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Schools Which Canadian university is best to study Physics at?

  1. Feb 21, 2010 #1
    Well, I need a bit of advice here. After long time struggling to decide whether at age 24 to switch careers or not, I've decided to do it and to apply for Physics programmes in Canada and the UK. The first offers have already been made and I the time to make a decision on where to go is drawing near. I might be making a similar topic for the UK, but this one's for Canadian universities.

    Thus far, I've namely been offered admission at the following universities: University of Toronto, University of British Columbia and University of Western Ontario. I'm still waiting for a response from the University of Victoria and the University of Alberta, and I've been rejected by McMaster University (did not have the necessary pre-requisites, presumably lacking Chemistry in my final year of high school). Based on this, which of the 5 above-mentioned universities do you think offers the best education and the most opportunities for an undergraduate Physics student?

    Any advice would be really helpful, because thus far the only reference points I have are university rankings, which would lead me to believe that UoT is best, followed by UBC, UoA and then possibly a tie between UoV and UWO. How accurate is this? Another point for me to consider would be differences in tuition fees and cost of living. UWO seems to be the cheapest and the cost of living is probably lower than BC or Toronto, as well (how is it compared to Edmonton, though?), but I'm not sure whether I would like to risk getting a better education in order to save some money. Though anywhere I go, my parents would be able to help me with my first year or two, I would need loans to support my studies. So all things being equal, I would prefer a cheaper alternative, however, quality of education still comes first and I guess if I'm taking a loan, I might as well take another 10 - 20k dollars if that will prepare me better for a job and possibly a PhD.

    Thanks in advance, guys and girls of PF.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 21, 2010 #2

    Im in a similar situation. If you wanted to get any missing 4U courses that you need as prerequisites, you should consider ILC. I was missing all 6 from my final year of high school and I am planning being enrolled at UofT for September 2011. Ive done one of the 4U math courses so far, and I am just finishing up chemistry before moving on to the next one.

    You should consider it if you have the time, plus its not bad for review purposes.

    Best of luck.


    You should also consider McGill, it has a pretty solid physics program from what I understand. Also, Montreal is an awesome city and living costs are noticeably lower than Toronto or anything out in BC.
  4. Feb 21, 2010 #3
    Thanks for the response, but I guess those five universities that are written in bold are the bunch that my final choice is going to be made from, as I'm not going to apply to any additional ones. So any thoughts on those listed?
  5. Feb 21, 2010 #4


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    The good news is that those are all good schools for physics, so there isn't really a bad decision there. You'll get a solid foundation in physics from any of them. I think in the US there is a little more emphasis placed on a school's ranking and perhaps more variability between schools.

    The cost of living in Edmonton was lower than in the greater Toronto area and BC as of several years back. The housing boom a few years ago increased the cost of living in the area significantly though, so I don't know what it is exactly today. There's no provicial sales tax in Alberta.
  6. Feb 21, 2010 #5
    It's great to hear that I couldn't really go wrong with any of the choices. I guess what you're saying then is to choose based upon my personal preference for the city/finances/etc. and not the rankings?

    But does any of those stand out in the letting-undergraduates-do-research department? I've checked out the websites, but can't really gather a lot of insight from there and sometimes it's the quality and the esthetics of the web design that can fool you into thinking a certain department is better than the other.

    Oh, and is there a big difference between doing an Honours programme vs. a normal major? UBC namely told me that as a rule I could only do the latter (since it's my second degree), but that I may stand a chance (if I do well in my first year or if the GPA attained for my first degree can persuade them) to be allowed to do the Honours programme, nonetheless. So that is a bit of a deterrent as I want to really go for it this time and not settle for second best, at least not in the quality of the programme that I choose department. On the other hand, I am most attracted to living in British Columbia as far as provinces in Canada are concerned.

    edit: Anyone with personal experience of listed universities - good or bad - perhaps?
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2010
  7. Jun 5, 2010 #6
    Hey, I'm bringing this topic back up, since I finally got the answers I needed from all universities I applied to, and I need to make a decision in a couple of weeks latest.

