Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Germany this year or USA next year? (Physics)

  1. Feb 6, 2012 #1

    I've made many threads on these boards over the past year about college and very soon, I will have to make a final decision. I wanted to apply to the USA but for a few reasons, wasn't able to do my SATs in time. I then decided to do a gap year and focus on a few other activities (mostly related to math and education), smoking the SAT I and II and only then applying for entry in the fall of 2013.

    Frankly, I'm not certain as to what I should do. I was very attracted to the prospect of studying the States because there seems to be a lot of academic freedom and I could explore all of my academic interests, which include math, physics, neuroscience, economics and the humanities. (classics, literature, history)

    - 3-year degree
    - taught in English (Leipzig)
    - application is straightforward: no essays, just high school diploma, passport, etc. and you're in.
    - strong program
    - the physics BSc includes the same linear algebra, analysis and differential equations modules that math majors take; I have a friend there who is just finishing his degree and he told me he was able to take an additional Galois Theory class!
    - Max Planck Institutes
    - will be 22 when I finish the degree, as opposed to 24 in the states*

    - only physics for 3 years; will have to self-study other disciplines (but perhaps that's a good thing?)
    - I don't know much about how the "student life" is there
    - It looks like there is much, much more going on in college in the States, with REUs, loads of student clubs and many students living in the dorms, while in Germany, it is more typical for students to stay with their parents and only students who come from far away stay in the dorms
    - not sure about grad school in the States; I've seen scary things on physicsgre.com, where foreigners with great profiles not being accepted to most places they applied to
    - usually, the successful applicants have already done a diplom or MSc and if I stay for another 2 years in Germany without any funding, I would more than just stretch my budget.

    *If I go this year, I will be 19 when I start and should be finishing within 3 years.


    The other concern is, it may happen that I take the gap year, do very well on the SATs and all exams, have a very good profile and I still don't get enough financial aid/scholarship from the colleges I applied to. I intend on applying to 20-25 of them (in case I don't apply to Germany), ranging from the likes of MIT to Berea, passing through liberal arts colleges like Reed and Vassar. I understand that these schools are hard to get in but they're the ones who offer full-need to internationals they accept. (and yes, they are need-aware when reviewing applications) In that case, it won't be because I suck but because I was unlucky and most people don't get lucky!

    I also don't know if I have too much of a romanticised view of what studying+living in the States is like. I grew up with TV and all I know about what living there could be like is based on that and what I read on the internet. For what it's worth, I like everything ranging from the carefully designed roads (everything is FLAT, dammit!) where I could skate without much fear and the gigs and cute Japanese girls in mini-shorts. But hey, for all I know, living in Leipzig might be as cool as - but in a different way - living in Boston or NYC.

    What do you suggest? Up until today, I was set on taking the gap year and applying to college at the end of the year but my dad thinks I'd be better off applying to Germany now and start my degree this year. He isn't putting any pressure on me but I can see where he's coming from, seeing that he got his Physics BSc at 26-27.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 6, 2012 #2
    Why not try somewhere else in Europe? Somewhere in the UK will give you:

    - 3-year degree
    - taught in English (!)
    - application is straightforward - just A levels or equivalent and you're in.
    - the physics BSc includes the same linear algebra, analysis and differential equations
    - Max Planck Institutes Name dropper :) We don't name our universities after after physicists, but you can go to the same ones as Rutherford, Kelvin, Newton, Maxwell, Dirac...
    - "dorms" (="halls of residence") are common in the UK, most students don't stay at home.
    - lots of clubs, usually a German society ;)

    Con: Uk courses tend to be very specialist as well

    P.S. East Anglia is flat (where Cambridge is... )

    P.P.S. Another route - could you set up an exchange between Max P. and MIT, or Cambridge in the UK?
  4. Feb 6, 2012 #3
    As I'm from a country who follows the British system closely, the UK was the first place that sprung to mind when it came to higher studies. I fear I've missed the deadline to apply and if I were to apply, I would have to apply for entry in 2013. Besides, I can't afford to pay 36k pounds for an undergraduate degree...or anything for that matter. :P

    American colleges can be somewhat generous, when it comes to financial aid/scholarships/grants. It's like buying tickets to the "smart students lotto" but at least, the $$ does exist. ;)
    Don't get me wrong, if I could afford it, I would definitely have applied to England. I would have liked to study at Bath, for example. Anyway, I am not considering England at all and I'd rather not have this thread get side-tracked and get turned into a England V/S everywhere else thread. :rofl:
  5. Feb 6, 2012 #4
    Just as a minor comment: Max Planck institutes are not universities (or a specific university) but semi-private research institutes (even though in practice there is a close collaboration between universities and local institutes).
  6. Feb 6, 2012 #5
    Why not do your bachelor in Leipzig for example, and proceed for grad study in US.
    It would be much easier to get some kind of funding or a scholarship as a foreign grad student in the US than as a foreign undergrad.
  7. Feb 7, 2012 #6
    I agree that finding funding for graduate study is definitely much easier, seeing as that is actually the norm.

