Does the college you go to REALLY matter?

Discussion in 'Odds & Ends' started by ogruskie, Aug 19, 2009.

  1. ogruskie

    ogruskie Professional

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    Eh, another one of my college threads. I started my first week at a community college with hopes of getting out in 2 years. The plan is to major in Neurobiology, at either UC Davis or UC Berkeley. I was going through the list of classes that I'll have to take, and Berkeley requires a far greater amount of classes in order to transfer, which will take me at least 3 years to complete.

    See, here's the issue. I can go to UC Davis in 2 years (provided I meet the requirements), or I can take an extra year to finish off some other classes and go to UC Berkeley. And this got me thinking, is it really worth waiting another year? What's the advantage of getting into the "better" university (Berk)? Will I get paid simply because I have "UC Berkeley" on my resume for work, or what?

    I figure most of you here are either in college or long out of it, and would offer some insight. Thanks in advance.
     
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  2. jamauss

    jamauss Hall of Fame

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    Just consider this. In the 10+ years I've been in the workplace, I've never heard someone say they got a job because of where they went to school, nor have I ever heard of it come up in an interview as a talking point. I have sat in on interviews also to talk to the candidates and as I look over their resume I have never found myself concerned about where they went to school, or even if they have a degree.

    I work in technology, and what's most important to me is, can you do the job, and do it well? We'd rather hire HS grads that are very intelligent and experienced than a PhD that has little practical experience. I should know, I have no real college experience to speak of, yet I am very capable at my job, both in technical skills and all the other soft skills (writing, communicating, etc.). That's what my employer cares about, not about where I went to college.

    I assume Neurobiology will be similar - as long as you complete your degree, I doubt any place that you interview with is going to care whether it says UCD or Cal on your resume. Both are excellent schools. Personally, if I were in your shoes, I would go with whatever costs less - the ROI of a college degree is ever-shrinking these days with the cost of tuition and books going through the roof and being raised year after year.
     
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  3. goober

    goober Legend

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    I was going to offer you a job jamauss, but then I found out what school you went to...


    :wink:

    In most cases I agree, it doesn't matter what school you went to. Certainly the differences in reputation between UCD and UCB are fairly small IMO not a large chasm. In some cases it may make a difference depending on what your plans are after college, but even then I would say it is far more important what did you learn in the school you went to and what did you get out of it. Another thing to consider is that you are going to excel more at a school that you are happy at and you fit into then just going to a school for a name. Being in Davis is very different from being in Berkeley.

    Everything else being equal: Between UCD 2 years and UCB and an extra year I would do UCD. Save the dough and the time.
     
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  4. Nonentity

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    I would say you need to go to a college that has a good program for the specific type of job or study you are interested in. So if you want to be a Neurobiologist, you want to try to get to a college that has a lot of influencial Neurobiologists, a big neurobiology lab, etc etc. In terms of getting a job, you would have a lot more connections which means a lot more job offers when you graduate. So i think its the prestige of the department within the college that counts, not the prestige of the college as a whole.
     
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  5. Lee James

    Lee James Rookie

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    I'm working in research, so I have a little bit of insight into just how important the college you choose will be. In my opinion it has very little bearing, and only comes into play in certain situations. As another poster mentioned, it all comes down to what you plan to do after you finish. If you want to pursue a graduate level education, entrance exam scores always trump the college you attended. So say for instance you score very highly, so long as you got good grades, have nice e.c.'s, you'll get in anywhere. Conversely, if you don't do as well with the entrance exam, but you did go to a school that's notorious for having a rigorous undergrad program in your field, and you did really well there (High gpa), you would probably find that your exam score will be glossed over when viewing your app as a whole. This however can work the opposite way as well. Not scoring highly on entrance exams, coupled with a low gpa from a little known or relaxed undergrad program will sink you. So basically my advice would be to pick the school you will be most comfortable in, regardless of prestige, and work your butt off! Believe it or not, they all pretty much teach the same information, and so long as you prove that you're capable, internships & job opportunities will come. Do the very best you can, rock the entrance exam, and you'll be fine.
     
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  6. dave333

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    Theoretically it doesn't; you probably won't get that much of a better education at an Ivy League than a state school if you work hard and do your best.

