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

How to decide what school to go to?

  1. Sep 26, 2011 #1
    I'm currently on my second semester of my freshman year at my local community college. The school has been pressuring me to decide which school I want to transfer to, so the transfer can go as smoothly as possible. I have decided (for a long time now) on majoring in physics, but I don't have much a clue on how to choose a school.

    So I would like some help please. :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 27, 2011 #2


    User Avatar

    Start with deciding where (geographically) you want to go and how much money you want to spend.
  4. Sep 30, 2011 #3
    Sorry I haven't replied, I've been really busy.

    Geographically isn't a problem for me. Anywhere will do. The money part is a little more confusing, because it's better to spend less, yet I would want to go to a more "prestigious" school.

    Would it be better to go to a school for undergrad and go into that school's graduate program as well? Or am I better off going wherever for undergrad, then transferring (again) to a different graduate school?
  5. Sep 30, 2011 #4
    Obviously then, find a balance between price and prestige. Figure out what field of physics interests you and look at colleges that excel in this area, then sort by price. Public colleges within your state will be much cheaper than out of state colleges.

    It is not generally good to go the same graduate school that you went to for undergrad as it is better to get diverse academically. Also, you don't transfer from undergrad to grad, you apply.
  6. Sep 30, 2011 #5
    Now I did not know that, thank you very much. I'm guessing that for undergrad it doesn't have to be as prestigous a school compared to graduate school right?

    Or should I aim just as high, even for undergrad?
  7. Sep 30, 2011 #6
    As always, it depends on your goals.. You don't even need to go to a prestigious grad school to be successful. There's a plethora of leading physicists in their fields who didn't go to a "prestigious" school. School is what you make of it, and that's always been the case.
  8. Sep 30, 2011 #7
    Of course if you hold all of your other application details constant (ceteris paribus) then a more well known institution will beat out a lower one. This isn't realistic though so it doesn't really matter where you go for undergrad as long as you have the tools there that you need to make a great application. Professors you can work with and who will write you good recommendations, good labs, etc.

    Also, prestige of your grad school will matter if you end up not doing physics afterwards.
  9. Sep 30, 2011 #8
    Ok, thanks much for the info then. :) This will definitely help me out in my choices.
  10. Oct 1, 2011 #9
    This isn't always true. When choosing a school, you need to analyze how it will affect you. Colloquially, why be the dumbest person in a smart pack when you can be the smartest person in a mediocre (or dumb) pack? That is, high-level competition won't always help you succeed and often times, it may be better to go to the "worse" school to stand out more.
  11. Oct 1, 2011 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    That is a cop out. Chances are you will always find yourself at the average level or at the bottom of the pack in many situations.

    There are people out there that would choose to be challenged that want to be around better students for the simple reason to better themselves.

    The better students will demand more from you, they will be harsher on you (and often themselves), and they will be likely to rip you apart and put a massive round of bullets through your ego: but they will provide you an environment which will make you better.

    If you want to become good at something, but don't want your ego trampled on, then you need to change your goals. I'm not saying you need to be tortured or anything like that, but if you want to become really good, even relative to others who are really good, then it's a better strategy to immerse yourself among the ones who are dedicated, brutally honest, and most importantly better than you.
  12. Oct 1, 2011 #11
    I've experienced both situations and it's much more fun to be relatively dumber than your peers because then you realize how ignorant you are, where you stand, and have new goals to improve yourself.
  13. Oct 1, 2011 #12
    Of course the better school would challenge you more, but the problem lies in the competition affecting your other resources (research opportunities, relationships with professors, etc.). It's not simply an ego issue, but something that you should consider. I'm not saying if you get accepted to Harvard and community college, you should go to community college, but that you should just consider your competition and whether or not the school can truly make you succeed versus another school. Note this same consideration works on big public schools vs small private schools, etc.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook