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Where would I bet better as an undergrad? UK or US?

  1. Sep 27, 2015 #1
    So I'm applying to both US Universities and UK Universities... My main choice in the US is most likely going to be Cornell; my main choice in the UK is definitely Oxford. Obviously there is no guaranteed entry into either institutions, but hey, let's be optimistic.
    Regardless of where I am, I will certainly want to major in Physics. Does anyone have any experience with comparing the UK and US undergrad courses for Physics? I feel like going to the US and having to do distributional requirements will limit my Physics knowledge... however I've asked Cornell and they said it's perfectly reasonable for undergrads to take grad level courses. I still feel like the UK will be a more substantial degree. I'm also fairly certain I want to do a PhD in Physics. If that is to remain true, and in 4 years I have to make a decision on where, will having a degree from US Uni's limit to where I can apply as apposed to just going for a straight Masters from the UK?

    tl;dr UK or US for undergrad? Where would I get the best physics degree?

    ALSO: If anyone has studied Physics at Cornell PLEASE tell me what your experience was like.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 27, 2015 #2
    For someone already knowing they want to pursue a PhD, I would recommend two things:

    Pick an institution where a lot of graduates get into very good grad schools. A good question might be: of those physics majors who wanted to go to graduate school, shat percentage were admitted to top 20 programs?

    Pick an institution where most physics majors have a chance to do research and publish while undergraduates. A good question might be: what percentage of physics undergrads co-authored published papers in the last five years?
  4. Sep 29, 2015 #3


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    I completely agree with the above and will add that Cornell has an amazing record for both undergrad research and getting students into the best grad schools. Cambridge and Oxford are also great but from what I hear it is harder to do research as an undergrad in the UK.
  5. Sep 30, 2015 #4


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    Note that physics programs in the US and UK have quite different structures. In the US you would typically get a BSc and then apply for graduate school. Here in the UK the system is a quite a bit more complicated and there are several possible routes; but typically you would get an MSc (which takes 4 years) and them apply for a PhD position, either an "independent" position (usually 3 years) or at a CDT (4 years, the first year being an introductory year with courses etc).

    Hence. you can't really compare Oxford and Cornell without thinking a bit about what you want to do afterwards.
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