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UNC Chapel Hill, UIUC, or UMD College Park?

  1. Apr 5, 2015 #1
    I was accepted into UNC Chapel Hill, UMDCP, and UIUC for physics in the fall. Can anyone lend some insight on which program would give me the best chance for acceptance into graduate school or what the research opportunities are like at each university? I currently live in NC which makes UNC considerably less expensive but it seems that their physics program is significantly smaller than both Maryland and UIUC.

    I prefer the area around UNC to any of the other schools but I'm afraid that since the department is not as much of a focus, I will have fewer opportunities there. UICIC has the highest ranked program (US News #9) but Maryland seems to have more research opportunities with NASA Goddard only fifteen minutes away. I was waitlisted by UCLA, UMich, and Reed so I'm still holding out hope for an acceptance from one of them but as of now I'm torn between UNC, Maryland, and UIUC. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 6, 2015 #2
    I took a look at UNC's research page. At least for what I'm interested in, they have more resources and faculty working on really interesting stuff than my current undergrad institution. My undergrad institution also has a small Physics program, but that actually helps me stand out as an undergrad pursuing research opportunities, getting to know the physics faculty, etc. And with a smaller program, teachers are less swamped with grading all this homework from Physics students, and so Physics faculty can have more time for office hours, offering you undergraduate research opportunities, etc.

    It won't be a big name university, but being in a small department has allowed me to pursue research from my second semester there - which led to me being competitive enough that summer to get an REU somewhere. I've also just been sponsored to be the physics department's undergrad representative for their research presentation day coming up, which likely would not have happened if it was a bigger department who had a lot more undergrads doing research. All the faculty in the physics department know each other well, which is another plus. I'd say go for it! Smaller department -> more research opportunities as an undergrad -> bigger chance of REUs and graduate school due to proven track record with research -> graduate school -> well prepared due to small department's special attention and whatnot letting you take graduate courses during undergrad -> profit?

    I'll be my own devil's advocate here though. UIUC has a great program in physics from what I've seen, and plenty of faculty work at Argonne. That can lead to great connections and being able to spend a summer at Argonne easily.
  4. Apr 7, 2015 #3


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    I don't think there's much between physics undergrad programs, especially not the three you've listed here, so why not go for the cheapest? If you work hard, and are proactive, there will always be opportunities for research, or taking an extra reading/literature course on a topic of particular interest under the supervision of a professor.
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