    That said however, attending an elite institution does offer you the benefits of networking and connections, which can be very large keys to future success, especially if you are in a field like law, politics, or finance and how people perceive is important. And of course, you want to at least have decent facilities if you want to be able to do research.

    Still, if you are a hard worker and fairly intelligent, it shouldn't really matter where you go. At the same time, if you are a hard worker and fairly intelligent, you will probably end up in an elite school anyway. But if you did screw up high school due to immaturity, it is never too late.
     
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  7. raiden031

    raiden031 Legend

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    My opinion is that for most people, attending a private college or an out-of-state college is a complete waste of money.

    If you are a high-profile attorney, politician, or wall-street investor, then maybe your school matters, but for most people it does not matter.

    What matters is whether you have the right degree for the job, you have the right connections to recommend you for the job, and you have the experience to demonstrate your competency. The hardest thing is to get started when you don't know alot of people in the field and don't have alot of experience. You often start off taking a job that isn't a good fit, and then work your way into a better job. Then it becomes automatic from there and doors just start opening because you develop contacts, get experience, and your self-confidence also increases.
     
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  8. max

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    Your school really does not matter, with the exceptions raiden notes.

    The big thing is your web of social connections: yours and your parents and relatives. That kind of thing lands big breaks to people. Of course, friends you meet at school form part of this.
     
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  9. LuckyR

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    Yes and no. If you are not going into the higher echelons of finance, a "prestigious" school will not help you. But going to an known school in an area can help you in getting into grad schools in that area. Most importantly getting into practically any school that has the sort of atmosphere that you thrive in, will help you match your potential and end up helping you way more than a random school without it, that happens to be well known by others.
     
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  10. CHOcobo

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    yes it does matter big time. you'll get a better degree, even though it's the same name and length.

    if i was an employer, i would rather take the guy from MIT than they guy at MN Sate if i had a choice.

    bigger college are more associated with more companies as well, so you'll be in a better intern.
     
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  11. r2473

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    It might.

    Do you know where you want to work? Does that employer recruit out of both schools?

    At any rate, I say go to Berkley. Surely the more prestigious school. Surely more employers (or graduate schools if that is your aim) will be looking for Berkley grads.

    As for the cost, education is BY FAR the single greatest investment you can make (thinking of how much it costs vs. your return over your lifetime...financial and non-financial return). The small extra investment in Berkley COULD have nice upside. At worst, you will be no worse off than the UC Davis choice. The extra cost is de minimis over a lifetime.
     
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  12. mtommer

    mtommer Hall of Fame

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    It does depend on the job and your aspirations. The top jobs aren't found in newspaper ads. They are given to people whose names are put into the highly selective pool of possible candidates by those high up in the company. You don't even get to hob snob with those higher ups unless you have the right schooling and connections (which often start at your school).
     
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  13. raiden031

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    I don't know about these schools, but I know in Maryland if you go to public schools, tuition in-state is probably around $8K a year right now, whereas out-of-state is probably over double that. And then there are the private schools that cost $30k. So we're talking of price differences of nearly $100K over the course of 4 years from choosing a public in-state verses a private school when more often than not the public university degree is sufficient.

    If you want to be a CEO and/or be a wealthy businessman, then by all means go to the best school. This doesn't apply to 99% of workers though.
     
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  14. フェデラー

    フェデラー Hall of Fame

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    yes its very important. ill explain when i feel like it :)
     
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  15. r2473

    r2473 Legend

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    What % of students do you think pay the full cost of tuition?

    If you are not smart enough to get scholarships and grants, then I imagine you really have no business at the top schools in the first place.
     
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  16. Claudius

    Claudius Professional

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    Well it seems like time is the issue for you, If you could complete your studies in two years at both universities, it would be a better idea to attend Berkeley, but considering that you'll have another year, I'd say go with Davis.

    I guarantee you. You're never going to look back at your life and say, "Damn I should've attended Berkelely".
     
