Can't decide on which college to attend

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I've been accepted into two schools, the only ones that are really options for me, and I have received a nasty surprise when scholarships came in. The first school, Arkansas State University, is closer and cheaper. However, as a result I doubt it's curriculum and the opportunities for undergraduate research and internships. I received ~$30,000 in institutional scholarships, and combining that with other ones I could possibly pay for that degree with no parental help. I really only applied as a last-resort backup.

The other option was the University of Arkansas, and its physics program is likely the best in the state. I am pretty confident that whatever internships and undergraduate research I get there will net me a good graduate school. However the nasty surprise is that they are offering my a one time award of $1000 for my "academic excellence." This paired with its higher base cost makes me want to kill myself. My options are to go to a college for free which has the potential to do irreparable harm to my future career, or put myself into crippling debt. I won't even detail things like the fact that everyone who knows me was congratulating me on getting accepted into UofA and my grandmother got me their T-shirt for Christmas. Can't say I didn't foresee something like this happening.

What I am asking:
How bad is ASU as far as career opportunities? My major is physics, obviously. However with this recent development I might go for some kind of computer engineering/science just for job security.
How bad is the debt I will put myself in if I go to UofA?
Which would you chose?
 

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  • #2
mathwonk
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like many other students here, you seem to overestimate, in my opinion, the degree to which your future is determined by your school choice rather than by your own performance in school. crippling debt is a bad idea in my view. i mean this isn't MIT or Oxford you are considering going into debt for. if you star at state maybe the u will offer you more support your last two years, or in grad chool. ask around how many people go from ASU to UA for grad school, if that appeals.
 
  • #3
Vanadium 50
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First, if not getting a scholarship makes you suicidal, seek help now. Not tomorrow. Now.

Second, acceptance into a good graduate school is not a reward for doing well in school. It's simply not true that going to one school or another will guarantee you admission.

Finally, you're right that Arkansas State does not have a strong physics program. But I don't think the University of Arkansas is all that much stronger. Pretty much all the bordering states have stronger programs in at least one state-supported school. (Louisiana might be the exception)
 
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First, if not getting a scholarship makes you suicidal, seek help now. Not tomorrow. Now.

Second, acceptance into a good graduate school is not a reward for doing well in school. It's simply not true that going to one school or another will guarantee you admission.

Finally, you're right that Arkansas State does not have a strong physics program. But I don't think the University of Arkansas is all that much stronger. Pretty much all the bordering states have stronger programs in at least one state-supported school. (Louisiana might be the exception)

The problem with that is non-resident tuition, I simply cannot afford it. It is unfortunate that I live in a state that lacks good physics schools but that is a deficit that I have already accepted. Also I won't get scholarships that are offered locally and by the state, because the majority of them require me to attend college here.
 
  • #5
Dr. Courtney
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Take the free ride. Debt is not your friend. I went from LSU (undergrad) to MIT (grad).

Work very hard, learn all you can, weasel your way into a lab, and earn some good recommendation letters.

Also, don't forget that you need not graduate from the same school you start at. Earn a few semesters of 4.0 GPAs at Arkansas State and you may get some better offers to finish your last two years at a better school. Even in the worst case (no scholarships), you only have two years of out of pocket expenses at a better school. Taking the Arkansas State deal gives you two years to consider whether to stay and graduate from Arkansas State or transfer to U of Arkansas.
 
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  • #6
Student100
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The problem with that is non-resident tuition, I simply cannot afford it. It is unfortunate that I live in a state that lacks good physics schools but that is a deficit that I have already accepted. Also I won't get scholarships that are offered locally and by the state, because the majority of them require me to attend college here.

You're right, the UoA program is better, the faculty and course selections are superior. Are you expecting financial assistance from your parents?

I would go to UoA, only for the increased opportunities, you can pay back the debt in graduate school or possibly earn future scholarships there.

