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The Top Unis?

  1. Jul 19, 2004 #1
    Whats up with the Top Schools?

    So.. whats up with all the top universities... has anyone here attended any of the top schools?....

    I am interested .. .mainly because of how MIT built so much preasure on its students.... leading some to their death...

    Does anyone know how hard it actually is at this type of schools.....
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2004
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  3. Jul 19, 2004 #2

    jimmy p

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    Well here in England, Oxford, Cambridge and Kings College London are supposedly the top universities, but Southampton has one of the best science departments and is highly rated for science. Also Surrey (Guilford) does pretty cool unique courses like Satellite Technology and Nuclear Astrophysics, which no other university in Britain does.

    Oxford, Cambridge and Kings College are the stupidly hard ones where you need to ace your grades, have family who have been there, have an outstanding social life AND have saved the world at least twice.

    Southampton you need very good grades to get into, and Surrey were willing to accept me... (average grades!)
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2004
  4. Jul 19, 2004 #3


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    Are you talking about college or Grad School ?
  5. Jul 19, 2004 #4
    Last year a professor from the UCLA system came out here to try and grab some of us, trying to get us to go over there. He got us all together in a lecture theatre and told us about the UCLA stuff, with a happy little slide show and all. We weren't impressed. I don't think he convinced anyone to go. From what he said, it seemed the whole uni system there is bonkers. He said students start with two years of general education, stuff they should have done in high school; then they do their actual degree for only two years. Weird. We tend to focus on our specific field of interest for about four years.

    EDIT: The good part is that American universities get a LOT more money thrown their way than Australian universities.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2004
  6. Jul 19, 2004 #5
    well i think you'll find the MIT environment is a bit different from your preconceptions. the academic pressure isn't really the focus of things, it's more like constant background noise. i find that there are plenty of people here who do just fine that i definitely would not have expected to had i met them on the street. they don't make all As, but they survive without too much difficulty. and we also have our share of rich frat boys and questionable majors. so i'd say the students here put the pressure on themselves, but they also know how to release that pressure and kick back and relax too.

    basically, i think if you have the motivation and interest, you can find a course load that you can handle that will still get you out of there in 4 years.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2004
  7. Jul 19, 2004 #6
    Gokul43201: I wasnt really focusing on either of them... but would you say a grad student would have a better time at places like Oxford, MIT, etc.. as opposed to an undergrad?

    DarkEternal: I take it you have been to MIT?.... what do you mean by the constant background noise?
  8. Jul 19, 2004 #7
    i'm going to be a sophomore next semester. what i meant by background noise is that even when people are out on the weekends in boston, at frat parties, etc. pretty much the main topic of coversation when you talk to people is classes. maybe it's just the type of people that attend MIT, but you find that even though there are a lot of seemingly cool and well-balanced people, and even some people that seem unbalanced in the opposite extreme of academics, in some way they are all obsessed with their education and academics - even though a lot of them try to hide it or play it off. of course, everyone who goes there wouldn't be there unless they placed a lot of importance on these things, but it can get pretty tiresome and one-track-minded throughout the year - it's a completely different environment from the large public high school i went to, where after the school day was over, it was OVER - and people knew how to straight up chill instead of almost having to force it, having been so focused on academics their whole life they don't know how to relax when they're placed in such a high pressure environment such as MIT where they HAVE to relax every once in a while. so it's kind of like you'd go to a frat party where everybody's getting drunk and a few people are getting high and it seems like a normal college, and then the karoake machine comes on and you're surprised at how few people actually know any of the songs because they were too busy studying in high school to listen to the radio.
  9. Jul 19, 2004 #8

    coolnesss!!!! My dream is to go to MIT. I'm still in 9th grade, but I've made up my mind about the university I want to go to. I plan on getting a PhD in QIS and a MA in Bioengineering (no, not all at once). Anyway, do you have any advice for me? (that is, what I should do to increase my chances of getting in? Or is it just random?) Allow me to give you an overview of what I've done so far in highschool:
    1.) I'm in MYP IB
    2.) I'm entering a prestigious sci-competition that offers scholarships
    3.) I play an intrument in band: the flute
    4.) I am planning on helping raise money for a hospital in Ghana
    5.) I am also planning on helping raise money for the homeless and/or abused with a 2 companies
    6.) I get straight A's
    7.) Score above average (i.e., advanced/proficient) in statewide standardized tests
    8.) I have planned my 4 highschool years according to MIT, Yale and Harvard's recommendations for highschool

    Anything I should focus on? What do the people who review applications look for? IOW, what should I do to make my four acedemic years in highschool worthwhile (i.e., worthwhile in the sense that I will make a good impression on the people who review applications at MIT)? Who reviews the applications?\

    Thanks in advance.
  10. Jul 19, 2004 #9
    Last I hear.. MIT doesnt really recognize IB... not I am not really sure.. at least not like the UC schools and others do...