    However, I have not been able to find *any* information as to whether or not applicants with German BSc degrees have successfully applied and been admitted to grad school in the States. I only saw one applicant with such a background from a German school, where he had a 1.2 (with 1.0 on his major), some research experience with one publication I think, 810 on PGRE and he got rejected everywhere...except for SUNY Stony Brook, where he got in without funding.

    The successful European applicants usually have an MSc degree. I'm not sure if my parents will be able to afford to pay for another 2 years...
  8. Feb 7, 2012 #7

    You don't have to worry about such things in the distant future. Who knows, you may not want to continue with grad study.
    Regarding financing an MSc, many students work part time in order to finance their monthly expenses, the most reasonable of such jobs is being something like an RA (it need not be in your field). Working 2 days a week should cover all your monthly costs, and should be good professionally.
  9. Feb 7, 2012 #8
    I am in the middle of doing something very similar!

    I studied physics, and had a German minor and went for an exchange semester during my junior year and really enjoyed it. Then, in my last year of my undergraduate studies in the United States, I fell terribly ill. I missed a few weeks of classes, inlcuding the physics GRE. I applied to some grad schools, but without a physics GRE score I was sunk. So I went to Germany for a Master's instead. I'm at the end of my time here, and I've applied to PhD programs in United States and Canada and expect to be going back this fall to start one. I've even already been accepted to some, and they are flying me all the way from Germany to their visitation weekends next month.

    I even got a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD - Deutsche Akademischer Austauschdienst in german). I don't think there's a scholarship for undergraduates, but as a foreigner I was able to get my entire masters degree fully funded by the DAAD.

    I really like the german university system, and it is really great being a student in Germany. And the best part is that it is almost entirely FREE!!! Other than living expenses, I pay only €140 every semester for student fees, and that includes a public transportation pass that gets me everywhere in my region for free.

    If you want to go to Germany for your studies, I think it would be a fantastic idea. :)

    As someone already pointed out, Max-Planck-Institutes aren't universities, but it is possible to do research for a Master's thesis or even a Bachelor's thesis at one. (Max-Planck-Institutes are usually for scientific research, but there are also the Fraunhofer Institutes for applied science stuff, and you could also research at one of these)
  10. Feb 7, 2012 #9
    I was not aware of this. How would go about researching in a field that is not the one he is not working in, especially if their background is only a BSc in the said field? Or did you mean TA? I find that easier to grasp, as a Physics MSc student could be teaching math, for example, to undergraduates...

    2 days? For how many hours?

    Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    Was the scholarship awarded on the basis of your GPA or...?

    Will you be required to take grad courses again or will you be able to attempt the quals fairly quickly?
    Good luck with your PhD.
  11. Feb 7, 2012 #10
    Good point. English education is expensive now. Have you considered a Scottish university? They are free to EU students, except for the English :rofl:


    Sorry about taking the thread a bit off course, again, but the Scottish loophole is just too good not to mention. You can get round the deadline problem by going through clearing:

    http://www.ucas.com/advisers/sixsteps/nextsteps/clearing [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  12. Feb 7, 2012 #11
    I'm not from the EU either, which brings us back to the usual 12-20k pound fee! :P
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  13. Feb 7, 2012 #12
    Its not exactly a research position (this depends on the type of work involved).
    During a typical bachelor degree you will be learning programming and other practical topics.
    PhD students often look for assistants to help them in some aspects hence they get some funding to allow them to offer part time positions for students. Typically, applied science departments have more funding for this purpose than a physics department (e.g. computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering.....)

    The pay per hour ~ 10 eur, hence you get ~ 640 eur a month for 16hrs a week. Typically, you can work a max of 20hrs a week.
  14. Feb 16, 2012 #13
    My apologies for the delay in reply.

    I suppose that such positions are more readily available in the "major research universities"? What do you think of the Elite-Netzwerk programs? More specifically, the FocusPhysik and TopMath ones.


    A little update on this. I initially thought that I would be able to take a year out and retake some tests as well as the SATs and then apply to college in the states for entry next year...but while that sounded doable, I haven't been able to pull it off. I can't help but feel *incredibly bored* (A-Level maths and physics is not very captivating, if you will) and getting started on proper physics/maths looks more and more appealing as the days go by.

    The other negative to taking a year out is the age thing. Going to Germany this year, assuming that all goes well, I would be graduating at 22. If I go to the States next year, assuming that I get in with financial aid, I'll be graduating at 24.

    Everything seems to be pointing towards Germany this year, but my concern is that my parents won't be able to afford paying for more than 3 years. I'll have to figure the rest out on my own. So, the USA thing sounded more appealing, because my understanding was that getting into grad school - with funding - from a US college is easier than from a foreign one? (I suppose because of professors being more likely to be acquainted with each other, REUs and what not?) Getting straight into a MS+PhD program would make things less complicated as far as "not getting into debt" goes...

    I'm still not sure about this and it's been a little hard to come up with a decision. I'd be glad to hear opinions from anyone with first-hand experience of both the German/European system and the US one?

    Thanks guys
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook