Elitist attitudes by going to prestigious universities?

  • Schools
  • Thread starter kramer733
  • Start date
  • #1
kramer733
323
0
So I have a couple of friends who attend waterloo and they really feel that if they attend waterloo that they're better than the people who attend other universities in ontario. They're in engineering and i guess waterloo is apparently reknowned for engineering but i just feel like sometimes they show it off way too much.

I know this isn't really a forum for this kind of problem but how do i get them to tone it down or show them that waterloo is just another university and they don't learn anything different than they could've learned in Ottawa. Well atleast that's what I keep on hearing on this forum. You learn the same stuff you'd learn from any other credible university.

Actually is this even true or does waterloo actually make you smarter compared to a university like carleton?

If each credible university is the same in course content, then why is it that people assume waterloo is amazing?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
jobyts
218
58
If you were given a choice to choose between waterloo and other universities in Ontario, which one would you have chosen? And why? That might answer your question.
 
  • #3
Jimmy Snyder
1,095
20
A school with a good reputation might not be any better, but its graduates may get better job offers. I got my degree from the Harvard University of Cosmetology in Boston, Georgia. That name has made all the difference.
 
  • #4
18,932
9,211
Successful people will be successful anywhere. Big name schools are usually about getting top connections and recruitment opportunities.
 
  • #5
Ryker
1,086
2
Tell them Waterloo doesn't even have an NHL, AHL or WHL team.

On a tad more serious note (although lack of good hockey teams should be considered pretty serious in itself), I don't think there's much you can do to convince them to keep things in perspective. There's nothing you say that will change their minds, it's the reality that will someday catch up with them and they will realize people attending other universities are nothing to be looked down upon. I think they should be proud of the university they're attending (Waterloo probably is really good in engineering), nothing wrong with that, but thinking they're somehow better than everyone else is another thing. This also has to do with personality, a down-to-Earth person will never assume such attitude, so I think your task would be greater than just convincing them Waterloo isn't all that.

Also, not knowing anything about engineering at Waterloo or Carleton, it is possible that you get more from attending one university rather than the other due to, say, better teaching, better facilities or any other factors. But that isn't to say all students at one university are "better" (defining that is a problem in itself) than students at the other. You could have a university whose average students are "better", but you still get distribution on a curve. So while the curriculum itself being equal doesn't tell the whole story, with universities that are considered roughly par with each other, I kind of doubt you can get a significant discrepancy in knowledge gained. From student to student, yes, but in general, probably not.
 
  • #6
lisab
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,035
623
Successful people will be successful anywhere. Big name schools are usually about getting top connections and recruitment opportunities.

+(3-2)

(Needed extra characters :tongue2:)
 
  • #7
G01
Homework Helper
Gold Member
2,696
17
A school with a good reputation might not be any better, but its graduates may get better job offers. I got my degree from the Harvard University of Cosmetology in Boston, Georgia. That name has made all the difference.

Cosmology at Harvard you say! Well, you're hired! :biggrin:
 
  • #8
Shaun_W
320
9
I find this prestige bragging rather funny. In the end it all counts for absolutely nothing if they get the same graduate job (and thus the same salary, opportunities for promotion, and other benefits etc.). And it's doubly funny if they end up on a lower salary or unemployed.
 
  • #9
JaredJames
2,817
22
I read some listings a few years back of university employment prospects in the UK.

I attend Kingston University, their graduates (in Aerospace Engineering) have a 75% employment rate. I then checked Cambridge University (now there's an elitist school) and their graduates (in the same subject) had a 100% employment rate - the best in the country.

Now I'm not saying either is better than the other, but no matter what rankings you check you'll always find Cambridge and Oxford up near the top for things like employment. Bosses see Cambridge on a CV and it's like you've handed them gold leaf to wipe their backside with.
 
  • #10
Pengwuino
Gold Member
5,124
17
I think you should take this as no different than if someone was from a more affluent city and they rubbed it in your face. Who cares? It's a sign of pettiness and it reflects on their character more than what university they were able to attend.
 
