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Best undergraduate choice, Cornell v. Penn State

  1. Jan 21, 2013 #1
    I am a rising high school senior who will be entering college in 2013 as a Physics major.

    I am currently deciding between two options and was wondering what you guys think would be best for my ambitions of entering a top graduate program.

    1. Penn State: Academic scholarships would make it almost free and I have received a scholarship that gives me priority involvement in faculty research and the means to conduct my own research culminating in an undergraduate thesis.

    2. Cornell: Alluring for the prestige of their program and possible research opportunities.

    Which would you choose for a student with grad school ambitions. Cornell for the greater prestige or Penn State with lower prestige but greater research opportunity?

    Additionally, I love both schools equally and would feel at home at either one, so "what's the best fit for you" analysis is rather useless.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 21, 2013 #2


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    It's worth noting that Cornell has fantastic undergraduate research involvement. Many physics majors even get involved in their freshman year, depending on what they want to do research in. So although there's no 'priority involvement' or anything, I would say research opportunities in physics at Cornell are top tier for everybody.
  4. Jan 21, 2013 #3
    Both Cornell and PSU are - broadly speaking - major research universities, so I doubt you will lack for research opportunities at either school. I also imagine that at Penn State you've been offered a spot in their honors college, which will let you take the honors version of a number of classes, which would let you bypass the infamous giant lecture halls to some extent.

    Truth be told, speaking as a PSU alum (> 10 years ago now), I knew a handful of people who were in your situation (who, of course, took the full ride to PSU/SHC over going to an Ivy without one). None of them had difficulty getting into very good graduate programs (if they so chose), although all worked their tails off (at least insofar as I could tell).

    Also, trying to game graduate admissions - before even stepping foot onto a university campus as an undergraduate - seems premature. But, perhaps, that is how things are done nowadays.......
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