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What colleges should I consider for physics?

  1. Jun 18, 2013 #1
    I'm looking into colleges with the intent to study physics and then attempt to earn a masters and then PhD.
    I suppose I should list a bit of information about myself:
    Female, class of 2014
    4.0 gpa
    ranked #5 in my class
    Ran varsity track and cross country since freshman year
    Involved in various clubs/organizations such as Student Council, high school orchestra, science challenge squad, athletics, national honor society and a bit of volunteering/community service
    Take many AP courses and do well

    As of now I've been looking into schools such as Columbia, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, and University of Maryland.

    Can anyone provide an opinion on the physics reputation of these schools as well as if it's even possible for me to be accepted to them? Any additional schools you can suggest that I haven't looked into yet would also be appreciated.

    Thanks a lot.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 18, 2013 #2
    Oh, yeah...
    During my senior year I will be taking AP Stats, AP Calc II, and AP Physics ab.
  4. Jun 18, 2013 #3
    I had VERY similar credentials when I was your age (except I am male). All the schools you listed are great. Any of them you listed can get you to any graduate school. I would make sure you apply to your local state school if cost is a consideration and then pick the school you LIKE BEST. You'll be more likely to succeed if you pick a good school that suits you, rather than try to pick the "best" school based on someone's arbitrary ranking criteria.

    Good luck to you! :)
  5. Jun 19, 2013 #4
    Thank you! Would you mind if I ask where you're attending school?
  6. Jun 19, 2013 #5


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    Whether or not you'll be accepted is not something anyone can say with certainty. You may see people on college confidential saying "you have a good chance of getting in" or "you don't have a good chance of getting in" but there are just way too many factors taken into account in the undergraduate admissions process to say if you will or will not get in unequivocally. Nevertheless, one can use their stats to at least make a list of schools that usually admit people whose stats are similar in which case I would say you have great stats for the schools you mentioned (except you didn't mention your SAT or ACT scores, which are important with regards to this) and I wish you the best of luck in your admissions!

    I applied to university in the 2011-2012 school year so hopefully things haven't changed much since then! My school didn't use a 4.0 scale, it used a 0-100 scale but my HS GPA translates over to a 4.0 using standard conversion charts so I can tell you that my stats are quite similar to yours (save for SAT scores for the reasons mentioned above). I got into most of the colleges I wanted, except MIT :frown: and I currently attend Cornell so ideally you should be able to get in as well but like I said there are randomness and luck involved in the undergraduate admissions process not to mention your college essays make a noticeable impact so nothing is set in stone ahead of time. One can only make fruitful guesses! Best of luck again.
  7. Jun 19, 2013 #6
    My SAT scores were 740 for Math, 740 for Reading, and 690 for Writing. I'm waiting for results on subject tests and ACT scores.
    Could you tell me about Cornell and your experience there? I think I'm going to be going there for a campus tour within the next few weeks!
  8. Jun 19, 2013 #7
    Oh, and I forgot to say thanks for the reply. I really appreciate any information/guidance you're willing to share. Thank you!
  9. Jun 19, 2013 #8


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    Well for me it is quite an alien atmosphere because I was raised in NYC so I was used to the city. Ithaca on the other hand is by itself quite an isolated region, although you might not notice it if you stay on campus because there will if course be people bustling around here and there. It's mighty cold but I personally was used to it living in NYC my whole life; if you are from a warmer climate then the cold might not be that friendly :smile:.

    Other than that, I never had an "oh my god college is the greatest thing ever" moment but I'm not exactly the kind of person who seeks out that kind of thing anyways. A good number of my friends from HS (essentially my entire AP Physics C class lol) also ended up going to Cornell although only one of them ended up majoring in physics with me (I probably should have mentioned I was a physics major earlier somewhere!). Much like any other university, Cornell has its good and bad as far as academics goes but it is, I would like to say, no slouch when it comes to physics!
  10. Jun 19, 2013 #9


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    It's legit. Great for physics, and Ithaca is an extremely friendly, fun, pretty town.

    And Dragon Day.
  11. Jun 19, 2013 #10


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    Although one thing you might get annoyed of is walking down the halls late at night and constantly running into people having League of Legends sessions right in the middle of the hallway >.< but I suppose it is more ideal than tripping over a drunk person.
  12. Jun 19, 2013 #11
    I went to college in the 1990s and I went to the University of California, Davis. I started out in Physics then came to my senses and switched over to EE.

