Hows it goin all?
Firstly, I'd like to appologise if this has already been adressed elsewhere (please direct me to the threads if it has).
I live in Ireland, study in England (Cambridge), and am very keen on doing a Physics PhD in the USA. I am hoping to go to one of the top ranked schools since I trust that they are top ranked for fairly good reasons. However, I really don't know the difference between doing a PhD in one such school and another. Infact all I really know (or think I know) is that American physics PhDs involve 1-2 years of classes, the bulk of research will be done after the first two years are complete, and the PhD takes 5-6 years from start to finish.
In the statement of purpose, we are often asked what appeals to us about the particular institution we are applying to. Of course I would like to answer this question so I can write a good statement of purpose, but also I genuinely would like to know a bit more about what I am signing 6 years of my life towards! The schools I am keen on at the minute are below, although I intend to half the length of the list before applying:
UC Santa Barbara
I don't really know which exact area of physics I want to persue yet, so I'm looking for somewhere with a lot of freedom in the first two years, which allows students to get a better feel for what they like. Saying that, if I had to choose now, I would probably sway towards theoretical qauntum condensed matter, so I am going to restrict myself to applying to schools which are strong in that field (I think I have already done so in compiling the above list).
So what I would like is any information at all which can highlight the differences between what doing a PhD would be like at any of the institutions above, bar geographical factors. I am going to make a few extortionate phone calls today, and audaciously ask the physics department whats good about their PhDs as opposed to other places, and I will put anything intersting I hear down in a reply to this thread. Please add anything you know at all that may be useful.
Thanks for your time and help,