Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

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Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:16 am

My son is a strong candidate for the “dream/unpredictable/reach” schools (MIT, CalTech, Princeton, Yale, etc.). He has the grades, SAT scores, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, etc. that qualify him to attend (and thrive at) any of those schools. FWIW, that means that he has the dollar to buy a lottery ticket, and there’s a good chance that he won’t get in to any of them. So, we need some “match” schools and some “safety” schools to apply to. He is interested in Physics and Math (and to a lesser extent, economics and history); he is not especially interested in Engineering.

For our purposes, a safety school is one that is 90% likely to accept. A match school is one that is 50% likely to accept.

My son is pretty far along in Physics and Math, so either advanced undergraduate courses (or graduate courses) are necessary wherever he goes. By the time he graduates high school he will have finished the “normal” first two college years of those subjects, which makes many Liberal Arts schools a non-match.

We are willing and able to fund his education. In keeping with the Boglehead philosophy, we are interested in the most bang for the buck. By this, I don’t mean highest income after graduation, or the most financial aid, but the most learning per unit of time; he wants to learn a lot during the 4 years at college.

A REQUEST: Let’s please not divert this thread into a discussion of whether my precious snowflake is spoiled, whether I’m depriving him of a chance to learn the value of a dollar, whether elite schools are a waste of money, whether he should fund his own education by flipping burgers and selling his blood, etc. Please, those are topics for another thread. Let’s just stipulate: we can afford it and we have raised his awareness of the value of a dollar in other ways.

We’re located in New Jersey. We’d prefer that he be going to school somewhere in the Eastern half of the country, but we’re open to other locations also.

Everything else being equal, he’d prefer not to have to take a foreign language in college. He put in his 3 years of French in high school; he has no desire for any more. More generally, a school with a more student-directed curriculum is preferable to one with many required courses.

So, any ideas?
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby papiper » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:26 am

For dream schools Physics/Math - drop Yale and add Stanford. Why not Princeton? world renowned for Physics/Math and close to you.

For schools that are backup, look for great reputation and strong research in those majors, but a little easier to get into
Penn State
NYU
Carnegie Melon
Cornell
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby 325e » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:28 am

This is not east coast, but there are a lot of midwest state schools that are a short flight. Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern. If he is a whiz, a big school will offer a lot of resources and the top % at a decent big school are as intelligent as any school. Charlie Munger was a math major at Michigan and he turned out all right.

Agree with Carnegie Melon.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby livesoft » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:32 am

Not HYPMS, in no particular order:
Rice
Carnegie Mellon
Duke
Washington U
U Michigan
U Texas
UCBerkeley
Cornell
Northwestern
et al.

I really vote for getting away from parents and the Eastern half of the country.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby damjam » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:32 am

In the ~50% acceptance category have you considered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute?
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby KyleAAA » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:33 am

Of the Ivies, Cornell is really the only one worth considering for Physics.Yale, etc do not have great physics programs despite their reputation. Illinois, Berkeley, and Stanford would all be great schools. Any of the flagship engineering schools would be good, too, as they tend to have pretty good physics programs as a consequence of their engineering focus: Michigan, Georgia Tech,Texas, etc.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:45 am

papiper wrote:For dream schools Physics/Math - drop Yale and add Stanford. Why not Princeton? world renowned for Physics/Math and close to you.

My list was not intended to be exhaustive (indicative more than anything else), but Princeton is included (although we did find it a bit stodgy when we visited). Stanford will be on the list if we don't hit the jackpot during Early Action.

For schools that are backup, look for great reputation and strong research in those majors, but a little easier to get into
Penn State
NYU
Carnegie Melon
Cornell

Agree with Penn State and Carnegie Mellon. I was under the impression that Cornell is first and foremost a world-class engineering school, but not as good at the "pure" sciences. Have I sold it short?

Good matches.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby Bogle101 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:50 am

Upenn baby ! If your son is truly gifted and not just the usual "my son is so smart" that every parent thinks, encourage him to apply for the M&T program. Dual degree at Wharton and the Engineering school, which has many physics and math options. I found alot of my friends who enjoyed those subjects wished later they had taken some Wharton classes as well (me included).
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:53 am

livesoft wrote:Not HYPMS, in no particular order:
Rice
Carnegie Mellon
Duke
Washington U
U Michigan
U Texas
UCBerkeley
Cornell
Northwestern
et al.

