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General college guidance questions and 5 year BS/MS programs?

  1. Apr 10, 2010 #1
    It's been a while since I've posted here, but since my last post I've become more entrenched in the terrifying mess that is late junior year/early senior year, and the college hunting and decisions that come with it. I realize there are tons and tons of threads about this stuff, but I have some particular questions that I have yet to find answers to.
    I'll list some relevant college admission.

    As my other https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=315581" suggests, I am intent on becoming a physics major, but I am having a hard time with the whole college ordeal (I am a junior mainly deciding where to apply and what my chances are.)

    First off, where I stand now is admittedly not spectacular as far as academics go...By the end of this year (junior year) I will have around a 3.67 weighted (out of 5) GPA (I take almost exclusively honors and AP classes, but unfortunately I wasn't very motivated my sophomore or freshman years), with a 35 composite on my ACT; I haven't decided if I'm going to take the SAT subject tests yet...I will have 4 credits (two semesters) of Language Arts, 4 science, 3 social studies, 3 foreign language, and 7 math credits by the time I graduate.

    I am in AP Physics B and have gotten an A in it and will hopefully get a 5 on the AP test. Next year I will take AP Physics C and one of the AP calculus courses, and a full schedule of AP classes...I'm also in AP Statistics and AP computer science this year (which should partially explain the 7 math credits). Also, our school stopped doing class rank with this year's seniors so I don't know what that would be.

    Extracurriculars: I will have been in our school's top band (of 4 bands) and our school's top jazz band for all 4 years, as well as marching band for 3 years. Band here is a huge time commitment, since it is a class and has after-school rehearsals, thus since I have been in normal band, jazz band, and marching band for most of my high school career, I don't really have any other extracurriculars. I am on our school's WYSE team, but haven't been able to go to any competitions since I usually have scheduling conflicts.

    This post is getting obnoxiously long...so I will try to get to the point, here are the main schools I'm interested in:
    Reach (doubtful I will get accepted): University of Chicago, Reed College
    More realistic: UW-Madison, CU Boulder, Purdue University, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, Indiana University.
    Safety: DePaul (my only "safe school" at this point).

    All these schools seem to have reputable physics programs, but do you think my credentials are satisfactory for me to get into most of them? Also, are there any other solid undergrad physics programs I should consider applying to? I'm not very picky about location or anything like that, but I generally wouldn't want to go to school somewhere in the South.

    Also, I am particularly interested in CU Boulder and Purdue since they both have 5 year BS/MS programs for physics. I was wondering if anybody had any input as to if these programs are a good option for someone like me who hopes to move onto PhD work someday; from what I've read the 5 year programs like these seem to aid in being accepted into Graduate programs, but I'm not entirely sure.

    Another question I can't seem to get a straight answer on is how much does WHERE one gets their undergrad degree in physics really matter? Obviously it helps to go to a "brand-name" university like MIT, Caltech etc., but if I go to one of the aforementioned "realistic" schools and work hard and earn good grades will I be in a solid position for applying to graduate schools?

    I know this post is obscenely long...and I apologize for that, but any and all suggestions/input is greatly appreciated! :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 10, 2010 #2
    Your GPA kind of sucks (what's your class rank?), but you should get into all of the schools you listed as "realistic" on your ACT score alone.
     
  4. Apr 10, 2010 #3
    Yeah I know it does, it's what I deserve though. In the three years or high school I've had I only really started applying myself this year, but I'm not going to give up, I just have to be realistic.

    And as I mentioned in my first post my school no longer calculates class rank so there's no way for me to know.
     
  5. Apr 11, 2010 #4
    College allows you much more opportunity to differentiate yourself than high school. People attend top grad schools from all sorts of places. It's up to what you do during college. You may have to work a little harder to go after research opportunities, internships, or whatever else, but you can do just about anything from schools like those you mentioned.
     
  6. Apr 11, 2010 #5
    Thanks kote, that's what I thought but I wasn't sure; it's definitely comforting to know I'm not screwed for going to a less prestigious university.

    Does anybody know anything about the 5-year programs I mentioned? Pros/cons, are they worth it, etc.?
    Thanks
     
  7. Apr 11, 2010 #6
    The standard advice is that they usually aren't worth it. It really depends though. You can often find funding for grad school, and if you want to get a PhD you're probably better off just starting in a funded program after your 4th year. 5 year programs typically just charge you a 5th year of undergrad tuition.

    It all depends on your situation and goals though... how your grades are as an undergrad, etc.
     
  8. Apr 11, 2010 #7
    Ok that helps a lot. For the record I definitely want to get my PhD, and I likely won't be in a great financial situation after 4 years of college so paying for 5 years is probably not ideal for me...

    When you say it depends on my undergrad grades what exactly do you mean?I'm motivated to actually earn good grades in college since I definitely blew it for most of high school.
     
  9. Apr 11, 2010 #8
    Getting your MS before applying to PhD programs can be helpful if you need time to raise your grades, for example.
     
  10. Apr 11, 2010 #9
    Alright thanks that helps...I wouldn't apply for the 5 year program at either school until my junior year so I've got quite a bit of time if I do go there...
    Also I was thinking of either getting a minor or double majoring in computer science; if possible, do you think that would benefit me in the long run?
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2010
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