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Community college physics

  1. Jan 19, 2015 #1
    Hi everybody. I am graduating in May with a BS in mathematics. This semester I am taking calc based physics 1 and would like to continue taking physics classes after I graduate with a view to taking the gre physics subject test and getting into a physics graduate program. Would it hurt my chances of acceptance into grad school to take physics classes at a community college? I'm torn between this and putting off my graduation and staying at my current school (which has a decent physics department). The difference in cost is significant but not enormous (4 digits, not 5), and I would like to leave my current school and get my degree for morale reasons but I would be willing to stay if necessary. Thank you in advance for any advice.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2015 #2

    Quantum Defect

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    I would talk to some people at the kind of institution that you are looking at attending for graduate school. If you can, find out which faculty are on the admissions committee. For some PhD programs it may be more important to have more courses in physics, but in others it might not matter so much (you may be able to pick up what you are lacking in graduate courses). More than likely, you will have mathematical strengths that many first-year physics graduate students are lacking. At some places, it may be a wash.

    If you hear from people that having more physics courses is really necessary/desirable, you can talk to them about their opinion of which makes more sense -- a decent community college or your current four-year institution. I don't believe that a community college will offer much in the way of upper division physics, though.

    You should also look at Applied Math graduate programs. I think that in many cases, these are hard to differentiate from some graduate-level physics areas.
  4. Jan 19, 2015 #3
    Every physics department I've looked at requires more physics knowledge than I have, and everybody want the gre physics subject test, which at the moment, I would do very badly on.
    I have met the head of the astrophysics department at one of the grad schools I was looking at, and emailed him once with a question about the program, but I wasn't sure it would be appropriate to email him to ask about this. I suppose I should ask him, since he would be able to give me a good answer. I hadn't thought to look at applied math, because I'm tired of doing proofs, but I'll look at this. Thank you for the suggestions.
  5. Jan 19, 2015 #4

    Quantum Defect

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    Asking questions is always fine in my book.

    The fellow in my organization who used to manage the Applied Mathematics Program was a physicist. Seems like vice versa should be fine, as well. I don't think that Applied Mathematics is necessarily heavy in proofs. My impression of Applied Mathematics is that it is primarily interested in applying new mathematical tools to existing scientific/technological problems.
  6. Jan 20, 2015 #5
    Since you have the mathematical background (I wouldn't know what kind of math you've learned. Either way, you should be able to pick up quickly), I don't think you'll need the calc-based physics 1 and 2 from CC.

    In my opinion, I think it is best to stay an extra year and take the advanced physics courses. Mechanics 1, E&M 1, quantum 1, and university physics 3 (thermodynamics/optics) in your fall semester, and mechanics 2, E&M 2, quantum 2, and statistical physics in your spring semester. Then you pretty much know all the physics you'll need for the physics GRE.
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