I really vote for getting away from parents and the Eastern half of the country.


Other than Columbia (where he has spent some time already, and thus has been spotted one or two of the 6 required lottery numbers), we would not like a school that is close enough for him to bring his laundry home. Boston worked well with my older daughter; she could come home for Thanksgiving easily enough but developed an entirely independent life there.

Is there a reason other than allowing him to have personal "space" that you vote against the Eastern half of the country?
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:55 am

damjam wrote:In the ~50% acceptance category have you considered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute?


BIL went to RPI, but he is an engineer (not that there's anything wrong with that :D ).
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby jsl11 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:56 am

Case Western Reserve in Cleveland and Carnegie Melon in Pittsburgh are two first rate options.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby bsteiner » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:00 am

[quote="TomatoTomahto"I was under the impression that Cornell is first and foremost a world-class engineering school, but not as good at the "pure" sciences. Have I sold it short?[/quote]

Hans Bethe was at Cornell: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Bethe.

However, Cornell has a tougher language requirement than many of its peers. He'll probably need to take a semester of French to satisfy it.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby papiper » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:01 am

Disclosure - I am an engineer - and in my job I hire many of them. All of the schools mentioned so far have good to great programs in Math and Physics. The people I see at the top of the class that graduate from those programs are excellent. Now the little talked about story:

10 identical exceptional kids interested in Math/Physics/Chemistry/Engineering (not pre-med - different story)

They go to a high end science and/or engineering school like Carnegie Mellon, MIT, John Hopkins or Cornell
- about 6 will graduate with a degree in one of those fields. While the course work is hard, everyone is doing it, so they don't even realize it.

Same kids go instead to multi-university campus - Penn State, Princeton, Michigan, Harvard, NYU, etc
- about 1 will graduate with a science/engineering degree. The peer pressure is immense to switch to majors that don't require the study/time/dedication to majors like business. Their roommates and girl/boy friends will always be tempting them to go enjoy their time (which they have lots of in easier majors). They will also be branded as "nerdy" and uncool.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby jsl11 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:04 am

TomatoTomahto wrote:
damjam wrote:In the ~50% acceptance category have you considered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute?


BIL went to RPI, but he is an engineer (not that there's anything wrong with that :D ).


I was a "Physics/Math" guy when I was in school. I spent most of my career as an engineer. There are many more job opportunities for engineers than for physics/math people. Physics and math are a major portion of many engineering disciplines. I would suggest that he is too young to rule out engineering at this time. Keep in mind that engineering covers a wide range of areas that are quite different from one another. In addition, within each type of engineering, there can be a wide range of application areas. In short, there is something for everyone within the field. It may not be what your son ends up doing. However, he should not rule it out without careful consideration.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby linuxizer » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:06 am

Madison (WI) has a great physics program IIRC.

Agree with CMU as a great option. Rice also, and it has a great undergrad experience, but maybe too much liberal arts* for your kid's taste.

* Personally, I'm a big fan of a liberal arts education, by which I mean everyone should be able to write eloquently, have solid logic and math skills, understand statistical reasoning, and be able to parse disingenuous arguments.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby Ged » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:09 am

Top physics graduate programs are not necessarily the top undergraduate programs.

This is a list of the undergrad physics programs that produce the highest percentages of PhDs.

1 California Institute of Technology 96
2 Harvey Mudd College 64
3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 29
4 New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology 20
5 Reed College 13
6 Carleton College 13
7 Princeton University 13
8 University of Chicago 13
9 Rice University 13
10 Case Western Reserve University 9
11 Harvard University 9
12 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 9
13 Swarthmore College 9
14 Haverford College 8
15 Stevens Institute of Technology 8
16 Whitman College 8
17 Grinnell College 7
18 Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 7
19 Colorado School of Mines 7
20 Yale University 6

From the Gourman Report the top undergrad programs are:

Caltech
Harvard
Cornell
Princeton
MIT
UC Berkeley
Stanford
U Chicago
U Illinois Urbana Champaign
Columbia
Yale
Georgia Tech
UC San Diego
UCLA
U Penn
U Wisconsin Madison
U Washington
U Michigan Ann Arbor
U Maryland College Park
UC Santa Barbara
U Texas Austin
Carnegie Mellon
U Minnesota
RPI
Brown
Johns Hopkins
Michigan State
Notre Dame
SUNY Stony Brook
Case Western
Northwestern
U Rochester
U Pittsburgh
Penn State University Park

