Alabama or Leipzig?

Etranger
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:38 am

Alabama or Leipzig?

Postby Etranger » Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:20 am

Hi,

I recently made a thread about liberal arts colleges. I didn't do too well on my SATs (it's an okay score, but I don't think it's good enough), and odds are I won't get into any of the ones I'm applying to with financial aid. Well, there is a chance that I do get in, so I'm still gonna apply. But I'm not counting on it. So, I gotta explore some other options.

One is Leipzig, another is Alabama. Leipzig doesn't have any tuition fees, and my living expenses will probably range between 6k and 7k USD (used Google to convert from euros) per year.

The living expenses in Leipzig are significantly lower than in Alabama. I don't go "clubbing", and I probably won't be spending on anything at all except for food, rent, and the occasional book or beer. At most, I will be spending ~7k USD (most I can afford) per year. Probably much less. (I have a friend there who spends ~5k USD)

In Alabama, this number would be much higher. That is also assuming I get a full tuition scholarship. They require my grades to be evaluated by an external agency, but assuming that it's a 3.5 GPA, with my *current* scores, I only qualify for 2/3 of tuition. So, I will have to spend ~12k on living expenses + another ~7k on 1/3 of tuition. (but I plan on retaking, so let's assume I'm not paying tuition; best-case scenario)

I'm not very rich (haha), so I will have to take out some loans if I want to attend Alabama. That's in addition of working at minimum wage for 20 hours per week. (assuming I can get a job)

I've lurked on here long enough to know people who haven't done their undergrad degrees in the US have a much harder time getting into PhD programs.

Would I be in a better position, as far as grad school goes, if I were to attend 'Bama (Huntsville or Tuscaloosa) instead of Leipzig? If yes, are the advantages gained so much that they are worth my taking up some debt, working more than I would need to in Leipzig, and thus leaving me with much less personal time (and possibly lower grades too!)? Actually, if I go to Leipzig, I may even not need to work during school. Just the summer. If I get insanely lucky, I could get a paid research internship, but that's just wishful thinking. Failing that, I guess I could offer to clean the lab and make a few bucks off of that.

Since I'm not American, I can't apply for REUs either! So, I'm not sure where I could get research experience, outside of 'Bama. One thing that a certain liberal arts college does, is that they send their international students (physics) to do research in...wait for it...GERMANY! But I don't know where, and I've never heard of any kind of formal undergraduate research internships over there.

A PhD is brutal enough as it is. Do I want to make myself miserable for 3-4 additional years? I guess it would be good training...

Don't get me wrong, I'm quite confident that I will enjoy getting my butt kicked and my head banged against walls by our beloved physics. It's challenging, and I like that. But I would indeed need some down-time. Otherwise I will break.

I'll turn 20 next year, and the Leipzig degree is 3 years long, so maybe that's another pro for going there.

You guys know better. Let me know what you think.

Thanks.

blighter
Posts: 256
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:30 pm

Re: Alabama or Leipzig?

Postby blighter » Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:04 am

I would go to Leipzig.

Etranger
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:38 am

Re: Alabama or Leipzig?

Postby Etranger » Thu Oct 25, 2012 11:13 am

blighter wrote:I would go to Leipzig.


Right now, that's my preference. But why would *you* go there?

This has also put things into a whole new perspective...if I could still reasonably get into grad school in the US from Leipzig, then maybe I should focus on some "better" schools in the States. Not Princeton better (I don't even like them), but schools like Carleton or Middlebury, which I previously wasn't going to apply to because I thought they weren't within reach.

blighter
Posts: 256
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:30 pm

Re: Alabama or Leipzig?

Postby blighter » Thu Oct 25, 2012 12:39 pm

Etranger wrote:
blighter wrote:I would go to Leipzig.


Right now, that's my preference. But why would *you* go there?

This has also put things into a whole new perspective...if I could still reasonably get into grad school in the US from Leipzig, then maybe I should focus on some "better" schools in the States. Not Princeton better (I don't even like them), but schools like Carleton or Middlebury, which I previously wasn't going to apply to because I thought they weren't within reach.


Always rank comfort higher (more so during your undergraduate). Increased financial burden will cause additional discomfort and might screw with your GPA. Moreover Alabama as far as I've heard isn't such an awesome place to live in. Maybe for better American LAC's.

TakeruK
Posts: 813
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Alabama or Leipzig?

Postby TakeruK » Thu Oct 25, 2012 12:55 pm

I would also go to Leipzig because of the financial issues. I don't think it's worth getting into that much debt for a slight increased chance of getting into a US grad school.

Why? I think the biggest hurdle for us international students to a US grad school is the fact that we are not American citizens. We will cost a lot more in tuition and we aren't eligible for most fellowships (at undergrad and grad level!). So, for many schools, they can only take a very small number of international students! This fact will not change whether or not you do your undergrad in the US or in Europe. However -- Alabama might be a more "familiar" school to US departments (in the sense that the undergrad program structure is familiar). The biggest "problem" with a Leizpig undergrad is the fact that it's only 3 years. Many US grad schools might not like this and it means you have one fewer year to get research experience etc. So, you might have to do a short masters degree in Europe before coming to the US. I've heard that MSc aren't as well funded as PhDs in Europe, but maybe with the money you'll save during your undergrad....

