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Schools Will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d program?

  1. Aug 4, 2010 #1
    I am currently a physics major at a mediocre local university(Coastal Carlina University) and I intend to get a Ph.d in physics.

    Would it be better for me to stay here, and concentrate on a high GPA in the most advanced classes possible, or to transfer to a better university for my advanced major classes.

    I want to get in to a really good grad school, and I don't want to find myself rejected from good programs because I went to a sub par school for my bachelors.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 4, 2010 #2
    Re: will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d progr

    Hey if you transfer to a good university and get good rec from the profs there, who knows! lol
     
  4. Aug 5, 2010 #3
    Re: will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d progr

    Why do you think your school is mediocre?
     
  5. Aug 5, 2010 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d progr

    Yes, going to a better university will help you. But a better university is not necessarily a higher-ranked one -it's the one where you will learn the most. You have to figure out if you are there or not.
     
  6. Aug 5, 2010 #5
    Re: will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d progr

    Maybe I should have phrased that a little better. The issue is not so much with the school in general, I do like my school. I'm just worried that a physics program at a school which is most dedicated to its "hospitality and tourism" and golf programs will not be top notch.

    This worry has been in the back of my mind for some time, and was made worse by a conversation that a friend had with his physics professor. He basically said that the program here is not that great, and if you want to move on to a Ph.d program and beyond, it would be best to go somewhere else. (paraphrasing, but this was the topic of a lengthy conversation)

    My learning is not really what I am worried about. I am a fairly intelligent person, and I take 100% responsibility for my own understanding of material. Ever since I was a child, I have tried to go by these words from Mark Twain: "I never let my schooling interfere with my education", and I will continue to do so.

    My main concern is that when I apply to (really good) graduate schools, the board that is reviewing my information will see that I went to a school who's physics program is geared towards environmental studies, and think less of my degree (in general physics)

    Is that something that is likely to happen, and so should I transfer to a school that concentrates more on the sciences; or, should I stick it out, keep a high GPA, and score high on the GRE then hope for the best?
     
  7. Aug 5, 2010 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d progr

    I'll say it again - go to where you learn the most. That will help you more than trying to figure out how to make your record look good.
     
  8. Aug 5, 2010 #7
    Re: will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d progr

    Isn't it more important to do your masters or graduation in a school that is strong in the field you're interested in? Here in Belgium most people stay in the same field as their thesis.
     
  9. Aug 5, 2010 #8

    jtbell

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    Re: will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d progr

    SFHatter, are you starting your sophomore, junior or senior year this fall? What physics courses have you already taken?

    And by "really good" grad schools, do you mean places like MIT / Caltech / Harvard / Chicago, or upper-level state schools like Berkeley / Michigan / whatever?

    From looking at their web site, Coastal has the basic core physics courses that really matter: classical mechanics, intermediate modern, quantum, E&M, thermo / stat mech. On-campus research opportunities do seem to be limited. This isn't necessarily a deal-breaker so long as you can find something to do; for most students, undergraduate research is more about learning the research process than it is about making a "real discovery." Many larger schools have summer undergraduate research programs that are specifically targeted towards students from other schools. Gets you away from those hot muggy South Carolina summers!

    One real advantage of a small school (other things aside) is that the professors really get to know you and can write recommendations that reflect that. Profs at small schools talk about each others' students a lot (believe me, I know! :wink:), so they'll all have some idea of a "departmental consensus" about you.

    One thing that I would take as a sign that you might want to consider moving to another school, is if you think the courses are going too slow for you, because the other students are holding you back, or whatever. That's a sign that you would probably learn more somewhere else, tying in with what V50 has already said. This doesn't apply to the introductory courses (Essential Physics I-II in your case), but if you're finding the intermediate and upper-level courses to be too "easy", then...
     
  10. Aug 5, 2010 #9
    Re: will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d progr

    Ill be beginning my sophomore year in the fall, and I will be starting my basic physics classes then.

    I know it's odd to be considering how grad schools will be looking at me so early, but I have been spending most of my free time for the better part of three years learning the basic physics material thoroughly, and the more advanced stuff generally. I have no doubts that I will do well in all of my classes, especially those in physics.

    I have been looking at undergrad research opportunities at universities and the DOE, but I honestly know little about them, or whether or not I would have much of a chance of getting into any of them.

    When I start applying to grad schools, I will trying for the best schools that I think I have any chance of getting into. My freshman GPA was a 3.85(one semester and a large load of summer classes), and I'm about to finish two more summer classes(Calc I and religion) with an A+ in both. School is my only focus, and physics is my main personal interest. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I intend to graduate with an exceptional GPA and preform extremely well on the GRE(I have a very good memory, so I always do very well on test)

    I do like the idea of being able to build a better rapport with my professors, and if I can get into undergrad research programs, that is definitely something that I will pursue. Mainly, my concern is that I will apply to grad schools, they will look at my transcript, and say "Coastal Carolina? isn't that that party school in Myrtle Beach?" and view me in that light.
     
  11. Aug 5, 2010 #10

    eri

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    Re: will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d progr

    I suggest you go talk to Prof. Rubbo about your concerns. I know there's some good research going on in the physics dept at your school, but you're right that your options are limited. You might be better off transferring to the College of Charleston or Clemson, both of which offer more physics classes and research opportunities. I think when you are applying to grad school they're more likely to say 'where's that' unless it's a grad school in-state.
     
  12. Aug 5, 2010 #11

    jtbell

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    Re: will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d progr

    So you haven't even started with your physics courses at Coastal yet? That makes it easier to consider transferring, because you'd be starting from scratch whether you stay there or go somewhere else. The thing I would be worried about is finishing a physics degree in three years. It can be done, but there are these things called "prerequisites" which can make it difficult to schedule courses tightly. Pretty much the only thing you'll be able to take next year is Essentials of Physics I-II or its equivalent elsewhere. Also, you'll have less time to fit research in, if you do it on campus during the year.

    With good grades and recommendations, you should be able to get into a summer research program somewhere.

    I wouldn't worry about that. If a grad school doesn't have experience with graduates of a particular undergraduate school, they might not place as much weight on GPA because they don't have a feel for how light/heavy grading tends to be there. That still leaves the GRE scores and recommendations, and at a small school you're more likely to get strongly personalized recommendations.

    If you stay at Coastal, don't limit yourself to the courses that are offered there. It sounds like you're used to studying things independently. Do an Independent Study course or two, on something that interests you, especially if it's something that a faculty member knows something about and can evaluate you seriously in. That will surely look good to most any grad school.
     
  13. Aug 5, 2010 #12
    Re: will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d progr

    Thanks for all of the feedback, I'm going to go talk to some professors in the physics dept. about my options tomorrow.
     
  14. Aug 5, 2010 #13
    Re: will transfering to a better university help me get in to good physics Ph.d progr

    I'd seriously consider transferring if you do too well on tests and your GPA is too high. You can't learn physics based on a curriculum that focuses on memorization, and if it turns out that your curriculum is based on memorization, you really should switch.

    You might be surprised. One of the top researchers in my field happens to be a professor at a school that is very similar to Coastal Carolina.
     
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