As far as a career in physics, what really counts is the PhD program, and in particular the reputation of the advisor.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby Jeff7 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:17 am

papiper wrote:Disclosure - I am an engineer - and in my job I hire many of them. All of the schools mentioned so far have good to great programs in Math and Physics. The people I see at the top of the class that graduate from those programs are excellent. Now the little talked about story:

10 identical exceptional kids interested in Math/Physics/Chemistry/Engineering (not pre-med - different story)

They go to a high end science and/or engineering school like Carnegie Mellon, MIT, John Hopkins or Cornell
- about 6 will graduate with a degree in one of those fields. While the course work is hard, everyone is doing it, so they don't even realize it.

Same kids go instead to multi-university campus - Penn State, Princeton, Michigan, Harvard, NYU, etc
- about 1 will graduate with a science/engineering degree. The peer pressure is immense to switch to majors that don't require the study/time/dedication to majors like business. Their roommates and girl/boy friends will always be tempting them to go enjoy their time (which they have lots of in easier majors). They will also be branded as "nerdy" and uncool.
I guess it depends on the crowd you're with.

I was never a "partier" to begin with...it was in fact the main reason I moved off of campus after about 1.5-2 years there. Too much noise, and I didn't much care for drunk roommates "messing up" the floors through various means at their disposal. So that temptation to ditch schoolwork for that reason was never there.

But to give you an idea of the some of the people there: At one point, a bunch of us engineering students got together for our own kind of party. We had an old microwave that was slightly damaged, so we took it out into the quad and started microwaving various things.

The lighter was among the most interesting, at least once the proper fuel/air mixture was reached inside the chamber. :D

Nerdy? Uncool? I guess. Oh well. It comes with the territory.
(The eventual "boom" did get the attention of some people living in nearby apartments though...*cough*...or so I've heard.)


So I'm sure you can encounter that temptation and stress in any number of forms, whether it's to abandon your major for something simpler so you've got more time to socialize, or if it's to have potentially-dangerous fun with physics. :)
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:18 am

linuxizer wrote:Madison (WI) has a great physics program IIRC.

Agree with CMU as a great option. Rice also, and it has a great undergrad experience, but maybe too much liberal arts* for your kid's taste.

* Personally, I'm a big fan of a liberal arts education, by which I mean everyone should be able to write eloquently, have solid logic and math skills, understand statistical reasoning, and be able to parse disingenuous arguments.


He enjoys history (US History was one of his three SAT subject tests) and literature, and does quite well in those kinds of subjects (except for French and Ceramics :D ), so he's not immediately opposed on those grounds. It is just that, for the past year or two, Physics and Math have rocked his world and he's insatiable. I will look into Rice; to be honest, I don't know much about it.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby ieee488 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:19 am

Ged wrote:As far as a career in physics, what really counts is the PhD program, and in particular the reputation of the advisor.

+1 very true of the "pure sciences"
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:24 am

jsl11 wrote:
TomatoTomahto wrote:
damjam wrote:In the ~50% acceptance category have you considered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute?


BIL went to RPI, but he is an engineer (not that there's anything wrong with that :D ).


I was a "Physics/Math" guy when I was in school. I spent most of my career as an engineer. There are many more job opportunities for engineers than for physics/math people. Physics and math are a major portion of many engineering disciplines. I would suggest that he is too young to rule out engineering at this time. Keep in mind that engineering covers a wide range of areas that are quite different from one another. In addition, within each type of engineering, there can be a wide range of application areas. In short, there is something for everyone within the field. It may not be what your son ends up doing. However, he should not rule it out without careful consideration.
Jeff

I have no doubt that there's at least a 50% chance that he won't do math and physics for a career. He is interning in a research facility this summer, and has seen that it's not all breakthroughs and brainstorms. He's 17 years old, and right now engineering doesn't float his boat. If I were a betting man, I would put side wagers on economics and nuclear engineering.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby Kosmo » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:32 am

To preface, I'm an engineer. Most schools with a good engineering program will also have good math/science programs. Everything in engineering is built on those basics. [Aside: I had to take some math classes that math majors didn't even have to take!]

