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Switching Undergrad Schools: Should I Do It?

  1. Jan 6, 2013 #1
    Hi, I'm currently enrolled in Brooklyn College with the intention of getting a BS in physics. However I am beginning to notice two things. 1- that the level of academia here is not exactly fantastic (for example, the most common question I hear in most classes is "do we HAVE TO know this for the test"). 2- the physics program here is tiny, underfunded, and no one seems to give a **** about the department (for the most part.) Needless to say this was not how I pictured it, coming into college. Now, before i go further I should point out that there is one slight advantage to all this. I have discovered that because they teach us so little, this gives me time to do alot of studying on my own and still maintain straight A+s in all my classes. Having said that, I want to change schools. I am doing this for two reasons. 1- I think that I would benefit from being around people who care about physics. 2- I think that which school I complete my undergrad in will affect my choice of grad schools.

    My questions are as follows:

    1- Is the average students attitude basically the same everywhere (apathetic, disinterested, etc) and I am therefore wasting my time chasing the greener grass on the other side?

    2- Am I wrong in assuming that my undergrad affects my choice of grad schools?

    3- Assuming I am correct in regards to questions 1 and 2, which schools should look at?

    4- What would be the best approach to get into a better school? (Who should I contact first, admissions or the physics dept? What can I tell them that would increase my chances of getting in? etc)

    5- What are my chances of getting accepted to a really good school halfway through my undergrad (my GPA is 4.0 so far)?

    6- Are scholarships even an option at this point in the game?

    Thank you so much for taking the time out to respond
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 7, 2013 #2
    I come from a tiny physics department (roughly 10-12 majors at the moment, not counting undeclared freshmen) at a small hippie college and considered transferring at the end of freshman year. The reason why I didn't was because with regards to your question 6, I would have had to start all over again and/or forfeit my scholarship at my original school. Though transfer merit scholarships do exist, they are a bit harder to come by and not as substantial as incoming freshman scholarships.

    Now in regard to questions 1 and 2 - a lot of students in my physics department are not that bright (lazy, unethical or just unable to get above Bs and Cs in most classes). Also, as I stated before, I come from a hippie school. To soothe my worries, I constantly tell myself that I am the person in charge of MY degree. If, after your undergrad, you can demonstrate more intelligence and motivation than a person who cruised after getting into one of the Ivies, you can be just as successful.

    This may be difficult if as you say, nobody cares about the department (not even the profs). Try making friends with your profs if you haven't already, not necessarily the students. Another reason why I didn't transfer is because of the 4 profs in my department, I'm on great terms with 2 of them and have heard wonderful things about the 3rd. Of course, if at this point in time your profs seem to be mediocre teachers and mentors at best, then it might be better to transfer.
  4. Jan 7, 2013 #3
    I went to three institutions. A small liberal arts college, an elite private school, and a state school. I will make these remarks about my experience at all of them:

    What year are you? My academics got a LOT more difficult once I started taking 300 levels.

    What year are you? Also, that's common for students to want a study guide for the exam or knowing if something new or complicated is needed. So, I think you're being overly critical.

    At my tiny liberal arts school, we had a tiny, underfunded department but students did well. One student got into Santa Barbara. My elite private school had an abundance of money and students didn't do so well... I actually think that the liberal arts school professors cared about me more.

    Once again, what year are you? What classes have you taken? My first few years were painfully easy, and it was that way for ALL of my schools.

    Are there not other majors at your school? Also, at all the schools I was at, the physics major students seemed more or less the same. There was just more of them at some institutions than others. I think that there are two types of physics students: the hard-working ambitious physics majors that spend all their time working on stuff (me) and then the ones who think it's cool because they're smart, but like to smoke weed and procrastinate. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but it's pretty realistic.

    I can tell you this: my no-name state school got me into some good schools and gave me some good offers. Why? Because I had a close relationship with professors. I had a decent amount of research, I got good letters, my GPA was a 4.0, and my PGRE score was decent. It's a whole package deal - and I really don't think the name matters TOO much, especially with regards to research.

    I think that you're sort of unfair. Every school that I went to, there were always slackers, yes. There were always the people that were so smart and never did anything. There were the surprising stoners who didn't do homework but rocked the exams. There were people like me who spent 20 hours a week extra in lab trying to get things right. You can't let the attitudes of OTHER people affect YOUR success. In fact, for what it's worth, I had students tell me that MY work made THEM work harder.

    It depends. If you don't do research or have good letters, you may want name recognition of schools. But, if you have a complete package, it doesn't matter where you go. I know for my REU, I worked alongside an Ivy League student. I not only kept up with that studen - my lab technique was BETTER and I was able to teach a little. Your letters of recommendation are key.

    That's up to YOU. But I think that schools that are in a location that you like and have engaged faculty is important. I know that at some state schools, you can only pick ONE thing and you do THAT for the year. I was able to do basically whatever I wanted in my school. It was awesome.

    Don't rip on your school. I guess meeting with the physics department, but like, I never really had any issues transferring anywhere. Everyone wants a good physics student.

    That depends about your letters.

    Of course. I received a free ride to my last two institutions - room, board, and books included.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2013
  5. Jan 7, 2013 #4
    You didn't mention what your research opportunities are like at your current school. Are professors doing research? Have you been a part of it? Research experience is very important for graduate school admission. Not only do you need it, but it should also be where some of your recommendation letters come from. If there isn't much research going on there, then your application will basically be first in line for REU programs. This could be a big advantage of your current school.
  6. Jan 7, 2013 #5
    Yes, getting an REU is clutch. You might have a hard time getting an REU by going to a bigger, "better" school with lots of research opportunities on site. It's always good to have someone be able to write a letter for you from a different institution.
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