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Does everyone here have an inferiority complex?

  1. Aug 19, 2008 #1
    I truly don't mean to be beligerant, but I've been reading these (often helpful) forums and I keep seeing people trying to wrangle their way into US Ivy League or Oxbridge, and asking people to placate their fears of inadequacy.

    I have some experience (a BSc) with elitist universities like these in Australia (yes, we have our own elitisms/rankings/snobbery) and must say it was a less than enjoyable 4 year stint, mainly because I was not like most of the other people who studied there.

    Doesn't anyone here want to go to a decent uni, get a good degree, and follow on to a happy career? Why is everyone chasing these brand-names uni's? It saddens me a bit to think that people are pursuing these goals simply because it's expected of them.

    In my experience, a first is a first and experience (voluntary or otherwise) counts for a lot more than most.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 19, 2008 #2

    ZapperZ

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    No, not everyone here has an "inferiority complex". Your post is not belligerent, just ignorant, for a first post by making such a sweeping statement like that.

    Zz.
     
  4. Aug 19, 2008 #3
    I personally think that these types of universities are wayyyy overrated and overexpensive. I read someone where that AP did a poll a 3 years back and the poll reveal that Harvard students confessed to be the most unhappy students compared to students polled at other universities. So the Harvard experience must not be all its cracked up to be.

    I know there are lot of good physicists at a lot of non-elite schools and schools that are not even on the top-thirty lists who are decent physicists who live healthy and productive lives

    I can't say whether the students and professors at these universities you described are snobby or not because I have never attended any ivy university. But most people who have attended these universities tell me the ivy league students are very intelligent and do not give off a snobbish demeanor.
     
  5. Aug 19, 2008 #4

    ZapperZ

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    The problem in any kind of characterization of the outcome of such endeavor is that, other than a few anecdotal accounts, it is very difficult to make any kind of generalization. This is because in many cases, it is highly dependent on what the student is actually doing, or specializing in.

    If one is doing, say, experimental physics, then what is important is the facility and availability of such facility and support. Here, while the "brand name" schools tend to have significantly more of such thing, other less well-known schools can also have equally the same kind of access. This is especially true if such facilities are at a US Nat'l Lab, for instance. So in experimental physics, there is less of a dependent on having to be at one of these brand-name schools.

    The situation isn't as democratic in theoretical physics. Here, as I've mentioned elsewhere, pedigree plays an important role. Who your supervisor was when you were doing your graduate work can often be a significant factor in terms of recognition and prestige. This doesn't mean you still don't have to produce good work - you do. But if you had, say, Phil Anderson as your Ph.D supervisor, that carries A LOT of weight. And unfortunately, these well-known theorists tend to be at these brand-name schools. These schools tend to have the money and the ability to attract these theorists.

    BTW, my definition of "brand name schools" tend to be wider than most students narrow definition. While most people equate that with nothing more than Ivy League schools/MIT/Caltech, my scope covers many other high-powered schools that are very well-known here in the US among the academics, but may not be as well-known to the general public, especially outside the US. This includes UIUC, Stanford, Michigan, North Carolina, Boston U., Johns Hopkins, etc...

    Zz.
     
  6. Aug 19, 2008 #5
    To apply yourself after the best of your ability is not a matter of inferiority complex. It's a matter of loving oneself, people who love themselves also strive in their lives for more than momentary happiness. Sure I could watch movies all day long with my friends drinking beer and chatting about ****. But I choose not to, I choose another path, does that make me have an inferiority complex? I would say the opposite friend :). Because if You love yourself, you gotta apply yourself to the max of your ability and really try to raise that max.

    I myself, am aiming for oxbridge, if that will come to pass? who knows? and in the long run, It doesn't matter. But aiming for semi-impossible things makes for greatness.
     
  7. Aug 19, 2008 #6
    I was mainly was saying that I think ivy league schools are overrated for undergrad students. Why pay more back for your college loans than you have to if you are more or less going to learned the same physics education that you might learn at a less well known universities. Sure, there are probably more sophisticated laboratories at these universities , but students could always apply to an REU program at a university that has your research topic of interested. I hear many people tell me it really matters what grad school you attend because some of the research topics you might be interested in might be only at a really top tier university. What is the significance of have a PhD. supervisor like Steven Hawking other than that he is a world renown research physicist known for his work on black hole radiation.
     
