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Schools Florida Atlantic University's Honors College and math and physics

  1. Feb 4, 2010 #1
    Hello members of physicsforums! I had not ever planned on making use of this section of the forum because I had joined primarily for the wonderful homework help facilities here, but I figured that since I already have an account here I might as well. Needless to say, I am a little nervous about posting this because this is my first time posting a thread like this…

    Anyway, I was accepted to Florida Atlantic University’s Honors College (a subdivision of Florida Atlantic University). From lurking around here, the general advice seems to be that one’s choice of school for undergraduate education does not matter so long as the desired department(s) is good. So I was wondering about the quality of this school’s undergraduate physics and math programs. Has anyone here any knowledge of this or is able to figure it out?

    Some background information to help. I am a senior in high school who is self-studying math from Apostol’s Calculus. I really enjoy math and physics, and because I did well enough on my SATs and in school to have a shot at being admitted, I did what most in my position have done and applied to MIT. I was deferred to regular decision and so am still awaiting a decision.

    In retrospect, that was probably a good thing in that it prevented me from making the rash decision of enrolling there immediately. From lurking and reading around here and in particular the posts related to MIT, I’ve gotten some cold feet. From my earlier research about the Institute I knew it was an extremely intense place to go to school, but I guess it didn’t click in my mind exactly how intense until I read some posts here. I love a good challenge, do tend to “kill myself” in my school work and self-studies, and do realize that I am not the best of the best, but some of the descriptions of MIT make it sound quite…scary.

    My point is that I had originally applied to FAU’s Honors College as a backup plan in case I didn’t make it into MIT or other places I applied to (which includes UF). Now that I know more about MIT though, the Honors College seems much more attractive, especially considering it is only about a half hour away and is quite cheap. However, I have no clue as to how good its math and physics departments are (i.e., whether I would learn those two as well there as elsewhere). Knowing this would be valuable for me as I hear from more admissions offices and ultimately decide where to enroll.

    A slight complication arises in that I do not know whether I would prefer to do an engineering degree instead of math or physics (I was advised to go somewhere where I could have plenty of opportunities to do undergraduate physics research, so I could see whether I would be happier in engineering or physics)…but I guess that’s another topic unless it helps for you all to know what my ultimate goals are. Also, if it helps I do plan on going to graduate school in whatever interests me though most likely in math, physics, or engineering, so it is important to me to go somewhere that won’t hinder me from being accepted to such a graduate school.

    Thanks ahead of time for any information and/or advice!
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 5, 2010 #2
    Hi there. I actually go to FAU's Honors College. I'm a Math and Physics double major (senior) so I can give you a bit of advice on it. You sound similar to me( I had good SATs, tons of AP, reading Apostol and things like that in High School). I chose the Honors College because it was close to home and cheap. First, I'll give the downsides. The school is designed specifically to be a small subset of FAU (a large institution), and it is supposed to be more rigorous. However, it is small (300-400 kids maybe?). If you like that, then that works out. However, the departments are also very small. We only have 3 or 4 mathematicians. We have two algebraists, an operator theorist, and we will be getting another next semester. So, the primary downside is that the school is small. However, if you are a hard working student, this won't be too much of a problem. They strongly encourage independent study. So, if you are a motivated student, you can get whatever classes you need and they'll help you out. My friends and I have had many upper level analysis classes (independently) and some advanced algebra classes (also independently). Standard courses like analysis and algebra are offered of course, and topology comes around every once in a while.

    However, you mention an interest in engineering. I also am interested in engineering (electrical). Unfortunately, the honors college itself does not have an engineering program (Only liberal arts + sciences). FAU regular does offer engineering, but I do not recommend anything FAU in any way. If you want engineering, go to UF. It has a fantastic engineering department (my siblings go there, and I was admitted but decided on math instead).

    With respect to undergraduate research, there are possibilities. Every student is required to do an honors thesis, which for math can be a research project. Even better is that many of our math students tend to get into REUs. An REU is an undergraduate research experience which tend to be pretty competitive, but they're normally aimed at giving people from small liberal arts school the chance to research. I had a great experience and I've fused that with my other work I was doing at school into a thesis.

    If you want to do engineering though, I suggest going to UF. If you're more interested in math, but later want to do engineering, you can (get an undergrad degree in math and then a masters or Ph.D. in engineering). Several of my friends are considering this option. For admissions to grad school, it does help to go to a more well known school though, so that's another problem. Overall, it depends on if you want a small school, clsoe to home, where you really get to know your professors. On the other hand, a more well known school like UF provides lots of opportunities for switching around. I'd probably overall recommend UF if you're not sure what you want to do.
  4. Feb 6, 2010 #3
    I know someone who started at the main campus as an undergrad and eventually went to princeton to do his phd.
  5. Feb 6, 2010 #4
    hmm, thanks for all that info, Ebola Plox. It's all very helpful, especially considering you were in a similar position to me (except I definitely have less AP classes xp) and so could comment as such. I was curious about regular FAU's engineering department too, so I'm glad you brought that up. I probably should do some more considering into whether I would like engineering or hard science more before I make such a decision. I also did hear that going to a more well-known undergrad school helps for grad school admissions, but I wasn't sure about that. Yet another consideration!

    And that's interesting, Ivpoly. Was there anything special he did, or was he just "some average student" at FAU (though obviously he couldn't have been too "average" or I would think he wouldn't have made it to Princeton)?

    Anyone else have more information/comments?
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2010
  6. Feb 6, 2010 #5
    There was a newspaper article about him which you can read for more info.

    http://weblog.science.fau.edu/info/images/israel.html , since this is a write up that says how typical this situation is. More on FAU someone there did pretty well in the Putnam exams


    Arei's comments on his qualifiers at Princeton

    That being said it, you have a very tough decision I think. I think in your shoes I probably would go to MIT. I think if you can read through Apostol thats a good sign. I made the post just to confirm that it is not the end of the world if you went to FAU.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  7. Feb 7, 2010 #6
    hmm, those links were very interesting. Thanks for the info/encouragement! And yeah, it is quite a tough decision. I'm still hoping that I'll get lucky in that finances will decide where I go, but I'll have to wait and see.....

    Any other comments, information, etc.?
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