    Basically, it now boils down to the choice between UBC or University of Toronto vs. University of Alberta. The first two seem to have a step on UofA in terms of rankings and prestige, but I'm unsure of whether there's actually a difference in quality itself. UofA, however, still seems to be up there with the best in Canada, right after the big three, and I guess at least on par with Waterloo and McMaster. In my case, it does have one clear advantage over UBC and UofT and that's the cost of attending it. I have namely been offered a scholarship, and coupled with the fact that I was granted some transfer credit (I wouldn't have to do Arts courses, which is top notch in my book) and tuition fees already being lower, it would cost me ~CDN$ 30 -40k less than the other two (it depends really, as due to me being granted transfer credit I'm not yet sure whether my first scholarship offer will hold up in its entirety).

    Now, my question goes not only to Canadians, but other posters, as well. Making ends meet for UBC and UofT would be a stretch, as I would need to take out loans (if the euro holds up, perhaps only from my parents, who would be giving me ample "free" support as it is), whereas with UofA I'd probably make it without them, that is if I get some extra income through part-time work and summer paid jobs.

    The question: Is UBC and UofT's reputation when applying to grad schools (outside of Canada, as well) and quality of Physics programmes that much greater than UofA's to warrant spending an extra ~CDN$ 30-40k on them? Though I'd much rather spend four years in Toronto or Vancouver, that alone doesn't yet justify such a difference, but noticeably bigger chances of getting accepted into a good grad school and better quality of programme could. I realize it's been said here often it doesn't matter much where you do undergrad, but I can't help thinking someone with equal credentials from a more reputed university would fare better with grad school applications. My question is, how much better?
  8. Jun 5, 2010 #7


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    It'd debatable whether the other schools have a better reputation at all.

    With less financial pressure you will have more time to devote to your studies as there will be less need to get a job, or at least you would have to work less hours. That should translate directly into the probability for a higher GPA or more opportunity for undergraduate research. GPA and research experience are far more important than school reputation (at least among the schools you've listed).
  9. Jun 5, 2010 #8

    I would second what Choppy said.

    Rankings don't always reflect how good a uni is (assuming there are like 12 000 universities and colleges world wide, if your uni is within the top 500 there it is certainly good).

    As for graduate schools, the more important factor is your GPA and your bachelor research/thesis (and of course, the recommendation letters).

    Working is distracting for studies, proper study needs time.

    How I picked where to study was based on the syllabus contents & the faculty members (e.g. research, qualifications etc...).

    Good luck.
  10. Jun 6, 2010 #9
    Hi, I'm going to go to UofT next year as a freshman, granted I'm only 18 but I may have something to add. Although UofT is very well known research university in Canada and may have the best education in physics UofA is by no means inferior. I mean that $30-40k is too much money to spend especially considering that UofA, UofT, and UBC are all on the same par. UofT may have a little more "prestige" but for someone like you I don't think that its worth it.

    I choose UofT for its research opportunities and its strength in both math and physics. Also I live in BC so I wanted to see the east coast as well. IMO though I would prefer UofA or UofT to UBC.

    Hope that helps :D
  11. Jun 6, 2010 #10
    I hear UofT is fame for GPA killing.
  12. Jun 6, 2010 #11
    U of T is, by far, one of the best research schools in North America. This isnt to take away from the other schools, but if its research you want then UT is the place to go.

    Good luck! Maybe ill be seeing you next September.
  13. Jun 6, 2010 #12
    Visigoth, are you going to be a freshman at UofT as well? If you are, which college?
  14. Jun 7, 2010 #13
    I'll be at the St. George college. I'm majoring in Engineering Science, however I may end up switching into Physics/Physics + Math depending on my tolerance level for engineering.

    And you?
  15. Jun 7, 2010 #14
    I was long undecided between EngSci and math/physics. I decided to take the math/physics route and hopefully graduate from the math and physics double specialist. I'm at St. George, new college. Are you going to stay in res?
  16. Jun 7, 2010 #15
    Interesting, so we're in a similar boat. Perhaps you'll be hearing from me the next few months to see how things are going and offer some insight into my predicament!

    Indeed I am, at Innis... just down the road from you. :)
  17. Jun 7, 2010 #16
    Ok, nice to know, perhaps we'll encounter each other during our studies
  18. Jun 7, 2010 #17
    I'm also at Innis :)
    Though I'm going into my third year

    That's BS.
  19. Jun 7, 2010 #18
    that's nice to hear, oh heresy so how has 2 years at UofT physics been, are you happy that you are at UofT, and may I ask what are you considering to do after you graduate (i.e grad school).
  20. Jun 7, 2010 #19

    In addition to iratern's query, which major are you in?
  21. Jun 7, 2010 #20
    I believe he's in the physics specialist program.
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