I’m currently a high school junior who wants to major in a math field or physics, and possibly astrophysics. At the moment, I’m looking at Notre Dame as an option for college, but they don’t have an astrophysics major: the have a physics major that lets a student focus on a specific topic like astrophysics. That allows you to take astrophysics classes while pursuing a physics major but not actually majoring in astrophysics. I would like to attend grad school afterwards for astrophysics as well if I decide to go down that path. Would this not-completely-astrophysics major hurt me as I apply to grad school?

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    This is off-topic here, as it is about undergrad admissions. But I think that the number of undergrad programs specifically in astrophysics is so small that graduates of other related programs are fine for entry to graduate school. – Buffy Jan 26 at 17:28
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    @Buffy: It's not really about undergrad admissions. The question is: will I have a hard time getting into astrophysics grad programs if I have a non-astrophysics degree? That's on-topic, since it's more to do with graduate admissions. – aeismail Jan 26 at 17:48
  • Yeah, this question seems fine to me....will change the title – cag51 Jan 26 at 19:16
  • @Lightbulb, modern astrophysics may not be what you think it is. It may involve a lot of routine such as analyzing and handling data from satellites. Anyway, modern astronomy is a branch of physics. If your college has an astrophysics department, you're probably fine, even if no majoring in astrophysics is available. You will need a lot of physics, Calculus, ODE, even PDE, and more or less CS. Please remove names of specific universities, countries, etc. whenever asking about such choices or it'll be considered "shopping". And Guest gave you SUPER tips – I agree 100% with all of them. – Ken Draco Jan 29 at 14:49

It's fine and probably even optimal. for one thing, you don't know for sure that you will want astrophysics four years later. And you are even open to math versus physics.

Do the general physics degree. Gives you most flexibility. You can take a class or two in astro topics, but pick up general physics degree. You don't even know if you won't like some other area when you learn it more (optics, solid state, etc etc.) But in any case general physics program will serve you well for detailed astro study later. Make sure you get a solid grasp on mechanics your junior year, as celestial mechanics is an application of general mechanics

Since you already have some interest in a subfield of physics, I recommend not to major in math. The nineteenth century math (hard calculus and diffyQ computations) is alive and well in physics departments but has been killed, buried, and pissed on, in modern math departments. Also read why Dick Feynman left MIT math major.

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    Hmmm. Can't you get your point across with out the "body fluid" images? – Buffy Jan 26 at 19:04
  • @Buffy I’m surprised you consider this question off-topic, given your positivity to the other question I queried.... – Solar Mike Jan 26 at 19:09
  • These are superb recommendations. Indeed, math majors neglect physics, mechanics, and differential equations. I'm not saying they should not specialize in abstract algebra or topology but total neglect of the fundamentals is a hideous malpractice. So the OP is MUCH better off not majoring in math unless he can study physics on his own. Even then, there's not gonna be enough lab work and abstract math might "consume" him. Abstract algebra might be covered at leisure, although it might require a lot of effort and time, especially when studied very deeply. The same goes for functional analysis. – Ken Draco Jan 29 at 15:01

No, no one cares. Admissions committees are well aware that different programs offer different things and use different names. The only things that matter are that you have a physics degree with good grades from a reputable school, and research experience (preferably in astrophysics).

  • Can the downvoter explain? This seems like a concise and accurate answer... – cag51 Jan 29 at 18:47

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