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12-09-2012, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by DAChampion View Post
No doubt about it, the quality of the physics/math schooling you're getting at McGill is as good or better than any other undergraduate degree in North America.

Here's an anecdote, of an acquaintance of mine who went to the University of Illinois, which you would think is very respectable. We were doing a homework set in grad school, moderately challenging. She said she was frustrated that she couldn't solve all the problems, I asked why... she told me that in her entire undergrad she had never seen any problem she couldn't solve immediately, previously her entire experience had been about just sitting down and solving everything immediately, to complete all homework sets in an hour or two.

This is no doubt not your experience at McGill. You are being challenged and will thus be better prepared.


To go back to your original question, the quality of LA education really varies from one place to the next. In my observations it's fairly high at Columbia and at University of Chicago; those two stand out. It's extremely variable even within schools, so I wouldn't worry too much about that aspect.
I am NOT a McGill student (McGill courses are numbered with 3 digits while University of Montreal ones are numbered with 4 digits); yet, given that description, my University of Montreal experience resembles what I'd get at McGill. Additionally, professors would say that what everyone is subjected to is more like a McGill honors physics program than a physics major (or joint honors if in the physics-mathematics program).

I acknowledge that few undergraduate programs in North America could match the ones in U Montreal and McGill, though. Maybe U Toronto, UBC or Berkeley but I'm not sold on those, and Brown, as well as Dartmouth (not sure whether Columbia or U Penn are of a lower standard than McGill or U Montreal, but MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Harvey Mudd, Cornell, Princeton, Yale and Harvard are seemingly at our level), aren't at the same level as we get, so perhaps my professors were right in saying that upperclassmen could excel academically at any Ivy League university.

However, my upper-division profs collaborate with McGill faculty, like Kaspi, Rutledge and another astrophysics professor that I cannot name here in full because his surname would be filtered out (but his first name is Andrew) as well as Vachon and others in particle physics (I am not that familiar with the condensed matter collaboration landscape at University of Montreal other than a professor collaborates with MIT faculty and another one with Princeton faculty) so I assume they are familiar with McGillian standards.

So I'd say that, in the North American physics undergraduate pyramid, there are several tiers, with schools I could associate with an undergraduate tier:

Tier 1: McGill, U Montreal, U Toronto, UBC (not sure, might go in Tier 2), Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Cornell, Caltech, Harvey Mudd (and perhaps a couple of American schools I might have missed)

Tier 2: Brown, Dartmouth, U Illinois, Laval, U Sherbrooke, U Virginia, Purdue, Rutgers, Penn State, U Wisconsin, U Texas (Austin and Dallas campuses), York (not sure, might go in Tier 3)

I'm mostly familiar with the best undergraduate schools since I know most spots at McGill in graduate school will be taken up by students who attended undergraduate schools in the first two tiers.

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