A brief introduction: I'm a senior, international, applying to universities in the US (and Cambridge). So far, I've applied to Cambridge, Caltech and University of Chicago (the last 2 were EA). But these are all, I would think, nearly impossible for me to get into - I have the scores (meaning that a fair amount of people have gotten in with worse than what I'm applying with), but I haven't been able to do anything that would demonstrate to them that I am actually interested in physics (and I'm almost certain that I want to major in physics and maths). Now, I've talked to my physics teacher a fair bit and the one thing he stressed was that I should look at big universities with a lot of money (where I would get to play with 'the big toys'), and I'm inclined to agree with him. The trouble I'm having now is deciding on places where I have a decent chance of being accepted with a good-very good physics program and said 'big toys'. My question is if anyone has any recommendations here; are there any hidden gems, so to speak, that I should consider? Also, for the most part, I have a rough idea of what universities are considered at least somewhat 'good' (though maybe not for physics?), and I know a few which I think I like (UC Berkeley, Reed College & UMich Ann Arbor). But I feel like I'm missing something here when I look things up - is there anything in particular I should be searching for (rather than just 'good physics universities')?