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  17. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    The difference between the top schools and the lower-tier schools is not so much what they teach you in class but who you're competing against. Remember that at the Ivy League schools, everyone else around you is also a superstar who has gotten nothing but A's their entire lives. So since grading is on a bell curve and only around 20% of the students can get A's, everyone will be fighting tooth and nail to get that A. And these are some very smart, hard working, and motivated people you will be competing against for that A. This forces you to have to study that much harder, and as a result, learn a lot more than if you were at a school with a less than stellar student body where you don't have to work as hard to get that A. If the competition isn't that intense, you can pretty much cruise and do well at a lesser school.

    It's like the difference between winning the US Open and winning some small futures event in Kansas. Who's the better player? Federer or someone ranked #300 in the world?
     
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  18. ogruskie

    ogruskie Professional

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    Thanks for the replies!

    I feel that I should try to get into Davis...
     
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  19. Lakoste

    Lakoste Professional

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    You're still two years away from transferring, see how your grades go and whether you even like your major. Two years is a long time.

    Regarding the importance of going to a top school, nothing wrong with choosing a Davis even if you have the grades for Berkeley. I did something similar, UIUC over Stanford, for financial reasons and I've never regretted it. Just make sure that you network and make a lot of connections, then what school you go to really doesn't matter.
     
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  20. RealityPolice

    RealityPolice Rookie

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    My university doesn't matter, that's for damn sure.
     
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  21. veritech

    veritech Hall of Fame

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    also, make sure you do some research on which school has a better program for your major of study. the school with the better program may offer you better connections, more internships, and just more opportunities in general.

    despite what school you go to, study hard and network. and above all, have fun.
     
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  22. ogruskie

    ogruskie Professional

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    Hey guys, sorry to bring this thread back up.

    I was doing a bit more research and I'm considering transferring to San Francisco State University. Tuition is cheaper, it's closer to home, and from what I've read they have a great reputation in the biology department. Some stats I got off wikipedia:

    San Francisco State University ranks 1st nationwide in the number of biological sciences undergrads who go on to earn biology Ph.D.s according to the most recent National Science Foundation report

    San Francisco State University is among the top 201 colleges and universities that offer "real world," job-focused services and skill development, according to Great Colleges for the Real World by (Michael P. Viollt, Octameron Associates, 2002)

    The university is currently ranked as the 45th best master's-granting university in the Western United States by U.S. News & World Report.

    Anyway, that's beside the point. I think I need to rephrase my original question. Does the undergraduate college you go to affect your chances of admission at a graduate school?

    If I decide to go to medical school, would UC students have priority over me? Or is the undergrad college irrelevant? It's the entrance exam scores and GPA that med schools will look at?

    If the original answers in this thread remain the same then disregard this post...
     
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  23. travlerajm

    travlerajm Hall of Fame

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    It matters. But so does your gpa.

    If you have an opportunity to get into a better school, I say take it. But once you get there, you'll have to work even harder to make it pay off for your future.

    I attended a top-tier school. I don't think it helped me get into grad schools because my undergrad gpa was crummy. But once I had my PhD (from a large research school), having a Stanford undergraduate degree on my resume has definitely given me more credibility. People seem to trust your competence more when you've gone through the filtering process of being admitted to an elite school.
     
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  24. ogruskie

    ogruskie Professional

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    So it would look better to have a high GPA in a decent school as opposed to a low GPA in a top tier school?
     
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  25. max

    max Hall of Fame

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    I tend to think this is true. I graduated from a very difficult school with top grades and it was a lot of work. . . and I was surprised to see graduates from less difficult schools who had good gpas get accepted to the kinds of schools I wanted to get into.

    It didn't seem fair. But I have had the consolation of knowing my undergraduate education was better.
     
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  26. albino smurf

    albino smurf Professional

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    totally situational. find someone who is established in your field and ask them.
     
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  27. movdqa

    movdqa Legend

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    I'd keep an eye on the California higher education funding issues for the next two years.
     
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  28. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Three things to watch out for:

    1. Sour grapes: cannot get in, so claim reputation of college is of no use
    2. Over-reaching: getting into a highly ranked place, and then being unable to cope with the brightest. This is the worst case, IMO.
    3. Under-reaching: getting into a very easy place, under the assumption that you will breeze thru. Not a bad thing to do, but comes with some caveats like understand what you are missing, and that employers can also figure out why you went there.
     