  • #11
Shaun_W
320
9
I read some listings a few years back of university employment prospects in the UK.

I attend Kingston University, their graduates (in Aerospace Engineering) have a 75% employment rate. I then checked Cambridge University (now there's an elitist school) and their graduates (in the same subject) had a 100% employment rate - the best in the country.

Last time I checked (which was a few seconds ago) Cambridge does not offer an MEng in Aerospace or Aeronautical Engineering - only a general engineering degree. And if you look at the employment rates for their general engineering graduates, only 43% become engineers.

Now I'm not saying either is better than the other, but no matter what rankings you check you'll always find Cambridge and Oxford up near the top for things like employment.

For six months after graduation. What about it?

You've also got to keep in mind that no-one hands out more 2is than Oxbridge. They are quite far ahead of the pack in handing out the best grades, and in our world of auto-filters this gives the university a massive advantage in that their graduates won't be filtered out immediately.

Bosses see Cambridge on a CV and it's like you've handed them gold leaf to wipe their backside with.

Only within a select few companies in a select few industries. The vast, vast majority do not give the slightest bit of a damn about something so meaningless.
 
  • #12
JaredJames
2,817
22
Last time I checked (which was a few seconds ago) Cambridge does not offer an MEng in Aerospace or Aeronautical Engineering - only a general engineering degree. And if you look at the employment rates for their general engineering graduates, only 43% become engineers.

Really? Taken directly from the Cambridge website:
Part I provides you with a broad and robust education in the fundamentals of engineering. This enables you to make a genuinely informed choice about the area in which you’ll specialise in your third and fourth years, fully aware of your strengths and interests. We find that many of our students change direction as a result. Part II provides in-depth training in your chosen professional area, whether it be Civil, Structural, Mechanical, Aerospace, Biomedical, Electrical, Electronic, Information or Manufacturing Engineering.

http://www.cam.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/courses/engineering/index.html

Their format is slightly different, general for 2 years and then specialist for the final.

Kingston was the same, you are general engineering the first year and then specific from there on. But, you'd already chosen your area initially. Whereas Cambridge let you choose 'on the fly'.
For six months after graduation. What about it?

Six months unemployed sounds a right lark.
You've also got to keep in mind that no-one hands out more 2is than Oxbridge. They are quite far ahead of the pack in handing out the best grades, and in our world of auto-filters this gives the university a massive advantage in that their graduates won't be filtered out immediately.

Which reinforces my point. Good or bad it means you have a better chance of being seen. Even if not for the elitist reason.
Only within a select few companies in a select few industries. The vast, vast majority do not give the slightest bit of a damn about something so meaningless.

Speaking from experience there? I am.

I know that after a period of time it doesn't make much difference, but whether you like it or not a degree from Cambridge has a far bigger initial impact than one from a 'lesser' university.


General Engineering (they don't have the stats for specific areas for Cambridge), employability is 86%. Oxford is now top with 90%.
Mechanical specific for Kingston is 71%.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/table/2010/jun/04/university-guide-engineering-general-

So far, whenever I see Oxford / Cambridge in stats they are at the top for things like employability, but not always for teaching.
 
  • #13
AlephZero
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
7,025
297
I know this isn't really a forum for this kind of problem but how do i get them to tone it down
Don't bother trying. If they annoy you, find some other friends who don't.

Actually is this even true or does waterloo actually make you smarter compared to a university like carleton?
You may not have understood how cause and effect works in this situation. If you have to be smarter than average to enter a particular university, there is a good chance you will still be smarter than average when you leave it.
 
  • #14
twofish-quant
6,821
18
I know this isn't really a forum for this kind of problem but how do i get them to tone it down or show them that waterloo is just another university and they don't learn anything different than they could've learned in Ottawa. Well atleast that's what I keep on hearing on this forum. You learn the same stuff you'd learn from any other credible university.

You just live with it. MIT people have the same issues with Harvard people, and the very fact that you are trying to show that their school isn't that good is taken as evidence that it isn't.

If each credible university is the same in course content, then why is it that people assume waterloo is amazing?

Good marketing...
 
