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Should I transfer from Georgia Tech to Cornell for Physics

  1. Sep 13, 2015 #1
    Hi, I am a freshman materials science and engineering student at Georgia Tech. I have guaranteed transfer to Cornell for next year if I want to take it. My question is, would it be better to take the transfer to Cornell for physics, or get an undergrad degree in some engineering field, and then apply to grad school for physics.

    The perks of Cornell is that it is way closer (I'm from New York), and better ranked for everything except engineering. However neither distance nor price is a factor for me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2015 #2
    I tend to recommend against changing schools without more compelling reasons that the ones you mention, which are relatively minor.

    G Tech is pretty good in physics, and you can get an excellent education by changing majors to physics.

    I would be very pleased if one of my own children completed a Physics degree from G Tech. With a good GPA, undergrad research record, and test scores, Georgia Tech can be a launching pad to any grad school.
  4. Sep 14, 2015 #3


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    Physics Monkey went to Georgia Tech :)
  5. Sep 14, 2015 #4
    Hey, recent physics grad from GT here. I can't really say much about Cornell, but GT's physics program is incredible, especially for undergrads (in fact, not entirely sure I'd go there for grad). The Society of Physics Students community is very tight knit for anyone who wants to get involved, and the administration is approachable and transparent. They are also very willing to go through changes to their curriculum, as they are currently doing as per multiple requests by students. Yeah, they /actually/ read your CIOS forms.

    For the record, I switched to physics from EE, and it was the absolute best decision I made while in school. We have students go to all the top schools for grad. They also have a lot of MSE-ish research in the physics department.

    If you'd like someone currently there to talk to, I would gladly refer you to some of the SPS members, they'd be glad to talk to you, they're really passionate about what they do :)
  6. Sep 14, 2015 #5
    Forgive my ignorance, but who is Physics Monkey?
  7. Sep 14, 2015 #6
    That would be really awesome! Could I have some of their names?
  8. Sep 14, 2015 #7
    I'd rather ask them first, do you think you could message me an email address that I could send along to them?
  9. Sep 14, 2015 #8


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    OP: I've spent some time at Cornell, and I really loved the university and the place. Living there is fantastic. But even so, I think moving for the reasons you mentioned (closer+slightly better rankings) seems like a very poor idea. The ranking of the university you go to for undergrad has little influence on your future chances (unless you go to Harvard or Yale with the express purpose of getting connections into high society circles...). If you want to go to grad school, doing really well where you are, and learning everything you can, is MUCH more important.

    Even if you are thinking of an academic career: Many professors come from highly ranked places. But this is because many excellent students go to these places. There are studies which strongly suggest that excellent students going elsewhere do just as well (e.g., students that got admitted into MIT or similar, but for some reason did not go there but to Big State U). The important part is how well you do, not where.
  10. Sep 15, 2015 #9


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    I know a lot of people who did their undergrad at Cornell. I would say it has one of the very best undergrad physics programs just based on research opportunities, classes, etc.

    If you were in state and price was an issue, it's obvious to stay at Georgia tech. However, since it is affordable, I can see why you are interested in Cornell. What you should think about however are the social repercussions of transferring. You'll essentially have to start over (not in terms of credits) the new school and will feel like a freshman again. You also need to be comfortable living in Ithaca. From experience traveling there, I will tell you it is incredibly tough to get to.

    In terms of getting into grad school, Cornell will give you a big advantage. Out of all schools, the number of Cornell students at visits was huge, like at least five for schools like Stanford. It's not like going to Georgia tech will give you a disadvantage, it is an excellent school. However, Cornell physics is truly exceptional.
  11. Sep 16, 2015 #10
    Not that I'm an expert, but being at Cornell, you might have more options for certain lines of work, should you choose to not go to grad school. For e.g, fancy investment banking or consulting jobs. At any rate, I'm suggesting you try to figure out where physics BS students from Cornell and GATech end up after graduating. It's a question well worth knowing the answer to before you make this decision.

    I say this as someone who genuinely believed they'd get a PhD in physics, and now after two years of college, I'm not entirely sure I even like physics, and will take at least an extra semester to finish my program.
  12. Sep 18, 2015 #11


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  13. Sep 18, 2015 #12


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    here are some somewhat superficial comparisons, but they do remind me that Ga Tech has some rather large classes for things like calculus.

    http://colleges.startclass.com/compare/1020-2748/Georgia-Institute-of-Technology-Main-Campus-vs-Cornell-University [Broken]

    in interest of full disclosure, I am a retired UGA prof hence am a GaTech football opponent. Also in my opinion as an ivy league grad, a degree form Cornell sounds an awful lot better than a degree form Gatech, to me anyway.

    But aSK YOURSELF HOW MUCH YOU ARE ENJOYING AND BENEFITING FROM YOUR EDUCATION AT GATECH SO FAR. OOps, if it is working well for you, probably staying there makes sense. Always go for the reality rather than the perception.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  14. Sep 18, 2015 #13
    @Shadrach Hepner
    I'm considering the same thing, except opposite - I'm a Physics student at the Illinois Institute of Technology, just became a sophomore, and am considering transferring to Georgia Tech. I'm the President of the Society of Physics Students here. I probably won't transfer, but there are some personal reasons for wanting to be in Georgia and would like to make an informed decision. Any way I could get in contact with SPS there as well? (I don't seem to see a button for PMing you...)
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