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Difference between good schools and others

  1. May 28, 2009 #1
    difference between "good" schools and others

    Hello, I always assumed that for undergraduate studies, schools typically use the same books. For example, it seems from these forums an awful lot of schools use Griffiths for E&M.

    Because of this I figured the knowledge one has when graduating is probably comparable between schools (i.e. a good student at some state school should generally be comparable to a good student from a "good" school like caltech).

    Can anyone confirm or deny this? I'm most of the way though my studies (a year left or maybe a bit more) with a 3.9 gpa, but I am slightly worried that maybe I wouldn't be prepared to survive in graduate school if I go to a "good school". I do a lot of extra work that I don't really need to do to get 'A', but it sure seems like more is expected from students while I'm watching the opencourseware lectures from MIT, not that they're necessarily over my head.

    Also, a separate question, I've looked at a site where students post where they've applied and where they've gotten accepted, and include their GPAs, test scores and other information relevant to their applications. It seems like getting into the top schools is virtually impossible? Lots of these guys have like a 3.99 gpa with high test scores and 3 or 4 years of undergraduate research experience and have published and they still get turned down by most of the top schools... It doesn't seem like a 3.9 and high test scores alone could get me in, especially because I go to a branch of a state university (or do they distinguish between which branch you came from?) Although I do have 2 majors perhaps that would help, or maybe not.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 28, 2009 #2
    Re: difference between "good" schools and others

    I got accepted to a top tier school and I went to a middle tier school for undergrad. My GPA was not 3.9, and my GRE Quantitative was not 800. However, I had a couple of years of great research experience which gave me a very nice recommendation letter, plenty to pack my CV with, and a very clear vision of where I wanted to go in my field.

    So, from personal experience, I can say that the criteria you listed is not always necessary. What are your majors, btw?
  4. May 28, 2009 #3


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    Re: difference between "good" schools and others

    The undergrad and graduate experience at top universities and most universities are totally different. Youre not going be able to experience anything like undergrad as a graduate because the goals of your education have shifted and there is not any need to sort you out based on grades anymore. No top graduate program has more students from their undergrad program than other university students therefore they are taking students from other universities including state schools as long as PGRE is right.
  5. May 29, 2009 #4
    Re: difference between "good" schools and others

    I also went to a top 25 grad school (top 5 or above in certain fields) with a typical undergrad prep -- in my case from a small Catholic school (3.98 GPA, strong research, two strong minors in chem and math, OK GRE but not stellar... but also I had post-BS work experience in national labs and in teaching that this particular university often favors in its admission process -- and master's degrees in optics and education).

    Note that I generally kicked butt in my core graduate coursework and I had just your usual prep (including Griffith's E&M and Quantum)... so don't worry about that if you get in (just work your butt off). I even got some perfect scores on E&M tests that shocked my instructor (known for being difficult) so much that he apparently got word around to other faculty (who would come up to me at department holiday and end-of-year parties to congratulate me).

    Then after core classes (and when you get selected to join a group, which CAN depend on prior experience and grades depending on how much the prof looks into your records), it's all about what you do in the lab (if you're an experimentalist) or I suppose at the computer (if you're in theory). That's a combo of brilliance, work ethics, and pure luck.
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