    You play an instrumen.. umm MIT is not know for being an arts school.. but it is known that MANY students play some form of instrument... I guess it makes sense.. ... people who were exposed to music at an early age tend to do well in math..

    But I really dont know how people get in.... I dont think many do.. not even those that got in.

    I always wondered if the big Univesities... accepted people who didnt really know what they wanted to major in...

    What are you studying exactly DarkEternal?...

    What kind of classes did you take?
  11. Jul 19, 2004 #10


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    Your success at any university depends greatly on your own self-motivation to succeed. At a large university, you'll have more course options but risk being taught more by graduate teaching assistants than by professors, or having larger class sizes where you don't get to know your instructors well. On the other hand, at a small university, you have more opportunity to get to know your instructors, be taught by professors who care about teaching, but on the other hand, might find little choice in the courses offered for your major.

    Undergraduate programs are often ranked by things that may or may not matter to you personally, such as student:faculty ratios, drop-out rates, cost. Universities as a whole are often ranked according to research dollars being brought in. That can be due to number of faculty or quality of faculty or both. It doesn't mean those faculty know how to teach or that you'll ever see them in undergraduate courses...often bringing in big bucks gets faculty freed of teaching responsibilities so they can focus on research and bringing in even bigger bucks. It can be a good sign for a grad program if the faculty in that program are successful in obtaining funding.

    Basically, when choosing a university to attend, you have to choose one that's a good fit for your own personality, learning needs, major, etc. If you need someone to take attendance and call on people in the class to answer questions in order to keep yourself motivated to study, then go to a small college. If you are self-motivated, know how to find your own niche without someone to hold your hand, or have widely ranging interests in what you might major in (such as undecided between English Literature and Physics), choose a large university.

    Choosing a university can be a bit like clothes shopping. Some people just want to find something they can afford that is comfortable and provides the basic needs, others are more interested in choosing a name-brand and showing off that label and don't care how much more expensive it will be, others are interested in finding good quality, even if it doesn't come with a fancy label, and aren't concerned what the price tag says, high or low, as long as they get something of quality.
  12. Jul 19, 2004 #11
    well, all that sounds really great. i made all As and perfect scores on standardized tests, as well as on AP tests. as of now, MIT doesn't give credit for some AP tests, so check on that. not sure about IB credit. your community service looks pretty awesome, i definitely had nowhere near that.

    however, the best advice i could give you is to make sure your heart is always in the right place. ask yourself why you are doing the things you are doing. why do you play the flute? it should be because you enjoy doing it and you love the sound of the instrument. why do you do community service? because you want to help your community. why enter a science competition? because you love science and you've got some good ideas that you think could compete. why are you taking the courses you are taking? because they are challenging and interesting, and you want to learn more about the subject. the fact that you can put all this stuff on your college app should be a bonus, not the reason. to tell you the truth, there are a million kids with credentials like yours. people who rack up the service hours and study hardcore for standardized tests. some of my classmates were like this, and when i'd see them do community service it was really weak. their hearts weren't in it and they'd rack up a bunch of hours when they were probably only working half the time. they'd spend a bunch of money on ivy league apps and then only get accepted to a few of them. why? because there was nothing there to make them any different from all the other people who submitted similar apps.

    so make sure your actions are sincere and that will show through in your app, essay, and definitely your interview. take time to hang out with friends. go out on weekends, and hell, weekdays. take up a sport or multiple sports. weightlift. make sure you know how to chill. not knowing how to do these things will show up in your app too. then if you somehow get through to MIT, you won't be anybody. all you will know is how to get into college, and you won't know how to chill, and you will probably burn out from stress and graduate with a par GPA. so my advice to you is to learn how to have balance in your life and kick back while the state is paying for your education - there will be plenty of time to study and be nerdy to your heart's content when you're paying for it (assuming you're not already paying for it now, in which case, ask your parents or whoever pays the check what to do and don't listen to me).

    now, you're only a freshman, so i'll give you a few years to see what high school is all about. you definitely look like you've got some good things going, and i'm in no way accusing you of any of the negative things i just said. but to tell you the truth, if i could give some of the people at MIT advice when they were at your age, this is what i would be telling them. because a lot of my friends there had a high school career that doesn't sound unlike yours, and they are definitely struggling now. but get your heart and motivation in the right place, and you'll make it through to MIT and through life.