If your son really wants to be in the math/science department (which generally falls in the liberal arts category) he will have to take all sorts of "other" required courses. Along the lines of English, foreign languages, history, philosophy, etc. Does he like those? For engineers these requirements are waived or apply to a lesser degree (pun intended?). Semi-related topic: It's most likely easier to start in the engineering school and leave it rather than start as a science major and join engineering, if that ends up being more along his desired study path. He'd probably be at least a year behind.

Does he know what he wants to do with a math/science degree?

Geographically compensated list of suggestions below (also weeding out a lot of places already suggested):

RIT
WPI
Georgia Tech
Virginia Tech
Maryland
Boston University
U of Pitt
Clarkson
U of Chicago
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:34 am

bsteiner wrote:[quote="TomatoTomahto"I was under the impression that Cornell is first and foremost a world-class engineering school, but not as good at the "pure" sciences. Have I sold it short?


Hans Bethe was at Cornell: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Bethe.

However, Cornell has a tougher language requirement than many of its peers. He'll probably need to take a semester of French to satisfy it.[/quote]

Small world; I interviewed Bethe's ex daughter-in-law for a job once.

A semester of French he can deal with, although maybe he can place out of it (he took IB French, so there's a chance).
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby leo383 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:38 am

papiper wrote:Same kids go instead to multi-university campus - Penn State, Princeton, Michigan, Harvard, NYU, etc
- about 1 will graduate with a science/engineering degree. The peer pressure is immense to switch to majors that don't require the study/time/dedication to majors like business. Their roommates and girl/boy friends will always be tempting them to go enjoy their time (which they have lots of in easier majors). They will also be branded as "nerdy" and uncool.


I think this might hold true for the average undergraduate kid who goes to the school.

But, the OP has a kid who will likely get into the Honors program wherever he goes, and those kids are far more likely to hang in there.

I attended the Honors Program at Penn State, and I can't think of an honors classmate who came there as an engineering student who didn't finish either in engineering or one of the sciences.

Plus, in general,if a kid isn't cut out for engineering or science, maybe studying finance or (gasp) a liberal art isn't the worst thing in the world.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby sometimesinvestor » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:40 am

Consider the University of Rochester . Very good in physics and a strong program in economics if things change.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:42 am

Kosmo wrote:To preface, I'm an engineer. Most schools with a good engineering program will also have good math/science programs. Everything in engineering is built on those basics. [Aside: I had to take some math classes that math majors didn't even have to take!]

If your son really wants to be in the math/science department (which generally falls in the liberal arts category) he will have to take all sorts of "other" required courses. Along the lines of English, foreign languages, history, philosophy, etc. Does he like those? For engineers these requirements are waived or apply to a lesser degree (pun intended?). Semi-related topic: It's most likely easier to start in the engineering school and leave it rather than start as a science major and join engineering, if that ends up being more along his desired study path. He'd probably be at least a year behind.
He really enjoys learning almost anything, with the (already confessed to) dislike of foreign languages. It would also provide him the greatest number of opportunities to decide that direction B is his true love. If he decides to become an engineer, being a year behind won't kill him. I worry that going the engineering route early will hem him in more, while going science will let him find his own way.

Does he know what he wants to do with a math/science degree?

Honestly, no. We figure that whatever he comes to, it quite likely will require graduate school.

Geographically compensated list of suggestions below (also weeding out a lot of places already suggested):

RIT
WPI
Georgia Tech
Virginia Tech
Maryland
Boston University
U of Pitt
Clarkson
U of Chicago

It's a good list, but I'd put UChicago among the reach schools.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby Hayden » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:46 am

The top people in the field tend to be people who communicate well. Don't underestimate the value of a liberal arts education. You can find strong math/physics at liberal arts universities, and then go somewhere like MIT for Ph.D.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby Colorado13 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:49 am

APS website includes some useful information, such as the list of "Award for Improving Undergraduate Physics Education Awardees": http://www.aps.org/programs/education/u ... ardees.cfm

AMS website may be of use: http://www.ams.org/profession/student

If your son is interested in research, I highly recommend he consider institutions that offer opportunities for participation in Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU Programs) or other research/applied learning.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 9:53 am

Not by way of responding to any particular reply, but I wanted to thank all of you for the schools you have mentioned. Some of them were already under consideration, but there are others that I honestly hadn't thought of. Thanks.

