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Schools How much the previous university matters while applying to graduate program?

  1. Jul 15, 2012 #1
    Will I be in disadvantage while applying to american top universities (MIT, Harvard... you know...) if I had an undergraduate degree from an South African, Portuguese or Chinese university? please, answer about each case.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2012 #2
    Yes. You will be severely disadvantaged when applying to a top US university if you did not attend a top US university or a top UK university. That's simply because of their admissions process and has little reflection on the skill level of other universities. Hell, you'll be disadvantaged graduating from 90% of universities in the US, even top 30 universities. The admissions process is very inc*****.

    However the good news is that most schools that are very strong in science and engineering are not "top tier" schools.
  4. Jul 15, 2012 #3
    So, on what authority do you say this?? Were you ever a member of an admissions committee??
  5. Jul 16, 2012 #4
    Even if I get outstanding results in the admission tests?
  6. Jul 16, 2012 #5


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    Please do not pay attention to the advise that you are citing.

    The fact that students from China makes up the LARGEST population of international students means that US Universities are well-aware of standards of universities in China. This also holds true to many other universities throughout the world. Also note that you do NOT need to JUST go to Harvard, MIT, Princeton, etc.. to get a great education in the US. There are hundreds of universities, and a large number of outstanding and respected programs beyond just those "brand names".

  7. Jul 16, 2012 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    The whole premise of the question is flawed. It's like asking if it matters if the undergrad institution has a good football team. There are good schools in China, Portugal and South Africa, and there are not-so-good schools. Going to (and doing well at) a good school helps.
  8. Jul 16, 2012 #7
    well, that bring some hope. It was just to judge better the undergraduate possibilities that I have now.
  9. Jul 16, 2012 #8
    If you read the articles by Philip Guo (PHD Computer Science, Stanford) http://www.pgbovine.net/advantages-of-name-brand-school.htm

    then you'll find that in both industry and in academia, everything is heavily slanted towards elite top tier universities. Even at the undergrad level, just by graduating from a more prestigious university you increase your chances of graduate admission substantially.

    Also, most of the foreign grad students attended a tier 1 (top 10) institution in their home countries. I'm talking Tsinghua, Moscow State, Tokyo U, Seoul or IIT Mumbai, which are considered highly selective in their home countries, and these schools are just as hard to get into as MIT and Harvard are. That is why they have reputation overseas as well.

    In most countries, there's little undergrad participation in research except maybe a UG thesis. It is simply harder to compete with undergrads that have access to publications, and the top top tier elites have their pick.

    The second part is what I agree on. You don't need to go to a top tier elite school to get a great education in science and engineering. There's great programs at top state schools like Rutgers, UT Austin, UIUC, Michigan, Maryland, etc.
  10. Jul 16, 2012 #9
    Again, have you ever been part of an admissions committee?? If you haven't, then perhaps you shouldn't be giving advice here.
  11. Jul 16, 2012 #10
    OK, I'll defer to your expertise.
  12. Jul 16, 2012 #11


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    And how exactly did you come to this strong conclusion? I have a fair number of older friends who rather recently graduated from cornell CAS and columbia physics who will tell you otherwise.
  13. Jul 16, 2012 #12
    People repeatedly ask these types of questions. It's a crap shoot. You first better be really good. My personal experience is with the math department at University of Michigan. They have about 50 spots per year and receive 6-700 applications for those spots. Almost everyone who applies has a major GPA of 4.0 and 99th percentile test scores. They turn away a lot of very qualified people because they don't have space. I would imagine other schools have even lower acceptance rates. It really helps if someone writing a letter for you knows someone there. Chill factor made a good point above. There are many fantastic programs at other schools if you know what your focus is. Nuclear physics? Why not Michigan State or University of Washington? Condensed matter? How about Illinois or UCSB? For applied math there's Minnesota or Texas. All of these places have higher admission rates and top notch programs in their specialties. Study hard, get good grades, see how you do on standardized tests, and decide what you really want to do.
  14. Jul 16, 2012 #13
    applicant profiles on PhysicsGRE.com, statistics on GradCafe and actually looking through top tier apartments (at student profiles in faculty pages).
  15. Jul 16, 2012 #14


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    I'm not saying it won't help but substantial is a strong word.
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