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Undergraduate rankings of colleges' physics programs?

  1. Jul 9, 2007 #1
    I'm searching for colleges to apply to right now, and I think a good place to start would be to see how different colleges compare with respect to their physics programs.

    I don't know whether or not I want to specialize in engineering or physics yet, so colleges that are strong in both areas seem like a good choice to me.

    A link to sources would be helpful, or some recommendations on what places I should look at.

    From what I've read, Caltech seems like the perfect school for me... but I'm going to assume that I won't be accepted.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2007 #2
    i don't believe that such a resource exists.

    else failing, it's not at all a bad idea to go to a large state university with a reputable graduate program in physics. cost-effective, too!
  4. Jul 9, 2007 #3
    I've often been told that where you go for undergrad isn't as important as where you go for grad (unless you plan on entering the workforce after you get your bachelor's).

    Personally, I had my heart set on MIT for undergrad and I was despondent when I didn't get in. Now that I've had some time to sober up I'm finding that I'm very happy with the quality of my education at the (smaller, cheaper) state university. It has a lot more to do with personal initiative than anything else.
  5. Jul 9, 2007 #4
    Let me give you this advice. Don't go to a small school that doesn't offer graduate degrees. Like Brad Barker said, if money is an issue go to a state school with a good grad program.

    I'm assuming you are from California. Well Berkeley is great, so is UCLA, so is Santa Barbara, I mean you are really lucky if you are in California. Plenty of big schools with big time grad programs but still cost effective and enough to choose from. Do well in undergrad, get a reccomendation maybe from a professor who went to MIT when applying for grad school, I know for a fact that those big UC schools are loaded with Harvard or MIT professors. Plus you are still going to some cool schools that have a decent social scene as well. Remember college isn't all about academics, have fun and enjoy it.
  6. Jul 10, 2007 #5
    Smaller schools are not good? I'm thinking I would prefer a low student-teacher ratio and small to medium population.

    Also, I could transfer to a different college if a graduate degree is not offered, right?

    I lived in California two years ago, now I'm in North Carolina. I've heard that UNC - Chapel Hill has a good physics program, and that NC State has a good engineering program.
  7. Jul 10, 2007 #6
    What about Colorado School of Mines?
    It is a university specializing in Engineering and science and is World renowned.
    It has a small student teacher ratio too:smile:
  8. Jul 10, 2007 #7


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    Staff: Mentor

    The main disadvantage a small school as far as academics is concerned, is that you have a smaller selection of courses and on-campus research projects to choose from. I think for most students, that's not necessarily a signficant factor, because you're going to get the important core subjects for a physics major just about everywhere, so the differences in courses matter only as far as electives are concerned. Physics students aren't expected to specialize until graduate school anyway. And at the undergraduate level, with research the main thing is to get the experience of doing research and learn something about how it's done. The actual topic doesn't matter much, so long as you have at least some interest in it.

    On the other hand, smaller schools offer smaller class sizes and easier access to professors, in general. At a really small school, each professor will have you in several classes, so they'll get to know you well and be in a good position to write detailed letters of recommendation for grad school or jobs.

    On the third hand :smile:, smaller schools tend to be in smaller places, and students who want big-city life may not enjoy being stuck out in the boonies for four years.
  9. Jul 11, 2007 #8
    i go to UF, which has one of the five (maybe third?) largest undergraduate populations in america. the number of undergrad physics majors is around 150. the largest class size in a physics class for me was maybe 40, and that's hardly larger than a class size in a public high school in florida.

    something like ten professors know me well enough that i could count on them to write very strong letters of recommendation, if need be.

    plus i have all the advantages of going to a large research university. (and essentially for free!)

    there's something to be said about going through the honors program at a state school.
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