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School Choice.

  1. Apr 17, 2008 #1
    As a few of you may know I posted here recently asking for info on Computer Science. Today I had a conversation with a co-worker regarding that subject. Let me give a little bit of background info first.

    My co-worker is 18 and I'm 24. Nothing significant however the dude is fresh out of HS while I already did a tour of duty in the USAF and support a family. I'd like to think my experience has more weigth but that doesn't make his experience any less important. Indeed, the guy brought up a good point.

    During one of those dull moments when you have nothing else to say I mentioned I was going to start school and pick CS as my major. I also tell the guy the school I'll be going to. He asks "why not pick this school instead?" I tell him I can't afford it and besides math is math no matter where you go. I also add that the school is not as important as the effort the student puts forth. He agrees with me but then he explains "you gotta think of it as an investment, a $70k education is not the same as a $20k education; think of it as a car, both can get you to the same destination but the cheaper car might break down during the trip while the more expensive car brings a maintenance plan attached to it. What you pay is what you get in return."

    I said something about the quality of the driver but what I said was weak. He does have a valid point. Do many of you think the name of your institutions matters THAT much or am I correct in assuming the student is the main factor?

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 17, 2008 #2
    Undergraduate is not very important anymore, especially since so many more people have access to graduate studies these days. There may be a difference in the quality of profs they can hire, and the insights and connections they can make available to you, but doing an undergrad at a less prestigious university can often be worth the savings, and if you are really serious about it you can go to a better school for graduate studies if you choose.
  4. Apr 17, 2008 #3
    Great answer! I'll be using this to continue my debate with the guy tomorrow.:redface:

  5. Apr 17, 2008 #4


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    The guy made a good point. I can barely call that a comeback.
  6. Apr 17, 2008 #5
    His point is valid but is not an end all. If that mind set were true would there be a used car market? We can't all afford a new expensive car, sure it is an investment, but not one everyone can make. I agree somewhat with both of you. It is the student who ultimately make the most of their education.

    I also agree that at an undergraduate level the school doesn't have too much weight as you will study roughly the same topics wherever you are. Sure you may not have the best lecturers at the cheaper school but the material is the same and if you put in the effort you can make yourself stand out.
  7. Apr 18, 2008 #6
    Well, it's better than my "a good driver can make a bad car great" attempt. While I do agree that paying more money for a top-notch education is a great investment I also understand that Math is Math no matter where one goes. Like a previous poster mentioned, what varies is the quality of the faculty, equipment, etc.

    I believe that going to a top school is mostly about the reputation and the good connections you can potentially make there. Knowing the right people is arguably just as important as getting a good education.

    It all comes down to the student. Information is easier than ever to obtain. A person going to an Ivy League school might enjoy benefits that will not be available to me but both of us will have access to the same basics and fundamentals. It is up to me to challenge myself and make great use of that information.

  8. Apr 18, 2008 #7
    I agree with the jist of what the 18-year old guy was saying... you should be happy that you're considering this issue now, instead of 3 years down the road, when you are about to graduate from X university.

    First of all, the simple name of a school carries a huge weight. As an extreme example, you have to think of people who go to Harvard or MIT. Having known a few of these people, I can tell you that it's completely different. These people get jobs and special treatment like you wouldn't believe. Basically, everyone is in awe of the names of these places and they think that you MUST be qualified if you went there. Of course, it's absolutely untrue, and you could be just as smart and successful from going to say, Oklahoma State (not to pick on Oklahoma, but I'm from Texas, so...), but people don't treat it the same way.

    There's so many reasons why the quality of the school obviously matters, I won't even get into it. But basically, it's totally true that school is an investment, and it shouldn't surprise you that you get more for your money. Is it worth it to spend that extra money? Absolutely. Will you have to deal with some future debt? Quite possibly. But fortunately, society has constructed an extensive banking and monetary system in which we can reliably borrow money and pay it back in reasonable amounts over reasonable time frames.

    The punchline: hell yes school is an investment, and it's probably the best investment you can make, because you basically depend on it for everything, for the rest of your entire life.
  9. Apr 19, 2008 #8
    Particularly if you are going to grad school it really does not matter. I am an undergrad at a fourth-tier university and was accepted early into the best programs in my field of choice for grad school with full funding. I am far from a unique case. It just depends on how well you utilize the opportunities you have (research, taking grad classes, etc). When you have a PhD, not many people will care where you went to undergrad.
  10. Apr 19, 2008 #9
    I'm in somewhat of a similar dilemma right now (sorry, don't mean to be hijacking your thread). I have the option of attending school A which offers a concurrent degree system but is not as big and is slightly less reputable. Also, I can take a variety of courses in both mech and materials.

    Then there's school B, slightly more reputable (ranking is debatable in Canada, but most seem to agree this school is better) but will only be able to minor in the arts or business. They're also much bigger and churns out a lot of research. They also won't let me take a variety of courses in materials while enrolled in mech.

    Will choosing school A be a huge disadvantage? Thanks. I'd like to go into failure analysis/forensic engineering someday... if not aerospace.
  11. Apr 20, 2008 #10
    Speak with students from those schools and figure out what school is challenging their students the most. I think that's arguably the best way to measure how good a school is. Also, find out if faculty/teachers are truly interested in teaching you or simply more concerned with publishing.

    Yes, going to a top school will open more doors, bring more benefits, and give you a bigger pool of talented people you can work with. However, in the end it all comes down to how hard you challenge yourself.

    Jordan Joab.
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