Did you apply to any out of state schools? What did they say? Any money offered on that front? Did you look for scholarships to apply to at UoA or just assume it's automatic?

http://catalog.uark.edu/undergraduatecatalog/financialaidandscholarships/scholarshipsfornewstudents/
http://scholarships.uark.edu/

How bad is ASU as far as career opportunities? My major is physics, obviously. However with this recent development I might go for some kind of computer engineering/science just for job security.
How bad is the debt I will put myself in if I go to UofA?
Which would you chose?

What do you mean by career opportunities? If you're majoring in physics the only career you need to worry about right now is being a professional student for the next decade or so.
 
  • #7
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You're right, the UoA program is better, the faculty and course selections are superior. Are you expecting financial assistance from your parents?
Yes, my father will help me pay whichever I chose, however I want to cost him as little as possible. That is the reason I haven't applied out of state. My parents don't want me moving that far away straight out, as my sister had a hard time when she did the same thing.

And what I meant by career opportunities is exactly as you assumed, undergraduate research and internships. I apologize for the poor wording. All of the scholarships on that page you linked, as well as the website as a whole are distributed by the Scholarship Application, which I did last year.
 
  • #8
Student100
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Yes, my father will help me pay whichever I chose, however I want to cost him as little as possible. That is the reason I haven't applied out of state. My parents don't want me moving that far away straight out, as my sister had a hard time when she did the same thing.

And what I meant by career opportunities is exactly as you assumed, undergraduate research and internships. I apologize for the poor wording. All of the scholarships on that page you linked, as well as the website as a whole are distributed by the Scholarship Application, which I did last year.

Did you check out all the scholarships offered? It looks like the fellowships and some special scholarships require a different application like the alumni scholarships: http://catalog.uark.edu/undergraduatecatalog/financialaidandscholarships/specialscholarships/ or college/major specific ones: http://fulbright.uark.edu/deans-off...arships-and-fellowships/department-awards.php https://cavern.uark.edu/depts/physics/undrgrad/scholar2.php

Don't know if you've already done these or not.

If you're going to get help from your parents, then choose the school you like best. To me, that's UoA, just be thankful you have parents who are willing/able to fund your education. You can always return the favor when you're older, by helping out your parents.
 
  • #9
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Will the extra opportunities I'd gain by going to UoA outweigh $70,000 in debt?

By the way, thanks to everyone who replied here. I'm really glad I have people like you to help, my counselor isn't the most available person around
 
  • #10
Student100
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Will the extra opportunities I'd gain by going to UoA outweigh $70,000 in debt?

By the way, thanks to everyone who replied here. I'm really glad I have people like you to help, my counselor isn't the most available person around

Why would you go 70,000 in debt? Contact UoA financial aid department, let them know you want to attend, but worry about the cost. Then schedule an appointment, and go with your parents.
 
  • #11
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You get a free ride at ASU. I would take that chance in a heartbeat, certainly if the other opportunity is a marginally better college for which you need to go 70k in debt.
Don't go in debt, it's an awful situation to be into. Take the free ride. You can still get into a very good grad school if you attend a weaker school like ASU. Just make use of opportunities like REU's.
 
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  • #12
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There is actually one benefit to going to a school with fewer opportunities in physics, it gives you an advantage for gaining paid summer research internships at other places, namely REU programs. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the NSF is keen on funding people to do things that they otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to do. This is something to keep in mind. Doing REU programs will help tremendously in getting into grad school.
 
  • #13
jtbell
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the NSF is keen on funding people to do things that they otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to do.

From the NSF's guide for researchers writing REU grant proposals:

at least half of the student participants must be recruited from academic institutions where research opportunities in STEM are limited (including two-year colleges).

http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2013/nsf13542/nsf13542.htm
 
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(bumping in case anyone has further suggestions)
 
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  • #15
epenguin
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Take the money and run|

After all, what you save by that could give you an extra year somewhere else eventually with your own or borrowed or parents money.

Plus, when I hear students agonising about the choice between institutions, I then think that the student must be quite rare who gets the maximum that he might be able to out of the place where he does go, whichever it is.
 

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