I will better explain my situation now. You seem to really know what you are talking about, and might be able to make a better assessment with the full picture. The physics program at my college has as many physics professors as physics graduates (8). It sends some students to REU programs, and students regularly do (and publish) research. One thing that I really liked was that freshman can and do do research. Those are some good things. Here's the bad: students at my school are not of the highest overall caliber: less than 5% got above a 32 on the ACT. The research budget is not super-high either. The profs are very, very good IMHO. All are Ph.D's and great teachers. However most of them are Ph.D.'s from the Univ. of Minnesota. (Is this bad). The profs have published stuff, but I am guessing that the grad admissions people havent read any of it. I'm double majoring wiht Numerical Computation, and one of my rec's will be prolly be from a Ph.D. from Ann Arbor. I also have some good things going for me. I was only rejected at MIT for undergrad, and the reasons that I am not going to Harvey Mudd, Carleton, or Notre Dame (all of which i was accepted at) are financial. I am also proactive and am reading the Feynman Lectures to compliment my physics education. I will do fine, I think (?), on the GRE. As for grad schools, my school has sent 1 student to MIT, one to Harvard, several to Duke, and many to Minnesota in the last 15 years (idk if that is good or not).