So right now I'm trying to decide between Caltech (applied physics), Columbia, and UIUC. I'm interested in the nano research they have a Caltech, and I'm also interested in condensed matter research. The reason why this is such a hard decision is I don't know whether I would ultimately want to do theory (like pen and paper theory). At caltech's applied physics program, this would be impossible. At columbia, only one theory professor in condensed matter is taking students. I guess UIUC would be the best choice since it has the most options but I visited and I just really didn't like the place (although students and faculty were really nice). The other problem is that my background is in applied physics and I haven't really taken very many graduate level math/physics courses, so I don't even know if I'd really be qualified for a theory position.
Right now I'm leaning towards Caltech because they have such a great department and the projects available do sound interesting. I'm just worried that if I decide I hate doing experiments and would much rather do theory that it would be impossible, or waste a lot of time reapplying/transferring.
thanks for getting through a long post. any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!