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Physics undergraduate - I have a decision to make

  1. Mar 31, 2008 #1
    I am currently a high school senior and have received all of my decisions for college.
    The acceptances are:

    UNC Chapel Hill
    UMD College Park
    University of Maryland Baltimore County

    I am waitlisted at the following schools:

    Carnegie Mellon
    Johns Hopkins

    My question is: which one would provide the best physics education and overall quality of life? I am visiting Chapel Hill this week for the second time and love the town.

    Any comments on academic merits of these schools?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 1, 2008 #2
    Go somewhere you want to live for 4 years. The undergrad school will not make too much of a difference a long as it offers the core classes for your major ie. Gen Phys, Modern Phys, Classical Mech. E&M,Quantum and maybe a Stat Mech / Thermal Phys.

    Make sure you can picture yourself enjoying your self during college. Else you will be miserable. As long as you still put in the effort and make the most out of your academics, why not make sure you have fun while doing it rather than moping about how the town is smaller than your grade school.
  4. Apr 1, 2008 #3


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    What kind of physics are you interested in?
    What is your plan B if you weren't studying physics?
    Is money (tuition) an issue?
    Is climate an issue?
  5. Apr 1, 2008 #4
    Right now I am interning at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center installing and running open source quantum chemistry software on the supercomputers. I really cannot say where my interests will lie over the next few years. If I were barred from studying physics for some reason, I would study music composition. All of the schools I have been accepted to are "affordable" due to merit scholarships: full ride to UMBC, half rides to Brandeis and UMCP, financial aid from UNC has not arrived yet; it is still in the affordable range. Hopkins would be impossible without some form of aid, according to my parents. If given the choice, I would choose warmer rather than colder I think.
  6. Apr 1, 2008 #5
    Hey there. Check out this website LVUTV.com There are interview with students that go to a bunch of the schools that you're considering that talk about classes, campus life, etc. Like this group of videos from University of MD. http://www.lvutv.com/college.php/88?v=20635
    Maybe this site can help you to make a decision! Good luck.
  7. Apr 1, 2008 #6
    I can't help you answer the questions, but good job on your academics :) Those are very good schools.
  8. Apr 3, 2008 #7
    UNC Chapel Hill is a very good school and tuition is a bargain if you are in state.

    Michael Courtney
  9. Apr 4, 2008 #8
    Well, I am out of state

    so the tuition is considerably more demanding. However, I am currently visiting and am slowly falling in love with the area.

    Are you familiar with anyone in the physics and/or mathematics departments?
  10. Apr 5, 2008 #9
    More by reputation than personal experience. I was once on the Physics faculty of a smaller university in the NC system. UNC Chapel Hill and NC State are the best schools for Math or Physics in the NC system, and they are considerably better than the big state schools in most other states. I would not hesitate to send my own kid to UNC Chapel Hill to major in Math or Physics.

    Michael Courtney
  11. Apr 6, 2008 #10
    Frankie: Thank you so much for that site. I'm in a similar situation, choosing between the University of Chicago and Princeton University (leaning toward UofC), and those videos reflect and reinforce exactly the views I had of those schools. Absolutely massive difference in student body, as I expected, and it really means something to see the students speaking in videos about their schools. Even though I had anticipated it, it's really important to actually see the students for myself, so again, thank you very much for that useful site.

    Though, my situation is still difficult: I fear that the physics program at Princeton may be stronger, which is really hurting when everything else (except music) is so much better at UChicago.
  12. Apr 7, 2008 #11
    Joe - Both Chicago and Princeton have stellar reputations in physics. I can't speak to the quality of physics education, but I don't think you could go wrong on those grounds. I would go to the place where you would be most comfortable overall.
  13. Apr 7, 2008 #12
    Thank you, qualgorithm! I made sure I applied to schools that I felt had a very strong focus on undergraduate education, especially in fields I am interested in. Both Princeton and Chicago seem to strongly emphasize undergraduate research, which I'm sure is a good thing, and both have great numbers for student:teacher ratio. I believe I would overall be much more comfortable at Chicago, and unless I hear that the physics educations really do differ more than I've been hearing, it seems like that's where I'll be headed come September.

    Also, I'm sorry I momentarily hijacked the thread, stereotonic.
  14. Apr 7, 2008 #13


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    Chicago is a nice little city. The U of C is a great place.
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