1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Go to Oxford or stay in the US for undergraduate degree?

  1. Jan 11, 2015 #1
    Hello, I am a high school senior in the US who was recently admitted to read physics at Oxford. Since my eventual goal is to get a PhD at a top university in the US, I'm not sure whether to go or not. In terms of education received and research opportunities I don't think there will be a difference from top American universities. However, I have the feeling that undergraduate programs in the US are partly designed to help students get into US grad schools, and I'm sure how much I would be missing out. Also, while I am a US citizen, I am not sure if I will be considered "international" and if that will make grad school admissions harder.

    Another option is to stay in the UK for graduate school. This isn't a bad idea, and if I get a first class degree at Oxford along with some research experience I should have at least a decent chance at Cambridge or Imperial. However, since there is no guaranteed stipend the way there is at American graduate schools, I am a bit concerned about funding. Also, in that case will I be considered an international student? (If it matters at all; i.e. is it harder for internationals to get funding?)

    Obviously my choice will depend on which American universities I get in to. That doesn't come out until two months from now, but this is a major decision so I need to start thinking how. I think I will choose the most elite US schools over Oxford, but I'm not sure over say, Oxford vs. Berkeley or Cornell. (If I get to make the choice.)

    A side note: grad school prospects are basically the only reason why I'm debating whether to go to Oxford. I'm okay with living in a foreign country and my family doesn't qualify for financial aid at US colleges so finances aren't a problem. However, if you have anything else to say, feel free to do so.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 11, 2015 #2

    Doug Huffman

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    A classmate went to Oxford from a California State University and made significant contributions in his field, and authored War Before Civilization.
  4. Jan 11, 2015 #3

    Quantum Defect

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    Undergrad education at Oxford will be much different than undergraduate education in the US. I think that you should mostly think about which style of education would be best for you.

    I do not think that getting into a US grad school will be any more difficult with a degree from Oxford, rather than say UC Berkeley. Grad school admissions are more determined by your letters, your transcript, your experience, etc. I went to undergrad and grad school in the U.S. I went to a selective US grad school in a physics-related field, and we had really good students from all over the world, including the UK.

    You are a US national, so most US institutions would not consider you to be an international student. I.e. if you go to UC Berkeley for grad school, you would be consdiered to be a non-resident student for the first few months, but you could easily become a California resident, and qualify for resident tuition. A British student from the UK could never do this, and they would always be considered a non-resident.
  5. Jan 11, 2015 #4


    User Avatar

    One big difference is that at Oxford you will pretty much be doing only physics rather than all those general education thingies you'll have to do at US schools. You should decide which you think is better. The tutorial system is also a huge difference. If that works well for you then you'll get personal attention way more than at a US school. The grad school question is largely a wash for US grad schools, I think.
  6. Jan 12, 2015 #5
    Thanks for the replies so far.
    I did think about the difference in terms of the education systems and tutorials, etc. My conclusion is that I don't really have a preference and the similarities are probably greater than the differences, i.e. most of the learning is still through lectures and labs, and the overall curriculum is similar to top American schools, although the tutorials and lack of general education requirements are a nice plus.
    One downside that I've noticed is that the Oxford course has a very rigid structure (perhaps why the entire 4 year program is called one "course"). In the US there are many semester long courses and one can change the order a bit or skip introductory classes as needed.

    It seems that applying to graduate school isn't something that I need to be thinking about. Anyone else with something to say on this?
    Also, what about research opportunities as an undergraduate? It seems that it is somewhat common for undergraduates at Oxford to join a research group over the summer, although "undergraduate research" isn't a big deal the way it is over here in the US, particularly at schools like Caltech and MIT.
  7. Jan 13, 2015 #6


    User Avatar

    This is a common misconception among high school students and too many others. The truth is that if you want to be any good, most of the learning comes from what you do yourself. Working hard problems and writing up solutions, spending lots of time with the material so that you internalize the relevant patterns of thinking -- these are the ways you learn. Lectures and labs provide some structure.
  8. Jan 13, 2015 #7
    IGU, I know what you are saying. My point was that I don't think the US and UK systems aren't too different in that universities in both have similar lectures and labs, and the purpose of a university is, as you said, to provide structure through those.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook