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Going to the best ranked uni no longer makes sense?

  1. Sep 2, 2015 #1
    In high school, everyone and I tried to get admission into the best college we could. But then I realized that this doesn't make much sense. For example, if someone got into a reach school, and did so by luck (their GPA and SAT is lower than the average admitted student there), then when they get there, they would likely get a lower GPA than the average kid at that school, because they would be lower than average IQ and preparation and motivation. That kid who got in by luck would probably get a sub 3.0 gpa. The same amount of effort and intelligence at a safe school could get you a high 3.0 or maybe make you top of the class, because you would be more intelligent and motivated at that school.

    This is especially of importance if someone wants to do a program that is designed to weed kids out like engineering, or want to go to grad or med school.

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 2, 2015 #2


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    You might consider starting out at a smaller school and then moving on to a more prestigious one. If you go to a school that is well-known for its teaching (and lots of smaller ones are), that can help prepare you for the big university.
  4. Sep 2, 2015 #3
    It is very rare that people get into schools where they don't belong. Admission staff are very experienced.
    I say just represent yourself accurately and you should end up somewhere compatible with yourself.
  5. Sep 2, 2015 #4


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    While there is a point here, there's also a tremendous oversimplification.

    The general point that one can expect to be in a more competetive environment when attending a school that had a higher admittance threshold in terms of GPA is a reasonable one. But there are a lot of assumtions to make if you are going to use this as a predictor of future academic success. Consider:
    1. While reasonable to assume a more competative environment, this isn't alwasy going to be the case. Some schools will specifically put in place policies or teaching methods so as to make the environment less competitive. I know of one program specifically where at the beginning of the year the professor simply asked the students what grade they wanted. As a class they all decided on an A+ and lo and behold they call came out with an A+. (Which was extremely frustrating for people like me who took a more challenging version of the class and ended up with a A-... but I'm not bitter). Alternatively the school could promote group work, teach classes as pass/fail, etc.
    2. Some students perform better or worse in a more competative environment. If everyone around you is studying hard, if you have intense and productive study groups, if you have access to professors who are really good at teaching... some people will really draw on these factors and perform better. Conversely, others who are used to being one of the top 5 students in the school, might struggle when they find that all of a sudden, they are a lot closer to the mean than they thought.
    3. Some people thrive in a university environment where they have a lot more control over the courses they take and the activities they're involved in and the friends they make.
    4. Some people really struggle when they have to live on their own for the first time, or when they get stuck in residence with a party-animal room mate, or when they are away from their closest friends.
    The point is that as a student considering potential schools you can let the competition factor into your decision, but it's only one factor of many. You should look for a program that's going to jive well with how you learn, that's going to give you the opportunities that you want, and that's going to make economic sense to you.
  6. Sep 2, 2015 #5
    In the UC system, this happens a lot, because unlike at other top schools, UC admits by school rank. Some kids that come from very small schools get into UCB or UCLA with SAT scores of under 1600, whereas kids with SATs of over 1900 wouldn't get into UCB or UCLA or even the mid tier UCs because they attended large schools.
  7. Sep 3, 2015 #6


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    This is all very true. Obviously schools like MIT, Stanford, and the like are very selective, so most of the people there are well qualified to be there. But there are obviously still exceptions to this. Some people squeeze through the cracks, so to speak. For a student that's kind of on the border of being 'qualified' for MIT, it may make more sense to go to a school of less renown. If one goes to MIT, they're going to assume a certain level of knowledge. If one does not have this level of knowledge, they're going to struggle to keep up. This is a problem. If one is in a physics course and has to go back and learn the material for which knowledge was already assumed, they're going to spend a lot of time simply trying to catch up, which is in turn going to prevent their progress in learning the actual new material in the class.
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