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Tough call. Should I transfer?

  1. Jan 19, 2010 #1
    I've just completed my first year at a fairly well-respected university here in Australia. Ranked roughly 40th worldwide, 4th-6th in Australia. Our physics department is rather modest, though improving after the construction of the Australian synchrotron directly opposite the university campus. Today I received news that I had been accepted into a nearby university, typically ranked 2nd in the country and 30th worldwide, with 3 Nobel-winning alumni (all biomedicine). Much larger physics department, and a slightly greater international reputation in terms of research output.

    My question is: Should I transfer or just stay where I am? Pros are obvious and stated above. Cons are - if I transfer, I will only graduate with a BSc, whereas at my current institution I will graduate with a BSc (Advanced). Also, if I transfer I must take 2 subjects each year outside of math/science, whereas my current university is more specialized and I will take only math/physics subjects.

    Why is all of this important? I would like to do my PhD at a top university in the US. Grades and research experience are givens, but I'm not sure if my undergrad institution could help or hurt my chances.

    I would very much appreciate some honest opinions.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 19, 2010 #2
    70 responses, no replies.
  4. Jan 19, 2010 #3
    Nobody wants to be blamed if your decision leads to not so awesome results.

    My opinion is that:
    a) The difference between the 4th best and 2nd best school in a country is often a matter of politics, as is the difference between 30 and 40 on an international list
    b) as said in countless other threads, the more specialized coursework the better
    c) look at where the schools students get accepted for grad work

    Can you get research experience in that department? Can you get experience at yours?
  5. Jan 19, 2010 #4
    I had a look at that, it seems I can get equal research experience from both.

    a) Yes you're right. But rankings aside, this university definitely has a better reputation in general than my current institution. More selective, much larger research budget, etc.

    b) Agreed. However I have heard that the coursework at this new university is slightly more rigorous. Still though, it means one less science subject per semester.
  6. Jan 19, 2010 #5
    Large research budgets are always helpful, but do they trickle down to the undergrads?

    What does "slightly more rigorous" amount to?

    On some level it really doesn't matter if you transfer or stay put, but it seems like you really wanna give it a go at this new school. You can always take an extra science course or two on top of your current semester load, and at a rate of 1 course per semester, you're losing about 6 courses altogether. Compare the two curricula and figure out what that really amounts to.
  7. Jan 19, 2010 #6


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    Transfer. The goal should be to get an education, not to learn a set of technical skills. Gaps in the latter can always be filled in. But if you don't get a real, well rounded education, then you aren't going to get another chance later.
  8. Jan 20, 2010 #7
    I think I'm going to transfer. I've just discovered that if I do transfer it will add 2 years to my degree, but I will effectively graduate with two Bachelors degrees (Maths + Physics), and a Masters by research. Additionally, I will have taken many more physics and maths classes as opposed to the university I am at now.

    Not to mention this school has many fantastic exchange opportunities to places like UC, Berkely, Chicago, etc.
  9. Jan 21, 2010 #8
    I faced the exact same decision a few months ago. The selection of units at 2nd/3rd year is pitiful, and I felt the coursework was dumbed down and didn't feel challenged. It was too easy to get good marks.

    I decided to stay because I figured I could make up for the lack of units offered with self study or going on exchange to berkeley. And if you look at uom's course handbook you'll see that their offerings aren't that great either (although I did only look at maths).

    Don't forget that your credits might not transfer - they were only prepared to give me 2/4 units of credit.

    I think heard also that last year someone from monash into harvard for pg physics. (might not be harvard, I just remember it was a good uni). Not much evidence I know, but just reassuring to know it's not impossible.

    Perhaps you should talk so someone in physics at monash? Tell them you are probably going to transfer to uom, ask them if they have any statistics of recent graduates.

    And tbh I don't think anyone cares if you have 2 B.S. in maths and physics as opposed to just 1 B.S. double major. Also ,if you plan on doing pg in the US isn't masters a waste of time?
  10. Jan 21, 2010 #9
    It wouldn't be a waste of time. From what I understand, grad schools are more inclined to admit someone who has already completed a Masters degree, and it may even shave a few years off my PhD depending on the particular grad school. At the very least, it will give me invaluable research experience, a more thorough knowledge of my field of research and stronger connections in academia. Besides, I think most US colleges require an Honours year or a Masters from Australian applicants to be admitted to their PhD programs, and since Melb doesn't offer Honours... you see the point.

    As for the Monash/Harvard student, I know who you're talking about. Attended one of her lectures not too long ago.
  11. Jan 21, 2010 #10
    You're at Monash and you are trying to decide whether to come to Melbourne or not aren't you?

    Come to Melbourne! I'm having a blast at Melbourne
  12. Jan 21, 2010 #11
    It's looking like this will happen. ;)
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