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Low-ranking universities - worth it?

  1. Jan 14, 2013 #1
    I can only get into low-ranking universities with my academic record (too many retakes, poor grades, took too long to finish them). I want to study physics, but is it worth it? Not only are the student fees the same (9k a year), would I be able to get onto a graduate course coming from such a bad uni? Would I be able to have a career at all, let alone a career as a physicist? Should I apply to university knowing I can only get into sub-par universities, in other words. Thanks

    Edit: In the UK, by the way
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2013 #2
    I'm really passionate, so I'd study wherever I could go. I could have gone to a better ranked school than the one I currently attend, but opted for a local state school because it's basically free; the school is top 50 I think (Arizona State).

    In the US, no matter where you go you're likely to receive a solid physics education from what I've been told, and if you get good grades, good research, and strong letters of recommendation, you have a shot like anybody else with those things at getting into a top university (I know that ASU has sent people to MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, and probably others I don't know for sure about). So it's doable. You can even become a physicist without a famous undergraduate institution, the chairman of ASU's department started out at a community college and ended up at U of Chicago.

    But actually becoming a physicist is improbable and difficult, no matter where you come from, be it Cambridge, Harvard, or North Dakota State.
  4. Jan 15, 2013 #3


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    I would be careful about relatively new (created after 1990) low-ranked universirties in the UK. The Labour government decided to increase the amount of university education by re-branding a lot of further education colleges as "universities", but without changing much else.

    For example the city where I live used to have a perfectly respectable FE college, that ran day and evening courses mainly for local industries, Nothing wrong with that - I've attended some of them (paid for by my employer). But changing the name-plate to "university" (with a ranking in the bottom 10% of the UK) is a nonsense IMO.

    To be fair, it has launched some new degrees since becoming a Uni. Really useful stuff like "American media studies", for example... :cry:
  5. Jan 15, 2013 #4
    I see, well I don't know much about the quality of physics education in UK unis, I do know that the work is much harder at the top ranking unis and there are better facilities. I don't know how easy it is to get accepted at better unis if you're coming from an ex-poly or something

    Really? That's a shame. Well at least I'll get a taste of it for a good several years at uni, access to papers, facilities and all of that. And if I don't try I'll regret it for the rest of my days. I've got other career plans to fall back on

    Alright, thanks for the advice. I do hope I won't have to end up at one of those places
  6. Jan 16, 2013 #5
    I went to a no-name school in the US and got into some Top 20 grad schools. It all depends on you.
  7. Jan 17, 2013 #6
    I see, I'm sure you worked really hard. I hope UK schools are the same
  8. Jan 17, 2013 #7


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    Similar situation here. However, I'd point out that being a "no-name" school does not necessarily mean a "no-quality" school! Don't get too hung up on names. Successful physicists come from schools other than Harvard and Cambridge too.

    I'll assume FalconOne and I were both at lesser known, but still high quality schools. :)
  9. Jan 17, 2013 #8
    I would agree with the others here for the most part. A "low rank" or unknown school is not necessarily a bad school. I think school name has more importance in other fields, non-research fields like business. In physics, and science in general, you get judged by your research output. But of course research output does tend to correlate with ranking and brand name schools. Since that is not an option for you just make sure that your school has active, researching and publishing professors. There is a point where a school is so low rank that the professors are mostly lecturers and there isnt much research being done (in name or in practice). Even if you dont manage to get a paper out before you graduate, your professor should. Otherwise I think you will be at a big disadvantage for graduate school.

    Low rank is fine as long as there are real and active research opportunities.
  10. Jan 17, 2013 #9


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    I should qualify my previous post. For graduate school ModusPwnd is definitely correct. Research output is extremely important.

    For undergrad, it's obviously still a concern, but not so much. I've met many good physicists who came from liberal arts universities with low research output. Programs like the NSF REU program also focus on getting research experience to people from liberal arts colleges. So, there are options no matter the school you attend.

    There are benefits to going to college at a liberal arts school, even for scientists. For one, my writing ability greatly improved during my college years thanks to the relatively strenuous humanities and philosophy requirements at my university. Knowing how to write a good paper helps immensely in the publish or perish academic environment. Of course, you can pick this up later on, but coming into grad school with better than average writing skills will help you get results out the door much sooner.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2013
  11. Jan 19, 2013 #10
    No, it was actually the conservative government that did this.
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