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Does the name of your undergrad institution affect where you end up for grad school?

  1. Aug 6, 2009 #1
    Hey all,

    I just graduated from a small-ish northeastern private liberal arts university known more for it's law and communications departments than it's science education. It's a fairly respectable school but a small physics department, about 50 students in total.

    I plan on taking a year off and study for the GREs and make some money prior to grad school.

    Now, I did a fair amount of research, and could easily get some good rec's, and spent most of my undergrad grade-grubbing ending up with a 3.8. I'm wondering if I should start looking at top 10 schools for masters programs (I really don't know what field I'd like to do a PhD in yet) or should I set my sights a little lower since I don't have an ivy name on my transcripts.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 6, 2009 #2
    Re: Does the name of your undergrad institution affect where you end up for grad scho

    I'd still try. It's not like you can only pick one or five schools to apply to. It matters, but the degree to which it does varies. You're definitely not a shoe-in, but with excellent GREs you could make it.
     
  4. Aug 6, 2009 #3
    Re: Does the name of your undergrad institution affect where you end up for grad scho

    Yeah, I keep on saying what the heck, I'll apply, doesn't hurt. But I just wonder how the MITs and Stanfords view a school like mine. I applied to medical school last year (to little avail, probably due to weak effort) and there's certainly a dispairity, just check out the sdn forums.
     
  5. Aug 6, 2009 #4
    Re: Does the name of your undergrad institution affect where you end up for grad scho

    Well it sounds like it won't give you any boost but I doubt it'd detract. If you did research, recommendation letters, and great grades, you have a shot.
     
  6. Aug 7, 2009 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Re: Does the name of your undergrad institution affect where you end up for grad scho

    Does the name matter? Not really. Does the quality of education matter? Absolutely. You have to be prepared for graduate school, and not every undergraduate physics degree really does that.
     
  7. Aug 7, 2009 #6

    j93

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    Re: Does the name of your undergrad institution affect where you end up for grad scho

    Pursuits in which prestige matters. Business, Law, and then Med school then other then physics.
     
  8. Aug 8, 2009 #7
    Re: Does the name of your undergrad institution affect where you end up for grad scho

    Basically none of the top schools in graduate physics offer terminal masters degree programs. You'd have to set your sights lower if you plan on just getting a masters. Or perhaps in your year off you can do research and figure out what field you'd like to pursue.

    Otherwise, you can just apply to the Ph.D. programs at the top schools and just stop after doing all of the requirements for a masters degree.
     
  9. Aug 8, 2009 #8
    Re: Does the name of your undergrad institution affect where you end up for grad scho

    I went to a not very well known liberal arts school and got into some top-10 Statistics PhD programs. Don't know how competitive these are compared to Physics programs, but I've always been told that school reputations isn't very important, especially with a strong subject test score.

    Also, the purpose of the first few semesters in a PhD program is to gain exposure to a bunch of research areas by taking a broad range of courses. Lots of people change their research field and end up doing their dissertation on something completely different than what they mentioned in their statement of purpose. Plus, MS programs are not always funded; PhD programs (at least the better ones) almost always are.

    Thus, I'd recommend applying straight for the PhD. Study hard for the GRE. Apply to well-rounded schools that are strong in a couple areas that appeal to you. Your stats look very good. Also, apply broadly! Graduate funding is decreasing while applications are rising (in some cases doubling or tripling) due to the economy.
     
  10. Aug 8, 2009 #9
    Re: Does the name of your undergrad institution affect where you end up for grad scho

    Somehow, I want to say that if a prestigious grad school is your goal, a prestigious undergrad may actually hinder you.

    Hear me out. Think about private schools back in high school. They sent maybe 10-20 students every year to Fancy U. Universities do informal quotas, as you can obviously tell if you plot number of students matriculated to Fancy U versus time (it stays roughly constant).

    Now, you could go to that private school, and fight all the other private school kids for 10-20 slots, or you could go to a crap public school like I did and fight retards for 3-5 spots.

    I won one of those 3 slots from my public school, but I was always kind of lazy. I don't think I'd be able to put in the sheer hard work some of my private school peers did in order to get in.

    Same rule might just apply to undergrad. A lot of my peers at Duke are very smart. Our classes are considerably harder than their counterparts down the road at the state college. I know, because I took them in high school and destroyed them, then came to Duke and got hit pretty hard. Would I do better competing against 20 really smart kids for 10 spots or 100 not as smart kids (products of public schools like me) for 10 spots? I have a feeling I might have had a better shot at the latter (and by feeling, I mean I'm almost sure I could have maintained a 3.9+ which would be good enough considering precedent to get into a lot of top grad programs).
     
  11. Aug 8, 2009 #10
    Re: Does the name of your undergrad institution affect where you end up for grad scho

    I've never heard of "undergrad institution quotas" i.e., taking at most X students from a certain school. I'm pretty sure that in grad school, where the department pays up to 50k/year per student (tuition waiver, stipend, insurance etc...), the top __ applications are chosen. Going to a school known for its tough grading (like UC Berkeley) might move your application up a few spots up, but I'm pretty sure that's where your undergraduate institution's effect on grad admissions ends.
     
  12. Aug 8, 2009 #11
    Re: Does the name of your undergrad institution affect where you end up for grad scho

    Yup, that's exactly my point. While the quota system doesn't translate over literally, little weight is given to prestige of the undergrad system. So while Fancy U student might not get any consideration over State U student for going to Fancy U, Fancy U student might suffer much more from the damage fellow Fancy U students did to his/her gpa, while equally smart State U student ended up with a significantly better gpa due to an easier mix of classmates and classes. So even if Fancy U student and State U student have about the same amount of talent, State U student graduates with a 4.0 instead of a 3.7 and goes to Fancy Grad (as does the kid from Fancy U who got a 4.0) whereas as 3.7 Fancy U boy goes to State Grad due to his less impressive gpa.
     
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