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Does it really matter where I go?

  1. Dec 29, 2009 #1
    2009 is drawing to a close and that means I have very little time left to choose where to study in 2010. I need to choose quick so that I have ample time for visa application and learning the local language.

    You probably remembered me making threads about does this or that country have good math studies...The problem is I am too distracted with the process of evaluating the difficulty of the course and the overall motivation of its students whereas I should be focusing on finding means to finance my studies or learning the local language. I have a ton of places I can pick from but in the end does it really matter where I go?

    I know this is frequently asked question in this board...but I just don't want the depressing experience in my first degree studies to be repeated again. I just hate having my intelligence and my pride insulted by having to attend 2-hour lectures on mundane topics I can easily research by myself....or being the only one to raise hands and answer questions in tutorials since the other students around me are demotivated and passive. Even more painful still that the courses are made easy to accommodate the underachieving attitude of the students here - I swear that on several occasions I find the exam questions are copied STRAIGHT OUT of the tutorials. (Perhaps it's due to the high tuition fees, they don't want to upset the parents by letting their children fail semester after semester)

    When I say I want a study program that pushes my mental capacity beyond my limits, I am dead serious. I don't want to pick a place in America/Europe just to find that the courses are plug-and-chug'ish like in Malaysia. My potential deserves better than that.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 29, 2009 #2
    Is this for grad school or undergrad? If it's for undergrad then I'm sure MIT, Caltech, Princeton, CMU, Penn State, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, NYU, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Brown, Cambridge, Stanford, Oxford among other places will have very challengeing math programs, especially MIT, Cambridge, Caltech, Princeton and Harvard (from what I gather). If you can get into any of those programs I would expect that it would be challenging.

    As for grad school, I don't know what your research interests are so I can't help you. My interests are in logic and algebra, so if that is your are of interest I might be able to point out some specific programs I have looked at.

    Anyway, without more detailed information, no one here will be able to help you much.

    That said; I would try my best not to write my admissions letter like your post.
  4. Dec 29, 2009 #3
    It's for undergrad. I know that I should keep my reasons to myself when I apply. It's not something people like to read about.
  5. Dec 29, 2009 #4
    It's not just that; you need to present your motivations in a different way so as not to seem arrogant or that you believe that you are entitled to more than you are. Let them know that you desire a real challenge and let them know what your interests are: be specific if you can.

    Where do you rank in your class? What sort of things have you done outside of school? Have you taken the TOEFL or any other standardized tests? Did you do well? Have you participated in any math competitions (I don't know if you have many available to you in your area)?

    All of these things factor into where you should apply. I can tell you that nearly any large school (state schools for instance) in the U.S. will give you a decent education in mathematics and most of the time the students will be motivated to learn. If your credentials are very good, you might want to look at places like Penn State, Carnagie Mellon, University of Michigan, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. If your credentials are exceptional, you might want to look at University of Chicago, HArvard, MIT, Caltech or Princeton.

    If you want, you could look at the U.S. News rankings for mathematics graduate programs. If you want a program that is rigorous and will most likely have all of the classes you would want to take, those rankings seem to me to be reasonably reliable. They guarantee nothing in the way of how good the professors are at teaching or how likley it is that you will be able to do research as an undergrad (though being at a highly ranked school probably won't hurt you there).
  6. Dec 29, 2009 #5
    You mean you are not in college yet??!!!

    Hate to be blunt, don't be too smug!!! HS is very very very different form university. Even if you are in junior college like those city college stuff, the first two years are pretty easy. The third and forth year are day and night difference. I remember being from Hong Kong, we study more advance in HS, the first year was a joke, second year was still a breeze, try the third and forth year. I got straight As in my major, but I did spent nights in the library!!!

    Unless you get A's in PDE, Electromagnetics, quantum mechanics in a decent school( nothing of the state U type), it is good to be a little humble.

    There are lectures on video from MIT, India Institude of Technology on Youtube. Listen to them and see how you fare.

    I already retired after close to 30 years as an engineer and as manager of electronic engineering. I published papers in Review of Scientic Instruments and I own pattern. I am retired already and I am still here humbly learning and asking questions all the time here.

    Back to your question, yes it make a difference if you go to places like Stanford, MIT vs some state U. I study on my own, I looked a the books and the the chapter the school cover. Very different!!!! Like San Jose State, I follow their EM class, it was very easy, I have to get other books to suppliment. Also being around high quality students tend to humble people down and really try to study.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
  7. Dec 30, 2009 #6
    Actually yungman I have completed my first undergraduate degree. I am looking forward to taking another one next year, in a completely unrelated field which is mathematics.
  8. Dec 30, 2009 #7
    What degree you have? If you worry about too easy, go for the MS degree. Ask the college advisor what do you need to full fill to get into the MS program. Then you just full fill the requirement and go straight to the grad school. Getting a second BS is wasting time in your case. Then it might not be as important to go to a top university.
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