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Schools How can I decide on a university to attend?

  1. Jul 15, 2009 #1
    Hello, everyone. My name is Stefan, and I am currently trying to decide on a university to attend. I am an Oregon resident, and was hoping to stay in the area. As of right now, I am leaning towards Pacific University, a private school in my area. My main goal in majoring in physics is to eventually get my PHD in physics, and then either simply do research, or do research in addition to teaching at a university. My main interests are in quantum physics and cosmology. Though I am not fully educated on what is out there. However, I assume that by the time I finish my bachelors degree, I will either have changed my mind, or found something better.

    Here is a link to Pacific University and their Physics program: http://www.pacificu.edu/catalog/program.php?id=109 [Broken]

    In addition to this, my Mother recommended that I check out the University of British Columbia. If it is a whole lot better than any of my other options around my area (for a bachelors degree), I would go for it. However, I would prefer not to move that far.

    Here is the University of British Columbia's website: http://www.physics.ubc.ca/

    So, are there any specific schools that are recommended in the Oregon area? I do not necessarily plan to stay in Oregon for graduate programs.


    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2009 #2
    Pacific U is not particularly strong in the hard sciences. Out of 236 graduates in 2008, only 4 got a bachelors in physics. I had never even heard of the school, and their admissions stats just aren't that impressive.

    UBC is a world-famous institution with solid programs in almost any area.

    I would recommend the University of Washington, an outstanding school for physics. You should also consider the U of Oregon. While not quite on the same level, it's a good school nonetheless and it's in Oregon (not to mention in-state tuition).

    EDIT: You shouldn't go somewhere you dislike. If Pacific U is a perfect fit for you, so be it. Just be aware that it has almost no name recognition and lacks a major physics department.
  4. Jul 16, 2009 #3
    I'll second colonelcrayon's advice. Even if you switch your mind about things, your options are likely to be much better at a larger institution, or at a selective institution with really strong programs across the board.

    I'm probably most disturbed by Pacific's lack of an engineering college and emphasis on the health sciences (http://www.pacificu.edu/academics/" [Broken]). What if you decided you liked applied sciences, but wanted to become an engineer? (In most states you need a bachelor's in engineering to take the tests to become certified as a "Professional Engineer"... and while this might not impact your first job, it could limit later career decisions).

    I'll agree that UBC and UW are great in physics... and both institutions have solid programs in research and are placing some emphasis on science education initiatives.

    I also agree the University of Oregon is decent (I have an old friend on faculty there... and he's still getting out regular publications). Even Oregon State is also doing some rather interesting things educationally within their department that might bear looking into (that might give it a small school feel to you).
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  5. Jul 16, 2009 #4
    I am definitely taking Pacific U out of the equation. Thanks for this heads up! I want to go to a great school. Do you think that going to UBC over UW is worth it?

    Thanks for the reply! As of right now, I am looking into the pros and cons of UBC vs UW. Being an Oregon resident, I would much prefer staying around the area. But I feel it is absolutely essential that the school I go to be a very good one. It seems that UW and UBC both fit this requirement, but it seems that UBC is the better school. Do you feel it is worth it to go to UBC as opposed to UW?

    Thanks to both of you for the reply! I really appreciate it :)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  6. Jul 16, 2009 #5


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    That's pretty much like the liberal-arts college I went to, and the one where I teach now. I was one of four physics majors in a graduating class of about 200. It wasn't a prestiguous school by any means. The physics courses were pretty much the standard core courses and not much else. Nevertheless, all four of us went on to graduate school, although I was the only one who finished a Ph.D. As I recall, the statistics were similar for the previous year's class.

    At a small college, you don't have the wide variety of courses and research opportunities that a large university offers. However, a physics bachelor's degree is generic in content. Most physics students don't specialize until they get to graduate school. Also, for most physics students, undergraduate research is for learning about the research process, not necessarily for getting a leg up on the field that they're eventually going to get a Ph.D. in.

    I think for most students, the main differences between a small college and a large university are in the overall atmosphere and the people around you.

    A small college is more intimate. You'll know all the other physics majors, and there aren't many of them so you'll get to know them well. Ditto for the professors. You're likely to have each professor in multiple classes, you'll do research with one or more of them, so they'll get to know you well, which is an advantage when it comes time for them to write letters of recommendation for you. And in general, they'll be more accessible than at a large school, and you can get more individual attention from them if you need it.

    If you end up with classmates and professors that you get along with, and at least some of them share some of your interests, this can work out well. But if you really get interested in (say) cosmology and everyone else is focused on (say) engineering, then you might feel out of place. In a larger school you're probably more likely to find at least some people who are interested in the same things that you are.

    A small school doesn't have as much in the way of laboratories and other facilities, but it's likely to be easier to get access to what it does have. A small physics department with three professors is bound to be run more informally than one with three dozen. Where I went, most of us physics majors had building and lab keys so we could get in at night to work on projects, and it was no problem getting space for those projects (a corner of a lab or something).
  7. Jul 16, 2009 #6
    ^ Very good comparison of small/large schools. That post is quite useful.
  8. Jul 16, 2009 #7
    Thank you very much for all the replies, everyone! It looks like the school that I will be looking into is UW. I have taken around 40 credits so far, with a GPA of about 3.3. Should I be worried about being admitted? Or should a 3.3 transfer be acceptable?
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