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Programs HS Senior seeking advice for university studies :)

  1. Jul 30, 2016 #1
    Well hello there,

    My name is Alex, I'm a belgian high school student (currently going to start my senior year), and I'm 17.
    I love this forum, it helps me a lot when I need an info about physics, the physics major and the jobs associated with physics.
    I joined this forum because I myself have a lot of questions concerning my future...
    I really am quite curious about the world that surrounds me, that's why I love physics (at least the simple algebra-based course that we're seeing in school and the dumbed down popular physics books and tv shows that I love reading and watching) and math (I tried the national Olympiad, but only went to semi-finals, hopefully next year I'll reach the finals...). I spend nearly all of my free time reading about math and physics! I'm quite good at these courses, achieving +90% grades (and my overall grades are around 80%) I discovered this passion maybe 1 year ago.
    I'm thinking about doing physics at university, even if friends and teachers tell me to do engineering (which in my country requires an entrance exam) because it's more secure and opens a lot of doors for the future, while still doing a lot of physics and math. But I'm not really in that mind state, I really want to contribute to science by doing research, even though only the bests of the physics majors go on to do that. What excites me at this moment (even if I haven't really got an idea of what REAL physics and what REAL math is like) is theoretical physics... Building theoretical mathematical models of reality, I find this really amazing ! (despite having no idea what doing research is like ...) I don't yet know which area of physics interests me the most (I'll wait and decide that once in university)
    My question is : How can you know if engineering/physics is for you? Should I keep my options open and chose engineering ?
    For now, it's really my passion, but I don't know whether I'll be capable of succeeding, since I hear that the degree is quite difficult... I'm hesitating with engineering, since it's probably less abstract, you don't study that long compared to physics, and you get a higher salary and good job... I'm also hesitating with math, since it's really interesting and in theoretical physics you need quite a lot of math, so maybe math major, physics minor can be interesting ? Any advice ?

    I'll probably go to Université Catholique de Louvain (in Louvain-la-neuve, not Leuven), because the first year of physics is common to the math major... that will leave me time to decide. But the Free University of Brussels (ULB) seems also like a good choice, so I don't really know which one to choose. Any ideas?

    I also plan to buy physics and math books, so any recommendations are of course welcome :-) I plan to buy :
    - University Physics by Sears and Zemansky,
    - What is mathematics ? by Courant,
    - Calculus from Larson,
    - Understanding Physics by Asimov,
    - Concepts of modern mathematics by Ian Stewart,
    - The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene,
    - other suggestions ?

    I'm currently reading An Imaginary Tale of √-1, which is REALLY interesting!

    Sorry for the long post, and thank you to those who will respond :-)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 30, 2016 #2
    How hard are you willing to work? 60 hours per week, 50 weeks per year, for a decade?
  4. Jul 31, 2016 #3
    Well I never really worked hard for school, but I'm more than willing to put in the work to concretize my dreams!! If I'm passionate about it, it won't seem horrible to work THAT much though and it'll probably really interesting (well I can only suppose)
  5. Jul 31, 2016 #4
    I wasn't aware that there is still an entrance exams for engineering in the french part of the country. Here in the flemish side, it doesn't exist anymore for a long time

    Don't think choosing engineering will "keep your options open". It will be very hard to switch from engineering to physics and certainly math.
    Also, physicists do get a lot of awesome jobs. Don't think only engineers opens a lot of doors to the future. Every physicist and mathematician I graduated with has gotten very nice jobs in Belgium. https://www.vub.ac.be/downloads/JobuitwegenFYSWIS2012.pdf
  6. Jul 31, 2016 #5
    Thanks a lot for the link, it's reassuring :D I can't find any reasons not to study physics, then ! I'm surprised I managed to understand the Dutch though, I'm far from perfect.

    Oh in the flemish part of Belgium there's no entrance exam ? I actually don't know why there is an entrance exam ONLY for engineering, do you have any idea ? And Micromass, do you know what the best universities in Belgium for physics are ? And what are the universities in Belgium specialized in, in the area of physics ? (example : astrophysics in ULG, high energy in ULB, etc)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  7. Jul 31, 2016 #6
    There should be an entrance exam for medical doctors too, but the french part apparently don't like this. But ok, I don't want to talk about that.

    I know a lot about the math worlds in the belgian universities, but I know very little about physics. I don't doubt you'd get a very good standard education everywhere though.
  8. Aug 1, 2016 #7
    Is there a best university for math in Belgium (in the french part)?
  9. Aug 1, 2016 #8
    I'm very familiar with ULB and UCL. Both of them are excellent universities for mathematics, with excellent mathematicians.
  10. Aug 1, 2016 #9
    Thanks a lot for all the info, it's very helpful :) Are you a math professor from VUB or KUL ?
    It's rather surprising, that the legendary Micromass is actually a math professor here in Belgium :D I didn't expect that
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