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Schools Do you think the ugrad school I attend for physics is going to hold me back?

  • Thread starter leright
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I go to Lawrence Technological University (www.ltu.edu) in Southfield, MI. Family and friends and pretty much everyone I talked to said it was a top notch school, and I was pretty much set on going there. I applied and got accepted. I am now a 3rd year dual major in mathematics and physics, with a chemistry minor. I will probably be done in 5 years total.

Now, don't get me wrong, this school is great and is extremely reputable in the area for engineering and architecture. Also, the curriculum is quite good, the professors are respectable, and the class sizes are extremely small (<15 students). Also, no classes are taught by teaching assistants.

However, I'm not an engineering or architecture student, and I'm afraid that the school isn't recognized for math, physics or chemistry. The school is ACS certified for chemistry, but who the hell cares? I am only a chem minor anyways.

I am afraid that I will not get into the big time schools for graduate school because of the undergrad school I attend. I have my sights on UM ann arbor, Berkely, and UPenn for graduate studies in physics and I am afraid these schools will look down on my ugrad school.

LTU does have a rigorous program, but they don't so a lot in research...especially in natural sciences research...it's mostly engineeriung research (they are building a new materials research center for military applications completely funded by the governemt currently, which might spark research...and the uni does lots of work in fuel cell research, and bridge strengthening research with carbon fiber). The lack of research does nothing for the university's national recognition.

LTU is also known to be very easy to get accepted to, but it is hard to stay in because of the rigor of the program (about a 60% freshman retention rate, and even less retention for upperlevel years). This fact also does nothing to improve the university's reputation.

I am just afraid that the size and national rep of my ugrad institution is going to hold me back when I apply to grad school. My advisor and the chair of the math department and natural science department thinks otherwise, and they both say I will have the same options as students from other universities, but they might be a bit biased....but I guess I know there are lots of students from LTU go on to do graduate studies in engineering, chem and physics at places like MIT, stanford and columbia.

Another thing, is there is not much campus life here at all, since only about 35% of the students live on campus. It is largely a commuter school. This is another factor that makes me want to transfer to another school.

What are your thoughts on this? Have any of you heard of lawrence tech? Do you think my ugrad institution would be detrimental to my graduate school options? I will make sure I make good connections with the professors to ensure good letters of recommendation (which is pretty easy here, since the school is so small), and I will be sure to pick up an REU position at another uni for the next couple summers (I am considering Indiana University).
 
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It all depends on you. My mom works for a Radiologist that went to East Texas State University(Now A&M-Commerce), which is extremely small as well. However, he went on to get a PhD in Organic Chemistry at Johns Hopkins, which is a very respected school. Just do the best you can in your classes, get really close to your professors for good LOR's, do good on your GRE, and you'll have as good a chance as anybody to get into a respected Grad. School.

Edit: I'm NOT speaking from experience. This is just what he told me when I talked to him.
 
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http://www.ltu.edu/arts_sciences/physics/degree_requirements.index.asp [Broken]

here's the physics curriculum at my university. Is this a pretty standard curriculum that I would see at any university, or is it lacking in some areas?
 
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It always strikes me that these American colleges have the word 'arts' in their epitheton. Does this imply that you can get a college master degree in acting for example ?

Besides, what is this i hear about a radiologist doing a phd in organic chemistry ? ???

regards
marlon
 
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Your grad school will more than likely look at your transcript, not at the university where your transcripts were printed. You make the grades, the school doesn't make them for you. I know many of my friends graduated the university that I currently attend, and they have been accepted into math graduate programs in several Big 10 and ACC universitites. The undergrad university that they attended is not known well. Keep your head up and make the grade.
 
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Marlon,
He originally had no intentions of being a radiologist, but after he got his PhD, he decided to go to Medical School.
 
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Have not heard of Lawrence Tech. Anyhow - no point in worrying since you're already in your 3rd year there. Alea iacta est.
 
i like the math requirements.

but... no stat mech or thermal physics? :eek:

if stat mech is offered as an elective, i'd think that it'd be a good idea to take it--in most grad schools, a grad-level stat mech is required, so it'd be a good idea to have it at the undergrad level, too.
 
marlon said:
It always strikes me that these American colleges have the word 'arts' in their epitheton. Does this imply that you can get a college master degree in acting for example ?

the really artsy degrees are given from the fine arts department.

"liberal arts" is an historical term; it really means "humanities and social sciences" in the modern context. and the "hard sciences" are in this department, too--so they usually tack on a "and sciences."

at least that's how it is at my school.
 
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Brad Barker said:
i like the math requirements.

but... no stat mech or thermal physics? :eek:

if stat mech is offered as an elective, i'd think that it'd be a good idea to take it--in most grad schools, a grad-level stat mech is required, so it'd be a good idea to have it at the undergrad level, too.
thermal physics is required. I don't know about statistical mechanics.

edit: wow, you're right. Thermal physics isn't on there...it's not offered as an elective either. Do you think taking thermodynamics would be about as good, or is that too engineerish?
 
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1+1=1 said:
Your grad school will more than likely look at your transcript, not at the university where your transcripts were printed. You make the grades, the school doesn't make them for you. I know many of my friends graduated the university that I currently attend, and they have been accepted into math graduate programs in several Big 10 and ACC universitites. The undergrad university that they attended is not known well. Keep your head up and make the grade.
My grades are actually kinda weak though....only like a 3.3. However, I hope to improve my GPA by the time I graduate and I expect that I will have undergraduate research experience before applying to grad schools.
 
non you need thermodynamic(stat mechanics is the next level course after).

mmm the main thing i think is are you preparing for the GRE yet? the specialized one for physics...if not get cracking if your that worried about your school. Also make sure you secure 3 good references...and alast projects...look towards doing some projects if you can..if you can score pretty high on your GRE and have projects and 3 good reference...that would be good.
 
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neurocomp2003 said:
non you need thermodynamic(stat mechanics is the next level course after).

mmm the main thing i think is are you preparing for the GRE yet? the specialized one for physics...if not get cracking if your that worried about your school. Also make sure you secure 3 good references...and alast projects...look towards doing some projects if you can..if you can score pretty high on your GRE and have projects and 3 good reference...that would be good.
The references are not a problem at all. That's one of the advantages of a smal program. I know that the department chair of the natural sciences program will be pushing hard to get me into a good program.

As for the projects, I plan on getting into an REU next summer and the following summer. Where I will go I don't know.

I haven't been studying for the physics GRE. Is this test very difficult? Where can I find preparation resources?

Also, what GPA should I push for? Is a 3.3 or 3.4 too weak?
 
.ryan touched upon this idea earlier;

It's more important about what you make of college then where you go. "Students make the college experience more than the reverse"* Start to bring up your GPA to the highest you can acchieve, and prepare well for the GRE. Getting too many A's will not harm your chances :wink: . You said that references will be easy to obtain so that is good. Good luck.

*Newsweek: How to Get Into College, 2002
 
leright said:
thermal physics is required. I don't know about statistical mechanics.

edit: wow, you're right. Thermal physics isn't on there...it's not offered as an elective either. Do you think taking thermodynamics would be about as good, or is that too engineerish?
it's better than nothing. take it if/when you have some space in your schedule--the stuff learned in that class is pretty important.


and the gre is nigh-incomprehensible without having taking junior-level mechanics and modern physics, probably even junior/senior quantum mechanics for some questions! during the spring i looked at a practice book in the student physics lounge, and...my head exploded.

but it'll be managable once i actually learn the relevant material, or at least that's the hope.
 
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I'd like to clarify and possibly disagree with some of the people above.

1. It goes without saying that you need excellent grades, especially if you aren't doing your undergrad at a brand-name school, but want to attend a brand-name school for grad school. However, there are brand-name schools (like Yale) which have good general reputations but not necessarily top-notch departments.

2. Does the reputation of your school matter? Sure. An "A" at Podunk U is not going to mean the same as an "A" at Stanford. The physics GRE will help equalize that.

3. It also helps a lot to have either a recommender with a good reputation or who is well-connected. You have a much better chance of that happening the better your undergrad program is. Look at it from the standpoint of a prof at Stanford or whatever who's looking over applications. He or she is going to give more weight to some recommenders.
 
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juvenal said:
I'd like to clarify and possibly disagree with some of the people above.

1. It goes without saying that you need excellent grades, especially if you aren't doing your undergrad at a brand-name school, but want to attend a brand-name school for grad school. However, there are brand-name schools (like Yale) which have good general reputations but not necessarily top-notch departments.

2. Does the reputation of your school matter? Sure. An "A" at Podunk U is not going to mean the same as an "A" at Stanford. The physics GRE will help equalize that.

3. It also helps a lot to have either a recommender with a good reputation or who is well-connected. You have a much better chance of that happening the better your undergrad program is. Look at it from the standpoint of a prof at Stanford or whatever who's looking over applications. He or she is going to give more weight to some recommenders.
There are reputable faculty members at my university, despite its size.

Just out of curiosity, are you going to a "name brand school"
 
juvenal said:
I'd like to clarify and possibly disagree with some of the people above.

