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The road to becoming a Theoretical Physicist

  1. Jul 3, 2013 #1
    I am currently a high school student, I will be graduating next year and I know exactly what I want to do after that. I cannot see myself choosing a career other than physics as it is my passion and it has always been my dream to work as a theoretical physicist. I am now at the point where I am going to have to apply for an university. Ideally I would get accepted into a top US university, but I dont think that is going to happen as I have almost no extracurricular activities and I am purely depending on my academic success. Since I live in Canada, I will probably end up attending a Canadian university. I think I've narrowed my options down to UBC, UoT, and Waterloo(I can probably get accepted into any Canadian university considering my academic record). If I my ultimate goal is to get a Ph.D and attempt to make a living as a theoretical physicist, which one of these universities should I attend for my bachelor's? What are some possible advantages and disadvantages of each of these universities?
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 4, 2013 #2
    My advice would be to apply to each of those three schools, see which ones you are accepted to, and then visit them if you can. Choose the school you "feel most at home at." This is important, because if you aren't comfortable with the environment you're in, it doesn't matter if you're at Harvard or at the Backwoods College of West Virginia, you'll either end up doing poorly academically or hating yourself for four years, and hence doing poorly. Then, take a year or two of college physics, join a research group as an undergrad assistant, and see if it's something you're still interested in and if you want to pursue it in graduate school. In my experience the prestige of your undergraduate institution doesn't really matter for graduate school admissions because everybody still has to demonstrate their knowledge of physics by taking the Physics GRE and/or with research experience. Take it from someone who attended the University of Generic State College and ended up in a top-25 graduate school (with modest grades to boot!). Americans know that in particular UBC, University of Toronto, and Waterloo are very good schools so if you go to one of those you'll be doing well.
  4. Jul 4, 2013 #3


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    First things first.

    1. What do you think is "theoretical physics"? I'll cut to the chase:

    https://www.physicsforums.com/blog.php?b=3727 [Broken]

    2. Do you know that the odds of you ending up with exactly what you THINK you want to do is actually very low? Look at the career survey that I've done on here.


    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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