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  29. Kevin T

    Kevin T Professional

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    I would say be careful about California schools right now and I teach at a state school. Due to budget cuts, many students need 5, even 6 years to earn a BS due to lack of classes/profs/etc. My wife's cousin is graduating from San Fran State this month and it took 5 1/2 years due to class availability issues. If Oregon, Oregon St, or other bordering states/unis have similar programs I would give them a look. A co-worker's son recently started at San Diego St but was also accepted at U of Oregon and the annual cost was quite similar, even with out of state tuition.
     
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  30. Casey10s

    Casey10s Rookie

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    When I was a manager, the school you went to had a big determination on your starting salary. If you went to a well-known school of engineering, you could negotiate a higher starting salary over some of the lesser known schools. If you went to an elite engineering school, you were probably receiving offers from other companies for almost twice what our top salary for a college grad would be. Of course, these people didn't come to work for us. It was crazy the offers I heard these people were getting. They were making more than most of the experience engineers at our place. After about 5 years out of college, the school you went to didn't matter as much.
     
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  31. Eph

    Eph Professional

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    Yes, it's worth it to go to the best college as soon as possible.

    Why? If I had to pick one reason: research opportunities.

    UC Berkeley has a great neurobiology department. Go there. What is your reasoning for not? It's a state school - the tuition most be more or less the same.

    And yes, you'll make more money with a more prestigious degree. Whether people want to admit it or not.

    There's a reason many medical schools make you retake prereq classes at a university if the student transferred from a community college. Good reasons.

    I don't understand why you just wouldn't go to UC Berkeley in the first place?

    Signed,

    A Harvard University PhD Candidate
     
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  32. Eph

    Eph Professional

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    Are you kidding? UC Berkeley is ranked 9th in the USA for neurosciences. UC Davis isn't even on the list.

    In molecular biology it is ranked 4th. Cal Davis is ranked 34th.


    No difference at all, eh? :confused:


    NB I compared both because depending on the school and the research track "neurosciences" can mean a lot of different things.


    PS: Please go to any top 10 university and find a professor there who went to a school outside of the top 20. Sure, that's a bit hyperbolic, but you get my point. It's gonna take awhile. And that's not hyperbolic.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2009
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  33. Kevin T

    Kevin T Professional

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    I would like to see the study that shows elite school grads make more than the average state school grad. If you're talking the 1% of niche fields/jobs, then okay. If you're talking the 99% that get finance, education, history degrees, I don't buy it. Will it open more doors, yes. Does it guarantee more income, no.
     
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  34. Eph

    Eph Professional

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    Maybe that's the difference between an Ivy League mindset and the other 99.9%: I was talking about satisfying your intellectual curiosity, not making more money later on. In fact, I don't think I mentioned money once. A lot of other people did though. For me, what's important is learning and participating in groundbreaking research, not what my paycheck says, as long as I can provide for myself.

    :shrug:

    EDIT:

    I take it back, I did mention money. That was more of a side point, to my reasoning for attending a top (in-state) school, though. What's great about UC Berkeley is you pay in-state tuition, and get a top education. Compounding interesting can be wonderful, but also terrible. As for making more money and directly answering your question: well, the networking is there as people have discussed ad nausem. And as I said, g'luck finding a professor at Harvard who went to a sub 30 school in their field.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2009
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  35. Bud

    Bud Bionic Poster

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    Take the extra time and go to UCB, if you're still undecided between UCB and UCD.
     
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  36. Kevin T

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    So you're saying only the "ivy league mindset" is one of intellectual curiosity? You can't do groundbreaking research at Texas, Berk, Davis, UNC, UVA, Michigan St? A lot students have no desire to attend an Ivy, even those with the stats to get in. I was intellectually curious but football was my meal ticket (along with girls, girls, girls/social opps and warm weather :)).

    http://www.smartmoney.com/Personal-Finance/College-Planning/The-Best-Colleges-For-Making-Money/
     
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  37. Eph

    Eph Professional

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    1) When I referred to an "Ivy League mindset" I was referring to the top schools. UC Berkeley falls into that category of "top school."

    2) You can do groundbreaking research at any top 10 school. Once you get outside of the top 20s, you start running into funding issues.

    3) I noticed you picked schools that are highly ranked.

