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Best undergrad colleges for physics?

  1. Feb 3, 2010 #1
    Hi, I am currently a junior in High school, and am just beginning the long trek of college searching, and am looking for input from all places I can find. I love physics and hope to start a long career in it, and am wondering what the best schools are for physics? If anyone knows any good resources for finding colleges or knows about good colleges themselves, please do tell. Personally, I am hoping for a career less applied-physics based and more focused on the theoretical aspects (I am particularly fascinated by magnetism and am eager to learn about particle physics). Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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  3. Feb 3, 2010 #2


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  4. Feb 3, 2010 #3
    Dembadon, those are graduate schools.

    Anyways, Anquil, you shouldn't look for colleges based solely on how they are ranked in this or that poll. It's much more important that you apply to places which will fit you well.
  5. Feb 3, 2010 #4


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    All of universities on that list have undergraduate programs in physics, do they not? One can attend any one of those universities for a baccalaureate in physics if one desires and is accepted.

    Now, whether or not one should go to one of the universities on that list is debatable, as you have pointed out. I was simply providing a direct answer to the OP's question.
  6. Feb 3, 2010 #5
    That's the wrong question to ask on here buddy . . . trust me, I know from experience. The general consensus that I get from the opinions on this forum is that there is no such thing as a better school than this or that or the other . . . Regardless of what you have been taught your entire life. You have to somehow figure out what college works best for you . . . how do you do that? I'm still trying to figure that out. Basically, you can go to any college and it's not really going to make a big effect on your career but rather how well you do in the college that you do eventually choose. Anyone can learn anything, anywhere, just matters how much debt you want to go in learning it. I personally would suggest somewhere with some sort of accreditation. That would seem pretty important.

    I would suggest retracting this question all together before you open up a can of worms that you really had no interest opening up . . . again, this is all from experience. Good luck though buddy.
  7. Feb 3, 2010 #6


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    It's a tough question to answer, because the answer depends on your needs. You need to ask yourself what you need to do well at college.

    A small campus in the middle of nowhere, where you would be forced to concentrate on your studies because there is nothing else to do?

    A school with an active night life (lots of parties), so you can blow off steam now and then, which will help you stay focused?

    A school with a lot of research opportunities for undergrads (the down side of this is such schools tend to have a lot of classes taught by TAs)?

    Is is important to be close to home?

    You need to determine what your needs are before you can answer the question.

    Oh and davesface is right...the criteria used to rank grad schools may not pertain to what your needs are, so while those lists are somewhat amusing to look at I wouldn't rely too much on them to make your decision.
  8. Feb 3, 2010 #7
    Buy a few plane tickets and visit the campus. Talk to the professors, upperclassmen, and alumni. Attend a few lectures.

    One place to start is to pick some colleges that you are interested and go to their websites. A lot of them will post course notes. Do the courses seem well taught? Do people seem to be having fun? Do people seem to be useful research? Do they have facilities? Can undergraduate use those facilities?

    If you get through with a physics degree, you'll be OK. The thing that you need to avoid at all costs is ending up somewhere that turns your dreams into dust.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2010
  9. Feb 3, 2010 #8
    One thing that I need to tell you pretty early in the game. Don't expect to be a professor. The good news is that there are a lot of jobs in physics other than professor, but since most of the people that you will be seeing in the next decade are professors, you'll think that the only thing out there is being a professor.

    The best resource is a campus visit. The second best is to visit the campus physics department website. One thing that is really useful in addition to the course notes and tests is the departmental calendar.

    I've found rankings to be totally useless and anything that involves giving a numerical score to anything also to be useless. The only statistic I think is useful is the pass rate. If you have a situation in which lots of people are starting the physics program and dropping out, this is a bad sign.
  10. Feb 3, 2010 #9
    I wasn't trying to slam you down for posting the link, you're right to assume that most of those places with top-ranked grad programs probably have highly-ranked undergrad programs. My point was just what lisab said: I wouldn't look for a grad school using the same criteria that I would use to look for an undergrad school. From what I've read on this forum, they're totally different animals (something I didn't know when I was first applying to college).
  11. Feb 3, 2010 #10


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    I know. I didn't mean to be so sharp. :smile: I responded 'cause I didn't want him to think that those schools were only for graduate students.
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