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Schools Undergrad college choice for physics

  1. Apr 2, 2016 #1
    I'm hoping you can give me some advice on undergraduate college choice for physics. Places being considered are Pomona, UCSB (CCS/Regents), UCSD (Regents), USC, Brandeis and possibly Reed. I know UCSB has an excellent graduate program, but would a smaller school such as Pomona or Brandeis be a better choice for undergraduate? Would Pomona have enough research opportunities not being a research university? Or does that really matter that much at the undergraduate level? I'm looking for intellectual challenge, and I am definitely planning on graduate school (hopefully a very strong program) for a future academic career. I'm very happy to have options, but I am realizing that the choice is more difficult than I had thought it would be. Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 3, 2016 #2


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    UCSB is definitely the strongest overall physics program and would probably offer the best research opportunities. I know several people who went there for physics undergrad and it seems like they all loved it. They say that the department is very tight knit (not a huge number of grad students) and the teaching level is very high.

    LACs may not the best choice for someone who wants to go to physics grad school even though I'm sure they can provide a nice environment with high quality teaching. There aren't nearly as many research opportunities at most LACs since the focus is on undergrad education and research takes up a lot of resources. It's true that you can do things like REUs during the summer, but the people I know in grad school who were at research universities were putting a lot of time into research throughout the year. Another thing is if you go to a research university you have a much wider array of courses available including grad courses. This is great for someone who wants to go to grad school.

    I also think having grad students around is a good thing if you are interested in going to grad school.
  4. Apr 7, 2016 #3
    Thank you for the feedback. What about a place like Reed, which seems to be known for having a high proportion of students getting PhD's in physics? I'm really leaning toward UCSB at this point but want to be sure I'm not overlooking something.
  5. Apr 8, 2016 #4
    It's a tough choice, but the good news is all the choices are great so you really can't go wrong. IMO making connections (for letters of recommendation and the future) and developing a good understanding of physics are probably the most important things, I'm fairly sure you can do that at any of those schools. I don't know anything about Brandeis or Reed, so I can't comment on them. If you haven't already visited the campuses and it's possible I'd suggest doing that. The area around UCSB is very different from those around USC/UCSD and it's important to be happy where you're living. UCSB has an especially strong theory group if that's the kind of thing you're interested in at this point (obviously your interests may change). With their CCS program you might also be able to get a smaller school feel if that's something you want.

    As I said, it seems to me all your options are great. Any decision you make will likely bee a good one.
  6. Apr 9, 2016 #5
    Hey, I'm a female physics major at a small liberal arts college on the east coast. I just want to throw in my opinion. At my school, the physics department is great. Class sizes are small and professors are very supportive and friendly. It's common for undergrads to do research with profs, and many undergrads do go on to grad school. While large research universities may have more resources, don't count out LACs! Schools like Pomona and Reed are amazing. If you're interested in physics, then you should also check out Harvey Mudd next to Pomona. The best advice would be to visit the schools, talk to students & profs, and see what the physics departments are like for yourself. Good luck!
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