  • #15
twofish-quant
6,821
18
Successful people will be successful anywhere.

Not true. This becomes obvious when you have relatives that live in third world countries, particularly one with unstable political systems.

Big name schools are usually about getting top connections and recruitment opportunities.

That's true and this is where the marketing comes in. Because people think X is a school, when human resources wants to hire fifty people they stop at big name school. It's not really any different from shopping at Toys R' US or Walmart.
 
  • #16
twofish-quant
6,821
18
Now I'm not saying either is better than the other, but no matter what rankings you check you'll always find Cambridge and Oxford up near the top for things like employment. Bosses see Cambridge on a CV and it's like you've handed them gold leaf to wipe their backside with.

Not sure how things work in the UK, but that's *not* how schools in the US get their people hired. Also I very strongly distrust surveys because schools have been known to fix the results. One easy way of getting the results you want is to mail out a survey, because people without jobs tend not to reply to them.

The problem is not what the boss does once you get the resume. The problem is getting the resume to the right people. In the US, schools that are good at career services have relationships with employers so that when the employer wants to hire people, they ask career services to send over a batch of candidates. If you are looking to buy a television, you could wander around, or you can go to the nearest Best Buy where a nice salesman makes it easy for you.

Also, you have alumni networks, with people that tell you what to say, what to wear, what not to say, how to write the resume, etc. etc. Alumni networks are important. If someone random sends in a resume, there's no particular motivation to do anything about it. If you know that you are going to see a friend of a friend of that someone next week, you are going to make sure that the resume doesn't get lost, and keeping your resume from getting lost is 2/3's of the battle.

One reason I post a lot to forums like these is that I hate elitism, and I want to even up the odds. Basically, the stuff that I'm telling you is more or less the stuff that you learn if you go to a big name university.
 
  • #17
twofish-quant
6,821
18
They are quite far ahead of the pack in handing out the best grades, and in our world of auto-filters this gives the university a massive advantage in that their graduates won't be filtered out immediately.

If your school has a good relationship with HR, your resume goes directly from the university into the system, and bypasses the autofilter. Most resumes that get submitted to a company go into this database that no one reads, and having a person from the school talking to the company makes sure that doesn't happen.

Also having "agents" from the school to the company helps you a lot. If someone from the University of Waterloo calls me with a stack of resumes, I'll be polite, but I can't and likely won't make any extraordinary efforts to make sure that those resumes get anywhere because I don't have any particular connection with that school. It's likely to be #50 on my TODO list which means that it's not going to get done.

If someone from MIT or University of Texas at Austin calls me up, I'll make some extra efforts to make sure that those resumes get to the right person, because I owe them, and they'll make me feel guilty until I do something. It's likely to be #3 on my TODO list which means it is going to get done.

It also works the other way. If I say that the University of Waterloo is totally incompetent at placing engineers (this is a hypothetical, I really don't know), then no one there is likely to take anything I say seriously and the reaction is likely to be "mind your own business." If I make some sharp criticisms of MIT or UT Austin, it's likely to be taken a lot more seriously, and "mind your own business" is not going to be a counterargument.
 
Last edited:
  • #18
twofish-quant
6,821
18
I find this prestige bragging rather funny. In the end it all counts for absolutely nothing if they get the same graduate job (and thus the same salary, opportunities for promotion, and other benefits etc.).

If...
 
  • #19
deluks917
382
4
I think people also take the "prestige doesn't matter" attitude too far. Take a serious look at the courses offered by Harvards math department as compared to rutgers. Some of the harvard courses cover much more material (harder material too). I'm sure you can be successful at Rutgers but you should be aware your number theory course isn't the same as Harvards.
 
  • #20
JaredJames
2,817
22
Not sure how things work in the UK, but that's *not* how schools in the US get their people hired.

Didn't say it was how people got hired in the UK.
Also I very strongly distrust surveys because schools have been known to fix the results. One easy way of getting the results you want is to mail out a survey, because people without jobs tend not to reply to them.

The surveys are completed independently - I think I gave the link earlier.

Anyhow, the surveys for the specific area I was discussing (employability) are based on the number of graduates in a subject that get a job within 6 months of leaving. So it's not something you can fix very easily (suppose you could employ all your graduates).
 
  • #21
twofish-quant
6,821
18
The surveys are completed independently - I think I gave the link earlier.

But they looking on the HESA site they involve voluntary replies which causes all sorts of biases.

Anyhow, the surveys for the specific area I was discussing (employability) are based on the number of graduates in a subject that get a job within 6 months of leaving. So it's not something you can fix very easily (suppose you could employ all your graduates).

Which has been done...

http://ventureforamerica.org/2011/01/nytimes-article-on-the-cost-benefit-of-law-school [Broken]

A number of law schools hire their own graduates, some in hourly temp jobs that, as it turns out, coincide with the magical date. Last year, for instance, Georgetown Law sent an e-mail to alums who were “still seeking employment.” It announced three newly created jobs in admissions, paying $20 an hour. The jobs just happened to start on Feb. 1 and lasted six weeks.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #22
Choppy
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
4,809
2,092
When I first went to university in Ontario the thing to do was kids get your fancy leather jacket with your major written on your sleeve and school crest on your chest and then come back home over the Christmas break and wear it all over the place - in the malls, in the bars, etc. Looking back on this it really wasn't that much different than simply going out and paying way too much money for a brand name shirt or pair of shoes that you could wear just to show off.

It sounds like things haven't changed much.
 
  • #23
Jokerhelper
182
0
1. Engineering programs are very well regulated across Canada. So in terms of course content, at the end of your degree you will have covered about the same material regardless of what university you attend.

2. I'd say U of Waterloo definitely knows how to place engineers. They have the biggest co-op program in Canada, and they claim it to be the biggest in the world as well (13,000 students). When I used to live in Toronto I actually visited their campus and facilities on an orientation tour. It was stunning, and by all means better than my current school (U of Calgary). Personally, sometimes I wish I had enrolled to Waterloo, especially now that I'm in engineering myself, but I chose not to at the time because I was tired of moving every three years.

3. To the OP:
Why do you care so much about your friends bragging? Why do you feel compelled to justify that your school is just as good as theirs? Is it perhaps that, deep inside, you think they're right?
 
  • #24
twofish-quant
6,821
18
Take a serious look at the courses offered by Harvards math department as compared to rutgers. Some of the harvard courses cover much more material (harder material too).

And some don't. Most people at Harvard don't take Math 55.

I'm sure you can be successful at Rutgers but you should be aware your number theory course isn't the same as Harvards.

I haven't taken courses at Harvard, but I have taken courses at MIT, and the classroom curriculum is pretty standard, and while there are some outstanding teachers, classroom instruction isn't something that MIT is particularly good at.
 
  • #25
Shaun_W
320
9
Really? Taken directly from the Cambridge website:


http://www.cam.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/courses/engineering/index.html

Their format is slightly different, general for 2 years and then specialist for the final.

Kingston was the same, you are general engineering the first year and then specific from there on. But, you'd already chosen your area initially. Whereas Cambridge let you choose 'on the fly'.


Six months unemployed sounds a right lark.


Which reinforces my point. Good or bad it means you have a better chance of being seen. Even if not for the elitist reason.


Speaking from experience there? I am.

I know that after a period of time it doesn't make much difference, but whether you like it or not a degree from Cambridge has a far bigger initial impact than one from a 'lesser' university.


General Engineering (they don't have the stats for specific areas for Cambridge), employability is 86%. Oxford is now top with 90%.
Mechanical specific for Kingston is 71%.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/table/2010/jun/04/university-guide-engineering-general-

So far, whenever I see Oxford / Cambridge in stats they are at the top for things like employability, but not always for teaching.

Oxbridge is usually up at the top for employability because they hand out the highest amount of 2is, therefore the highest proportion of their candidates do not get filtered out immediately. Now compare that with Kingston and other universities that hand out a much lower amount of 2is.
 
