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What should I do to stand out?

  1. Apr 22, 2013 #1
    Am a highschool student that knows I need to stand out to get in a good science university.

    The problem is that I am interested in theoretical science [string theory, field, relativity(still kinda counts). Quantum theory.]

    Am familiar with the tensors and some calculus. But I meanly understand the concepts, the math of theoretical science am still self studying

    I was wondering if there's a experiment I could do in the mean time that is on theoretical physics that doesn't require too much math. It's not like applied physics, it seems much harder to come up with experiments in theoretical physics.

    I think this counts as career help, if not
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 22, 2013 #2
    Oops, the end is cut off. I am trying to say if it is in the wrong place, feel free to close it. And send me the link to the rules, having trouble finding it on my phone. Thx for commenting and helping.
  4. Apr 22, 2013 #3
    Get good grades, do well on any standardized tests you have to take, put effort into your University applications. Also, try to take the most advanced math/physics courses available to you. If you do your self study with one of your teachers, see if you can make it official in some way, such as having that teacher write a letter of rec describing what you do.

    Where are you trying to go to school? In the USA, it's not common at all for high school students to have lab experience, or advanced math knowledge. You're probably confusing advice given to people applying to grad school for things that apply to you. But outside of the USA, I know education tends to be more specialized, so maybe things are different.
  5. Apr 22, 2013 #4
    Am Canadian applying for caltech. Very hard to get in to.

    About the teacher student studying thing, I never heard of it. I study on my own using the Internet. So am not well known except for some 300 people that watch my blog.

    I don't think that is a good idea because teachers in my school are a little bit
    grumpy (I once asked my S.S teacher why Napoleon wanted to live in Britain, he just said 'its just is'-.-)

    That's why I want to do actual experiments with theoritacal physics(that sounds a little wrong) to both do what I want and get noticed.
  6. Apr 23, 2013 #5
    Ok, so you are applying to school in the USA. This probably isn't what you want to hear, but it's more or less the truth: getting into a top college in the US is more political than most places. Your extracurriculars, and letters of recommendation will have a lot of weight, probably more than you might expect. So if your teachers are grumpy towards you, that might be a problem when you have to ask them for recommendations. You don't have to ask them to help you study, but you should definitely be on their good side.

    USA schools tend to look at what you do with what you have available, rather than just what you do. This is why I told you to take the most advanced math/physics classes available to you, because if you don't then they'll assume you aren't as good as the people who did. Taking these most advanced courses, and doing well in them, is how most students stand out. That, and join lots of clubs so it looks like you are well rounded, and more than just an academic machine.

    As for the experiment, unless you come up with the idea yourself, or find work from an actual physicist, you shouldn't pursue that idea. If someone on this forum had an actually good idea for a ground breaking experiment accessible to you, they probably would have done it themselves. Besides, wouldn't it be dishonest to just ask people what to do for that? If it's supposed to show how YOU stand out, then why should you use other peoples ideas? (Of course, if something comes to mind for you, by all means pursue it)

    However, you have a blog! No high school student blogging about physics is going to be well known, but 300 people is not insignificant. Also, you can talk about your blog in your application, so that is one way to make your work "official". Maintaining a physics blog as a high school student is one way you can stand out, I don't know anyone who did that. Just don't do too much personal speculation... unless you really know what's going on your ideas will sound silly to those who do know what is going on. But if you teach yourself say, Quantum Mechanics, out of a textbook, and blog about your progress, then you should stand out.
  7. Apr 23, 2013 #6
    Do as many math/physics competitions as possible (e.g. University of Waterloo hosts a number of these every year). If you can show that you're among the top in the country, then that will greatly help your chances of admission to competitive schools.
  8. Apr 23, 2013 #7
    Math/Physics contest is probably the standard way to stand out in high school. Doing well in them will help you significantly. So there are physics contests like SIN(Waterloo), CAP high school exam(CAP), POPTOR(UofT). Also, a lot of math contests hosted by Waterloo. You can also try out for AMC and stuff. Going to IPhO is almost a sure admission ticket into caltech.

    I have only known one guy that was accepted into caltech (fair scholarship, there is no point if there is not a significant scholarship. Undergraduate doesn't differ by much.). His profile is like top 20 in contests, grades around 95+, not sure about extracurricular.

    Also, you need to get around perfect on your SAT.
  9. Apr 23, 2013 #8


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    Don't get fixated upon any one university, Caltech or otherwise. Many people succeed and have great undergraduate educations in physics from other universities, including many not commonly listed as the 'big brand name' schools.
  10. Apr 23, 2013 #9
    Good advice! Why not study Feynman's Lectures on Physics (given at CalTech!)? And blog about your struggles...
  11. Apr 23, 2013 #10
    This . Do this if you are an international student applying to MIT or Caltech.
  12. Apr 23, 2013 #11
    Self study on math subjects is interesting, but most schools may not have sufficient reason to evaluate the situation. If possible, get the recommendations from a math teacher (perhaps a local college professor) that indicates your ability and interest.

    You may also want to read and blog about research that is underway right now with quantum cryptography and quantum computing technologies.

    Nabeshin's advice about not fixating on any one school is extremely important. You can get a good education from many places. You clearly know that you don't need to have someone teach it to you. Seek out a reasonably respectable place and go from there.

    Also note: I already knew 80% of what I "learned" in college. I learned it on my own as a ham radio enthusiast. Yes, you should continue your studies on your own. You need to realize that the real purpose of school is supposedly to teach you the language and primary concepts so that you can learn on your own. This is something you can learn from almost anywhere.

    You don't need Einstein to learn how relativity works.
  13. Apr 23, 2013 #12


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    Homework Helper

    just learn as much as possible, practice creative thinking, and stop focusing on how to look good as opposed to how to be good.
  14. Apr 24, 2013 #13
    Thx,I like math and science and art and literature. It is fascinating stuff, puts dopamine in my body.
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