Physics + frisbee + warm weather ... ideas beyond UNC-Chapel Hill

I am new to this site, so please don’t flame me for getting the format/tags wrong.

I read another site that has convinced me that we need to help my son develop a good range of schools to apply to.

DS is white, goes to a highly regarded public magnet school for stem, and gets all A’s, PSAT indicates that his SAT will be 1550 or above. He wants to study physics and plays ultimate frisbee on various teams and would love to continue that with a ‘good’ team. He has a marked preference for warm weather - mid-Atlantic or warmer, but this isn’t a deal breaker. Probably doesn’t want to go all the way to the West Coast (we are East Coast). Full pay. I think he’d like a mid-size school… something too small might not be right, but I think he’d be fine at a large school. Not in the middle of a city - more suburban/rural feel. So far some schools that have come to mind are:

Georgia Tech
UNC-Chapel Hill (so far his favorite)
MIT (yes, cold weather + city, but he visited and loved it)
Colorado Boulder (again cold, and not mid-size, but the sunny pics/video are appealing, and they have a good frisbee team)

That’s it! how do I help him curate a good list of safeties/matches/reaches? Thanks in advance, CC community.

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Welcome to CC! You are off to a great start. And lucky @gbv1971 Jr- no $$ limits!

So, a few questions:

  1. what year is your son now?
  2. how deep & strong is his physics drive? Physics is a reasonably standardized major, meaning that he can get into a top grad school from a wide range of schools, and certainly from the caliber of school that he is likely to attend- if that’s a likely path for him.
  3. how good is he at UF? the NC team is very strong- last I knew they were a top-5 team. Is he the level of good that he could be on that team? would he be disappointed not to get on the top team at the university? (afaik, all the unis on your list will have ‘good’ teams).
  4. Other good state schools for physics include UWi-M & UIUC, both of which should be strong matches for him for physics. If he’s interested in optics U Az is very strong and would be a safety. It’s a smaller public (10K students), but William & Mary has a really strong physics department, and actively work to get students involved in research pretty much from day 1. Their UF team is strong enough to get to championships every few years, but isn’t the powerhouse that UNC is, so depending on your son’s skill level it might be more or less appealing!

The good news is that once he has a safety that he would genuinely be happy to attend, the rest of your list can be whatever appeals most to him!


I’ll chime in as an ultimate frisbee parent, one is HS player, the other plays the women’s D1 team at her college. UF is a fantastic way to be part of a community, as you know. D3 teams will be “walk on” to join, D1 teams will have tryouts and probably end up with an A team and B team. North Carolina is a powerhouse for mens’ and women’s teams and have won Nationals the past few years. Most colleges have frisbee teams including small LACs, but these are the top ranked D1 men’s teams this season:

  1. North Carolina (Chapel Hill)
  2. BYU
  3. Massachusetts (Amherst)
  4. Oregon (Eugene)
  5. Colorado (Boulder)
  6. Minnesota (TC)
  7. Georgia
  8. Pittsburgh
  9. Cal Poly SLO
  10. Carleton

For full rankings check out Ultiworld:


Rice, Duke and NC State? Maybe Emory.

Will he be a NMSF?


It’s smaller and colder than he would like, but for the ultimate and physics you can hardly do better than Carleton. As you can see in @shawk’s link above, Carleton’s ultimate is so strong that it fields ranked teams in both D1 and D3 for both men and women! (and many, many strong teams just below this.) And it is a top producer of future physics PhDs: Where Physics PhDs Received Their Undergraduate Degrees | CollegeXpress


Duke, Wake Forest, William&Mary. All excellent for Physics as an undergraduate and all haveUF and are warm weather schools.


I know you said no to west coast, but it is worth checking out UCSB CCS Physics program. It’s probably the most wonderful spot in the country and the program has a great advisor. And there is a lot of frisbee right by the beach.

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Santa Barbara’s women’s team is very very good, but men’s team not in the top 25. For someone who wants a “good” frisbee team that might be an important factor. ETA that NC State, Elon and Richmond are all ranked in top 25 in their divisions and would have a high level of play, warm weather. Don’t know about physics programs there, but that could be something to research.


So given your description why UMD ? Ga Tech ? I’m not seeing either.

How about Elon ? W&M ? U Del ? Auburn ? Florida Tech ? Wake Forest ? Richmond ?

Since you said Boulder how about Col School of Mines ?

I’m not including frisbee - you’d have to check.


Before I got to your list I was going to recommend UC Boulder. Their physics dept is right up there with MIT. My niece is about to graduate as a physics/math major and has been accepted into the top PhD programs. She is thinking she may stay in Boulder for her PhD as their dept is so good and she loves the area. Despite not being in a warm climate, it has 300 days of sunshine a year and even when it’s really cold, it doesn’t last long. It can snow in the morning and be near 60 in the afternoon.

He is likely to get very good merit from UC Boulder. He will also likely get into the honors program if that interests him.

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Thank you, all, for your advice. I just added a few of these schools to his list so he can check them out.