    well MIT has a decent music program, if you want to continue playing your instrument i'm sure you'll have no problem finding a group that plays your style. surprisingly, it's also got more sports than almost every civilian school (quality of each team varies widely, of course) so that should be covered. the business school is pretty good too, but if you're coming here to major solely in business and not planning to supplement it with something else, then i will probably give you a swift kick in the head when you get here :biggrin:

    i went into MIT planning to be an aero/astro engineering major but came out of my first year planning to go physics and theoretical math. first semester i took solid-state chem (which i thought was boring and unnecessary, but MIT didn't take my 5 on the AP test - however, it's a large class, and popular depending on who you ask), music composition (MIT requires 1 humanities class a semester), and rigorous versions of mechanics (uses K&K, will kick your butt) and multivariable calc. last semester i took music history, intro to astrophysics, diff eq, and the rigorous version of E&M. so as you can see, i haven't really started the hardcore math yet, as i only planned to major in that late in the year. so next semester will be number theory, analysis (with rudin), relativity, physics III (waves, optics, etc.), and music (harmony and counterpoint). not sure where i'm planning to go with all this pure stuff, maybe grad school for something more applied or academia all the way. but it's what i'm interested in, so it's what i'm studying.
  13. Jul 19, 2004 #12
    Umm if you know of anyone that got into MIT that didnt state their major and got in.. let me know.. heh.

    Well anyways... I guess the classes dont sound too bad but I was reading elsewher on the net about the assistants and about the tests.. being extremely hard, design so almost no one can get close to a perfect score.. with things not really taught but still expected to have been learned. In your personal experience.. was this the case?.. or did you Ace almost all the exams?

    I also read that all freshmen must take calc. and physics.. Did you take calculus in high school or any other class beyond that?

    How does the MIT gpa system work.. an -A gets you what?


    What about .. the tuition.... and you have to live in the dorms your first year right?
  14. Jul 19, 2004 #13


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    DarkEternal, that's some great advice you gave! You're absolutely right, it really shows through during an interview when someone is just going through the motions to get into a good college and when they really put their heart into what they are doing. And, yes, that can make or break an acceptance. Besides, you have to be true to yourself. If you have to force yourself to do the things that would get you into a certain school and don't just do it because you love it, then you have to really think about why you want to get into that particular school. I made that mistake, focused too much of my youth on getting into college, then getting into med school, and just didn't enjoy life or even stop to question why I was so focused on a particular path. Fortunately, the blinders eventually came off and I realized where I had gone astray while still young enough to change direction and to learn to enjoy life. I was rescued from the near stumble into med school by a last minute application and rapid acceptance to grad school...it was far easier for me to get accepted to grad school because my heart was really in it and that made it easy to write a convincing essay, unlike med school where I had trouble at interviews when asked "So, why do you want to go to med school?" It was actually the interview process that convinced me I was spiralling in the wrong direction and needed to take quick action to correct it!
  15. Jul 20, 2004 #14
    Hey DarkEternal,

    Are you taking the physics/engineering major plan. I know there's 3 physics plans, one's for straight physics, one's for physics/engineering(computer/electrical), and the other's for physics/?other?.

    Do you know what I'm talking about, or am I blabbering to no avail?

    Paden Roder
  16. Jul 20, 2004 #15


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    That's the way university courses are supposed to work, anywhere. Some places coddle their students a little more, but it's not high school anymore. You'll be expected to not only know the material contained in lecture, but to read the book and know what is in the book chapters that was not covered in lecture. Lectures are meant to cover the overall gist of the coursework, provide basic definitions, go through some examples of the more challenging problems and provide some of the overall framework for connecting the topics covered in the course. Because you can't cover everything in the time allocated to lecture, the students are responsible for getting the details from the textbook or other required reading.

    I don't know how the folks at MIT grade their courses, but a lot of professors will scale or curve grades on exams. The idea is you provide a few questions that you don't expect anyone except the rare best of the best student to be able to answer, which sorts out the good students from the great students. You have to remember that once you enter college, especially a competitive school like MIT, the AVERAGE student got nearly straight-As in high school, so you can't all get straight As in college too. Most profs write reasonable exams that the actual grades fall into a reasonable curve on their own, and maybe get bumped up a bit to account for a bad question or two. I have taken courses with profs who were not nearly so reasonable. My "fondest" memory is an advanced chemistry course where the highest score on one exam was a 30%, and the average was something like 18%. So, yeah, you could have passed the course by only getting about 15-30% of the questions right on the exams! We never did figure out where some of those questions came from...they didn't seem to be covered in the lecture material or the text or lab manual. Perhaps our absentee TA was supposed to teach it to us during lab (our TA would disappear 5 min after the lab started, so we were on our own in the lab...surprisingly, we all still did the work and just taught each other, and when something seemed to be going horribly wrong, we found a sympathetic grad student across the hall, who probably only helped to ensure we didn't blow up the building with him in it). Ah, fond memories :rolleyes:
  17. Jul 20, 2004 #16
    stating your major probably won't make a big deal. if you want to be safe, say comp sci and you'll be in good company. however, it really won't affect you.