  • #26
Shaun_W
320
9
If your school has a good relationship with HR, your resume goes directly from the university into the system, and bypasses the autofilter. Most resumes that get submitted to a company go into this database that no one reads, and having a person from the school talking to the company makes sure that doesn't happen.

Also having "agents" from the school to the company helps you a lot. If someone from the University of Waterloo calls me with a stack of resumes, I'll be polite, but I can't and likely won't make any extraordinary efforts to make sure that those resumes get anywhere because I don't have any particular connection with that school. It's likely to be #50 on my TODO list which means that it's not going to get done.

If someone from MIT or University of Texas at Austin calls me up, I'll make some extra efforts to make sure that those resumes get to the right person, because I owe them, and they'll make me feel guilty until I do something. It's likely to be #3 on my TODO list which means it is going to get done.

It also works the other way. If I say that the University of Waterloo is totally incompetent at placing engineers (this is a hypothetical, I really don't know), then no one there is likely to take anything I say seriously and the reaction is likely to be "mind your own business." If I make some sharp criticisms of MIT or UT Austin, it's likely to be taken a lot more seriously, and "mind your own business" is not going to be a counterargument.

Probably yes, but I'm not talking about submitting a CV/resume. I'm talking about the online application forms that ask a multitude of competency questions as well as your personal details. They will almost all ask "what degree classification do you have or are expecting?" and if your answer isn't either "an upper second class honours or a first class honours" then the software automatically filters out your application. This is true in about ~80% of graduate employers, according to a BBC survey. So it's easy to see why the universities that give the highest proportion of their graduates the magical 2i tend to have the highest graduate employment rate.

Not sure how things work in the UK, but that's *not* how schools in the US get their people hired.

It's also not usually how people get hired here.

It's important to note that Kingston University is in London, and thus his views are likely to be heavily biased based on what goes on in industries like consultancy and investment banking. Now there are one or two industries that will hire a fraction of a percent of the year's graduates will treat you like royalty if you have an elitist university name on your CV. But they are predominantly located in London and in the financial services sector, a large employer of engineers (and other numerical based degrees).

If...

If we're not talking about one of the very few elitist careers then I don't see why not.
 
  • #27
JaredJames
2,817
22
It's important to note that Kingston University is in London, and thus his views are likely to be heavily biased based on what goes on in industries like consultancy and investment banking. Now there are one or two industries that will hire a fraction of a percent of the year's graduates will treat you like royalty if you have an elitist university name on your CV. But they are predominantly located in London and in the financial services sector, a large employer of engineers (and other numerical based degrees).

Or my views are based on companies in North Wales, South Wales, South West England, Mid West England, North London (above M25) and Kent. Not saying they're all with the 'elitist are best' view, but I've never been involved with a company inside the M25 (that would be a big donut shaped motorway surrounding the city of London).
 
  • #28
elfboy
92
1
So Harvard is ultra competitive because it offers the same opportunities & prestige as Odds n' Ends U? yea right
 
  • #29
Ygggdrasil
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
3,522
4,181
Here's an interesting study of employment outcomes from students of an elite university in Israel (Hebrew University) versus students of a less prestigious university (College of Management Academic Studies). They essentially find that a degree from an elite college will help you get a foot in the door, but skill quickly triumphs. From the abstract:
Our results support a model in which employers have good information about the quality of HU graduates and pay them according to their ability, but in which the market has relatively little information about COMAS graduates. Hence, high-skill COMAS graduates are initially treated as if they were the average COMAS graduate, who is weaker that a HU graduate, consequently earning less than UH graduates. However, over time the market differentiates among them so that after several years of experience, COMAS and HU graduates with similar entry scores have similar earnings. Our results are therefore consistent with the view that employers use education information to screen workers but that the market acquires information fairly rapidly.

