US Colleges: A big joke ?

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US Colleges: A "big joke"?

Not wanting to derail that thread any further, I found it a better idea to take this discussion here.

[3] Universities (in the U.S.) = big joke! :smile: nothing intellectually stimulating unless the individual makes it that way even then he / she is surrounded by a campus culture that teaches against him/her pursuing intellectual things

What do you want out of a university? Do you think you can get that in another part of the world? There's lots of universities/colleges in the USA - all of them are *that* bad?
 

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  • #2
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nothing intellectually stimulating unless the individual makes it that way even then he / she is surrounded by a campus culture that teaches against him/her pursuing intellectual things

It depends where you go. Obviously this isn't a problem at schools full of smart people.

The one thing though is that college is a stepping stone to career in general, and that career may or may not be intellectual in nature. For instance, being an entrepreneur isn't going to ask for the same kind of "intellectual" as studying theoretical physics.

At any school with tons of top research going on, there will be an internationally acclaimed community of very smart people who just love thinking about intelligent topics. Having known people of various origins, I don't think the statement is true.

Now, I do think the very baseline educational standard at some foreign countries may be significantly higher. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether they churn out more "intellectuals" or merely more people who are technically qualified to do something good.
 
  • #3


Some schools in the US are top in the world while others are so bad that 80% of the students can't find good enough jobs to pay their student loan. In my opinion though success doesn't come from waiting around for other people to tell you what is important. University can teach you a lot but true success comes form yourself.
 
  • #4


Interesting question. I've considered the same thing of foreign colleges while I mull over where to get a Master's. But deRham is completely right. There are schools in the U.S. that are full of pretty stupid people. Others are filled with geniuses. If you have the grades and other miscellaneous requirements, you should have no problem getting into a university full of intellectuals.

It also depends on what you're looking for. If you are going into physics, for example, you will be surrounded by intellectuals in most of your classes throughout college almost independently of where you go. But If it's something less involved, such as business for example, you will have to go to a fairly elite school to make sure that your classmates aren't huge partiers.

As a student at a wordly respected university (top 50 USNWR), I still see tons of people partying. I don't think you can get rid of it.
 
  • #5
chiro
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I think that quote is painting way too many people with the same brush.

Great points for previous posters, sums up my feelings as well.
 
  • #6
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X89: I tried to talk to someone from my country who went to MIT. She's a junior now, I think. Anyway, she told me something along the lines of this: "Don't listen to the stereotypes, we throw the best parties in Boston!" :rofl:

Personally, I don't see "partying" as a hindrance.

To add to what others have said, I think that if one cannot find the right school, perhaps doing the degree online is a good way to go. I think that being in the USA is actually a big advantage because of the availability of research opportunities. It's even easier if one lives in a state with a few universities - one could try set up an inter-collegiate "Physics Club" which meets once a week or something, to discuss problems and other cool stuff.
 
  • #7
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I do find the observations made in this thread quite worrying though. Is this really as far as colleges go? I was under the impression that the level of education in most colleges was to a decent level. This doesn't seem to suggest so. :|
 
  • #8
chiro
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I do find the observations made in this thread quite worrying though. Is this really as far as colleges go? I was under the impression that the level of education in most colleges was to a decent level. This doesn't seem to suggest so. :|

Mepris, one thing you should realize is that undergraduate degrees are not all about teaching you everything you need to know.

They teach you enough so that (hopefully) by the end of the degree you should be able to be more independent as your progress to learn something yourself.

It's not to say that after undergraduate studies that you are required to know everything or figure out everything, but as time progresses, it is expected that you are more self-directed in your learning.

Also if you are concerned about not covering everything, you could always check the university website and get course descriptions for each appropriate course. You might also want to read some of the existing threads and guides like ZapperZ's guide to being a physicist.

But yeah in concluding, don't expect to be taught everything during a degree: a good program will give you the fundamentals and then you take that and combine it with other resources to fill in the gaps when you need to.
 