    I really enjoyed Davis. It's one of the few university towns left in California.
  13. Jun 20, 2013 #12
    I had mostly the same academic achievements (couldn't take Ap Physics because scheduling conflicts). I did a bit less on the sports and I am Male :D. however I looked for colleges that had a great Chem program and a strong Physics program seeing I am interested in both. (Oh btw I graduated HS this year class 2013 :P)

    Long story short is what ended up happening is that I was accepted in many schools ranging from Duke to Pitt to Upenn etc (I applied to so many schools got into most of them, in hindsight I should have applied to only few schools but convinced myself maybe I wouldn't get accepted in any of them lol). I ended up choosing a small private school in my area that gave me essentially a free ride (plus accepts all my AP credit even for the credit associated with my major) and it has connections with Columbia and other schools so you can either receive two Bachelors(one from the private school other from other) or a Bachelors at the private and Masters at the other xD.

    (kinda a sad story) However I went this route because most of my college fund/mom's retirement was spent on well... my father had cancer (Acute myeloid leukemia) eventually passed away 5yrs ago apparently he had no life insurance even though he said all the time he did >.> (so funeral costs etc). Mom had to work full time again and other factors so yea..xD.

    I have advice when applying do Early Decision (I did regular) to avoid stress (lol I had some sleepless nights xD) and you get your Decision well earlier :tongue:

    I don't really know of any schools that are just "super great" for Physics since Chem took a bit more priority over the other. Atm at my college I'm going to this fall I am listed as a double major in Biochem/ChemE however I can change whenever I want if I so desire, so it's not final~
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2013
  14. Jun 20, 2013 #13


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    I find this statement puzzling -- aren't Berkeley and Stanford university towns as well?
  15. Jun 20, 2013 #14
    Well, did he say "one of the few" so he'd probably include those too
  16. Jun 20, 2013 #15


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    Berkeley isn't. The university is there, but it's a large city (pop ~ 100,000) on its own. So unlike a traditional university town, it exists independent of the university. Also its proximity to large urban areas (SF and Oakland) make it flow seamlessly with the surroundings, so it doesn't have that 'insular' feel most university towns do.

    Stanford, as a campus, is set back from the town of Palo Alto so in this sense it exists independently. However, the actual town of PA doesn't really feel like a college town, and seems geared much more towards the 'yuppie' culture than university students (although at Stanford the two cultures merge more than most places).
  17. Jun 20, 2013 #16


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    When I was applying for "college", almost all on my radar were part of big research universities.

    Nowadays, as a faculty member, I see that there are lots of very good "liberal arts colleges" (LACs) with good physics programs. While the research intensity is generally lower (since there are no grad students and few, if any, postdocs.. and there are fewer faculty, with heavier teaching loads), there is a better chance of closer interaction with the faculty in courses and in research. These, and other pros and cons, have to be weighed by the prospective student. My point is that there are other places to consider beyond the research universities.

    [Sorry to add to your list...]
    Consider, for example [in no particular order],
    the schools in the "Five Colleges" (Amherst, Mt Holyoke, Smith...) and "Claremont Colleges" (Pomona, Harvey Mudd, ...) and the "Tri-Colleges" (Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr)...as well as Williams, Grinnell, Reed, Vassar, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Wellesley, Oberlin, Davidson, Carleton, Lawrence, Gustavus, ...[many more left out, sorry]
    (There is a lot of financial aid available... so don't just look at the tuition.)

    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com...ts-colleges-proportion-physics-graduates.html [not sure where their data comes from]
  18. Jun 21, 2013 #17
    I went to Swarthmore as a an undergrad. Going to a college like that can be great stepping stone to graduate school, if that is the goal. And yes, that was my goal and I ended up going to a pretty decent graduate program. Most of the physics students there nowadays do summer research with an on campus prof after their freshman year, and then go off and do research at other institutions/labs the following two summers. Most also end up going to very good graduate programs. Schools like that end up ranking very very high when you look at percentages of graduates who end up going to graduate school:


    When I went there, if an upper level physics course had more than 10 students or so, they made two class sections. So most of my upper level courses had about 6 students in them.

    While I speak of Swarthmore because I am familiar with it, other good liberal arts colleges mentioned above will be similar.
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