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Schools University for Undergrad

  1. Sep 13, 2010 #1

    I am looking at universities now, as a high school student in Canada. I live very close to a top 40 university, and I was wondering on how much difference a top 40 university makes versus a top 10 or Ivy League university for undergrad in physics. Looking at Nobel Prize winners for example, I notice many of them went to very highly-ranked universities. To which can the success of Ivy Leaguers in science be attributed?

    a) The inherent selectivity of these universities assures that some of the best minds attend them
    b) The quality of teaching is better
    c) The connections made help in the future
    d) Going to these institutions opens the door for better job and research opportunities

    I would greatly appreciate any answers.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 13, 2010 #2
    A lot of A, a tiny bit of B, a little bit of C, and a little bit of D

    The "smart" kids back when the nobel winners were younger all went to the ivy league colleges because they knew A) how to apply, B) had some connections, and C) knew enough about what they wanted to do to search for those opportunities.

    Now, with the advent of the internet, online applications, and the college craze, acceptance rates for the ivy league universities has gotten incredibly low.

    While going to a top 20 or top 10 university certainly doesn't hurt, plenty of smart kids today are looking towards other schools as more realistic and inviting institutions to spend their undergrad years. Plenty of top 50 and top 30 schools are getting great, sharp kids.

    I am a senior this year and looking at college, and while my stats are good, they are no where near the level necessary to get into an Ivy League university or a school of the calibre. I am simply looking elsewhere for scholarship money, and I know I will find a great student body if I look for a good fit.

    I wouldn't worry too much about where you go to undergrad. Grad school, for the most part, is what matters.
  4. Sep 16, 2010 #3
    Great answer, thanks! :biggrin:

    Anyone else care to comment please?
  5. Sep 17, 2010 #4


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    The quality of teaching is certainly NOT better in general. The top universities attract students who don't need to be taught as much as they just need to be given a place to learn. They're more motivated than the average student. You can also get connections at any school, but it's only natural that you'll be more successful in life if you can surround yourself with people more suited to being successful in life. Of course, it only gives you more opportunities... you still have to depend on yourself :)
  6. Sep 17, 2010 #5
    All these Nobel winners you are talking about went to top graduate schools; they may not have good to a big-name school for undergrad. Ravi Vakil is one of the top algebraic geometers in the world. He did his undergrad at the University of Toronto and his PhD at Harvard:
    A school may not have the most prestige, but it may nonetheless still be very good. As long as you get in to a good school, it doesn't have to be Princeton or MIT or whatever, and you work your hardest...who knows.
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