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Getting to college

  1. Sep 4, 2006 #1
    As my high school career ends (senior year starts in two days), I've been thinking more and more of college. I have two subjects in mind, physics and engineering (most likely EE), and I am soon going to have to apply to colleges. What are some good colleges for BOTH (physics and engineering) in California? I am looking for good education more than just prestige. I wouldn't mind a good college for both these subjects if it is unheard of (which is why I'm posting here).
    Also, what is the best way to combine Physics and EE? I know some colleges offer applied physics and/or engineering physics. What is the diff. between them? And would a double major in both these subjects be possible?
    I am not too sure of exactly what I want to take yet. I have a passion for physics, but I would like to work in a hands-on environment, like engineering, which I feel that I would also enjoy. And yes, getting a well-paid job quickly is also a concern, though I am not interested only in making money. So, I guess my questions are..
    1. What are some good colleges for BOTH (physics and engineering) in California?
    2. What is the best way to combine Physics and EE?
    3. What is the difference between applied physics and engineering physics?
    4. Would a double major in EE and physics be possible?
    5. Am I thinking too much of this too soon?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 4, 2006 #2
    Well Caltech is the obvious one that will have good physics and engineering programs. I'm pretty sure that Berkeley has a good physics and engineering program, and I think I've heard that Harvey Mudd is pretty good as well.
  4. Sep 4, 2006 #3


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    1. There's at least a dozen decent colleges in California - to name a few: UCSD, UCLA, So.Cal., Caltech, UCSB, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, UC Berkeley , Stanford, UC Davis, Cal Poly, Harvey Mudd

    3. To the best of my knowledge, these are just two different names used by different departments for roughly the same thing.
  5. Sep 5, 2006 #4


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    Gokul hit most of the big ones, but don't forget about UC Davis, Sacramento State, or any of the Cal State campuses. There are also many lesser known schools you should consider as well: San Jose State University and Santa Clara University are two that come to mind in the bay area.

    If you're trying to maximize your salary or job choices after graduation, you should focus on EE and augment it with classes leading up to semiconductor device physics. I would consider taking a physics minor and focusing on solid-state physics.

    On the other hand, there's nothing at all wrong with taking additional classes simply because you like them. I took almost 20 hours of astrophysics only because I found it interesting -- I don't think it mattered at all to prospective employers.

    Same boat.

    Absolutely, and they would complement each other nicely. Engineering is really not much more than applied physics. Expect to take at least an additional year to finish both majors.

    You're asking good questions. Just don't fall into the trap of planning every class you're ever going to take right now -- it's a waste of mental energy, because you probably won't follow it much. You'll discover that you like or dislike some lecturers, like or dislike some topics, and might find yourself taking a rather different path through college than you expected to take.

    It's a good idea to have an overall plan for your education -- like I think I'd like to be an engineer, but don't worry about the details much yet.

    - Warren
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2006
  6. Sep 5, 2006 #5
    I think Gokul hit the major ones. I would single out Stanford and Caltech as primo places to get into, Caltech for physics and Stanford in general. And of course I have to plug USC, my own school.

    That depends, if you're looking to not take more than 4 years, drop dead from the courseload, or be scheduled in so tight you have no free electives.

    If so, then perhaps a physics minor with your EE specialization classes and free electives being electrophysics, quantum, and semiconductor physics, is an appropriate goal

    Gokal summed it up nicely.

    Possible, it depends on your school. My school is fairly flexible with double majors so it is for me. Actually, I have the papers all signed for me to change majors to EE and Physics/Computer Science. I just have to make sure I can fit all the courses in properly first before I go submit them.

    No, it's good to think ahead about where your major goals are going to be. What you don't want to do, is firmly set them. Be flexible since your interests and goals will change as you go on through college.
  7. Sep 5, 2006 #6
    SJSU would certainly be easier to get in to than Berkeley or the other UCs, and would have the advantage of being near Silicon Valley. They probably more attuned to industry needs, and there are probably a lot of internship possibilities.
  8. Sep 5, 2006 #7
    Thank you all for your replies. It helps me greatly in figuring out where to apply to. I have, of course, heard of Caltech and Stanford, but I did not know that so many UCs (other than UCLA) have good programs as well. When you say Cal Poly, is it Cal Poly Pomona or the one in San Luis Obispo, or both?
    Also, if anyone has experience with this, how much of a difference is there in getting a degree from Caltech compared with, say, UCLA? Would it matter too much after 10 years of college where you got your bachelor's from?
  9. Sep 5, 2006 #8
    Wow. I would kill to live in California...so many options. If I can't get out of my home state, I'm stuck with K-State or KU. Kind of deppresses me, so many people lucky enough to live in states with grand public schools.

    By the way, I heard Caltech mentioned. Isn't it near impossible to get in there? I was toying with applying, as they send me things bimonthly almost and of course I'd love to go there, but I've never really gotten any outside highschool experience like research or internships (other activities, sadly, have gotten in the way) and I figured that that kills my chances. I've got the grades and the test scores etc but $80 is a lot of money for a longshot. I'm not sure what to do.

    Anyway, good luck electrifice. I'm just starting my senior year too, I hope all goes well for both of us.
  10. Sep 5, 2006 #9
    Just as a side note, if you are going to be an out of state player attending a UC, the price will be very steep.
  11. Sep 5, 2006 #10
    dontbesilly, although you envy my location I wish I could be as confident of my test scores and grades as you are of yours. I'm still going to apply at Caltech because its quite close to my home, and everything would pay off if I got in. I would definitely encourage you to apply because I don't think they can expect EVERYONE to conduct their own research before high school (if I remember correctly, only something like 30% actually have that kind of experience). Still, considering their admission statistics, even good students would have to be lucky to get in, so I don't care too much... I'd be happy simply studying what I want to study at any decent college.
    Good luck, and I hope you get in where its best for you and where you want to go.
  12. Sep 7, 2006 #11
    Hi Electrifice. California is, indeed, a great place to go to school for physics. (Perhaps even better than Massachusetts.) With regard to this last question, I refer you to a reply I made to a similar question earlier this summer:


    I think in retrospect, I would suggest going to the best name-brand school you can get into (see the above link for the reasons why). But no matter what that school ends up being, be confident that in 10 years after you graduate, the position you'll be in will depend much more on how hard you worked and your own talents rather than what university name is on your diploma.

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