    well, my first test (math) was abysmal. i blamed it on the summer break and also not having learned the material in high school, unlike a lot of my friends who were coming from exeter and private schools, etc. however, i also realized that i had to learn how to study, coming from a high school where pretty much everything was a breeze. after that, my tests dramatically improved and stayed there. of course there are only 2-4 tests plus a final for each class each semester, and they usually account for a huge percent of your grade. however, they're not impossible - i've gotten a quite a few perfect or near perfect scores on tests and finals, and plenty on psets. you'll find some of the larger classes such as chem and diff eq are easier. however, i've yet to score above a 90 on a physics test, but that's more because i took the advanced versions where a 80+ semester grade got you an A. in my opinion, the standard physics at MIT is a joke - it's taught in a very tech-oriented environment (everyone gets a laptop, pretty pictures, etc.) still in early stages, so they curve the grades and make the material easy to make the program look good. if you decide to go physics, definitely go for the advanced stuff.

    all freshman must take calc and physics, or have AP credit for it. you can probably find that info on the MIT admissions site. in high school i only had calculus, and got a 5 on the AP. make sure your background in calc is strong, though, even if you do get a 5 - you can always opt to give up the credit and take one of the calc classes there. or if you're going to major in math and think you can handle it, take analysis - average test score, around a 40.

    the GPA is on a 5.0 scale, with all As netting you a flat 5.0, all Bs 4.0s, etc.

    quality of TAs and profs vary depending on the class, usually you can always find someone to help you who suits your learning style. i know i skipped more than my fair share of classes just because i didn't like the teacher and i'm doing just fine.

    total cost of education is quoted at 40K a year. of course, only 30K of that is tuition, and they give pretty good financial aid for those like me who need it. one of my friends pays only a g each semester for tuition. you do have to live in the dorms first year, but you have a good selection and they're pretty nice. west campus = pretty normal college dorms, just with the average bed time shifted a few hours later. east campus = stereotypical crazy MIT genius types, but they're not really all geniuses, just weird, e.g., they like to blow things up. not bad to visit but i couldn't live there. and of course with the average size of the wallets attending MIT, there's a VERY healthy greek life, and you'll have no trouble finding frat parties to go to each weekend or free surf and turf dinners during frat rush. and of course there's boston. etc, etc.

    moonbear, glad to hear that you're happy with where you're going. maybe in a few years i'll be saying similar things about my current plans, eh?

    yeah, i'm taking straight up physics. the second you mentioned, course VIII-A (everyone talks about courses in numbers up there) is physics and course VI, which is comp sci, EE, etc. VIII-B is physics and some other area, such as bio. it doesn't really make a difference and the degree is the same, it just helps plan out your courses better i guess?
  18. Jul 20, 2004 #17
    Your posts have been pretty informative guys, thanks you very much to all of you.

    :) If I think of something else I am curious about I'll post it here.

    ps: DarkEternal.. if you encounter any 'hacks'... tell us about them. heh

    Last edited: Jul 20, 2004
  19. Jul 20, 2004 #18
    I really hope they consider IB credit. I hear its a lot of work, but that makes sense. I can't get anywhere (honorably, which is something I take seriously) without working for it. Anywho, what's MIT like? :bugeye: (HUGE campus, I'm guessing? What do the classrooms look like??....I'm obsessed!!! :rofl: )

    Is there an IB version of AP tests?
    Have u heard of Isaac Chuang? Last year, I did a career project on QIS. As a requirement, I had to interview a professional in the field. I, of course, went straight to the MIT website and looked at the faculty in this field. I randomly chose Isaac Chuang, and e-mailed him a couple of times. He never responded. :cry: He's a prestigious person, considering his research in QIS.

    Have ever taken a QIS class?

    Thanks for that great advice. How do you apply for scholarships at MIT?
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2004
  20. Jul 20, 2004 #19
    I've wanted to go to MIT as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, I never push myself to get the A, I always skipped the homework and got the B. Is there any chance a strait B student with a few A's could get in or is that impossible?
  21. Jul 21, 2004 #20
    I got a bunch of B's and I got into the Main Branch.

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