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Is there a big difference between these universities?

  1. Jul 26, 2009 #1
    I am an international student(mechanical engineering) and i want to apply for Us universities for Phd position, the point is my chance for going to MIT, Berkley and Caltech is not high but after that i have a good chance.I just want to know is there any big and vast difference between
    the universities of group 1 and group 2?

    group 1:MIT, Berkley and Caltech
    group 2: Georgiatech ,Minnesota Twin Cities,Northwestern,California San diego ,Illinois Urbana,Cornell,Purdue

    is the difference so big that i must try my chance for the first group while i know i do not have a high chance?(cause i have money problem i can't apply for a lot of universities and i must choose about 7 universities to apply)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 26, 2009 #2
    depends on what u want to do. u dnt have to go to MIT...to be a really good engineer. group 2 is good enough. but if u want to be a nobel prize winning researcher then group 1 is the way to go.
  4. Jul 26, 2009 #3

    From what I know, applying to grad school based on name brand reputation is a bad idea. Rather, its better to apply based on how interested you are in the work of any professors in the department itself, as your advisor's reputation and relationship with you matter much more than where you graduated from.

    Oh, and a Nobel Prize is won on your work, not where you graduated from. So the above answerer is wrong on that point.
  5. Jul 26, 2009 #4
    I doubt the nobel prize is very relevant for a mechanical engineer, but even if it was you would be wrong according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_laureates_by_university_affiliation) the universities listed have the following number of Nobel laureates (I only counted graduate institution as that describes the poster's situation):
    MIT: 27
    Berkley: 25
    Caltech: 17
    Georgiatech: 2
    Minnesota Twin Cities: 7
    Northwestern: X
    California San diego: 1
    Illinois Urbana: 11
    Cornell: 12
    Purdue: 2
    Clearly group 1 has a larger number, but you need to consider two factors:
    1. Size of institution
    2. Exceptional students (at the level of potential nobel laureates) tend to attend group 1 universities so I expect much of the bias is due to exceptional students choosing group 1 rather than group 1 creating exceptional students.
    So by no means is group 1 the only way to go if your ultimate goal is a Nobel prize (don't see why it would be though).

    I don't have any real experience with the American university system, but I will state my opinion anyway. From my experience with smart students they tend to be able to flourish at both group 1 and 2. An exceptional student will perform exceptionally at any institution and will be able to learn there too. Of course places like MIT and Caltech provide a different student population and atmosphere than some of your group 2 universities, but if you are proactive in furthering your own learning then I don't believe you will experience that much of a difference (note that your group 2 schools are by no mean bad, most are actually extremely good).

    You state that you expect your chances at group 1 will be low. If this is a result of you being just about the level of weak MIT, Caltech or Berkeley students then I probably wouldn't bother applying. I have heard too many stories of people struggling through these institutions due to their high expectations and pressure. I think learning is done best at an institution where you are challenged, but have the ability to deal with it in a healthy way. If you truly believe you will be able to do great things at a group 1 university and that you have a chance of getting in then I would apply, but focus on group 2 schools.

    Also listen to DukeofDuke's advice about actively taking a look at the research going on at the various institutions. An institution ranked in top50-100 may actually be in top 5 in a few narrow areas.

    Personally I study math and I would like to refer you to the following two articles by Terrence Tao. They are strictly speaking about choosing a place to study mathematics, but I believe most of it applies to engineering as well:
    http://terrytao.wordpress.com/career-advice/don%E2%80%99t-base-career-decisions-on-glamour-or-fame/" [Broken]
    http://terrytao.wordpress.com/career-advice/which-universities-should-one-apply-to/" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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