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Good college for me?

  1. Jul 23, 2010 #1
    Hey, im sure you guys get this thread all the time but i need some person specific advice.

    You see, i dont have the best grades, and i dont have all that much extra curriculars, im not a star student and i dont really stand out. But i have an amazing passion for physics. Two teachers at my high school understand how deep this passion runs, my sophomore math teacher (who worked at Bell Laboratories as an electrical engineer for 15 years) and my junior year physics teacher.

    Now im starting to look at colleges because im gonna start my senior year soon and i dont really know what schools to look at. Since i live in california i looked at the UCs (because of my grades Berkley is pretty much out of the question), i heard UC Santa Barbara has a good undergrad phyiscs program.

    (btw specifics on my grades goes as follows: Freshmen Year: 3.14, Sophomore Year: 3.29 Junior Year: 4.0. Yeah, yeah, i know the 4.0 kinda sounds out of place, but i kicked my *** in gear this last year, but its still not good enough to get my avg GPA up to what most colleges like to see. As for extra curriculars, they are nonexistant besides one year of water polo in freshmen year, and a job as a counselor at a summer camp)

    I just need some advice on colleges with good undergrad physics programs that would accept a kid like me.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 31, 2010 #2
    hello, anyone? its been a while with no answer.
  4. Jul 31, 2010 #3
    well, since I'm not from the U.S. This is by no means the best advice that you will get here. But until someone jumps in and give you a better one. I can share my opinion with you.

    I believe that at the undergraduate level most universities will teach you pretty much the same. In fact, if I were you I would choose a medium school with less students per class over a top one. This way you can have more chances to get more attention from your professors and you can easily stand out since you have a passion for physics. This will also help you to have some research experiences at the undergrad level which will be very significant when you are searching for a grad school. I think that all the hype about top schools is only justified at the grad level.
  5. Jul 31, 2010 #4
    Undergrad program priorities (my opinion)
    1. Faculty involvement with undergrads- Do the professors care at all about freshman? How many classes are taught by grad students? How much undergrad research is available?

    2. Classes offered - This should be obvious but do the upper level physics classes look interesting? How often are they offered?

    3. Reputation - What is the reputation of the program to grad school committees? How many go on to get their doctorate successfully? If you have a program with a great professor willing to write you glowing recommendation letters your golden.

    After this are things like faculty to student ratio, focus of the research done by faculty, quality of math instruction. For example I go to UCSC which has a good program, but offers fairly substandard calc 1-3 instruction and lacks a true honours program (everyone takes the same math).
  6. Jul 31, 2010 #5
    Well, since you are passionate about a single subject, have you considered looking into the UK universities? AKA Oxbridge? (Oxford/Cambridge).

    The reason I say this is because from what I've heard, they are a cut above the US in terms of studies (especially undergraduate), as UK schools focus on academics.

    Apparently an undergraduate "degree" at Oxford is basically "Grad School Junior", as you focus in very few subjects, sometimes (actually, quite often) just one, and get extremely proficient in it. As opposed to the American style liberal arts education. Which might be perfect since you are so passionate about one particular field. Oh, and their libraries kick major, major a$$.

    Here's a picture of Cambridge's reading room in their library. (The link was long so I tinyURL'd it) http://tiny.cc/2ydqc [Broken]

    In addition, they are public, and easier to get into than the Ivies, with better undergrad and about equivalent graduate programs.

    The only major downfall from what I've read about Oxbridge and the like is that the prestige level is not as high. In other words, the US Ivies get major funding, and simply toting the fact that you went to one is a major asset. Its not as much as the education you get, but more like the connections. (Which isn't to say the Ivies have mediocre grad schools, as if! They have the best. I'm simply saying that prestige seems to be a much larger factor with them).

    Anyways, I just thought I'd mention this as I've been looking into the UK Uni's recently after becoming more and more angry towards the ludicrous fees for out of state applicants to all the top US universities, in addition to the REQUIREMENT (basically) to have extracurriculars. The extracurricular nonsense is the biggest turn off to me by far. I simply do not understand how football star equates to college success. I can understand someone who is great at school and a sport, or another extracurricular; fantastic, power to them. But what I don't understand is making the extracurricular the biggest focus after academics.

    It's almost as if you have to be president of 5 clubs to have a decent shot at the Ivies. In the UK, the extracurriculars are a minor afterthought if anything. Unless it was something completely out of the ordinary, I doubt they would give it much consideration, since they're in the business of finding people for COLLEGE, not people for leadership contests are achievement awards (both of which are great, but not necessary for college IMO).

    Anyhoot, any of the other top ten UK uni's would be a great bet too. If your proficient and passionate about a field, you will be rewarded.

    As far as actually GETTING IN the university, well, I wouldn't know. Oxford for example, consists many individual college's, each with particular requirements. Most of them offer about the same things, but a few are specialized. Each has a different minimum GPA and prerequisites. If your GPA is still too low, the other top ten in the UK might have something for you. The Uni's there are apparently very interview based, its almost a requirement (as far as Cambridge goes, I think it is); and they ask you academic questions in them, which means you could easily excel.

    There is though, always the possibility that you wouldn't want to move to the UK :)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  7. Aug 1, 2010 #6
    Actually if you keep up the hard work and the 4.0 grades then Berkeley may not be totally out of reach. Schools like to see improvement over years. Also, your test scores will play a large part, so make sure you have a good ACT/SAT. Get one of your physics teachers to write a really good recommendation for you (I'd go with the one who worked at Bell Labs). If you don't get into the school you want, you can always transfer as long as you do well your freshman year. It is way way easier to get in as a transfer than as an incoming freshman. Don't give up on a school because it seems impossible to get in.
  8. Aug 1, 2010 #7
    Berzerkly is another great school. If you were able to get in, that would be fantastic. I hear the campus is beautiful.
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