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College Visit- What to look for?

  1. Oct 18, 2006 #1
    Well, I'm heading this weekend over to K-State for a college visit. Obviously, it's the safety school (I live in Kansas) and I hope to go somewhere better like Chicago or UW-Madison, or Caltech if I am accepted, but there's a good chance that money issues will keep me in state. I'm going to check out the Physics department and meet with a proffessor and all that stuff.

    Anyway, I was wondering a few things. What questions should I ask the Proffessor (beyond the obvious)? What should I look for in the department? Is there anything in particular I should know that's a good sign or a bad sign? Anything I should investigate thoroughly?

    If things look good it would help alleviate some of my fears. If they go bad maybe I can argue my parents into being a tad more liberal with the monetary situation. But I need to know, and I figured you guys probably have some knowledge that could help me in evaluating their physics program/department.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 18, 2006 #2
    At any university, an experience is ultimately what you make of it. I've heard that people think so highly of Ivy-leaguers because the curriculum is difficult, but you can make a difficult curriculum for yourself anywhere... learn about the profs that are the best (great but challenging), double major or triple-major if you want. Do research at other universities in the summer.

    But: Look at facilities -- are they current, are they also resourceful? What are the opportunities for undergrads in research (if the school isn't known for a grad program... it can often have even better experiences for undergrads)? Can you meet with a few current students (do they seem really pleased with their academic growth)? While a school's ranking will go into consideration when/if you are applying for grad programs... the GRE and lab experience generally weigh in much much more.

    As an aside: when I was a grad student I gave Chris Sorenson (a K-State prof) a tour of my lab once -- he was very cool.
  4. Oct 21, 2006 #3
    Thanks for the advice. Interesting about Sorenson, maybe I'll see him up there.
  5. Oct 21, 2006 #4


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    One could browse the departments website to learn about the faculty and research. Then during the visit one could possibly visit some facilities of most interest, or find out more about the curriculum and research.
  6. Oct 23, 2006 #5
    I'm an undergrad now. I'd say if you know that the physics department is good (look at the website...are the profs doing interesting work?), it is much more important to talk to students. They can tell you if professors are really accessible, what research opportunities are like, etc.
  7. Oct 23, 2006 #6
    On the practical side, look for good groupwork/study facilities on-site, access to food and coffee, and also look for things to do on weekends, when you get one.
  8. Oct 23, 2006 #7
    This may go without saying, But take a look at campus and the surrounding areas, make sure its something you like and could possibly feel at home at. It'd be great to go to that top notch Ivy League, and maybe the program you are interested in is one of the best, but if you are miserable in the school atmosphere then you may find it less than appealing. I am at Loyola Univeristy of Chicago, and possibly one of the biggest thigns that lead to my coming here was the campus setting, I enjoy being in large cities and being by the water, thus their lakeshore campus is beautiful to me.
    Aside form that, as other have said, Look at the department websites, and see what you think. Come up with some questions to ask on your tour about study groups or the social atmosphere. Talk to some of the faculty and see if they feel like people you could get to know and be friends with, talk to students and see thier reactions to the faculty, ask if they work with thier professors alot, or if their isn't much interaction.
  9. Oct 23, 2006 #8
    I recently visited many college campuses. I highly suggest that you walk around on your own (on your own means with nobody else, ie. without your parents, friends, etc) for an hour or two.

    Sit in on a class if you can!
  10. Oct 24, 2006 #9
    Thanks for the advice guys. I got back the other day and it went well.
    Everyone seemed very friendly and accessable. I was able to speak with the (interem) Physics Department head, despite the fact that there was a mistake and the department didn't get word of my visit until the last minute. I also got a great tour of the facilities by an assistant professor. They were both very enthusiastic and friendly. They answered all my questions and I got a good feel for things. Sounded like undergrad research opportunities were good, especially as a part of the honors program.

    So, I guess theres no real reason to fear staying instate if it comes to that. I feel a lot better now.
  11. Oct 25, 2006 #10
    That is great. It is very important to professors who are willing to help you. There are a lot of brilliant people who should not be professors. All they tend to care about is research. Whenever I looked for a university to attend, I paid careful attention to how open the head of the department was and how the professors reacted to their students.

    Also, make sure that the professors there are skilled in a field that interest you. Especially if you do have plans to atted grad student at some point.
  12. Oct 25, 2006 #11
    Count the number of hot chicks you see. The more the bettter.
  13. Oct 25, 2006 #12


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    I think your experience is a good opportunity to repeat to all prospective college students that just because you do not go to a "brand-name" school, does not mean that you will not get a terrific undergraduate education, or that you won't get to top-tier graduate schools. I see high school students (and their parents) losing sleep and getting all stressed out trying to get into these highly-competitive schools, while ignoring what probably could be equally good schools elsewhere. Especially in physics where it really doesn't matter that much where you go for your undergraduate education (as long as it has the full range of facilities that one expects, and most schools have these) when compared to graduate school, one should not be seduced to ONLY focus on those well-known names.

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