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What school should I apply to?

  1. Sep 10, 2009 #1
    I am going into my senior year in high school and I have had an unwavering interest in majoring in physics for several years. I have looked at a good number of schools, but I have a feeling that I should be looking at a few more of them and my order of preference is not fully set.

    The schools I have looked at so far are Yale, Caltech, Harvey Mudd, Stanford, Cornell, Princeton, Williams, and Swarthmore, all of which are reputed to have relatively strong undergraduate programs. Of these, I am most interested in Williams and Yale. I know Caltech and Harvey Mudd are high-ranking schools in terms of Ph.D. production, but they are several thousand miles away from my home and the air is unbreathable. Stanford is a beautiful school with very happy students, but it's gotten rather oppressive and political with its distribution requirements, and I feel I might get lost behind their graduate school. Princeton and Cornell are both beautiful schools, yet relatively large, but I still want to apply. Swarthmore seems like a very nice, small school, but I just don't know if I would like it there; it seemed like the people there were a little weird. MIT I have dropped from my list completely because of its massive size, though it will definitely be on my list of grad schools.

    I have yet to see Harvard, Brown, and Dartmouth, and I cannot find out from any online source whether Brown and Dartmouth have strong curriculums. I have heard tremendously good things about both, and the open curriculum at Brown sounds fantastic. I just have to figure out if those schools are any good.

    Besides those, where else should I look? When I went to my summer physics course at Yale, my professor told me it would be the same no matter where I went and I have read elsewhere that physics is effectively standardized in the United States.

    Thanks for your time, your help with this process is greatly appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2009 #2
    > MIT I have dropped from my list completely because of its massive size

    You do realize that Yale is bigger (in both undergrad and grad) than MIT, right?

    It may not have the same name recognition as Yale or Dartmouth, but the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology might be worth a look. They are very small and the physics program is truly outstanding. Since there are no PhD students, undergrads have all kinds of research opportunities. They have the control center for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array on campus. This may not be your first choice, but I would check it out, especially if astrophysics is your area of interest.

    You need to do more research. Look at the College Navigator. It is produced by the US Department of Education and has no advertisements.
  4. Sep 10, 2009 #3
    I would say Harvard, Yale, MIT, Princeton, Caltech, Berkeley, Cornell, Columbia, Chicago, Santa Barbara, USC, Northwestern, Dartmouth, St Louis, Brown, Wisconsin in US are all good. If you want to come to Europe then- Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial, Durham are all good for Physics.
  5. Sep 11, 2009 #4


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    These are all very competitive schools, for getting accepted. You don't mention what kind of grades or SAT scores you have, but you may want to consider one or two moderately-ranked schools as a back-up.
  6. Sep 11, 2009 #5
    For back-up schools, I have Villanova and Connecticut College, although I may need more. As for grades, I am first in my class in high school (about 230 kids, private school). I have taken 4 APs (US History, English, Chemistry, World History) so far and am doing another 4 this year, including AP Physics B (I want to see if I can take the C exam though, since I did electromagnetism at Yale), AP Biology, and AP Calculus (BC).

    For standardized tests, I have:
    ACT: 32

    Critical Reading: 680
    Math: 740
    Writing: 800

    SAT II:
    Math II-800
    US History-800

    I also pulled As through four math and science courses at Yale Summer Session, including two introductory physics courses. My extracurriculars are also very strong (Math Team, NHS Vice President, Student Council Treasurer), so I'm hoping that will give me a strong chance at most of these schools.

    Thanks for everything, guys!
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