In addition, I know that in Canada, there are many "exchange research students" from Europe visiting our schools. In the summers, we would often get students from European universities doing a 3-4 month research position with us. Maybe the US has similar programs but if not, getting this opportunity in Canada can allow you to have a North American position on your CV for applications.

Finally, I don't think Alabama is worth the debt because you might feel differently about your degree and career goals after doing an undergrad! And as blighter said -- personal happiness is the most important I think! Worrying about money is a very distracting thing. Personally, I don't need to be rich but I'd like it if I could say, impulsively decide I want to go get a cup of coffee or buy a sandwich for lunch without worrying about whether my budget will balance that month!

blighter
Posts: 256
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:30 pm

Re: Alabama or Leipzig?

Postby blighter » Thu Oct 25, 2012 1:11 pm

I couldn't have put it half as well.



Just to add:
TakeruK wrote:The biggest "problem" with a Leizpig undergrad is the fact that it's only 3 years. Many US grad schools might not like this and it means you have one fewer year to get research experience etc.

While, schools have this rule that your undergraduate degree should be at least four years long, they can make exceptions. I've seen a profile of an Indian guy get into Harvard with a three-year long BSc. So it's nothing to fret about.

blighter
Posts: 256
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:30 pm

Re: Alabama or Leipzig?

Postby blighter » Thu Oct 25, 2012 1:41 pm

Etranger wrote:Since I'm not American, I can't apply for REUs either! So, I'm not sure where I could get research experience, outside of 'Bama. One thing that a certain liberal arts college does, is that they send their international students (physics) to do research in...wait for it...GERMANY! But I don't know where, and I've never heard of any kind of formal undergraduate research internships over there.


http://www.daad.de/rise/en/

Etranger
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:38 am

Re: Alabama or Leipzig?

Postby Etranger » Thu Oct 25, 2012 2:50 pm

blighter wrote:Always rank comfort higher (more so during your undergraduate). Increased financial burden will cause additional discomfort and might screw with your GPA. Moreover Alabama as far as I've heard isn't such an awesome place to live in. Maybe for better American LAC's.


I didn't catch that last sentence?

I'm not eligible for RISE. Not from any of the countries mentioned. I'm sorry, I should have mentioned that I tried searching around first, and couldn't find anything.

Also: about the 3-year degree issue...there is a user on PGRE called SPat (from India), who got into UC Berkeley and a couple other schools in spite of that supposed "issue." My guess is that the issue with that degree is more with the "graduate school of arts and sciences" than with the physics department itself.

TakeruK wrote:In addition, I know that in Canada, there are many "exchange research students" from Europe visiting our schools. In the summers, we would often get students from European universities doing a 3-4 month research position with us. Maybe the US has similar programs but if not, getting this opportunity in Canada can allow you to have a North American position on your CV for applications.


Now, that's interesting! Was that at Queen's, UBC, or both? If you happen to know if it's name, do tell.

I'll keep looking.

---

Thanks a lot guys. If things don't work out with US schools (the fin. aid ones, not 'Bama, which I probably won't apply to now*), I'll focus on getting into Leipzig. Or another school in Europe, where I won't be spending too much on tuition/living expenses...in case I get rejected. :-)

TakeruK
Posts: 813
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:05 pm

Re: Alabama or Leipzig?

Postby TakeruK » Thu Oct 25, 2012 6:41 pm

More about the 3 year thing -- I agree that the main problem isn't the "minimum 4 year degree rule", since most rules can be bent! But compared to a US student, you have one fewer year (and one fewer summer!) to do research before applying to grad schools. For me, I found that only the top students are able to find research positions after their first year! But maybe with the accelerated European 3-year system, it's more common for students to start research earlier? But it's definitely a small concern compared to all the positives of Leipzig!

For the exchange thing, it was both at Queen's and UBC. Unfortunately, I don't know the name of the program. In addition, I can only remember the French students but I don't know if it was a French-Canada program, or if it's just coincidence! I think when (if?) you get to Leipzig, talking to the right people at your school will help you find the right programs.

Etranger
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:38 am

Re: Alabama or Leipzig?

Postby Etranger » Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:14 am

TakeruK wrote:More about the 3 year thing -- I agree that the main problem isn't the "minimum 4 year degree rule", since most rules can be bent! But compared to a US student, you have one fewer year (and one fewer summer!) to do research before applying to grad schools. For me, I found that only the top students are able to find research positions after their first year! But maybe with the accelerated European 3-year system, it's more common for students to start research earlier? But it's definitely a small concern compared to all the positives of Leipzig!

For the exchange thing, it was both at Queen's and UBC. Unfortunately, I don't know the name of the program. In addition, I can only remember the French students but I don't know if it was a French-Canada program, or if it's just coincidence! I think when (if?) you get to Leipzig, talking to the right people at your school will help you find the right programs.


Well, I speak fluent French, if that means anything. My English is definitely better, but if I were to spend a few months in a French-speaking country or completely immersed in French media, it would be great too.

Great! Thanks. I'll keep that in mind as well.

Catria
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:14 pm

Re: Alabama or Leipzig?

Postby Catria » Sat Oct 27, 2012 2:21 pm

Leipzig is perhaps a better choice.




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