  8. Aug 19, 2008 #7

    ZapperZ

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    But again, that would be the theoretical physics area, and I've mentioned about pedigree already. Whether justified or not, it is a factor that your PhD supervisor was Steven Hawking. One only needs to look at what happened to every single graduate student that he graduated. Same goes with my example with Phil Anderson. Granted that many of these physicists get to hand-pick the best candidates there are out there, but that's a fact in this field that these theorists produce outstanding work from their students, and thus, causes others to look highly upon those students when they graduate.

    As for undergraduate education, I've always argued that people who simply want to go to these brand name schools and not others have a very strange and short-sighted view of undergraduate education.

    Zz.
     
  9. Aug 19, 2008 #8

    What are the typical qualities a pHD candidate must adhere too to be considered a really good pHd candidate?
     
  10. Aug 19, 2008 #9
    I personally would consider being able to talk at over 3 words per minute a good thing in a supervisor, and especially important if they had a lot of other commitments...

    I was rejected from Oxford as an undergraduate, from talking to someone else a year or two above me who did get it it sounds like I didn't miss much. They have a similar number of students to where I ended up (Bristol) and it sounds like less choice of classes, despite having enormously more members of staff and postgrads. This sounds to me like they're not that interested in undergraduate teaching, whereas Bristol almost seem like they're not that interested in research and would rather teach.

    When applying for PhDs, I got rejected from 5 places (none of them Cambridge, and 2 who had accepted me as an undergrad) and only accepted by Oxford. So it wasn't a brand name thing, it was a combination of recommendation from people in the field and ending up with no choice.
     
  11. Aug 19, 2008 #10

    ZapperZ

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    Pass the qualifying exam. :)

    Zz.
     
  12. Aug 19, 2008 #11
    what year as a pHD student do pHD students take their qualifying exam?
     
  13. Aug 19, 2008 #12
    Ok, it was a generalisation to say "everyone" on the board has an IC. Apologies. Don't know why I wrote it because it isn't even what i meant.

    But the rest of my comment stands.
     
  14. Aug 19, 2008 #13

    ZapperZ

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    For most schools, they have to pass it by the end of the 2nd year. I believe I've written a whole chapter on this in my "So You Want to Be A Physicist" essay.

    Zz.
     
  15. Aug 19, 2008 #14
    I don't think don't think the US concept of qualifying exams applies to Oxford or Cambridge, unless I'm in for a shock next year or Cambridge do weird stuff I don't know about. They seem to be marginally equivalent to showing you've made suitable progress at the end of the first year in the UK university, but you would need to have been accepted onto the programme a year ago to be in that position (and do something really stupid to get kicked out).
     
  16. Aug 19, 2008 #15
    I think this is a glass half-empty/half-full situation.

    Nine times out of ten, when someone posts one of these "Do I have a chance to get into XYZ University?" posts, I don't see someone who has an inferiority complex, I see someone who is totally delusional about their prospects.
     
  17. Aug 19, 2008 #16
    Oh no, my inferiority is quite simple.
     
  18. Aug 19, 2008 #17
    Given how many non-academic factors are used in college admissions, I'm not surprised in any way that students find it difficult to know where they can get in.
     
  19. Aug 19, 2008 #18
    I know I do.

    I have a BS in Physics and I can't get a job.
     
  20. Aug 20, 2008 #19
    Why?

    At least as far as undergraduate applications are concerned, there's a good number of misguided 18-year-olds who do have the grades to apply to a top university. You have then:

    i) uncertainty as to what one wants to do with his/her life
    ii) entrance exams / interview process to pass

    An amalgamation of i and ii often yields questions of the type, "do i have a chance to get into oxford?" etc., the answer to which is unequivocably, YES, but expect i) to do your odds no favours.