    4)
    This premise is ********. I didn't read past that as it's typical mindless propaganda. Barely no one at an Ivy League pays the full price. (Or any school for that matter) E.g. At Harvard, if your parents make under 60k, you go for free. 60-250k, 1/10th the income.
     
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  38. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    Not really, IMO. I tend to believe that a low GPA from a top tier school equals a high GPA from a lesser school. As I mentioned earlier in this thread, it's because the competition is so much tougher at the top tier school.

    I'll use my tennis example again, is getting to the final of a small futures event a better result than getting to the 3rd round of the US Open? No, because the competition at the US Open is so much tougher than it is at the small futures event.
     
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  39. Kobble

    Kobble Hall of Fame

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    Same **** happened to me, and it was a ***** to explain to my first employer, because my GPA was pretty good, especially for certain classes, but he had this wondering look on his face. Another kid who got accepted into med school took 5 1/2, and felt whipped. It worries the crap out of you, and starts to burn you out. It has been happening in Florida for a while, and Jeb Bush's solution was to blame it on the students and say they are lazy or something, and decided to cut student aid back. I started college in the last years of the Clinton administration, and when the Bush administration came around, and Jeb was fully in control of Florida, it was ****ty. I started getting locked out of chem classes because they would have like a 2 to 1 ratio of available seats for lecture to lab, and you couldn't take the lecture without the lab. Ridiculous!
     
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  40. Kevin T

    Kevin T Professional

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    1+2. Okay, you don't think groundbreaking research is coming from U of South Carolina, Missouri, Oregon St, U of Georgia, Texas A&M in many fields? You don't think there are plenty of kids that want to stay in-state, for a multitude of reasons?

    3. If you mean top 30 public universities, then yes.

    4. It's not a perfect study but I'm waiting for someone to show me a study with the opposite conclusion. Why would SmartMoney, of all publications, be biased against Ivy schools? Any how many kids with parents making <60k are at Ivy schools?
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2009
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  41. Eph

    Eph Professional

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    I've never heard of anything out of Missouri. I've heard of UNC-Chapel Hill. Ga Tech. U Georgia probably has a good department or two, but I don't know it. Texas A&M is a top 20 school, IIRC. Maybe I'm confusing it with another school in Texas, though. One of the other State schools. Could be very possible...

    I think you can find that information on Harvard's admission site for undergrads. I believe it hoovers around 25%. Well, I guess it is best to look at the source

    http://isites.harvard.edu:80/icb/icb.do?keyword=k51861&pageid=icb.page246751

    My main problem with people's perception of top schools is the amount of misinformation out there. Such as everybody is rich here. True, it is largely a corporate ******* factory, esp. in the College (the College is the undergrad school at the University - I was a ugrad here as well), but it's improved greatly since my advisor graduated in the early 90s.
     
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  42. get it in

    get it in Rookie

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    This thread is really interesting, although it does bounce around a little onto different topics. The OP was comparing UCD to Cal to SF State. There's a pretty big difference between the education you will get at SF State vs. Cal. I think anyone that went to either school will tell you that. However, so many other factors are going into this as other posters have intelligently brought up. What you plan to do with your education is one of the most important. My own opinion is that Cal and Davis are pretty close (relative to SF State) but the edge goes to Cal. SF state...well...it's still a state school. Yes, it's different. You can argue all you want. Professors @ Cal will be much better in terms of research opportunities, etc. Like I said, this could go in several directions so maybe the OP could clarify some more. It's hard to decide what you want to do when you're 20. Hindsight is always 20/20.

    Going back to the issue of 'elite' schools vs. state schools, here's a website you might find interesting:

    http://www.payscale.com/best-colleges

    Basically, it says elite schools do better in the long run in terms of salaries, regardless of college major. Please note that top jobs also tend to be where elite schools happen to be located. This does NOT mean you will not do well at a state school. Please remember that these are averages. Take Bill Gates for example. He's a college dropout. Okay, he's a Harvard dropout. Not such a fantastic example. You get the point, though. My point is that life is what you make of it in the long run. If money is all you (the OP) care about, then you know what to do. I don't assume to know what your goals really are.

