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Is a single exchange year in MIT worth the bother?

  1. Jul 29, 2014 #1
    Hi, I'm studying engineering physics in Europe (3rd year currently).

    I'll be studying in a foreign country next year, but I am unsure as to where I should go. I have good enough academics to get into MIT (and probably the other ivy leagues), but I'm not from a well-off financial background. Even after scholarships and government support, I'll have to pay roughly ~25,000$ in tuition for just one year. Expensive considering it's free to study in much of Europe.

    As far as I can see, MIT is just a name and there's little academic reason to prefer it over top European technical schools. However it's a damn well known name, so I suspect one could build decent contacts there and it doesn't hurt to have it on a CV. Also I've never been in the US and am curious.

    So do you guys think it'd be worth it? And are there perhaps better alternatives for exchange students?
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2014 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    A rose by any other name is still a rose, but MIT is known the same everywhere you care to be...
  4. Jul 29, 2014 #3
    I have worked with and for MIT graduates, I have BE-EE from a good state uni. At MIT you will be surrounded by really some of the best minds, the students are a different group, and the Professors are all the best. IMO - it is the people that really make MIT unique. -- if it we not for the financial burden I would say Go!

    To go from the States it is 50-60K... in state public uni in the US is about $25K
  5. Jul 29, 2014 #4
    I wouldn't pay $25k for a year. There are other good physics schools that may not be as much. Are there restrictions in where you can go?
  6. Jul 29, 2014 #5
    Thanks for the input guys. I can naturally study where I please, but I'd prefer to experience the US. Either that or Germany I guess as I know a bit German and Russian fluently (so I could for instance get a job in a German firm doing business in Russia).

    Yeah sorry I misspoke. The tuition is indeed higher than 25k, but much of it is covered by external grants on my behalf. I meant that I will spend 25k of my own money on tuition.
  7. Jul 29, 2014 #6


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    I wonder about this conversation: "oh, you're from MIT", "no, I studied a year there", "oh, right". It doesn't have the same ring to it. If you're not going to graduate from MIT, will it have the same value? I think not.

    PS. Why not study in Hamburg or somewhere like that?
  8. Jul 29, 2014 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    First, on average MIT takes one student per year from Russia. One. So if you're not unequivocally the best student in the country, you should consider the possibility that MIT won't accept you.

    Second, MIT meets the full financial need of all their incoming freshmen.

    Third, if you think "MIT is just a name", they are likely to admit instead someone who really wants to go there. And I think they should.

    Finally, there are good reasons to spend a year abroad. I don't think to say "I went to XXX for a year" is one of them.
  9. Jul 30, 2014 #8
    True enough, but I think MIT might be a very colourful experience (lots of interesting professors, different kinds of students etc.).

    I'm not going to be applying as a freshman, I might apply as a graduate-level exchange student for one year. The application processes are completely different for those two, with the latter having a much higher chance of success than the former, according to the counsellor I talked to.

    PS: excuse me if I sounded arrogant in the OP.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2014
  10. Jul 30, 2014 #9


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    @Vanadium 50: If this is for a student exchange (as I understood OP), the financial aides and admission process might be quite different from what one would see in a regular admission for a full degree---in particular, there might be no financial coverage from MIT itself.

    @OP: 25k is a lot of money, but a year there *might* give you some good opportunities. However, it is really only worth it if you can meet people and make contacts there, both amongst the students and the professors. Especially the latter is by no way a given if you go as undergrad. I personally never did a student exchange, but a few of my friends did, and one actually did a year in physics at MIT. She was not really impressed. On the other hand another friend made good contacts during such a exchange at another university, which turned out very useful for him later. It is a hit or miss thing, and wow this would turn out for you would be very hard to predict.

    However, depending on where you come from, it might still be very useful to go to one of those places at some point in time---not the least to see (a) that the level of the students and faculty is not actually far beyond what you have most likely seen in European universities, which's name no one in the USA would recognize and (b) to see how excellently the top US universities sell themselves. They do lots of legitimately fantastic work, but they also do lots of "good" work, which is nevertheless made fantastic in the eyes of the beholder by virtue of where it comes from. Seeing this for yourself might help you in your personal and professional development.

    Note that an alternative is to go as a graduate student or postdoc. The latter case is usually quite easy (no problems with admissions, equivalence of degrees, etc.) and might lead to more useful work and contacts if you plan to stay in academia.

    btw: MIT is not in the Ivy league.
  11. Jul 30, 2014 #10

    You had some wonderful points here and I just want to clarify one with no disrespect or anything. Its certainly not easy to go to MIT for grad school, you still have to be admitted which is quite the feat. I can't speak for postdoc, I am not at that stage of life, so I will not attempt to add anything to that.
  12. Jul 30, 2014 #11


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    It sounds like you have a very difficult choice to make. I will just make the point that you need to find your place. Is the USA going to be your place? If not, your time where will be about what you can take back with you. You'll want to start thinking about what you will be doing after your studies.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2014
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