    See i'm assuming you mean by what you said: "If you have to ask if you have a chance of getting in, you have no chance of getting in," which reminds me of a similar contentious viewpoint regarding genius: "Genius doesn't ask what genius is. Genius is." Rubbish. Granted there are those who are trying to reach out and grasp onto the remnants of something they once had and so pose such questions really in kidding themselves... BUT.. this whole 'get on with it and don't question yourself' attitude is enough to destroy the very potential which self-doubt inspires...

    To add to that... the inferiority complex is a very useful tool with a good bit of guidance, only guidance needn't be so hard-faced as to try to undo the very inferiorities which beg the root question: how best might I channel my inferiorities in the context of this existing educational system.......? or in other words: give me guidance as to which university i should attend and I would hope i'll discover myselfa good deal more in my 4 years there.
     
  21. Aug 20, 2008 #20
    I think I fell off the thread of my last post at the end... edit:


    At least as far as undergraduate applications are concerned, there's a good number of misguided 18-year-olds who do have the grades to apply to a top university. You have then:

    i) uncertainty as to what one wants to do with his/her life
    ii) entrance exams / interview process to pass

    An amalgamation of i and ii often yields questions of the type, "do i have a chance to get into oxford?" etc., the answer to which is unequivocably, YES, but expect i) to do your odds no favours.

    See i'm assuming you mean by what you said: "If you have to ask if you have a chance of getting in, you have no chance of getting in," which reminds me of a similar contentious viewpoint regarding genius: "Genius doesn't ask what genius is. Genius is." Rubbish. Granted there are those who are trying to reach out and grasp onto the remnants of something they once had and so pose such questions really in kidding themselves, but then I think a good number of students have only a "course preference" and look to dress that up by going to a good university, as opposed to a real course enjoyment whereby they ask for the sake of finding a suitable course.

    Either way it boils down to being misguided and not deluded about ability.
     
  22. Aug 20, 2008 #21
    I know I do too, however my problem is that I can't QUIT a job. Actually finding one is easy as pie.

    About a year ago while I was in school I had the confidence and security to say, "I am hot stuff, I know a lot". Now I realize I was completely ignorant and know absolutely nothing. I probably know about a tenth of the stuff the average person on this forum does. However, when I ask "Can I get into top school XYZ", I know the answer is no, and I do know enough to not make a post about it.
     
  23. Aug 20, 2008 #22
    These students I would include as part of the 1 in 10. But it seems to me that most of the questions come from students who are somewhat above average but have very little chance of admission (unless they have some outstanding achievement that they failed to mention in their post).

    The fact of the matter is, the top colleges are *amazingly* competitive. Anyone applying to these schools needs to think about whether they have a chance of getting in or not.

    Go take a look at Princeton's website... they have some interesting admission statistics posted there. They admit about 1/6th of the applicants that have a 4.0 GPA, and about 1/4th of the applicants that have an SAT over 2300. So the odds are heavily against even the very top students!
     
  24. Aug 20, 2008 #23
    I'd have said most students (more than 1 in every 10) in the UK don't even consider Oxbridge unless they have 3 A grades or are on for 3 As, in which case they would likely get an interview and so pose the question "What are my chances?" when in fact they should be asking "Do I want to go here? How best to approach the interview?"

    Perhaps when people start saying things like... my GPA is 3.0 or I am a 3 Bs student.. then it is a bit deluded; I suppose I just didn't think many people in that position would actually CONSIDER the prospect in the situation.
     
  25. Aug 20, 2008 #24
    But the situation sort of confuses applicants because these schools DO accept students with some SAT sections below 700, and it's hard for applicants to know if their "soft" factors compensate for below average test scores, since they don't know what admissions are like.
     
  26. Aug 20, 2008 #25
    I think in general, the people who don't have top flight GPA's, SAT scores, etc. have really outstanding extra curricular. Maybe they took a lot of college courses in the summer, maybe they were involved in local research programs, maybe they did meaningful volunteer work at a hospital. I mean they aren't going to let in a kid with an 80 average and a 80% SAT score without some really good outside activities and accomplishments. Maybe he participated in a Physics or Math competition and scored very well.

    And in general, a lot of the big name schools that are thrown around here have 10-20% admissions rate, so even if you are qualified, your chances aren't good to begin with.
     
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