Here's another question: Am I overly paranoid in thinking that schools will reject my son because of their yield management (thanks, US News and World Report)? A zillion years ago, the only graduate school that rejected me was my safety, and I think that as much as I tried not to let it happen, its status as a safety was obvious to them and they resented being thus regarded. I'm afraid that the admission officer will read the application, decide that "no way is this kid really interested in us, I don't care what he said on his 'why us?' essay, gotta keep our yield stats high: reject".
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby Ged » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:21 am

papiper wrote:
They go to a high end science and/or engineering school like Carnegie Mellon, MIT, John Hopkins or Cornell
- about 6 will graduate with a degree in one of those fields. While the course work is hard, everyone is doing it, so they don't even realize it.

Same kids go instead to multi-university campus - Penn State, Princeton, Michigan, Harvard, NYU, etc
- about 1 will graduate with a science/engineering degree. The peer pressure is immense to switch to majors that don't require the study/time/dedication to majors like business. Their roommates and girl/boy friends will always be tempting them to go enjoy their time (which they have lots of in easier majors). They will also be branded as "nerdy" and uncool.


There is a vast difference between Harvard, Princeton and Penn State in this regard. All the academic programs the top schools are challenging.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby dgm » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:25 am

The place that this probably matters (if they still even do this--its been a while since i went to college) is the alumni interview.

They'll be looking for personability and whether they really want to go to the school. I applied to a bunch of places and remember flubbing some interviews where I should've gotten in (based on where I ultimately got in) b/c I simply wasn't interested in the school.

So, using the lottery analogy, I think applying to alot of places is a good way to increase your chances but if passion for the school is a concern, I'd be particularly careful during the interviews and why I want to go to this school essay. Ultimately it doesn't matter if he gets in if he doesn't want to go to the school so I'd suggest picking schools he does want to go to, but a larger number than you might be considering now.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby swaption » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:37 am

TomatoTomahto wrote:
jsl11 wrote:
TomatoTomahto wrote:
damjam wrote:In the ~50% acceptance category have you considered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute?


BIL went to RPI, but he is an engineer (not that there's anything wrong with that :D ).


I was a "Physics/Math" guy when I was in school. I spent most of my career as an engineer. There are many more job opportunities for engineers than for physics/math people. Physics and math are a major portion of many engineering disciplines. I would suggest that he is too young to rule out engineering at this time. Keep in mind that engineering covers a wide range of areas that are quite different from one another. In addition, within each type of engineering, there can be a wide range of application areas. In short, there is something for everyone within the field. It may not be what your son ends up doing. However, he should not rule it out without careful consideration.
Jeff

I have no doubt that there's at least a 50% chance that he won't do math and physics for a career. He is interning in a research facility this summer, and has seen that it's not all breakthroughs and brainstorms. He's 17 years old, and right now engineering doesn't float his boat. If I were a betting man, I would put side wagers on economics and nuclear engineering.


This situation strikes very close to home. I was that math and science guy that hated foreign languages. Went the electrical engineering route at a school among your safety schools after not getting into Princeton, etc. I did well and had an internship at IBM. Realized that engineering wasn't right for me and spent my career in business. In hindsight, to some extent the foreign language tail wagged the dog. I really wish I had a more comprehensive liberal arts education. At Northwestern (where I attended), there was available to me a hybrid program in applied math and social sciences, which for some was economics. Many of those went on to consulting and phd programs. I should have just sucked it up and met the foreign language requirement. In hindsight, a really silly thing to even enter into the equation. The mistake is often being too strategic about all this. Just because I was good at electrical engineering, didn't make it the right answer. Sure everyone will tell you that it's a great "credential", but honestly it should be about more than that.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby livesoft » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:38 am

TomatoTomahto wrote:Is there a reason other than allowing him to have personal "space" that you vote against the Eastern half of the country?

Yes. The rest of the world is out there. It pays to get out of New York and especially New York City. I just spent a few days teaching at Columbia U. If one lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes NYC and its suburbs, then one has not been exposed to the real world.

That said, NYC is a wonderful place unlike any other place which I really enjoyed. If one lives in the midwest or west coast, then one needs to get to NYC, too.

However, if one lives outside of NYC, one will immediately see how the national media, the national culture, etc is really not national. What you see on TV, on the internet, on TV is a heavily tilted NY view. If one leaves NY, it's almost like going to live in a foreign country and culture.