  • #9
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X89: I tried to talk to someone from my country who went to MIT. She's a junior now, I think. Anyway, she told me something along the lines of this: "Don't listen to the stereotypes, we throw the best parties in Boston!" :rofl:

Parties at MIT tend to go crazy because it's such a high stress/high pressure school. People need to go crazy to keep from going crazy.
 
  • #10
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I am very skeptical when someone says that their school did not adequately prepare them for a job/grad school/whatever. Yes, bad schools with bad classes and disinterested teachers exist but I refuse to believe that a school that does not hand you off to a company as soon as you get your diploma is automatically bad. I will talk engineering because that's the only area I am familiar with outside physics.

I see this a lot with engineers who are complaining that no one wants to hire them and the school isn't doing enough to help them find a job. Did it never occur to them that perhaps getting straight As alone would not mean employers would bang down their door to hire them? That perhaps internships, co-ops, and some actual experience might be necessary no matter what your GPA is? Perhaps some skills, like AutoCAD, welding, electronics, or really anything useful might be beneficial? If there isn't a class on it, some people won't bother, period. This is what separates the people who will succeed, no matter where they go to school, from the people who will flail and sink unless all the skills, knowledge, and connections are force fed to them.
 
  • #11
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Not wanting to derail that thread any further, I found it a better idea to take this discussion here.



What do you want out of a university? Do you think you can get that in another part of the world? There's lots of universities/colleges in the USA - all of them are *that* bad?

[1] What are you trying to say about other parts of the world? Don't be blinded by patriotism. Your president is afraid USA we will fall behind in the "race" with "other parts of the world". So much for your education which can't be found in "other parts of the world".

[2] Education system in the states is "that" bad and college isn't the exception.
 
  • #12
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It depends where you go. Obviously this isn't a problem at schools full of smart people.

The one thing though is that college is a stepping stone to career in general, and that career may or may not be intellectual in nature. For instance, being an entrepreneur isn't going to ask for the same kind of "intellectual" as studying theoretical physics.

At any school with tons of top research going on, there will be an internationally acclaimed community of very smart people who just love thinking about intelligent topics. Having known people of various origins, I don't think the statement is true.

Now, I do think the very baseline educational standard at some foreign countries may be significantly higher. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether they churn out more "intellectuals" or merely more people who are technically qualified to do something good.

[1] What does that do/don't do for you? I don't understand.
[2] So then say that college is an investment for a career. Why say it's intellectually stimulating?
[3] I think you misunderstand the posted quote in the OP. Being a big joke doesn't mean there are unintelligent people at the university / school. I don't really get your point there. And I keep saying, it's the individual who takes it upon him/herself to pursue intellect. The university itself wont push you towards that. You're on your own with your destiny in your own hands at university.
[4] Go look at the honor rolls in some schools and you'll see the dominance of foreign names.
 
  • #13
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Some schools in the US are top in the world while others are so bad that 80% of the students can't find good enough jobs to pay their student loan. In my opinion though success doesn't come from waiting around for other people to tell you what is important. University can teach you a lot but true success comes form yourself.

[1] Hold it right there. Top in what sense? Name? Consider how other countries are looked down upon with the exception of some European countries. Then think about your "top" in the world argument. If a doctor comes into the States from any other country other than Britain and Canada (I think) they will be required to re-do many things all over before they are allowed to practice. USA don't respect other countries but now we are getting political so I'll end it there.
[2] Others are bad students can't find "good enough" jobs to pay their student loans? Many factors surround that argument. Certain majors you're not going to find a "good enough" job. With the situation of the economy, college grads are doing jobs they didn't go to school for. Nothing to do with good or bad school. It's solely up to the individual regardless of where they go to school.
[3] Then you should go back and cancel out your argument about bad schools and not finding jobs.
 
  • #14
micromass
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Edin Dzeko, do you have any scientific research backing up your claim???? Or is this all merely your own opinion and experience??
 
  • #15
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I think you misunderstand the posted quote in the OP. Being a big joke doesn't mean there are unintelligent people at the university / school. I don't really get your point there.

