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Difficulty in choosing between transferring and staying for undergraduate in physics

  1. Mar 10, 2012 #1
    I am currently in my second semester at a university with a small physics department (4-6 professors, 40 undergraduates and 0 graduates). It’s cheap enough that if I stay here till I graduate I probably will have no debt or maybe 1-2,000, but I’m considering transferring.
    Right now I have about 3 options:

    1. Stay where I am and graduate from a small university with close to no debt (I’m living at home – yes I know its lame, but it’s about 6,000 less a year that I have to pay :-) )

    2. Go to a school with the best physics program (out of my choices) where I have several good friends at and is close to home but end up with about 20,000-30,000 in debt.

    3. Go to a school with the second best physics program and live with my brother and his wife and newly born kid (to help make living cheaper), but know no one but them in the whole city and have little to no debt depending on how much my brother wants for room and board.

    In either case I currently have no scholarships (had a poor education from my high school) and my grades are a bit above average and I hope to end this semester at or around a 3.5 GPA with which I was hoping I could apply for a few scholarships at whatever university that I go to.

    Also I am planning on going to get my masters and possibly my PhD if I’m up for it by then, my second and third chose both have good masters and PhD programs as well. This is also my first post so I hope I’m not confusing or too long here.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2012 #2
    Re: Difficulty in choosing between transferring and staying for undergraduate in phys

    I always think that staying out of debt is one of the best things you can do. So if you can manage not to have (too much) debt, that would be awesome. Option 2 guarantees you $20 000 debt. I think you should avoid this at all costs.

    In undergrad, the reputation of the school is not so important. Whether you go to the best physics department or the fifth best, it doesn't matter. You'll get a good education everywhere. So I don't think the second option is really worth it.

    I would go for option 3, if I were you.
  4. Mar 10, 2012 #3


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    Re: Difficulty in choosing between transferring and staying for undergraduate in phys

    If university #1 (your current one) covers the basic undergraduate physics curriculum (classical mechanics, electricity & magnetism, thermodynamics / statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics), provides some lab classes and research opportunities, and you feel comfortable with the professors and classmates there, I see little reason to transfer.

    At university #3 you might have more research opportunities; but undergraduate research is mainly about learning the research process in general, so it doesn't really matter much what field you work in, so long as it's interesting enough to you that you're motivated to work on it. You might have a larger variety of courses to choose from, but the core courses are the most important ones anyway. You might have better or more interesting professors, but then again you might not. Teaching quality at large universities tends to be hit-or-miss.

    Another factor is that at a smaller school, your professors will probably get to know you better. There are only a few of them, and they talk to each other about their students. It's easier to make your good qualities known to them and get good recommendations.

    I agree with micromass that you should avoid #2 because of the debt. It's one thing for (medical) doctors or lawyers to rack up debt because they're going to make big money eventually. Physicists don't make big money, so if you can avoid debt that's a big plus.
  5. Mar 10, 2012 #4
    Re: Difficulty in choosing between transferring and staying for undergraduate in phys

    First, I want to thank both of your for your advice, it is helpful.

    Some other things I guess I should mention is that 2 and 3 both offer general physics III corses, while 1 does not. I have talked to my lab TA who graduated from the university in physics, who said that since they do not offer that course I essentially have to teach myself that class because the upper level classes expect you to know what is in physics III. Also He said most of the teachers were good, but the thing is some are not so good and since there are few professors some of the core upper classes are taught by the “bad” teachers and I have no choice but to take the classes from them.

    Another thing is that I may be able to get into the honors program for 2 if I can get my GPA to above a 3.5 (which is possible if I get good grades this semester), which will pay for some of my book fees and 120 cred hours, thus making the cost of going there roughly the same as 1.

    I’m leaning towards 3 now since I just check up on their tuition, and it would cost about 1,100 less a year than where I am currently going, which I think would be close to how much my brother would want to live with him.

    Again, thanks for all the advice, I really appreciate it.
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