(Full disclosure: I lived in Nassau County for several years, too.)
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby barnaclebob » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:41 am

Does he know in general what he wants to do with his life?

Does he want to be a mathematician or physicist or does he just like studying math and physics? ("just" is not negative in this question) If its the latter, you cant really beat engineering because nearly all of the courses are essentially physics and math. He may not be interested in engineering because high schools don't teach engineering for the most part so he may not have been been exposed to it except through shows on the discovery channel.

Do you know why he isn't interested in engineering?

Its great to be interested in match and physics in high school but if that's not what he wants a career in then why pursue it in college?
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby VictoriaF » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:42 am

I was thinking of Carnegie-Mellon even before I saw other responses.

Stanford is not a "safe" school but is worth adding to your son's list.
Some good state schools are U of California (Berkeley), U of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and U of Illinois (Urbana). Check if your son can establish residence in these states after the first year.

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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby gatorking » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:45 am

Another list: 50 Schools That Produce the Most Science and Engineering PhDs
http://www.thecollegesolution.com/50-sc ... ng-phds-2/
Image
and some reading: Science at Liberal Arts Colleges: A Better Education?
http://northcentralcollege.edu/Document ... rticle.pdf

Good luck to you and your son.
Regards.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby snowman » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:47 am

It looks to me you have done your research and are looking for any potential "missing points". You are in great financial shape if you can and are willing to fund your son's education at any of these schools. Leaving finances aside, here are my thoughts.

The kid (and you) should have a rough idea what he wants to do in life after graduation. It will be somewhat aligned with what he enjoys doing today. Is he totally into math and physics (and other sciences), and does not like English very much because of writing requirements that he considers "stupid" and "meaningless"? Does he talk about building bases on Mars, or developing a car that will run on water? If that's the case, he will be happy in most of the mentioned engineering schools, and he will more than likely struggle (if he even got in) at the school like Princeton. If, on the other hand, he is a well rounded kid that enjoys sciences, languages, and writing, but does not have a clue what he wants to do when he grows up, a place like Princeton (if he is lucky to get in) will be perfect for him. He will be surrounded by like-minded smart kids, and will be able to choose/change his major much more easily than in engineering school. He will have many great options there.

Just saw your last comment. Yes, I think you are a little paranoid; you are a product of an environment you live in. Many parents in that part of the country are paranoid about it from the time their kid is born, and you are competing with them. If your kid is as smart and hard-working as you say he is, he will do fine in life no matter where he goes to school. I am sure you heard it countless times before, but it's very hard to accept because of where you live.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby SumOfDivs » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:53 am

I graduated from SUNY stony with a BS in comp sci, summa cum laude. I liked the school, and the campus. What I liked best about the school was the cheap tuition for instate. It was only 3k per year around the year 2000. I would recommend it for a NY state resident who did not make it to an ivy league school. It has a highly ranked physics program.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby rwcox123 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 10:53 am

I went to Caltech as an undergrad (major = Math). The education there is unparalleled -- for students who have a real thirst to learn, and work extremely hard in doing it. About 30% of my classmates discovered they didn't, and transferred to "loser" schools like Stanford and UCLA after 1-2 years. So I encourage your son to go there IF he fits the pattern I described -- I did, and I learned a tremendous amount of stuff in my 4 years there. And wish I'd worked harder and learned more.

As far as placing into Junior-level math and physics courses -- at Caltech, I saw a number of students from top schools (Punahou, Bronx High School of Science) try this -- and I only saw one who actually was able to complete a Junior level math course -- in Real Analysis. The level of sophistication at these higher levels is more than just mastery of the previous courses -- there are whole new ways of thinking required. Placing into Sophomore-level courses, though, often worked well.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby Watty » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:13 am

For engineers these requirements are waived or apply to a lesser degree (pun intended?).



:D

I was in Computer Science at a mostly engineering college and for the one required literature class I took "The Literature of Science Fiction" along with about 95% of my classmates.

It was actually a lot of work and went into depth on some of the history and political context of some science fiction, but it was a lot better than the alternatives.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:18 am

rwcox123 wrote:I went to Caltech as an undergrad (major = Math). The education there is unparalleled -- for students who have a real thirst to learn, and work extremely hard in doing it. About 30% of my classmates discovered they didn't, and transferred to "loser" schools like Stanford and UCLA after 1-2 years. So I encourage your son to go there IF he fits the pattern I described -- I did, and I learned a tremendous amount of stuff in my 4 years there. And wish I'd worked harder and learned more.

