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Schools I'm not sure which school to choose...

  1. Apr 7, 2017 #1
    I recieved offers of admission from the 3 unis I applied to for physics and astronomy but I'm only choosing between two (Canada btw) one is top notch, one of the best in the country for my program and the other one is a liberal arts University, not prestigeous for the sciences but they have an inservatory (Canada).

    The reason I'm having a problem choosing is because of how poorly I'm doing this year in everything except for calculus (92). I had a 90 in physics last year, 75 this year, 92 in bio last year, 80 this year, 87 im chem last year and a 80 this year and so on. Last semester I had to deal with serious issues within the family and I only found time to study for tests the day before and stuff, was too scared to reach out for help because people in my class judged and stuff but that isn't an issue this semester. This semester I just feel burnt out, I dont want to do anything, and I'm getting really bored.

    This is what scares me about the top notch uni - it attracts some of the best physics students in the country, (around 300) and I'm afraid that if stuff is going the way it is, I won't do well( It also has coop for my program). Especially when you look at my beautiful 75 in physics. The liberal arts school isnt very competitve for my program and it also isn't the best of universities but hey, they have an observatory and apparently 10 people in my program so the research spots never fill up!

    My physics teacher says I would succeed at thenliberal arts school and probably not the better uni, but the one known for my program has always been my first choice. At the same time, I'm scared of doing physics there. I still want to go for physics despite my 75 because I hate biology and I can do physics problems for hours without getting bored. I love it. I dont even know what I'm asking anymore, I guess I just want to know if it's a good idea to go to a top notch uni despite how poorly I'm doing?

    If i dont get the marks for grad school but do a minor in cs along with my physics degree, plus coop, at a great univknown for physics and ESPECIALLY computer science, would I be able to find jobs with a physixs bachelors, or am I better off playing it safe with my marks and go to the liberal arts school?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2017 #2
    I would go to the more prestigious school, i'm sure it won't be hard for you since you have already proved to your self you are a hard worker given your last year's marks.

    Don't listen to your teacher, he is so wrong for dis-encouraging you.
    Also, in my opinion, under grad is not hard if you do all assignments and homework.

    Besides you can always "downgrade" universities if you feel it is too much for you.
  4. Apr 7, 2017 #3


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    Can I ask what an inservatory is? A Google search came up empty.
  5. Apr 7, 2017 #4
    I meant observatory whoops, lool when you type fast and don't edit.
  6. Apr 7, 2017 #5
    They look at marks to transfer unis though, don't they? So if I'm not doing well.. :/
  7. Apr 7, 2017 #6


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    As a Canadian myself, I might just throw out there that my experience is that the quality of a physics education doesn't vary as much from (Canadian) school to (Canadian) school as it may in other places. The big differences between the larger programs and the smaller ones tend to come down to opportunities. For example, at the large schools, in your third and fourth year you would have more opportunities to take introductory courses specific to the different sub-fields. The smaller programs will be more limited to the core courses and maybe a reading course.

    Similar for research opportunities - big schools will have many different options. Smaller schools will have only a handful of professors. This is great if you happen to want to get involved with what they are doing - not so great otherwise.

    With something like networking opportunities, in the smaller schools you probably have more of a chance to spend time with your professors and get to know them and vice versa. In the larger schools, probably less so, but there are more people to meet.

    Ultimately there are advantages and disadvantages for each choice. You have to figure out which route is going to give you the best education under your specific circumstances.
  8. Apr 7, 2017 #7
    That's what's making thisnso difficult I'm choosing between waterloo and york
  9. Apr 9, 2017 #8
    You mentioned that the lesser university has an observatory twice. From the way you stated it, that it sounds like this is important and also sound like the more prestigious one does not have an observatory. So is it important and what are your professional goals.
  10. Apr 12, 2017 #9
    Just because you aren't doing amazingly well in Physics 30, does not mean you will fail at a more prestigious university. In my first year, I had horrible marks in the one physics class I took (57 I think), but I got it together the next year and now, in my third year, I am getting consistent high 80's and 90's and I still love what I am learning.

    I distinctly recall that there was a very steep learning curve for me at the beginning (grade 12/1st year), and I wasn't coming out with the greatest marks. But by second year I had developed much better problem solving skills and a more solid mathematical toolbox, and physics concepts came more naturally to me. It takes practice, not talent.

