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Grad school reputation

  1. Jun 10, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone,

    I have been a reader of this forum for quite some time and so I've read plenty on this topic. I have a question though...

    When applying to graduate schools most people first think about rankings (and then all other factors come in - research specialities, location, atmosphere, etc.). A lot of people give the advice that more important than rankings is whether there is a strong research group in your area of interest or not. This makes sense. However, if your dream is to work in the academia, it seems like school name (ranking) does make a BIG difference. You could say "well, the thing is that the strongest research groups for every area of physics are located in the best-ranked schools". Again this seems logical. But if you go to the physics deparment websites for the top schools you'll see that almost all professors come from big name schools (Harvard, MIT, Princeton, etc.). Google "physics grad school rankings AMO" and click on the first link (I can't post a link because I haven't reached 10 posts).
    Why is it that University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Michigan, Kansas State University, and University of Central Florida are so underrepresented in the faculty of top schools if they are ranked as some of the best for AMO?

    On a related note: Why is it that people tend to speak of state schools with some sort of degrading? Not exactly degrading but they don't seem to be given much love. Why is this the case? There are some state schools that are very highly ranked. I am not from the USA so I don't know if there is something I don't know about them.

    Thanks in advance for any input :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 14, 2012 #2
  4. Jun 16, 2012 #3

    king vitamin

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    Gold Member

    Well how long have those schools (Boulder, Florida, etc) been among the best for AMO? Maybe they haven't been at the top for long enough to seed professors to schools. I feel like I know a few professors at top schools who aren't from "name" schools, and usually I find out that their advisors were very strong. That's usually what it comes down to - and highly ranked/prestigious places tend to have a high density of strong advisors to work with. In the end I think most of my friends and I when applying to grad schools were primarily interested in applying to places with a lot of strong professors.

    I also don't see the disdain for state schools. I went to a highly-ranked state school and got a lot of respect for it.
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