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Choosing a College

  1. Sep 30, 2007 #1
    I'm overwhelmed, and its difficult to know if I'm getting the right opinions on colleges, since I rarely hear the opinions of people who actually know a bit about the field.
    I'm a senior in high school and its about time I start applying to colleges. I'm thinking I'm going to major in physics then go on to graduate school for whatever type of physics interests me most by that point (right now it is astrophysics). What schools should I be looking at to be most succesful in a physics or astrophysics career? Is there any, any, advice you could give me to help me out? I'd really appreciate it.

    The schools I'm looking at right now are not big names: Reed College, U.C. Santa Cruz, Pomona College, Carleton College, Albertson College, U.C. Santa Barbara, and Lawrence University are some. I'm more than welcome to suggestions for additions (or modifications) to this list. I don't think my grades and test scores are nearly up to par for schools like MIT or Cal Tech.

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 30, 2007 #2
    You Need To go visit the schools. Stay the night if you can. Get the real experience, aside from the normal campus tour for prospective students given by the admissions ambassadors.

    Pick a school you feel comfortable at. One you will enjoy and have fun at. Don't go where you think has the best name, or most prestige. Your undergraduate school will not be that big of a factor on your career as long as you make the most of it and study hard.

    I guess what I am trying to say is make sure you will have fun at the school of choice, otherwise you are in for a misersble 4 years, which might not be worth it in the end
  4. Sep 30, 2007 #3
    If you're seriously thinking about going on to grad school...it's just undergraduate stuff. I know it doesn't seem that way standing in high school thinking which school to go to. Visiting schools can help, at least hopefully you'll second-guess your choice less for having seen several others. Financial aid often ends up being a deciding factor, and there can be advantages if there's a decent school close to your parents vs. living in the dorms.
  5. Oct 1, 2007 #4
    Awesome, thanks a lot.
  6. Oct 2, 2007 #5
    So undergraduate isn't that important? I'm a Senior in HS and am looking at colleges. I have only looked at the Physics department specifically at Penn State. All of the other colleges I have visited were just general stuff about the school. One thing that I found interesting was that most students undergrads going into graduate school from Penn State had to pay almost no money because they got grants and stuff like that. Is that normal? I obviously don't know much about this stuff. Penn State is out of state for me, so it would cost a lot more than going to an in-state school.

    I can get in-state tuition in Florida, Michigan and Virginia (for reasons I don't want to write out) so I've been looking at universities there.
  7. Oct 2, 2007 #6
    Everything's important, but once you've completed a given education level, no one really cares where you went if it's not your terminal degree. You should be more worried about getting a good education - largely dependent on what you do more than where you study.

    Don't worry too much about paying for grad school, most places will at least have an assistantship for you. Apparently this may be even better in the sciences soon due to some stuff being pushed through congress to increase funding (such as possibly doubling the NSF budget). Undergrad is really the stretch you have to pay for, after that you're cheap labor. ;)
  8. Oct 2, 2007 #7


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    those are really good schools, with a good track record of undergraduate education. they should be fine. one thing that affects ones experience at school is the weather. pomona is in california, but the part that is reputed to have bad smog in some months maYBE FALL. YOU MIGHT CHECK THAT OUT, BUT no ONE WHO WENT THERE EVeR TOLD ME IT WAS A FACTOR.

    reed is in oregon of course. small schools such as you are looking at tend to pay more attention to their students, but may have less exposure to top research professors.

    oersonally i do not think this matters. i myself went to harvard undergrad and found it way over my head. i went to utah for my phd, worked my way up and returned to harvard as a postdoc. it was perfect for me for that. i.e. the top research professors were just what i wanted at that stage in my career, but listening to them lecture from a distance was not exactly an ideal undergrad experience.

    still the example of excellence the top profesors displayed, even from afar, was a plus as an undergrad. it made me aware of what i wanted to shoot for.
  9. Oct 2, 2007 #8

    Alright awesome. Thanks a lot for the help.
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