Help Me Decide University of Washington or University of Arizona

My son is trying to decide between UW and UA. He plans to major in Physics and be in the marching band. His overall goal is to eventually get a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics and work for NASA or an international equivalent. He also wants to study abroad in Germany (did one year of high school in Germany).

In-state tuition, board and fees is ~30K/year
5 hours from home
Good physics department
Accepted into Interdisciplinary Honors Program
Knows Seattle area a bit

Tuition merit scholarship for 4 years, so total board and fees ~20K/year
New area
Good physics department with some overlap with NASA
Accepted into Honors College
Honors Village housing is almost brand new
Honors College has a study abroad option in Munich

He also has ~100K in a 529 Plan for education. Will be able to transfer a year of college credit from Dual Enrollment classes at Washington State University, so may be able to complete undergrad in three years.

We will be visiting both campuses in a week

Is graduating early necessary or desirable for financial reasons?

Physics tends to have prerequisite sequences that are around 6 semesters or 9 quarters long, so careful attention to prerequisite sequencing and prioritizing choosing courses in the longest remaining sequence is necessary if he wants to graduate early. Dual enrollment credit may be able to shorten the prerequisite sequence if it is in calculus (for math and physics majors) or calculus-based physics (for physics majors).

Yes, he has taken the first two Physics courses for science majors (Calc-based), as well as Calculus and Linear Algebra. However, no, graduating is not a must by any means.

Bumping this in hopes that someone has info or thoughts


I don’t know enough about UW and UA to make a recommendation but the Honors College (and the new Honors Village) at UA is certainly a plus if you value the concept.

If you are not fully familiar with the concept, you might want to read “Inside Honors 2020-2021: Ratings and Reviews of 40 Public University Honors Programs” by John Willingham which contains a section on Arizona Honors.

Does your son possess German citizenship so he could go back to Germany after undergrad if he wanted to?

Thanks; I just got that book on Kindle.

No, he is an American citizen only. He does want to eventually establish residency in and work in Germany though. He is also seriously considering graduate schools in Germany. He spent a year attending a high school in Aachen and fluent in German.

Without German (or other European) citizenship, and therefore the impossibility for him to extensively stay in Germany without a visa, I think that the study abroad option in Munich at UA is also a plus (as getting a student visa for the study abroad should be straightforward, whereas getting one on his own might not be).

University of Arizona is topnotch for Physics, the new Honors College sounds great, better weather, and as a member of the Honors College, he’ll be able to take graduate courses as a junior.
BTW, just in case: The further he can go with math and CS (data science/computation…) the better for such a PHD.

On the other hand, UW has accelerated honors sequences in Calculus and Physics, which may appeal to him.

Have you been able to visit? Does he have a preference?

Thank you for the info on taking graduate courses.

We are visiting both schools all next week so hopefully that will help him decide. He doesn’t have a strong preference yet.

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