    So, if money is not a problem, I would say go to the more prestigious school and see that with consistent hard work and dedication you can succeed. It is not going to be easy, but it is definitely achievable. You have to be persistent and keep working out problems until you understand the physics backwards and forwards. But remember, how you are doing in high school physics does not determine your future. For me, the end of high school was an incredibly hard time to stay motivated, I felt mostly trapped and bored. Do not waste a good opportunity because you feel you are not worthy of it. If you got an offer, you are qualified to be there.
    Don't be so hard on yourself!
  11. Apr 13, 2017 #10

    Meir Achuz

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    Listen to your teacher. He knows more about you and the schools in question then physics forums people.
    It is important to go to a school where you will do reasonably well, and not be the bottom of the barrel. It is nice to give you optimistic advice, but you will have to live with the consequences.
  12. Apr 14, 2017 #11
    Yes, but I don't just give optimistic advice to anyone. The fact that the OP has a 92 in calculus right now, and has gotten 90's in past semesters, is evidence that they will be able to succeed in a Canadian university. I am currently attending an undergraduate physics program at a Canadian university, so I have direct knowledge of what the expectations are. To me, it sounds like novae is just hesitating and being to hard on themselves, something which I have struggled with in the past.

    Also, from my experience, advice from high school teachers is not always very valuable.
  13. Apr 16, 2017 #12
    Thank you so much! Maybe this year just isn't my year, considering it's not just physics but most of my courses in general and I've maintained an 89% all throughout high school except for this year :/. Sorry, if you dont mind me asking, how is undergrad physics? And would waterloo physics really be much harder than york? I was looking at their courses and both unis have basically the same courses, diffeent names.
  14. Apr 16, 2017 #13
    You are doing extremely well in calculus so no doubt you can do well in a physics program, because mostly competence in maths is most important when starting a pure physics major.
  15. Apr 16, 2017 #14
    I love calculus! If I was any good at advanced functions I would have loved to take math as a minor, but I hate advanced functions (or pre calc?) mostly because of the way it was presented and becausw it's boring. The problems in calculus are very interesting. I dont know if that makes sense. Like the optimization problems are a lot of fun, even when they're very challenging, advanced functions was a pain. The only part of advanced functions I reallY enjoyed was trig. That was fun -especially identities! We're doing curve sketching in calculus which does bring back concepts from advanced functions but oh well.:p
  16. Apr 16, 2017 #15
    Waterloo could be a little bit harder, but all Canadian undergraduate physics programs are pretty much the same. The difference will only show in the specialized 4th year classes that they offer, which will change based on the type of research that university excels at. I wouldn't completely dismiss York, as it could have good opportunities in the specialization you are considering (ie. astronomy, particle physics, plasma, etc.), but overall Waterloo is more reputable for science. York is known as a liberal arts school, not as a research institution. I have been told that Waterloo is top in physics next to UofT in Canada, but I've never been there so I cannot say.

    Undergrad physics is great, but it really is a full time job. If you want to do well, you need to prepare to completely devote yourself to school. Again, hard work is key!
    It is very rewarding; at the end of every semester I feel very confident and fulfilled.

    If you are serious about research and a scientific career, I would say that Waterloo is the best option. This does not mean, however, that if you went to York you would have no chances, it just means that Waterloo will give you a wider range of opportunities. Look into the fields you are interested in, and see what each Uni offers for that path. My main point is this: don't make your decision based on your insecurities, because (based on your high school marks and admission) you are very capable of attending either university.

    Feel free to contact me anytime with questions.
  17. Apr 17, 2017 #16
    Thank you so much! I went through the undergraduate calendar for both universities and the things that waterloo has 4th year, york provides in 3rd but york concentrates more on space tech in 4th year for some reason. The waterloo 4th year courses are muuch more appealing I guess it'll only help that it's top notch for physics (i've heard the same thing about it). I guess if it doesn't seem to work out, i'll switch majors :/ or schools but I wanna give it a go.
  18. Apr 18, 2017 #17
    Waterloo also has the IQC and Perimeter Institute really close if that interests you at all.
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