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Chances/ College Questions

  1. Feb 24, 2005 #1
    I'm an senior and like to know my chances at some schools: specifically University of Michigan, Princeton, and Caltech, which I have heard are the top three schools in string theory. I'm interested in superstring/M theory. Here are my stats:
    GPA: 4.0 uw
    SAT: 1500 (800 M, 700 V)
    SAT II: Physics: 800, Math IIc: 800, Writing: 690
    11th Grade Courses:
    Physics C AP
    Chemistry AP
    Computer Science AP
    Calculus BC AP
    Spanish 3
    Honors English 11
    12th Grade Courses:
    English 12AP
    Spanish 4 AP
    Light/Heat (college course)
    Multivariable Calculus (1/2 semester)
    Differential Equations (1/2 semester)
    Linear Algebra (1/2 semester)
    Partial Differential Equations (1/2 semester)

    Other stuff:
    USAPhO Semifinalist
    Physics Student of the Year in 10th,11th
    100 hours volunteering at hospital
    JV Tennis 9th-11th
    Varsity Tennis 12th
    Other little things

    Here are some questions:
    1. What are the top schools in M-theory? Is my list right? Is U of M very good?
    2. Does this seem like good courses to take freshmen year in physics:
    -Quantum Mechanics 1
    -Quantum Mechanics 2
    -Intermediate (Classical) Mechanics
    -Statistical Physics

    Thanks for your help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2005 #2
    You won't be doing M theory in undergrad, so you might actually do better staying away from schools with strong M-theory so that you don't have conflicts when you apply for graduate school.

    Otherwise, there've been many "Will I get in?" threads, so do a search first, please...

  4. Feb 24, 2005 #3
    Justin is right. It's competitive enough as it is for a grad student (even a very smart one) to do research in string theory. I can't imagine any string theory prof at Caltech accepting an undergrad to do research. I'm sure that holds at other schools. You should probably have taken graduate-level classes in quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, and general relativity before starting string theory.

    Try not to get too ambitious with your freshman year in college. Seriously. But do look into taking some math classes. The guys in the string theory forum will probably have pointers there.
  5. Feb 24, 2005 #4
    Let me state my rough schedule(freshmen year):

    Modern Physics
    Intermediate(classical) mechanics
    Real Analysis
    Differential Geometry
    Statistical Physics
    Quantum Mechanics
    Group Theory
    Complex Analysis

    Can you tell I have a strong interest in Physics? :rofl:

    Anyways, I'm guessing in my sophomore year I'll take relativity, astrophysics, graduate quantum mechanics, subatomic physics, three more math courses (to finish all of that- probably algebraic topology, graduate algebra, adv. partial diff eq.), as well as two more non-sci electives.

    So I can probably take string theory courses sometimes in my late junior year, finishing up a few required courses in the begiining of my junior year, like quantum field theory and general relativity and advanced astrophysics.
    That's why I want to go to school strong in M-theory.

    Is my M-theory school list good? Can others comment on their own rankings? Is U of M a good school?

    Once again, what are my chances at these schools? Is being a USAPhO semifinalist helpful?

    Edit: I looked over this post and it seems abrasive. I don't meen to sound like a fighter. Sorry.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2005
  6. Feb 24, 2005 #5
    There's honestly not a heck of a lot in your resume that has shown me that you can handle an ambitious schedule like that. There are plenty of students who are interested in physics and have high school resumes like yours that take the normal physics sequence at good schools like Caltech. Caltech undergrad phys majors are smart - and they typically take their full-year quantum mechanics and classical mechanics courses in their junior year. I know one very bright guy who did it his sophomore year. At Harvard, quantum mechanics was typically taken your sophomore year, and even the genius Putnam finalist who was a year below me did that.

    Caltech doesn't even offer their intro to string theory every year. I think entering grad students are expected to do most of their learning on their own.

    Keep in mind that if you get too ambitious, you will flounder in your courses and hurt your chances for grad school. You're really best off sticking with the rest of the students in your year and following the same track.

    Also - high school level physics is much easier than college level physics.
  7. Feb 24, 2005 #6
    I dont know about all schools but I know in my school you have to take the courses in order. So Freshman year you would have to take the intro courses, you can't just jump up to intermediate. I would imagine other schools are the same. Also even though it seems you are quite smart I think you are still being a bit too ambitious, Graduate quantum mechanics sophmore year? :bugeye:
  8. Feb 24, 2005 #7
    Don't forget you also have to take several general ed courses.

    Your freshmen year looks really tough, I would start out with four courses your freshmen year instead of five just so you can get the feel of things. Also if you are really determined you can do better in those four courses since you can focus on one less thing.

    Also I would not focus on such a specific thing right away unless
    1. You are already very familiar superstring/M theory - I don't know your background in superstring/M theory but if you really don't know alot about it how do you know for sure you will enjoy it? If am wrong ignore that.


    2. You are already very familiar with all of the other courses you will be takiing - You might find something else you enjoy more, you will be taking lots of courses that cover different things as undergraduate. Just remember to keep an open mind about things.

    Overall I think it is great that you have high ambitions and I am sure you will do well in whatever you decide to do.

