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Brady Yoon
2005-Jul-19, 01:08 AM
Hey, I was wondering if any of you knew links to websites which ranked universites by individual majors instead of overall. Emphasis on the sciences would be the best. All I'm finding is the overall...

Thanks.

Donnie B.
2005-Jul-19, 01:19 AM
Brady,

Unfortunately, I don't know of such a list. However...

I think most of the differentation between (accredited, non-religious) colleges appears at the graduate school level.

Of course, some schools do place more emphasis in some areas. I know of one college that (as of 1973) granted no ** degrees; you could get a BA in Physics, but I doubt it would carry as much weight as a Physics degree from MIT or CalTech.

Do you have a "short list" of schools in mind? There could well be people here that know their reputations and can help you out.

Eta C
2005-Jul-19, 12:48 PM
Donnie is correct, most of the departmental rankings have to do with the graduate program's quality and may or may not have much to do with the undergrad degree. You might hear some say there's an inverse relationship, that is, a school that concentrates on its graduate students treats its undergrads as an afterthought. I personally don't believe that myself.

One of the main things to look for in an undergrad program, especially if you have grad school in mind, is the opportunity to work with a research team as an undergrad. This can be easier at a school with a grad program, although it's possible anywhere.

Running roughly from west to east, here are a few of the highly regarded physics departments (again based primarily on their graduate program. Apologies to anyone I inadvertantly left out. No snub intended.)

Washington
UC Berkeley
Stanford
UC Santa Cruz
Cal Tech
UC Santa Barbara
Arizona
Texas
U. Chicago
Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Michigan
Cornell
MIT
Harvard
Princeton

ngc3314
2005-Jul-19, 01:39 PM
There is a site which lets you construct your own rankings in various disciplines, by specifying what weights to give to assorted factors: http://www.phds.org/rankings/getWeights.php?. As some of the other posters have noted, many of these factors are most important at the graduate level - it has been my experience that there are many "liberal-arts" colleges which can provide physics background as solid as any. (And you don't seem to be too far from Harvey Mudd, which is a first-rate science and engineering college).

Being in California, you may find great tuition advantages in the UC system. Berkeley, UCLA, UCSC, and UCSD are all particularly strong in physical sciences. (As a graduate alumnus of UCSC, I hasten to add that some of these campuses have very distinct personalities which fit some people very well and others not at all...)

Gillianren
2005-Jul-19, 05:39 PM
I seem to recall Irvine (I can never remember if it's a UC or a Cal State) has a pretty good science department. anyway, I had a friend in high school who had to choose between a full ride there and a pretty good scholarship to CalTech, and chose the former. (for, I think, fairly obvious reasons!)

Donnie B.
2005-Jul-19, 05:48 PM
I seem to recall Irvine (I can never remember if it's a UC or a Cal State) has a pretty good science department. anyway, I had a friend in high school who had to choose between a full ride there and a pretty good scholarship to CalTech, and chose the former. (for, I think, fairly obvious reasons!)
The choice is only obvious if you know the financial situation of the person in question. Of course, since you state that the choice was obvious -- now we know! :wink:

pumpkinpie
2005-Jul-19, 06:49 PM
I know of one college that (as of 1973) granted no ** degrees; you could get a BA in Physics, but I doubt it would carry as much weight as a Physics degree from MIT or CalTech.


I received a BA in Physics in 1998. I agree, I doubt it would carry as much weight as a degree from MIT or CalTech. But that has nothing to do with it being a BA from a Liberal Arts school. I doubt that a ** in Physics from University of (insert your city/state here) would carry as much weight as a Physics degree from MIT or CalTech, or any of the other elites.

farmerjumperdon
2005-Jul-19, 07:00 PM
I think for some people the school attended is more important than the degree obtained. To some degree (sorry), I agree. There is a huge range out there when it comes to quality of education. I went to St. Cloud State in MN. It's one of those middle-of-the-road schools where a student really needs to pursue excellence. In other words, if you wanted to slide by, you easily could.

I think that is the big slam on the average school, people know you can get through without accomplishing much, if you want to. Whereas, at least the perception is, that it would be difficult to fake your way to an MIT degree.

Taks
2005-Jul-19, 07:20 PM
a few major points to consider...

1. how hard is it to get an A? the "bell curve" grading (typical almost anywhere) implies that a community college will have an easy A by default since anybody can get in. however, schools that have extremely tough admission criteria will likely have tougher As, which implies a better education. however, remember that the better education is actually driven by the amount of effort you have to put into learning in order to get a better grade. this does not necessarily mean you'll get better teachers.

