address.”

    As for the research opportunities thing, I can understand the skepticism among some. But keep in mind the comment in that review excerpt: "the research opportunities offered to students are top-notch" by a review team that included CALTECH (arguably the greatest research department in physics in the world). So these people must have known what they were talking about.

    I think there is a better chance of actually getting research here than at almost any school in the world. What is more, in major research universities I have heard the undergrads in research groups often play the "grunt slave" role, and are not so much involved in experimentation and data analysis and paper creation (again, this is what I personally have heard, maybe it's not entirely true). Here, if you work with a prof, you almost immediately get more intimate opportunities and a serious role. Undergrads regularly publish in peer-reviewed journals. Yes, the big research universities have hotter stuff going on, but I don't think undergrads play as significant a role as at smaller places like Mudd. And besides, the research here is not that bad anyways, and definitely publishable (http://www.physics.hmc.edu/research.php gives all the faculty research interests, of which students are a major part of in virtually every group).

    So yea, point is, I think we are worth the extra effort of a few SAT II's, and extra work on the essays (and btw, don't try to make the essays "perfect" - there's no such thing - just be yourself, creative, show who you are - that's what Mudd admissions wants).
     
  14. Aug 10, 2006 #13
    "The compromise: usually you'll have to take more initiative to contact professors (this is more of a "life skill," really)"
    But unfortunately this isnt the easiest thing for me to do.

    "I think there is a better chance of actually getting research here than at almost any school in the world"
    On the contrary I've heard that CalTech offers the best research for undergrads which is why they get lower gpas

    Anyways, I guess what I would consider the best school for me, besides getting the best research opportunities, is which school makes it not-too-difficult for transfer students (getting used to the workload at a prestigious school compared to a community college) but also is very helpful for grad school.
    So I'm assuming that since the UC's accept such a large number of transfer students, would it be best for me to go there even if i get accepted into schools like caltech or harvey mudd?

    Thanks for all the advice and replies
     
  15. Aug 10, 2006 #14
    Regardless of whether you go to a school with tons of transfer students (USC or UC's, for example) or one with few, if you get accepted, then obviously the university admissions thinks you can handle the workload. If they didn't think you could manage somehow, then they wouldn't accept you in the first place.

    You should go where you really want to, and where you think you'll learn the most and get the most opportunities to do the things you want to do, rather than going on reputation, ranking, or how many transfers they admit.
     
  16. Aug 10, 2006 #15
    It is debatable. Hence my use of the word "almost" - not the best period, but I think one of the best.

    And again as I mentioned, there is the question of the kind of role undergrads play in research groups. Come on, these are researchers at the forefront of their fields - how likely is it that an undergrad with only a few years' experience can play a role strong enough to be published alongside Kip Thorne or Robert Grubbs or whomever? Maybe they do, I don't know. But again, keep in mind that a review team which included a Caltech faculty member thought Mudd research opportunities were "top-notch" - if they themselves say it, don't you think it might be valid?

    And a final note - I don't think it is necessarily the research that hinders undergrad GPA at Caltech, especially since a lot of them likely don't start research until mid-sophomore year, if not later than that. I think the number and intensity of the core requirements is what brings the GPA down.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2006
  17. Aug 10, 2006 #16
    Also, addressing the question of large UC's or USC for grad school preparation and help:

    Not saying they are bad schools, but Caltech and Harvey Mudd have the two highest PhD rates in the nation. Statistically, you can't get any better for grad school readiness.
     
  18. Aug 10, 2006 #17
    "Regardless of whether you go to a school with tons of transfer students (USC or UC's, for example) or one with few, if you get accepted, then obviously the university admissions thinks you can handle the workload. If they didn't think you could manage somehow, then they wouldn't accept you in the first"
    I sure hope you're right. Since what's worrying me the most is whether they care at all about the transition that transfers have to make. I'm definitely going to be at least a year behind everyone else (according to caltech's admissions page, it says that the freshman completed courses that I will take in my last semester of my sophmore year)

    "You should go where you really want to, and where you think you'll learn the most and get the most opportunities to do the things you want to do"
    Which is exactly why I'm posting here. I don't know where I really want to go. Location, campus size and that stuff doesnt matter nearly as much to me as getting the best education and research possible to get me in a good grad school

    "I think the number and intensity of the core requirements is what brings the GPA down."
    This is whats making me seriously look away from caltech and harvey mudd. They have alot of dumb requirements like biology with a lab, physical education also.

    "Not saying they are bad schools, but Caltech and Harvey Mudd have the two highest PhD rates in the nation."
    Could you send me a link to this?

    Again, thanks for the replies. Sorry for wasting your guys' time.
     
  19. Aug 10, 2006 #18
  20. Aug 11, 2006 #19
  21. Aug 11, 2006 #20
    Well, to provide another point of view specific to High Energy Physics, consider the following data for # of physicists on SPIRES as correlated with undergrad institution:

    http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/hepnames/stats.undergrad.us.shtml

    The top schools for HEP undergrad:

    141 MIT
    103 Harvard U.
    68 Caltech
    67 UC, Berkeley
    57 Princeton U.
    51 Cornell U.
    39 Columbia U.
    38 Chicago U.
    33 Stanford U.
    32 Yale U.
    30 Illinois U.
    27 Wisconsin U.
    25 Michigan U.
    22 City Coll., N.Y.
    20 UCLA
    19 Rensselaer Poly.
    18 Minnesota U.
    18 Case Western Reserve U.
    17 Rochester U.
    15 Rice U.
    14 Reed Coll.
    14 Maryland U.
    13 Pennsylvania U.
    13 Notre Dame U.
    12 Rutgers U.
    12 Northwestern U.
    12 Johns Hopkins U.
    11 William-Mary Coll.
    11 UC, Irvine
    11 Carnegie Mellon U.
    11 Carleton Coll.
    10 Michigan State U.
    10 Harvey Mudd Coll.
    10 Duke U.

    How to interpret this data? With a grain of salt. This counts physicists who are listed on the SLAC SPIRES high energy physics database who have listed their undergraduate institution. It's not a "ranking" of top undergrad institutions for high energy physics, but it does show that most of the researchers in HEP come from "brand name" research universities.

    (There are lots of things you'd want to normalize for, such as # of ugrads in each department, likeliness to list one's undergrad institution, etc., but I think in it's raw form the data still tells a story.)
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Best undergrad choice for transfer student
  1. Undergrad college choice (Replies: 12)

Loading...