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Top and middle tier physics undergrad programs

  1. Nov 17, 2006 #1
    What are the top and middle tier physics undergraduate programs?

    So far, I have for top tier:

    Harvard, MIT, Cal Tech, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, Stanford and University of Colorado, Boulder

    Thanks for your input!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 17, 2006 #2
    What are you using for your criteria? Not that I'm opposed -- my GRADUATE program made your list... :biggrin:

    But... the qualities in a good undergrad can be different than graduate programs, and I see all your listed programs also have good grad programs... so note that there are also some programs that have very good undergrad degrees but are only undergrad institutions (as a random example take Harvey Mudd). Look into that more too -- I am glad I went to an undergrad that HAD no grad programs, because then I was the main researcher on my undergrad thesis adviser's projects.

    And... regardless of where you go, undergrad is largely what YOU make of it. If you are already looking at things with regards to later entering a grad program, be sure to take extra math/science courses -- and ESPECIALLY, get involved in some research projects at your university and through REU-type programs.
  4. Nov 17, 2006 #3
    Of course, there are perks to schools that have both. Connections, for one thing, which can really help when you're applying to grad school. And if you end up really liking the undergrad school, it's usually VERY easy to get into the graduate program at that same school. That's not available at schools with no grad program.
  5. Nov 17, 2006 #4
    I agree here. I was on the admissions committee for our grad program when I was a grad student, and we almost always made sure the undergrads from our department who applied were admitted to SOME graduate program... consulting the undergrad research adviser if they were borderline -- to make sure that they had a good offer elsewhere before refusing admission.

    Of course -- grad school is 4+ years away and you'll likely have 4 years (at least) at the undergrad... so look at other things too... when you are deciding on an undergrad program be sure to talk to both some faculty and some current majors at the places that interest you. Ask what recent graduates are doing (jobs/where, grad school/where?). Ask to see facilities in the dept (labs, classrooms, libraries/study areas). Look at the environment of the whole campus (size, locale, current students, things of extracurricular interest, etc.)...
  6. Nov 17, 2006 #5
    Well, I looked at Nobel Prize winners and where they teach and that's how I formed my list.

    I want something strong in optic physics as that's the field I am leaning towards.

    I thought about going to a liberal arts school like Williams or Swarthmore, but I don't know how their research would be. I do know I'd probably get *more* research, but that doesn't reflect quality.

    Right now my GPA is 3.8ish. I didn't do so well on the SATs and I don't really want to retake them, plus take SAT II's so I'm looking for a school that will be accomodating. I'm trying to raise my GPA. I did have to take a year off of school due to medical reasons so I am afraid that will affect my chances of getting into a top-rate school. I think, the only thing that I have going for me (ie., standing out) is I am doing an internship with the defense department this summer working in optics.

    Your input would be greatly appreciated; I'm trying to start figuring out where I'm going to school. It would be a plus if they had a decent math programme as I'm going to dual-major (I think I'll forget about neuroscience for now unless you think NYU has a good physics and maths programme).

    Thanks again. My only requirement with schools is that it is NOT in Texas. Personal bias. ; )

    Anxiously awaiting your replies,
  7. Nov 17, 2006 #6
    Depending on where you go, admissions to grad school can be very helpful...like my school, if you have a minimum undergrad GPA, you can apply for master's programs easily - a letter of rec and a 1-page application form. No GRE, nothing. You can even go between departments - major in physics as an undergrad, make the minimum GPA, and then get a master's in engineering in only 2 more semesters (only 2/3 of the units required if you had gone to a different school)
  8. Nov 17, 2006 #7
    What schools are nice like this?
  9. Nov 17, 2006 #8
    I am an undergraduate at Boulder and can say that we have a great optics program. I personally don't study it but we have some great faculty in optics such as Murnane. There are also great research opportunities. I began work in High Energy Physics freshman year. Something I never thought any university would provide me a chance to do. So you might consider Boulder. We also have a five year masters program. that is pretty easy to get in if you meet the requirements. I am thinking about doing it for a math masters while finishing a few more things I want to do in Boulder before Physics grad school.
  10. Nov 18, 2006 #9
    University of Arizona is good in Optics and Astronomy.
  11. Nov 18, 2006 #10
    That changes everything.

    The University of Arizona is great for optics. I've also heard good things about Rochester. Optics isn't really available everywhere. If you were looking at Nobel laureates, you would also notice that the three UA has associated with them are all for optics.

    EDIT: BTW, my sister is an optics undergrad at UA. If you have any questions, feel free. I could forward them to my sister.

    EDIT2: interested_learner, yay another person on these boards from Arizona. I now know of 6 or 7 ish...

    EDIT3: Not for optics or anything, but have you looked into Cornell?
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2006
  12. Nov 18, 2006 #11
    I'll take a look at UA. That would be great as I am going to be doing internships in New Mexico starting this summer.

    I live close to Cornell, and wouldn't mind going. I'm about 5 hours from Rochester.

    Do any of these schools have good pure math departments?
  13. Nov 18, 2006 #12
    I guess you just really have to decide: Do you want to go to a great all around school that doesn't really have optics or a school which is great in optics?
  14. Nov 18, 2006 #13
    I'm finishing up my undergrad days at cornell right now. The physics program here is amazingly good but there is only one class offered on optics and i've never really heard anyone talking about optics research here. If you are fairly sure you want to do optics i would probably recommend against Cornell, but for just about anything else, this place is amazing...
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