2. what diversity of classes does the school offer in your area of interest? if you're going after a degree area and you have to take ALL of the classes they offer, with no room for adjustment, you might not get what you want. the best education in the world is meaningless if they don't offer classes you find challenging, or directly related to what you want to learn.

3. who teaches the majority of classes you'll be taking? this is related to both 1 and 2 above. a good teacher will challenge you appropriately, without resorting to flunking everyone. some profs are really good at research, which brings the university fame and recognition, but they can't teach at all. do some research to find out ahead of time. also, if there are a good variety of classes in your chosen area (specialization within a degree), that tends to imply teachers within your chosen area. if you're learning communication theory from a semiconductor expert, you won't learn as much (most likely).

taks

jnik
2005-Jul-19, 07:41 PM
MIT
Harvard
Honestly I'd avoid MIT and especially Harvard for an undergrad degree. Save it for graduate work :)

(It's an important thing to keep in mind: much of the reputation of a school is based on the graduate program, since that's where they start turning out papers, etc. Undergrads may be heavily involved in the famous research, or they may be more-or-less ignored. Find a school where you'll get a real education, do real work, and can actually talk to a prof when you need to.)

Normandy6644
2005-Jul-19, 07:59 PM
MIT
Harvard
Honestly I'd avoid MIT and especially Harvard for an undergrad degree. Save it for graduate work :)

(It's an important thing to keep in mind: much of the reputation of a school is based on the graduate program, since that's where they start turning out papers, etc. Undergrads may be heavily involved in the famous research, or they may be more-or-less ignored. Find a school where you'll get a real education, do real work, and can actually talk to a prof when you need to.)

The thing is, getting undergrad degrees from those kinds of schools will expose you to their graduate program as well and consequently you learn a lot about the field. True you will get exposure at most schools, but ones with well-known grad programs can't hurt. :D

Eta C
2005-Jul-19, 09:53 PM
MIT
Harvard
Honestly I'd avoid MIT and especially Harvard for an undergrad degree. Save it for graduate work :)

(It's an important thing to keep in mind: much of the reputation of a school is based on the graduate program, since that's where they start turning out papers, etc. Undergrads may be heavily involved in the famous research, or they may be more-or-less ignored. Find a school where you'll get a real education, do real work, and can actually talk to a prof when you need to.)

To some extent I agree. Remember that the "rankings" I gave were based on the graduate program. Myself, I'd have reservations about places like CalTech and Chicago where the graduate students outnumber the undergrads. There are some "real life" benefits to attending Enormous State University, especially if it has good academics.

Also, I think you'll find that even at large schools, the faculty are receptive to meeting and supporting the undergrad physics students, especially once you reach the upper division courses. This was my experience as an undergrad physics major at Illinois. From what I've seen since (I'm on an advisory panel to the department) there is a strong commitment to the undergrad majors. I imagine the same could be said elsewhere.

The main thing, Brady, is that you should check out the environment at the schools you consider. Read the departmental web sites. Arrange for a visit to the department itself or see if they have a visit day for prospective physics (or astronomy if that's the major you're considering) undergrads. I know Illinois has such a day. Certainly don't select a school by reputation alone.

farmerjumperdon
2005-Jul-20, 01:43 PM
So while participating in this thread I say to myself, OK - what would a prospective student see if they went poking around the website of my alma mater (SCSU) and were interested in the world of Geography (assuming they were interested in one of the traditional disciplines like planning, transportation, climatology, meteorology, natural resources, cartography etc.).

It appears from the course and degree offerings that they have transformed into a training school for travel agents. As Bill the Cat would say AAAAAACCCKKKKKKK!

Ithildin
2005-Jul-20, 03:07 PM
I seem to recall Irvine (I can never remember if it's a UC or a Cal State) has a pretty good science department. anyway, I had a friend in high school who had to choose between a full ride there and a pretty good scholarship to CalTech, and chose the former. (for, I think, fairly obvious reasons!)

wow! thats a great compliment for most any school... I know some people at UCI and will have to tell them :D
the formal name is University of California, Irvine. the astrophysics program especially is rapidly increasing in size and quality; they have a new cosmology center as well

Gillianren
2005-Jul-20, 06:48 PM
thanks for the info--I feel stupid not being able to remember that. (unlikely, I know, but if any of your friends know a Carlos Valadez, tell him Edith said hi.)