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Carleton, Bowdoin, Colby, BU, or Brandeis?

  1. Mar 25, 2015 #1
    Hi Everyone,

    So I was accepted to Carleton, Bowdoin, Colby, BU, and Brandeis (rejected from MIT, still waiting on CMU and Cornell). I want to study physics in college. I like pretty much all areas of physics so I am not sure which area I will focus on, though I have a great interest in cosmology, theoretical physics, particle physics, relativity, and fluid dynamics. Of the small LACs I got into (Carleton, Bowdoin, and Colby) I am aware that Carleton has the largest physics program. BU and Brandeis of course have much larger/more prestigious programs, but I think I might be more inclined to go to a small school.

    I would love to hear about what people think of these programs in particular and the general difference between a physics education at a small LAC and a large research university.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 25, 2015 #2

    Quantum Defect

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    When you go to a SLAC, you will interact with a large number of very smart peers. You will learn a lot from these people. If you are not a super-aggressive person, you will not be lost in the shuffle, the way you could be at a large R1 school.

    When I went to graduate school (very competitive school) there were many, many people from SLACs. My classmates from my SLAC are all in very good jobs. There were also people from big schools, as well.

    I would have been lost at a big school. Many people thrive in the big-school environment. Certainly if you are a "star", you will have some amazing opportunities if you go to an R1, but it requires a level of confidence and assertiveness that I did not possess as an 18 year old.
  4. Mar 26, 2015 #3
    Thanks so much for your response. This is definitely something I am going to have to think about over the next few weeks. What school(s) did you go to and what was your experience like there?
  5. Mar 26, 2015 #4

    Quantum Defect

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    UG: Harvey Mudd College (chemistry) -- intense, but I learned a great deal, and was very well-prepared for grad school
    Grad: UC Berkeley (physical chemistry) -- intense, did "above average"
  6. Mar 26, 2015 #5
    Cool. Back when I was doing college searching in the fall I had heard from various sources that Harvey Mudd has excellent science programs and high rates of graduate school admittance. I would have definitely applied if it was closer (I live in Maine). I am hoping that the programs at Colby, Bowdoin, and Carleton come close to that kind of rigor. Thanks again.
  7. Mar 27, 2015 #6


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    my perspective is more math than physics and my experience is quite old, but here it is. i went to brandeis for grad school and considered it a small fairly intimate school. the beginning grad math classes had about 10-12 students as opposed to over 100 say at Harvard, and the professors knew our names. the same held for honors undergrad classes. one advantage is that brandeis has a grad program and is a top research institution, so the level is much higher than at a small undergrad college. in my opinion also the schools you mention, bowdoin, colby,.. are not on the high level of harvey mudd which is essentially at the very top of the undergrad college ladder for science/math. so it depends on whether you will take advantage of the grad level environment at brandeis, or whether the undergrad level work at say carleton will suffice for you. BU really is big, with over 33,000 grads and undergrads, but Brandeis offers in my opinion the quality of a big program without seeming big. it has 3600 undergrads, and those smaller schools you mention have 1800-2400, but the ratio of faculty to students is similar, at about 9 or 10 to 1. if you have not done so, i suggest visiting brandeis to see how it feels to you.
  8. Mar 27, 2015 #7
    Bowdoin is *very* laid back, which may or may not be your cup of tea. Especially compared to BU, I feel that students at Bowdoin would be much more willing to collaborate and, obviously, the professors will be much more available for help. In fact, I feel that if you express interest in grad school at Bowdoin, the professors would be all over you.
  9. Mar 28, 2015 #8
    Thanks for your replies guys, very helpful! I also got into Carnegie Mellon today, which is of course much better know for its CS program but I think the math and physics is good there, too. If anyone has experience with the physics program at CMU, I would love to hear about it.
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