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Picking a college for a physics major

  1. Oct 22, 2009 #1
    My son is thinking of majoring in Physics, but I've had virtually no luck in finding any information about the quality of undergrad Physics programs. Is there any objective rankings or assessments out there? Any other suggestions on how to pick would be appreciated. His interest (at least now) is in acoustics. Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 22, 2009 #2
    I don't trust college rankings at all.

    One way of finding out about the quality of the instruction is to go directly to the websites of the schools that you are interested in, and look at the curriculum, the course material and the research that the professors are doing. That should give you a good idea of what the program is like.

    The big piece of advice is to try to avoid schools with obvious weed out classes.

    One other thing to look at is the quality of the solutions to the problem sets. Machine graded problem sets are bad. Class notes in which the professor goes over issues in which people had trouble before are good.
  4. Oct 22, 2009 #3
    How do you identigy an "obvious weed out class"?
  5. Oct 23, 2009 #4
    What you want to avoid are colleges in which freshmen/sophomore year contains a required auditorium style class in which a lot of people take, but most drop out by the end of the semester. If you can talk to some students at the university, you'll quickly find out if a class like that exists.

    You might be able to figure out from the class notes and the websites associated with the class whether or not the lecturer is trying to make the class deliberately hard to lower pass rates.
  6. Oct 23, 2009 #5
    If he wants to pursue a career in physics, the best thing to look for would be a large faculty with a wide range of research areas. That way he can do research in (almost) whatever area he finds appealing, instead of being restricted to whatever is at that school (for instance, my school has no particle physicists or plasma physicists).
  7. Oct 23, 2009 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    Rankings, schmankings. :smile:

    Seriously, the granularity of the rankings is far too fine to be meaningful. There's a difference between #1 and #50. There's no difference between #5 and #6.

    Also, be aware that an undergrad physics degree is quote general. He might get one or at most two courses in acoustics.
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