    What school you go to will shape your trajectory in life but it probably won't set it in stone. Do what you think is best for you. If SF state is close to home and that's a huge factor, then consider it. Berkeley isn't far, BTW. Weigh your options carefully and choose the one you think works best or simply combine opinions from this board and make up your own.

    Best of luck to you.
     
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  43. Kevin T

    Kevin T Professional

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    That's what I'm getting at...most state U's have excellent funding and research programs (I know from experience attending/teaching/participating in research at 3 state schools). Missouri has an excellent archaeology program. Georgia has a top nutrition school (my field). U of South Carolina has one of the highest rated international business schools in the country. I don't think the top liberal arts schools are producing ground-breaking research in animal sciences, either. :)

    Interesting info about Harvard financial aid. Thanks. But what about living expenses, etc? I would imagine living in Cambridge is a little more expensive than Gainesville, FL. Not to mention issues with travel, spending money, etc. for a poor kid from the south or *******.

    I'm not arguing the reputation/effectiveness of an Ivy/top education. I think there are misconceptions both ways.
     
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  44. Eph

    Eph Professional

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    I think - but I don't know, I didn't qualify for need based aid - that if you're under the 60k mark, that covers everything, including room & board. Same with the 60-250k thing, you just pay 1/10th of the bill. But I am not sure.

    Cambridge is expensive. But room & board is more or less the same price everywhere. I live off campus because 1) I can afford it, 2) I don't want to live in the crappy grad housing dorms, and 3) I prefer it and the location. I pay a lot per month, but I have friends that have roommates and pay 500 a month for their rent (excluding utilities).

    But it comes down to this: you could live like a King in Kenya with 20k a year. The question is, "Do you want to?"

    This may sound biased, but the opportunities offered here are unparalleled. We have 13 degree granting schools, thousands of classes, the most money (2nd richest non-profit in the world, just behind the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we finally beat the Catholic Church for no 2 spot, yay!), and amazing research opportunities. These aren't controversial opinions, but rather facts.

    Add it together, and you have one amazing experience - if you can get in. Once you're here, life is pretty damn good (except for right now: finals weeks).
     
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  45. Kevin T

    Kevin T Professional

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    Oh no, I agree completely. And if OP gets into Berk and Davis, go to the best fit. If Berk is 4 and Davis is 34, I'd say that makes them both top tier. But maybe his total lifestyle is a better fit at Davis or maybe U of Oregon is #35, just as cheap and a better fit. When I was applying to grad school, I considered 1. program rank 2. location 3. wife's opinion of the area 4. assistantships 5. first impressions of profs 6. expense 7. surrounding activities.

    The 'Smartmoney' article was in conjunction with payscale.com and they mention that though elite school grads may do better in the long run, the expense/need for loans often closes the gap.

    College and grad school were about so much more than the program to me. My PhD is nutrition, so I wanted a good program with excellent research and athletic teams. You can't get much better than ACC/SEC basketball and football teams. Working with athletes was a big deal to me, which is why I chose the schools I did.
     
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  46. Tofuspeedstar

    Tofuspeedstar Banned

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    Nope.

    Grades and the hands you shake are what counts.
     
    #46
  47. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    Yeah, but all else being equal, who is the investment bank/private equity firm/hedge fund going to hire and give that $200,000 starting salary to? The Harvard MBA or the University of South Carolina MBA?
     
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  48. BreakPoint

    BreakPoint Bionic Poster

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    So a guy who graduated from Todai or Keio or Waseda is no better off than the guy from graduated from a community college? :confused:
     
    #48
  49. dave333

    dave333 Hall of Fame

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    The main reason that many successful people come from "top" schools is that admissions is filtering process. Unless you have something like famous/ridiculously rich parents or are an athletic recruit (which is still something that has merit), you really need to be a top student not just academically but in everything you do. The people who can get into schools like HYPS and other top schools will be successful where ever they go, so I suppose you can say it doesn't really matter. But HYPS does offer connections and prestige that can bring more success.
     
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  50. Kevin T

    Kevin T Professional

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    The guy who interviews best. Also depends on the city. Charlotte, Atlanta, Charleston...they're taking their "southern" brother over the yankee. Companies in Texas will take a UT grad over a Stanford grad. That's home cooking. A lot of people have no desire to live in NYC, LA, etc.
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2009
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