He is a junior.
His interest in physics has never wavered since he was in like 3rd grade. The questions it tries to answer are the ones he thinks about all the time. Doing experiments on a LDC has been his dream forever.
He’s very good at frisbee - played on a U20 men’s club team at 16. If he’s not thinking about physics, he’s thinking about frisbee. He knows the level of play and thinks at first he could at least make a B or “practice” team at one of the top places.

Thank you for the idea of UIUC - his uncle went there and had a good experience and he’d be close to family. I like the idea of U Az, too - a smaller public would be nice. William and Mary has a great frisbee team (!) and he’s looked at their physics website. It might be a little small for him? not sure though.

Rice, Duke and NC State should also be on his list - but he can’t find UF info about Rice, I think… Idk about NMSF. Probably?

Carleton would be awesome but the cold is hard on him - he has rheumatoid arthritis and it’s killer on his joints.

Wake Forest - thank you! Had not thought of that one.

UMD has good physics and there are lots of UF teams in the DMV are he could play for even if the university itself doesn’t have one. GA Tech only ticks the physics box, IDK about UF.

Thanks for the idea of Auburn and Richmond. Adding these to his list to research.

Thank you again, everyone. I really appreciate it!


I can’t speak to the physics department but S22 is on the UMass Development team for UF. He has really enjoyed it. Everyone tries out together and then they winnow it down to two teams - there is also a “booze” team for kids who are more casual. Unfortunately, the weather is not warm. S22 also has a close friend who is on the B team at Tufts - their A team is quite good from what I hear. It’s an excellent school which is strong in the sciences, although I can’t speak to Physics in particular.

Virginia Tech has a decent UF team. Their physics department is small-ish but they have pretty robust research opportunities. It’s in the mountains so gets a bit cold in the winter, but not brutally cold.

It seems that maybe your son prefers the larger state schools? Is your concern about William & Mary that the school is too small or that the physics department is too small? The undergraduate population is 6500, which most people would consider midsize. By comparison, Duke is 6700 undergrads, Wake is about 5700 and Richmond is around 3000. William and Mary’s physics department is actually fairly large. They have 30 teaching professors and another 15 in purely research positions. Also of note is that William & Mary typically awards 25 -30 bachelor’s in physics every year, which is pretty high. For Wake and Duke, the number is about 10.

Full disclosure,my son is a freshman physics major at William & Mary. He preferred smaller schools with an emphasis on undergraduate teaching. As @collegemom3717 mentioned above, undergrads can get involved in research from the get go. My son turned down a full tuition scholarship at Georgia Tech (Zell Miller/ in state) and has no regrets about his choice. Since your son is a junior, you are very early in the process. It may take time for him to figure out what type of campus environment is right for him. It may help to take him to visit schools of different sizes and settings.

Since you have Georgia Tech and MIT on the list, is he ok with urban campuses? I’m not knowledgeable about frisbee, but both Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon have great physics departments.


I hadn’t realized that William and Mary was that big. I had Carleton’s size in mind, I think. Thank you. I agree that those midsize places like WandM and Wake would be a good fit. We’ll keep visiting places as we’re able (but probably not Boulder or Houston- too far/$$ until we know he’s gotten in).

Thanks for all the great advice about William and Mary!

Another vote for W&M. Their physics dept is great, lots of opportunities for undergrad research. And the president and her husband are all about frisbee.


I know you said your son probably wouldn’t be interested in a West Coast school but I want to make sure he/you are aware of the Physics program in the College of Creative Studies at UCSB. CCS is sometimes called “grad school for undergrads”. Perks include being allowed to sign up for any class, undergrad or grad, they feel ready to take even if they haven’t taken the prerequisites. And ready access to research opportunities. See Physics | UCSB College of Creative Studies An example of one student’s experience with CCS Physics is at

UCSB is also the home of the Kavli Institute For Theoretical Physics (see )

Wikipedia has a CCS overview at College of Creative Studies - Wikipedia

So if your son is interested in pursuing a PhD in Physics then he ought to at least be aware of UCSB.

You said that you are full pay. Are you OK with paying an extra $120K over 4 years so that your ds can go to an OOS school? Every year on CC, we hear from seniors whose parents said that they would pay for the super-duper school, but then backed out when the student got admitted to a lower ranked school with a much lower cost of attendance.

When I made (yes, me) S23’s initial list, the first pass was cost. If school Y was going to cost significantly more than its “value” compared to school X, where I knew he would get in, then school Y didn’t make it on the list. The list ended up being around 20 schools long. S23 got to choose which schools to apply to from my list. S23 is still waiting for decisions, but currently school X is his top pick. The most expensive school in his offers would cost >$180K more than the least expensive, but we’re still waiting on the aid package from the most expensive school. We’ll only have about a month once all the decisions and financial aid packages are received to make a decision.

Thanks for the tip about UCSB. I will check out their physics program!

Definitely agree that paying OOS tuition for a large state school would feel… not great. I am hoping he’d be offered some sort of scholarship that would keep a school like Boulder in the running, but if not, I am with you that it would probably not be worth it. Idk where he’ll get accepted, though, so we will wait to see how it all shakes out at that point. Thanks for your input.