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MIT vs. State School

  1. Mar 14, 2009 #1
    I got into MIT and the University of Michigan (out-of-state). In total, I'm getting like 25,000 in merit aid (including 20k from LSA) per year, bringing the bill down to about 20k per year--before I factor in my savings, work-study, etc. Though I haven't seen the aid statement from MIT, I doubt I'm getting much. Let's just say it will cost me 40k per year. I'm going to visit MIT for a weekend (apparently, it's a big deal and a lot of other admits come). Michigan has a great undergrad math program (295-396, etc.), while MIT is MIT. I have a bunch of family in Michigan.

    My friends think I am crazy for wanting to go to Michigan, while my family thinks I am crazy for wanting to go to a school that would require borrowing. As of now, I am planning on going to grad school, so I really don't want to be burdened with debt (it will compound quickly). To be honest, I think I'd be very happy at both schools, but possibly slightly happier (not worth $20,000 per year) at MIT. Anyone face a similar decision? Any thoughts?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2009 #2
    I am considering ROTC or a program like DoD SMART, but I am concerned about the long commitment (5 years of service + additional 5 years for a PhD).
  4. Mar 14, 2009 #3
    Believe me, Michigan has good enough program. If you really want to have the "MIT" experience, going to MIT might make things better. But if you are someone who can get motivated anywhere and have talent to do well and leave good impression, Michigan is a very good choice.

    Faculty-wise, in some areas Michigan and MIT are not that far apart. I am not too familiar with Michigan's program, but my guess is that they are not that far apart.
  5. Mar 14, 2009 #4
    Go to Michigan. MIT's not good enough for $20k/year. I made a similar decision 2 years ago, except I picked the better and more expensive school. When you take into account all the facts, and all the benefits, it's just not worth it when you can go to the library and catch up on the material you're missing (if there even is any!) for free.
  6. Mar 14, 2009 #5


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    If youre going to get a PhD I would suggest Michigan you could always go to MIT for grad school and it will costs less plus you will have an easier time standing out relative to your classmates. Just study for any standardized exams you might need for graduate school and pursue research and professional experiences.
  7. Mar 14, 2009 #6
    Michigan baby!!!!!

    I've heard it said undergrad is all the same no matter what school you go to....now whether that is true or not is another thread...but the point is I've been in classes where all the powerpoints and essentially the entire curriculum was the exactly that the same class at princeton's and another from yale..so who knows...
  8. Mar 14, 2009 #7
    If you can afford it, go to MIT. You will be surrounded by bright students, and, more importantly, make connections which will make future employment easier. The prestige of MIT will give a graduate school application some heft, as well. The curriculum will not be much different, true, but the atmosphere will be significantly different compared to your average state school.

    That said, Michigan is not your average state school.
  9. Mar 15, 2009 #8


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    It will only if your top 15 in class rank otherwise not really. Top graduate program admissions much like undergraduate is about being in the top of your class so you have to consider the competition. It is not worth it to pay more to battle for class rank against IMO medalists and Intel finalists. Given that he performs well on graduate standardized exams his safest bet for graduate school is Michigan especially since it is still a top school.
  10. Mar 15, 2009 #9
    Yes, I know that Michigan is a very good school. In fact, I think it might be better in some respects in mathematics because of the very small honors program relative to the size of the department.

    I mainly used the title "State School" to get the thread more attention, and, to be honest, the main purpose of this was to show my friend that turning down MIT is not necessarily "dumb." (Had he applied and actually had to face the same decision, I don't think he'd see it as so one-sided.)

    Thanks for the posts. I've been to Michigan a lot and think I'd be happy there. I'm going to check out MIT before I make my decision, but I think I'd be happy at either school.
  11. Mar 15, 2009 #10


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  12. Mar 15, 2009 #11
    At MIT it will be easy to meet smart people doing interesting things - you will be surrounded by them at all times. They will be your friends, roommates, people in your dorm, classmates, girlfriends, etc. On the other hand it is not like that at a state school. Of course there will be people like that at a place like Michigan, but you will have to actively seek them out.
  13. Mar 15, 2009 #12


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    But I can easily argue that these are the type of people you have to deal with in real life, not the 'select few' that one gets at MIT, and this may be a more valuable experience for you as part of growing up.

    We have always gotten this "brand name versus non-brand name" schools question all the time. At the undergraduate level, I'd say that you should worry MORE about doing very, very well no matter where you go, rather than worrying where to go. If you graduate with excellent grades from an undergraduate institution, I can easily say that where you went to school would tend to NOT be the hindrance in you getting into such-and-such graduate school.

  14. Mar 15, 2009 #13
    It is wayy premature for someone to be thinking about grad school when they haven't even entered college yet.
  15. Mar 15, 2009 #14


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    Do you mean admitted because he has been hence the OP. This attitude is the same type of attitude that will lead to dont worry about GRE's then after doing poorly on the GRE's lead to its okay im not an international then eventually to its okay I havent been admitted anywhere someday ill be admitted.
  16. Mar 15, 2009 #15
    I do not think it is premature for me to be thinking about grad school already. I am not worrying about grad school admissions; I never really worried about undergrad admissions. I have taken upper-division math courses at my local college (which offers BS degrees, but has no grad students), and am interested in trying out real scientific research (which is readily available through UROPs at both MIT and Michigan). Several of my high school teachers were encouraging me to pursue scientific research rather than engineering, so I decided to apply to some research universities to give me the opportunity to try out research before I consider going to graduate school. At this point, it seems exciting to me, and I can't really see myself doing anything else; however, I will obviously try it out before committing a large part of my life to it.
  17. Mar 15, 2009 #16


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    I think one of the great things about MIT is it's an engineering school, in the broadest sense of the term: mens et manus.
  18. Mar 15, 2009 #17
    Yes, michigan is not average. It has a top 10 math program. And as undergraduate, you won't be able to tell the difference between the faculty. Quality of your classmates, maybe.
  19. Mar 15, 2009 #18


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    I think you have the right attitude: check out the more expensive school and see if they can justify the additional tuition with a better product. Personally I don't think it's worth it, but I'm not overly familiar with MIT. The people that I've dealt with from Ann Arbor in research collaborations have been top notch.
  20. Mar 16, 2009 #19
    I am actually a student at Michigan double majoring in Physics and Mathematical Physics While I didnt have to choose between MIT and here, I could not be happier with where I am. Both the math and physics departments here in unbelievable in terms of accessibility to research, professors, and facilities. There is also a breadth to the type of education you get here. Don't get me wrong, it is probably available at other places too, but there is a HUGE presence of people in mathematical biology, complex systems, economics, business, and pretty much every other field doing some amazing interdisciplinary stuff. Of course there are the intangibles like going to the Big House with 110,000 of your closest friends for 8 saturdays in the fall, but really the education is amazing. The good news is you can't really make a wrong choice.

    Congrats on getting this far. Good luck with your choice!
  21. Mar 17, 2009 #20

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    A few comments:

    1. MIT financial aid is entirely need based. Now, granted, what they consider "ability to pay" may not be the same as what you do, but there shouldn't be a huge difference in cost between MIT and an out-of-state state school.

    2. The MIT and Michigan experiences are different. Some people will find one better for them, others will find it worse. The planned visit was a good idea.

    3. The most important factor in planning to go to grad school is learning as much as you can as an undergrad. Some people do best at an MIT, others at a Michigan or Wisconsin, others still at a Harvey Mudd or a Reed. You'll have to decide for yourself in which environment you do best.

    4. With ROTC, the needs of the service come first. Good to keep that in mind.
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