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Columbia vs U of Arizona vs U of Colorado Boulder

  1. Jun 13, 2013 #1
    Help guys ! I've been accepted into Columbia University, University of Arizona and University of Colorado Boulder to study Astrophysics ! But I don't know which one to pick...... Which one has the best Physics / Astrophysics program ?

    My dream is to work towards a PHD level and find work as an Astrophysicist. But I don't know which of these schools will best prepare me for grad school !

    Please Help!

    It's the undergraduate program I've been accepted into.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 13, 2013 #2
    Columbia is the best by far. The quality of your fellow students will be dramatically higher at Columbia. If the cost to you is roughly similar you should go to Columbia.
  4. Jun 13, 2013 #3
    All three are good schools for physics. I'd go to the most cost effective one. The quality of education between those three schools won't vary much.

    You should take into account fun activities you can do at each place as well.
  5. Jun 14, 2013 #4


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    As Mmm_Pasta noted, all three are good schools.

    Columbia is more selective, so you are likely to be surrounded by more competitive classmates.

    Having just left Tucson after visiting there while on vacation (drove through the U of A campus on my way out of town yesterday), I can attest that Tucson is very hot during the summer. The day before yesterday the temperature hit 108 F (42 C), and summer hasn't even begun yet, officially! :bugeye: Nevertheless, U of A has a strong astrophysics program, and has access to several major research facilities in the area.
  6. Jun 14, 2013 #5
    Congratulations on your multiple strong options.

    What consideration have you given to the costs associated with each option? Do you qualify for resident tuition rates at any of them? Both CU-Boulder and Columbia are much more expensive schools than University of Arizona.
  7. Jun 14, 2013 #6


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    They all have excellent undergrad programs; none of them is significantly better than the others. U of A probably has the largest program of the three, at least in terms of the number of astronomers, and probably the best access to telescopes if you're interested in observational work, especially with NOAO right there. You probably don't know what exactly you want to study yet, but Boulder is very well known for their atmospheric science work, and U of A for optics and observational astronomer.
  8. Jun 14, 2013 #7
    You'll find more serious students at columbia most likely, which I think is a big perk. However, you still won't have too much trouble meeting competitive, interesting people at U of A and Boulder since they're both top notch, so if either one is cheaper, choose U of A or Boulder. Bottom line is, for the research you care about, can you find people to work with at any of these schools? The answer is most probably yes.

    As a native I can say that the summers can be pretty intense, but the academic year occurs during Arizona's best weather, which is pretty amazing weather all things considered; I don't think the summer will be much of an issue more than half of your fall semester / unless you stay at U of A over the summer.
  9. Jun 14, 2013 #8
    Just curious: was this an alternate round of admissions or something? As per my knowledge, undergrad decisions have to be made by May 1.
  10. Jun 17, 2013 #9
    Thanks guys !!!

    My main aim right now is to get the Physics/Math in, especially because I'm thinking that I would lean more towards Theoretical Astrophysics...... still it would be great to learn the Observation bit, but I think maybe i can get that from Summer Internships ????

    --> jtbell, when you say that U of Arizona has a strong astrophysics program, do you mean undergraduate or graduate??

    --> hsetennis , I applied as a transfer student, as I already have a 1st bachelor's degree.
  11. Jun 17, 2013 #10


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    I would give UofA a good hard look, if you can stand the heat. Their association with some high-end observatories and their NASA connections (want to design spacecraft and/or run the support programs?) are top-notch. Give them a good look and ask questions about programs. Astrophysics is a broad field, but if you have a strong leaning toward observational astronomy, UofA would be a good option. I have a friend from Mongolia, and in his freshman year, he was tapped to help build instrumentation for the LBT. Not too bad.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2013
  12. Jun 17, 2013 #11
    Test Scores -- 25th / 75th Percentile
    SAT Critical Reading: 700 / 780
    SAT Math: 700 / 790
    SAT Writing: 700 / 790

    University of Arizona:
    Test Scores -- 25th / 75th Percentile
    SAT Critical Reading: 480 / 600
    SAT Math: 490 / 620
    SAT Writing: 480 / 600

    Test Scores -- 25th / 75th Percentile
    SAT Critical Reading: 530 / 630
    SAT Math: 540 / 650

    Please go to Columbia if you are serious about receiving the best edication you can. The courses at Columbia will be taught at a much higher level and your fellow students will be much more of a reasource. You can suceed at any reasonable school but it is much easy to attain a high level of understanding in a high level enviroment.

  13. Jun 17, 2013 #12
    I wouldn't take the average SAT scores of the students at those schools into consideration for a decision about where to go. Boulder and Arizona are state schools, so they are expected to accept a large number of students even if those students have not scored well, whereas Columbia is private and an Ivy League.

    I also don't think a "high level" environment necessarily correlates to easily attaining a high level of understanding, or to receiving a great education in general. Much of that depends largely on the individual student and his/her background and motivation.

    My advice would be to look at the quality of the individual astrophysics programs in addition to the overall ranking and facilities of the schools. How much research do undergrads do? What facilities do the the schools have? How good are the professors at teaching, and how prolific are they at their research? How many people go on to grad school/get jobs, and where? Also, if you can visit the schools you should try to do so. You might find that the environment or research at one particular school suits your interests the best.
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