    Edit: On the other hand you really can't focus on a specific thing yet because you are an undergraduate. Your focus is going to be on all the courses you will be taking so in the end you will probably end up doing what you really love anyways, whether it be superstring/M theory or something else. :smile:
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2005
  9. Feb 24, 2005 #8
    If you go to Caltech, at least, you will have to impress the hell out of the physics department to get that schedule. Very few people here test out of the first year of physics, much less the first two. Not to mention that Classical and Quantum are normally full year classes (taken simultaneously, however). Your schedule would put you at 45 units, which is a standard load, before adding in the required courses for core, so you'd be way in the overload zone, so you'd not only have to get through the physics department, you'd have to get through the Deans, too. It wouldn't fly. I can't imagine Princeton or University of Michigan letting you do it, either.

    Why are you in such a rush? What makes you really believe that you could handle such a load? These are some very important questions that you must answer, because when you show that schedule to your advisor and the deans, they're going to want answers to them. And without answers, they're gonna stick you in Ph 1a and Ma 1a, whether you like it or not.

  10. Feb 24, 2005 #9
    Well, a lot of this is based of U of M. They have very few requirements, other than 2 writing course, a race/ethnicity course, 8 credits in non-major fields. Its very big, so often you get multiple sections of graduate courses, in which undergrads can easily enroll. And it is true, you can take graduate quantum mechanics right after a fast-pace, 1 semester course of intro qm. Plus, I've already read extensively into quantum mechanics and modern physics (even some string theory, though I had trouble grasping a lot of mathematical concepts).

    Why do I want to move so fast? Passion, I guess.
    Why could I handle such a load? All A+'s in Physis courses, even light/heat through local university. Plus, I'm a USAPhO semifinalist.

    I'm really sorry to bug you all, but will I even get accepted into any of these universities? That's what I'm worried about.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2005
  11. Feb 24, 2005 #10
    U of Michigan is relatively easy to get into. You might want to look at Berkeley as well. I don't see you as a compelling candidate to get into Princeton or Caltech, but you could still get in there.

    At Harvard - after your freshman year, they're not as strict about your coursework - though you usually need the instructor's permission. I actually have a somewhat amusing story about that:

    I was talking to an upperclassman, and he was telling me how he didn't bother taking undergraduate courses, and that taking graduate level courses was better because they learn from first principles. So later on - I was chatting with a prof, and asked her whether I should skip undergrad courses. She was like: "Why?". "Because so-and-so mentioned that it's better to learn from first principles". "Well - don't listen to so-and-so because he failed all those grad classes."
  12. Feb 24, 2005 #11
    LOL that is great.
  13. Feb 24, 2005 #12
    Firstly, i don't think putting all your eggs in one basket is an entirely good idea (devoting your entire career to string theory). Also, I strongly believe that one should not take too heavy a workload, you might well miss out on a strong foundation if you just rush it through. A good musician is not only one who strives to learn new moves, but perfect the one he already knows.

    I would never rush through my formal education, but that doesn't stop me from taking a QM textbook and try very hard to understand it. You may want to study those courses you stated in your free time.
  14. Feb 24, 2005 #13
    That answer won't convince anyone, sorry. What reading have you done? What books did you use?

    Most everybody I know has gotten all A+'s in physics courses, including college classes. As for the USAPhO thing, not to be rude or insulting, but my only thought on that is "So what?"

    And to add a comment about your chances at getting in, you have good scores and academics. Get some good letters of rec and write some good essays, and you should have a solid chance.

    Last edited: Feb 24, 2005
  15. Feb 24, 2005 #14
    You're good in physics in high school. Congratulations, it's not everyone who is like that, but when you get to college you will not be the smartest person there and many of the kids in your class are going to be in there with all As in high school physics.
    Plus in all honesty, other then the sheer workload involved in your intended schedule there's another worry in taking too much physics at once. Going off to college is a weird enough thing as it is (trust me on this one) and you're going to want to stop and smell the roses a bit. Secondly, if you take too much physics at once you're going to be stretched too thin, so to speak, and very likely not be able to give as much focus to each class as is required. I mean even if you get good grades there's a reason there is a sequence: repitition is key and you want to give each section of it your undevided attention. This is so later on when you're doing a problem relating to a particular concept you can remember something seemingly unrelated and be able to apply it accordingly. And if you can't do this you are setting yourself up for disaster in your later years.
    Ok, onto the colleges: U MI shouldn't be too much of a problem, but everyone who applies to Caltech/ Princeton will have stats like yours (refer back to the whole "everyone's their high school's genius" thing). If you actually took and got decent scores on those APs, wrote a nice essay, and had great recs then one never knows. Best of luck.
  16. Feb 25, 2005 #15
    If you do all those courses in the begining ,You will have an entire year or two with only humanities courses :yuck: (8 isn't it?).
    THAT will be boring. :rofl:
  17. Feb 25, 2005 #16
    If you want to move fast why don't you do private study? I mean.. by the time you take said courses in university getting a high grade will be a breeze if you're already familiar with them... that'd probably be a better way to get through rather than taking the harder courses straight away.
  18. Feb 25, 2005 #17
    can you say BURN OUT?
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