1. It goes without saying that you need excellent grades, especially if you aren't doing your undergrad at a brand-name school, but want to attend a brand-name school for grad school. However, there are brand-name schools (like Yale) which have good general reputations but not necessarily top-notch departments.

2. Does the reputation of your school matter? Sure. An "A" at Podunk U is not going to mean the same as an "A" at Stanford. The physics GRE will help equalize that.

3. It also helps a lot to have either a recommender with a good reputation or who is well-connected. You have a much better chance of that happening the better your undergrad program is. Look at it from the standpoint of a prof at Stanford or whatever who's looking over applications. He or she is going to give more weight to some recommenders.

yeah, the GRE is critical in this situation, i think.

i read in us news and world report that, in some departments, the committee looks closely at your GRE scores (my guess is subject test in particular) if they haven't heard of the school you were graduated from.

(in fact, the more exact quote was that that was the only time when this particular individual checked the GRE scores [closely?]--but i think it's reasonable to extend this, as it would make sense...)
 
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Well, looks like I better do extremely well on the GRE, and get great letters of recommendation, and get lots of research experience because my school has no name recognition and my gpa is low (3.3).
 
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juvenal said:
I'd like to clarify and possibly disagree with some of the people above.

1. It goes without saying that you need excellent grades, especially if you aren't doing your undergrad at a brand-name school, but want to attend a brand-name school for grad school. However, there are brand-name schools (like Yale) which have good general reputations but not necessarily top-notch departments.

2. Does the reputation of your school matter? Sure. An "A" at Podunk U is not going to mean the same as an "A" at Stanford. The physics GRE will help equalize that.

3. It also helps a lot to have either a recommender with a good reputation or who is well-connected. You have a much better chance of that happening the better your undergrad program is. Look at it from the standpoint of a prof at Stanford or whatever who's looking over applications. He or she is going to give more weight to some recommenders.
oh, and I'd say an A at "podunk U" is just as good as an A at a name brand university. I know people who transferred from UM ann arbor to my "podunk U" and they said the curriculum and the exams were of equal difficulty. The "podunk U" just seemed a bit easier since the overall quality of the instruction was better.
 
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You're entitled to your opinion and it may possibly be true, but that isn't necessarily what a prof on the admissions committee is going to think. That's all that matters, innit?

There are couple factors which either support or contradict your opinion. One - what is the grade inflation like at one school vs another. At Harvard and other Ivies - grade inflation is supposedly a problem, though that's more in the humanities. Not sure what it's like at other schools.

Second - since grades are curved, the level of competition is definitely higher at Harvard vs a no-name school, so your chances of being at the top of the curve are lower at Harvard. In general, the better schools attract the better students.

If you want to argue about the quality of the instruction or whatever based on anecdotal evidence, I can't really disagree or agree since such things are hard to prove or disprove.
 
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Another thing is - if you're going to make the claim that brand-name schools are in fact overrated, then why are you even bothering to aspire to attend one of these schools for grad school?
 

jtbell

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My feeling is that the reputation of your school, in itself, isn't going to matter as much as the combination of grades, GRE scores and recommendations from your professors. With the recommendations, it will probably help a lot if they contain specific comments about things that you've done, from the point of view of someone who knows you well (which is usually the case at a smaller school); as opposed to general comments written by somebody who had to dig through old gradebooks to remember anything about you.

My experience is probably a bit outdated, because I got my bachelor's degree in 1975, but for what it's worth... I went to a small liberal arts college in Ohio which had a decent general reputation, but nothing outstanding like say, Oberlin. It had about 1000 students overall, and my graduating class had four physics majors including me. We all went to grad school. I went to Michigan (Ann Arbor), and the others went to Ohio State, Indiana (that guy later switched to Tufts), and Washington U. (St. Louis). (That last one wasn't really a physics person... rather a double math/physics major with a primary interest in math; she went into operations research.)
 
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juvenal said:
Another thing is - if you're going to make the claim that brand-name schools are in fact overrated, then why are you even bothering to aspire to attend one of these schools for grad school?
They are overrated for undergraduate school! Not for graduate school.
 
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Brad Barker said:
it's better than nothing. take it if/when you have some space in your schedule--the stuff learned in that class is pretty important.


and the gre is nigh-incomprehensible without having taking junior-level mechanics and modern physics, probably even junior/senior quantum mechanics for some questions! during the spring i looked at a practice book in the student physics lounge, and...my head exploded.

but it'll be managable once i actually learn the relevant material, or at least that's the hope.
ok, I made a mistake....thermal physics is a requirement.
 

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