As far as placing into Junior-level math and physics courses -- at Caltech, I saw a number of students from top schools (Punahou, Bronx High School of Science) try this -- and I only saw one who actually was able to complete a Junior level math course -- in Real Analysis. The level of sophistication at these higher levels is more than just mastery of the previous courses -- there are whole new ways of thinking required. Placing into Sophomore-level courses, though, often worked well.

My comments about placing into Junior level math was intended to apply to the safety schools -- NOT Caltech. If my son's charmed existence were to include acceptance at Caltech, I have no doubt that he would be challenged (and then some). BTW, even at the safety schools there might be many opportunities for challenges; I just wanted to be sure that he didn't "top out" at Calc II.

He does fit the pattern you described. Admissions is an inexact art, and I have no doubt that my son is not in the 30% that don't fit the pattern but nonetheless get accepted. Let's hope it works out.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:30 am

snowman wrote:It looks to me you have done your research and are looking for any potential "missing points". You are in great financial shape if you can and are willing to fund your son's education at any of these schools. Leaving finances aside, here are my thoughts.

The kid (and you) should have a rough idea what he wants to do in life after graduation. It will be somewhat aligned with what he enjoys doing today. Is he totally into math and physics (and other sciences), and does not like English very much because of writing requirements that he considers "stupid" and "meaningless"? Does he talk about building bases on Mars, or developing a car that will run on water? If that's the case, he will be happy in most of the mentioned engineering schools, and he will more than likely struggle (if he even got in) at the school like Princeton. If, on the other hand, he is a well rounded kid that enjoys sciences, languages, and writing, but does not have a clue what he wants to do when he grows up, a place like Princeton (if he is lucky to get in) will be perfect for him. He will be surrounded by like-minded smart kids, and will be able to choose/change his major much more easily than in engineering school. He will have many great options there.

Just saw your last comment. Yes, I think you are a little paranoid; you are a product of an environment you live in. Many parents in that part of the country are paranoid about it from the time their kid is born, and you are competing with them. If your kid is as smart and hard-working as you say he is, he will do fine in life no matter where he goes to school. I am sure you heard it countless times before, but it's very hard to accept because of where you live.


When I attended college, my rough idea at the time I entered college of what I wanted to do in life was to be a research physicist. Then I majored in Experimental Psychology. Then I went to graduate school in Human Factors Engineering. Then I stumbled into a job in software development (back than, we called it programming on punch cards :D ). I never looked back, had a mostly good time, and made a fair amount of money. My education, other than the generalized portions of it, had little to do with my career.

My son is a well-lopsided kid. Great at Math, Physics, Writing; not so good at foreign languages and art. He loves English and History and does not consider them stupid or meaningless. He talks mostly about math insights that he's having or how the simulations of plasma physics have to include something better than static representations of plasma (or something like that, I lost him at "Dad, I was thinking...").

Regarding my paranoia, I hope that you're right. I have no problem realizing that my son will have a great life no matter what school he goes to. I just hope that he isn't kept out of a great school for the wrong reasons.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby VgSince1982 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:38 am

My precious snowflake (I like that phrase) attends Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

He applied there because of the academics, but also because there was no essay :happy . One visit cinched the decision to go there. Three years in, he still loves attending school there. He is an engineering major with a physics minor and a music minor. He has been very challenged by the coursework.

There are great programs (and grad schools) in engineering, business, medicine and physics. And for my kid, no language requirement.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:49 am

VgSince1982 wrote:My precious snowflake (I like that phrase) attends Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

He applied there because of the academics, but also because there was no essay :happy . One visit cinched the decision to go there. Three years in, he still loves attending school there. He is an engineering major with a physics minor and a music minor. He has been very challenged by the coursework.

There are great programs (and grad schools) in engineering, business, medicine and physics. And for my kid, no language requirement.