Link to working paper: http://papers.nber.org/papers/w16730
Quick summary: http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/how-much-value-does-an-elite-college-provide/
 
  • #30
lisab
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,035
623
Here's an interesting study of employment outcomes from students of an elite university in Israel (Hebrew University) versus students of a less prestigious university (College of Management Academic Studies). They essentially find that a degree from an elite college will help you get a foot in the door, but skill quickly triumphs. From the abstract:

Link to working paper: http://papers.nber.org/papers/w16730
Quick summary: http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/how-much-value-does-an-elite-college-provide/

This has been my experience in industry. Your track record on the job is a much better predictor of success than where you went to school. Maybe this is because for a lot of jobs, being successful requires a different skill set than what is required to graduate from a top-name school.
 
  • #31
Shaun_W
320
9
Or my views are based on companies in North Wales, South Wales, South West England, Mid West England, North London (above M25) and Kent. Not saying they're all with the 'elitist are best' view, but I've never been involved with a company inside the M25 (that would be a big donut shaped motorway surrounding the city of London).

Which ones?
 
  • #32
story645
675
2
They essentially find that a degree from an elite college will help you get a foot in the door, but skill quickly triumphs.
The New York Times wrote up another study that:
compared students at more selective colleges to others of “seemingly comparable ability,” based on their SAT scores and class rank, who had attended less selective schools, either by choice or because a top college rejected them. The earnings of graduates in the two groups were about the same — perhaps shifting the ledger in favor of the less expensive, less prestigious route. The one exception was that children from “disadvantaged family backgrounds” appeared to earn more over time if they attended more selective colleges. The authors, Stacy Berg Dale and Alan B. Krueger, do not speculate why, but conclude, “These students appear to benefit most from attending a more elite college.”
source
Original paper: http://papers.nber.org/papers/w7322
 
  • #33
twofish-quant
6,821
18
Probably yes, but I'm not talking about submitting a CV/resume. I'm talking about the online application forms that ask a multitude of competency questions as well as your personal details.

In the US, if you are filling out an online job application that means that your application is going into a database that no one is looking at.

It's important to note that Kingston University is in London, and thus his views are likely to be heavily biased based on what goes on in industries like consultancy and investment banking.

My views are also heavily biased by what goes on in industries like investment banking. It may be that US investment banking is very different from UK investment banking. One thing that I know is a big difference is that US investment banking is very heavily influenced by the culture of NYC. There were a lot of immigrants that came to NYC with no formal education that made their name in banking and finance. Goldman-Sachs was built by someone with a junior high school education.

Now there are one or two industries that will hire a fraction of a percent of the year's graduates will treat you like royalty if you have an elitist university name on your CV. But they are predominantly located in London and in the financial services sector, a large employer of engineers (and other numerical based degrees).

You have to be very careful about generalizations.

That's not what actually happens in the places I've worked at. When a lot of recruiting, you need warm bodies, and so they head over the the local university and hire people. What is interesting is that the universities HR hires from are not necessarily the big names.

Also, a lot depends on the manager. I know of some managers that are very school-brand oriented. I know of some managers that are *anti-school brand* oriented (i.e. having a big name degree means that you are less likely to be hired).
 
  • #34
twofish-quant
6,821
18
So Harvard is ultra competitive because it offers the same opportunities & prestige as Odds n' Ends U? yea right

It's ultra competitive because he has the marketing to have people think that if offers more opportunities and prestige. Part of the reason that they can do this is that most people have no direct experience taking courses at Harvard. (Anyone other than me ever taken classes at Harvard?)
 
Last edited:
  • #35
twofish-quant
6,821
18
Here's an interesting study of employment outcomes from students of an elite university in Israel (Hebrew University) versus students of a less prestigious university (College of Management Academic Studies). They essentially find that a degree from an elite college will help you get a foot in the door, but skill quickly triumphs.

But what any of this means if you aren't looking for a management position is Israel is questionable.

There are some industries in which you are dead if you don't get your foot in the door. Research professorships are that way. If you don't get your foot in the door, then you are pretty much doomed unless you do something to fundamentally change the system.
 

Suggested for: Elitist attitudes by going to prestigious universities?

Replies
22
Views
811
  • Last Post
Replies
7
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
8
Views
969
Replies
8
Views
747
Replies
1
Views
465
Replies
2
Views
511
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
785
Replies
75
Views
7K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
662
Top