Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Undergrad Astronomy Safety Schools

  1. Dec 6, 2011 #1
    As part of my junior curriculum I'm taking a college prep course. As part of this course I am gathering a list of colleges I plan on applying to, including several safety schools. I have several schools that I am totally confident that I will be able to get in, but I wouldn't quite call them safety schools.

    Does anyone know of any good safety schools for astronomy (undergrad)?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 6, 2011 #2


    User Avatar

    There's not a lot you can do with astronomy unless you get a PhD in the field, and if you do want to do that, you need to major in physics. An astronomy major by itself isn't enough physics preparation for astronomy graduate programs. Since they offer physics at most schools, you could apply almost anywhere. And since you didn't give us any information at all to work with, it's hard to help you.
  4. Dec 6, 2011 #3
    What exactly is this college prep course about? I've never heard of such a thing. I hope it's not as ridiculous as it sounds...
  5. Dec 6, 2011 #4
    It's not a full course. Its a class that meets about once a week for 45 minutes (not really a class, only 10 people) the objective of which is to help prepare kids for college. Really it's intended for people who have no idea of what they want to do in life, and to help them choose a college. I wouldn't be taking it if I didn't have too.

    And in response to eri: I often hear that Astronomy majors should undergrad in physics. While I'm confused by it, I still want to go to a school that has an Astronomy undergrad program so I can get a better introduction than a school without might have. I also know someone who is planning on double-majoring in Astronomy and Physics and while he says it's hard work, it's doable.

    Also several schools I'm applying to have Astrophysics as a undergrad major which in most cases is simply a physics major minus one or two classes plus the majority of astronomy courses.
  6. Dec 7, 2011 #5


    User Avatar

    Double majoring isn't hard; it's only a few more classes. There's a ton of overlap. But you still haven't told us anything that can help us help you. How about you list a few of those schools you're pretty sure you'll get into, and we'll see if we can think of some that might easier to get into?
  7. Dec 7, 2011 #6
    You right I should have done that, sorry.

    I'm applying to all the serious top-notch schools (Caltech, MIT...), but my guess is I won't get in (I come from a high school without grades which puts me at a disadvantage). I'm also applying to several Ivys (Columbia, Princeton), I'd say I have a good chance to get into Princeton, and a higher chance to get into Columbia (heritages). I'm then applying to Weslyean (which is my #1 school bar the top two I listed), Stanford, a couple UC's and a few mid/high level colleges here in the east-coast, all of which I'm pretty sure I can get into bases purely off of grades.

    I have good enough grades to get into the schools that I listed, but I'm worried because I don't have any of the 'community-leader' type stuff that will separate me out from the masses in schools like Caltech or Stanford where so many apply so I'm less confident about that.
  8. Dec 7, 2011 #7
  9. Dec 7, 2011 #8
    We have written grades, but no letter grades. It's an advantage when dealing with most colleges but its a disadvantage with the larger schools that receive tens of thousands of applicants.
  10. Dec 7, 2011 #9
    As in, you receive some sort of personal evaluation from each teacher? That's pretty intense. Although, if you're a good student, I would think that would work in your favor.
  11. Dec 7, 2011 #10
    Yes. I go to a small private school with only 20-30 a grade so it's doable. We receive about a paragraph per class on our report. Its much more personal and pretty much universally it gives colleges a better sense of you as a student, especially because high praise in a class comes through much better in a written paragraph. However, the fact that it gives a much more detailed evaluation of a student is also harmful when applying to large schools with a high amount of applicants.
  12. Dec 7, 2011 #11


    User Avatar

    Everyone applying to those schools has the grades to get in. Even if you had grades (and make no mistake, not having them is going to hurt you) you'd still be only an average applicant at best if you had fantastic grades and test scores. Those schools take about 8% of those applicants. What is going to make you stand out for those schools? It takes a lot more than grades to get in. Did you know that half the students who get into CalTech each year have already done original research in the field they plan to major in, and many are published in journals? That's the case for many top schools. Good evaluations alone are not going to let you compete with that. I'm not sure based on what you've written here why you think you have a shot at top schools.
  13. Dec 7, 2011 #12
    I don't think I have a real shot getting into them, I know there's nothing particularly 'stand-outy' about me, I don't really expect to get in to those schools. The reason I said those schools was simply to give a ballpark for the schools I'm looking at, just to give a better idea for a safety school. The reason I posted on here in the first place is that I realize about half the schools I was looking towards were reach schools and the other half were schools I was confident I'd get into, but I didn't have any I was really 100% sure I would be accepted to.
  14. Dec 7, 2011 #13
    You probably should look at the astronomy programs of the public universities in your state. I know that University of Texas at Austin, University of Arizona, and University of Florida have excellent astronomy research programs, and a lot of states will offer automatic admission if you hit certain criteria (UT Austin has automatic admission if you are the top 10% of your high school in Texas).
  15. Dec 7, 2011 #14
    Thank you for the advice. Unfortunately I'm from New York and the colleges around here (state colleges) aren't renowned in these sorts of fields, but I should probably take a second look.
  16. Dec 8, 2011 #15
    SUNY Stony Brook is one of the top schools in the world for nuclear physics and computational astrophysics, and it's very closely related to Brookhaven National Laboratory.

    Something that you have to be aware of is that there is often a big difference between undergraduate "big-name" status and professional research "big-name" status. SUNYSB is a huge name among astrophysicists.
  17. Dec 8, 2011 #16
    Wow, I had no idea. I'm definitely going to look at that.
  18. Dec 8, 2011 #17


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Well, I don't know about schools in your area, but I'd highly recommend seriously considering getting a physics and astronomy major. Having a good background in physics is extremely important.

    Indeed, at my university, arguably the best university for astronomy/astrophysics in my country, they make it pretty much impossible to get an astro major without a physics major - you only really start doing astro seriously in your final year, when you have enough physics and maths that they can do it properly. I'd even be tempted to say that an undergrad in physics+maths is almost as useful as an undergrad in astro if you want to do postgraduate studies, and I say this as someone with both an astro and a physics major.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook