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Small Liberal Arts vs Big State School for Math

  1. Mar 10, 2012 #1
    I. Background
    I'm a junior in HS right now and am fairly sure I'd like to be a math major. I'm interested in pure math and will be self-studying Spivak this summer. Next year I'm taking AP BC Calculus (ewwww) concurrently with Linear Algebra and Multivariable Calculus (likely plug and chugs as well).

    II. The Question

    I have perused the math programs of various liberal arts schools, like Xavier University and Oberlin College, and my assumption is that taking graduate classes at a big state school like Ohio State University or the University of Michigan Ann Arbor would be easier. It appears that the state schools have more options - the caveat being I need to find my niche. I live in Ohio, if you haven't assumed that yet. For you mathematicians, does one type of school excel over the other?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 11, 2012 #2
    I am attending OSU right now. The engineering mathematics courses are a joke. They are the same difficulty as the mathematics courses I took back when I was at CUNY in NYC. The honors mathematics courses on the other hand are much more fun and much more challenging. They are taught in small groups by full time faculty who will have no problem pushing you to your limits.

    I am from NYC and name wise... I have never heard of Xavier or Oberlin. If you plan on going straight into your career instead of going to grad school, that might also be something else you want to think about. Most of the people I hang around with are in the finance industry and if they haven't ever heard of the university you graduated from, chances are you have no chance.
  4. Mar 11, 2012 #3
    I go to a liberal arts school of a similar character to Oberlin. We don't have graduate level courses or a nearby university where you can take them, but we have an Honors program, which is basically independent graduate-level work. Our math department is pretty tiny, but it means you get a lot of individual attention and you get to know the professors and the other students really well. If you need more of a challenge, the professors will find a way to give it to you. If you show promise and an interest in the field, they will work very hard to make sure you have opportunities to succeed--independent studies, helping with their research, whatever. They are also very open to helping students who are working hard but still struggling.

    It's true that we don't have all the same opportunities of a big research institution, and sometimes it's frustrating, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Our professors are great, and I love it here.

    As far as grad school goes, we did have a CS major get into MIT's PhD program recently, and our CS department is even smaller than the math department. So it's really what you make of it.
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