In the deluge of emails that schools have been sending me (I checked "okay to send me emails" in the College Board signup without thinking), there are a few that have been of interest. Most of them are "blah blah blah I knew that blah blah blah," but Case Western told us that they'd be happy to have us apply, and that we could do so for free (details to follow they said :twisted: ). I thought that it was more clever than sending us color brochures. Let me see: Early Action, Common Application (albeit with supplemental forms), free application. Why wouldn't he apply? For all of the schools trying to make themselves stand out, they succeeded.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby VgSince1982 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:03 pm

Agreed.

My kid was accepted with a scholarship offer in the acceptance letter, so we knew the overall costs up front. When we first visited Case (April of his senior year), it was to attend an "admitted student open house". The school had programs for parents separate from the students. He took advantage of an 'overnight' option where he stayed with a student. He got a good feel for the school that way. He has since hosted such prospective students.

I'll also note that the clouds break and the sun shines during these open houses. I can only imagine this is the work of the physics department. 8-)
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:08 pm

VgSince1982 wrote:I'll also note that the clouds break and the sun shines during these open houses. I can only imagine this is the work of the physics department. 8-)


They must be better than the Rutgers physics department :D We've had mostly miserable weather and this morning first I got a Flash Flood Warning and then a Tornada Warning! In New Jersey!
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby Rodc » Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:28 pm

FWIW: I am a math and physics guy (PhD, BS respectively) who did not like foreign languages and had no interest in engineering either.

I'm now 23 years into a research engineering career though some has been more towards science and some more towards applied math (the boundaries are kind of fuzzy).

No way at 17 does a kid know enough about what any of this entails to know what they like.

I can't really add to the list of schools. Lots of good material already. Just a vote to help him keep an open mind about what he might find interesting as a careers. A career in academic mathematics or physics is about as much a lottery as getting into MIT or Harvard. Not many jobs in pure math or physics otherwise. The rest of us have to find a way to actually be useful. :) And that just might mean engineering. :)
Last edited by Rodc on Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby VictoriaF » Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:34 pm

Rodc wrote:No way at 17 does a kid know enough about what any of this entails to know what they like.


Someone should be getting Nobel Prizes for the U.S. It may as well be the young Tomato.

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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby Rodc » Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:40 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
Rodc wrote:No way at 17 does a kid know enough about what any of this entails to know what they like.


Someone should be getting Nobel Prizes for the U.S. It may as well be the young Tomato.

Victoria


Someday, someone. Not sure what that has to do with this kid. Today he is trying to figure out what he wants to do it sounds like. He has no detailed knowledge of what the work world is like.

I knew a 12 year old taking graduate math classes at VA Tech. He perhaps proves I'm not 100% correct, but I'm close. Of course he did not really know what being a research mathematician was really like. The OP's son does not sound like this 12 year old. He sounds like your basic normally bright kid. I hire and work with these sorts of people. Great people, maybe more driven than most when 17, but they do not really know what lies ahead. How could they?
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby TomatoTomahto » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:37 pm

Rodc wrote:I knew a 12 year old taking graduate math classes at VA Tech. He perhaps proves I'm not 100% correct, but I'm close. Of course he did not really know what being a research mathematician was really like.

We have a family friend whose son was like that. Unfortunately, he was more of a sprinter than a marathon runner. Nice kid, but we're not booking flights to Oslo :D
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Re: Safety schools for a Physics/Math kid

Postby nimo956 » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:49 pm

I just want to stress that the top-ranked school may not necessarily be the best fit for your child as an individual. It really requires a level of honesty and introspection that he may not be willing to admit at this age. When I was his age I thought the world was my oyster, I am going to do whatever I'm interested in, and there's no one who can tell me to do differently. The truth though is that a lot of these schools like MIT are extremely cut-throat. There's a lot of pressure to keep up with and compete with other students who are probably at the genius level (like future Fields Medal/Nobel Prize/MacArthur Genius Award level). They load up on 7-8 honors level classes per semester, get straight A's in all of them, take courses simultaneously that are supposed to be sequentially, are Putman Fellows, etc. This could make your son feel like he needs to keep up. He'll overextend himself, do poorly, and then start to feel inferior/depressed. I've personally known people this has happened to at MIT. Let me tell you that a C GPA at MIT doesn't mean much compared to an A from a slightly lower ranked school when looking for a job or to go to graduate school. It could be beneficial to consider some of these lower ranked schools, or perhaps small liberal arts colleges where there is more individual attention. I'm not saying that this will definitely happen to your son, but I feel it's an important point to consider.
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