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Admissions Quality of undergrad institution affect grad admissions?

  1. Jun 23, 2010 #1
    Hello! I was just wondering if the percieved quality or ranking of an undergrad institution has a significant imapct on the chances of getting accepted to a given graduate program in physics. There have been people who have said things ranging from "little to no impact" to "vital", so I'm confused as to how important it really is.
    Example: Student A gets a stellar GPA (3.8-4.0), excellent GRE scores (both general and physics subject test), has researched every summer, and maybe even has a paper published. If this student went to Bodunk College rather than Ivy U., would this person be able to get into a good grad program?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 23, 2010 #2
    Of course. While the quality of your undergrad has some indirect effect on grad school admissions, someone who worked hard, had a good GPA/scores, and did research at any school would be competitive. The only difference seems to be that there are more opportunities and better classes available to those who go to undergrads with strong science departments.
  4. Jun 23, 2010 #3
    I don't think that the name of the undergraduate school matters, but some undergraduate schools end up with better names simply because they have better programs. One other thing is that "name brand" tends to matter less for graduate programs than undergraduate ones. There are some very, very good graduate programs in schools that aren't well known.
  5. Aug 10, 2010 #4
    Hmm, I just stumbled upon an interesting comment from the Study Hacks blog, saying:

    "... A friend of mine who had interviewed people for the admissions committee in our department said that there was a list of 20 or so prestigious schools, and students from these lists received extra admission “points”. Those from non-prestigious schools had to be really, really good or had to have done something extra-special to get in. ..."


    What's everyone's take on this? On the one hand, it does somewhat support the notion that you can get in regardless of where you went to college, but on the other it adds to fuel the fears of many who don't attend a "prestigious" university.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  6. Aug 10, 2010 #5

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    I think this is a lost cause. It doesn't matter what people who have actually been involved in admitting people into grad school think, because there's always some blogger who knows a guy who knows a guy and his advice is taken much more seriously.
  7. Aug 10, 2010 #6
    Manlyman - twofish-quant's advice is what you should follow - if the program is better, then your coursework, letters of recommendation, etc carry more weight. It's that simple. Grad admissions is not like undergrad admissions - they want to see that you have potential to be a researcher for several years, and have a chance at doing a good job. Undergrad is something a ton of people apply for, and a lot of people would attend a top undergrad school and get something out of it. Notice that this gives schools a lot of freedom, because they can admit a variety of different people.

    In grad admissions, if you're better prepared for the hardcore intellectual work, and someone with credibility says so, then you're in. Otherwise, you're out. Granted, there is still the issue of discrepancy between showing you're capable and being capable.

    Overall undergraduate prestige hardly matters, it's the quality of the department and faculty (along with your taking advantage) which matter. Minute differences in department styles doesn't matter, but huge differences in quality of education awarded do.

    If you come from a lesser known school, you can make a top notch program if you compensate - you would need to excel in standardized testing and/or do high quality research. Your classes will be taken to mean less if they mean less. It's pretty straightforward really.
  8. Aug 10, 2010 #7
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