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How much does chosen university really matter

  1. Jan 12, 2015 #1
    I have been curious about something concerning universities for a while. I originally got a my BS in Physics at Louisiana Tech University. And right now I am doing Graduate study in Electrical Engineering at Southern University and AM. I am posting to ask if the type of public school really matters (in terms of school ranking\ world prestige) . I dont really think either of the institutions are world renowned. But I am asking is someone has a little more light to shed on this topics. Any Comments appreciated.
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  3. Jan 12, 2015 #2

    Quantum Defect

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    People do look at the university's reputation, but what matters most is what you do/publish. There are lots of excellent scientists and engineers who have received training at less well-known places. Passage through well-known places can help to open doors for you, but what matters most (in the long haul) is the quality of your work.
  4. Jan 12, 2015 #3


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    You'll have many more opportunities at a "good" school compared to an unknown school because you will typically have more interest from companies, on-campus interviews, connections with faculty etc. There are exceptions. I agree quality of work is most important, but the most exciting work is usually done at the well-known universities.
  5. Jan 12, 2015 #4
    Ok then Analog. I see what you mean and agree. But I am more curious as to what is considered a "good school". I apologize if my original post was not clear. The two universities that I listed "Louisiana Tech university" and "Southern university and AM college", what would they both be considered in the working world of engineering.
  6. Jan 12, 2015 #5
    Going to a good University like Cal Tech or MIT makes a difference in competitive fields like astronomy, less so in engineering.
  7. Jan 13, 2015 #6
    I understand that MathAmateur. But could you or anyone else elaborate on what the best schools are for engineering. And why would more prestigious schools not make a difference in engineering? I am sure that it at least increases your potential for better positions.
  8. Jan 13, 2015 #7


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    It depends on what you want to do. To actually become a professional astronomer for example it is almost essential you go to a top school because competition is so brutal. This is what MathAmateur was saying. For engineering, there is more work to go around but it is still competitive. Places like Google, Intel, and Apple do most of their recruiting at top schools, but if you aren't shooting for a high-level super high-pressure career a smaller school is fine.

    As to your question, it really depends on the field. Most of the big state colleges are OK in engineering. In Louisiana, Tulane is well regarded, Louisiana Tech less so but it isn't a bad school. Plenty of people get jobs who go there.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the smaller, less well-known schools are mostly known regionally. If you go to Louisiana Tech you'll have a much easier time finding a job in the southeast than if you go to East Washington State University, for example. My point is if you really want to live in a specific region, go to school in that region or go to a top-name school.

    If you want to stay in the Southeast, the best school, hands down, in Georgia Tech. It is almost on par with the big names like MIT and UC Berkeley. Also really well-regarded in the South are NC State, University of Tennessee, and University of Florida. Texas has a lot of great schools including UT (Austin, Arlington, & Dallas), TAMU, UH, and Rice. These are all what I would call "Second Tier" schools, meaning you won't be recruited for joining a startup as much as if you went to Stanford, Berkeley, Caltech or MIT but you can still get a great job.
  9. Jan 13, 2015 #8
    Thank you for being so explicit and giving your honest opinion. I really appreciate that. I noticed you did not refer to Southern University and AM college. I know we have had successful alumni also.
  10. Jan 13, 2015 #9


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    I didn't mention Southern University and AM college because I'm not familiar with them so I don't know. If they have successful alumni you should be talking with them!
  11. Jan 13, 2015 #10
    OK then that makes sense. And actually I go to Southern now. I think my biggest issue is that I haven't made a lot of contacts throughout undergrad. And even though things are going better in grad school, I am still trying to make contact In industry.
  12. Jan 13, 2015 #11


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    Well you're thinking about your future so you're already ahead of most students. If you can do it in any way, I highly highly recommend an internship. A good internship will go a long way towards getting your foot in the door at a company, and often internships can lead directly to jobs. Good luck!
  13. Jan 13, 2015 #12
    If your university has close ties with the companies in your vicinity and you are interested in the opportunities there then going to a non-brand name school is fine. However, if you want to work in another company or industry that is on the other side of the country you will be better off going to a more recognized school. Good luck!
  14. Jan 13, 2015 #13


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    I think this is a common fallacy.

    It matters that you go to a good quality school where you will get a decent education and where you can perform well in terms of research. I've never seen any evidence that a school's ranking makes any significant difference in terms of academic hiring decisions when compared to factors such as past research output, teaching ability, success in obtaining grants, or complimetary interests/skills with exisitng faculty.
  15. Jan 13, 2015 #14


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    But all of those things you mentioned except teaching ability are HIGHLY correlated to how highly ranked your school is. You will simply have more opportunity to get funding and get on interesting research projects at a well known school.

    I went to a second-tier school and the vast majority of my professors were from Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, UChicago, and just a few others. Maybe at small teaching colleges you can get away without a top-tier degree but most people want to be working on big projects, not teaching.
  16. Jan 13, 2015 #15
    The reason most professors seem to have degrees from top schools is because those schools generate the most PhDs and they have larger alumni networks. They just have much larger programs. And some small schools often have very well kown and influential researchers in a particular specialty. Doing a PhD at a school that has good research groups in your area of interest is more important than the name of the school or overall ranking of the department.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2015
  17. Jan 13, 2015 #16

    Vanadium 50

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    I looked it up. Half of the physics PhDs come from just 14 schools.

    It's true that lot of smart people graduate from Harvard. It's also true that a lot of smart people are accepted by Harvard.
  18. Jan 16, 2015 #17
    If I find the studies I'll link them, but it's been consistently shown that ability trumps school name. So if you are good enough to go to MIT but you go to Nowhere State University, you should be fine.

    I have family at the local Intel plant. The family member in question went to a middle tier public school, and at least where he works the majority of people he knows did not attend top private schools. I have a friend at Google, and he says that the overwhelming majority of people went to private schools. A simple guess at an explanation is that Intel is older and much more established than Google, which forced it to expand outside of California, and that local hiring was financially sensible/top schools could not meet the demand. I'd guess Google will do the same eventually.

    As for physicists, well, top schools are not represented significantly above their production of graduates. So half of physics professors did indeed obtain their degrees at top schools, but half of physics prospective professors got their PhD's at top schools.
  19. Jan 18, 2015 #18
    In the US everyone can do a BSc or BA. In other countries you need to be the top 20% best students even be admitted to a Bachelor programme. If not, you go to a different college doing a lower degree program. And a lot of those people know a lot more than the average US high school graduate, but they aren't smart enough for university.
  20. Jan 18, 2015 #19
    Thanks to everyone responding. I find the comments most helpful. And Almeisan I am in the US so I definitely understand what your saying. Leright, thanks for the suggestion. I never completely considered that. I does make more sense if you look at it from a employer-university relationship.
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