I don't think that's precisely what being a big joke is either. And I haven't misunderstood - I was responding to the portion regarding the campus culture teaching against unintellectual things.

It is simply impossible to ascribe a campus culture to a whole university. Rather, there are various cultures within the same campus. And at any school with acclaimed top scholars, the dialogue that occurs among these scholars is one of the primary things to be gained by attending the university.

The individual must take initiative, but that does not mean the university isn't offering something terrific for the student to do with that initiative. That in and of itself means the university isn't a big joke.
 
  • #16
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Education system in the states is "that" bad and college isn't the exception.

Why do you think so?
 
  • #17
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So then say that college is an investment for a career. Why say it's intellectually stimulating?

I don't say college is either of those things all the time. It many times is viewed by certain individuals, whether foolishly or rightfully, as an investment for career.

However, it is also intellectually stimulating to be in dialogue with people who are truly passionate about the topics you are. And indeed, many US and foreign universities attract such individuals.

College is not intellectually stimulating in a sweeping sense, you are correct. It can be an intellectually stimulating place for those who take initiative, just as you have said.

I don't think we are making exclusive points or misunderstanding one another.
 
  • #18
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Edin just wants to be loved. :)
 
  • #19
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Go look at the honor rolls in some schools and you'll see the dominance of foreign names.

This is also something which I have already agreed with by saying the baseline educational standards at some foreign areas are probably much higher on some counts than at the US. However, making an honor roll is hardly what I call "intellectual," and I am sure you, with your strong beliefs that college isn't what makes you an intellectual, would agree with me, since honor roll is determined primarily by GPA, a direct measure of doing exactly what a college asks, not of individual intellectual initiative.
 
  • #20
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I am very skeptical when someone says that their school did not adequately prepare them for a job/grad school/whatever.

I agree very much, with the possible exception where the school may not have been sufficiently specialized in the field of study which that person wants to go to graduate school in. Taking initiative helps a lot, but at some high level, going to a university where you're exposed to the "right things" can really help you get your act together before graduate school.
 
  • #21
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I am very skeptical when someone says that their school did not adequately prepare them for a job/grad school/whatever.

I'm not.

Did it never occur to them that perhaps getting straight As alone would not mean employers would bang down their door to hire them?

Perhaps it didn't, but if the school didn't make it clear that getting straight A's wouldn't help in getting a job, then the school isn't doing it's job of educating. Fortunately, I went to an undergraduate school that made it clear that you had to do X, Y, and Z to get a job. Also there is some conflict of interest here, because the student ends up paying $$$$ to the college with the expectation that those loans are going to be paid off. If the college doesn't think that the student is going to be able to pay off those loans, then they really shouldn't take the money.

One problem here is that there is a matter of roles. If you are stupid enough to take out a huge loan to buy a used car, then I don't think it's reasonable for the salesman to tell you otherwise, but I'd like to think the colleges are better than used car dealers.

This is what separates the people who will succeed, no matter where they go to school, from the people who will flail and sink unless all the skills, knowledge, and connections are force fed to them.

I don't think this works because your attitudes and beliefs are strongly shaped by where you went to school. Also the idea that you are going to succeed regardless of where you went to school is something that doesn't make any sense to me.

I mean if you are going to succeed regardless of where you go to school, then why go to college at all?
 
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  • #22
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It does make a big difference. A lot of why I want to go to a foreign college is because of the diverse set of people that I will spend my time with there.

I'm from a very small country and going to our one respectable uni (there's a few others but most are so-called "business schools" for rich kids) would just be a continuation of high school. I'd be among that same group of people which was detrimental to my own personal growth, academically and otherwise.

The bulk of my interesting conversations is done over the internet. The majority of the people I do click with, I have never met. That's why I think going to college Z instead of college C makes a very big difference.
 
  • #23
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I mean if you are going to succeed regardless of where you go to school, then why go to college at all?

This would vary with what one's idea of success is. If my idea of success was being able to party all week long throughout college and still get out with an "okay" job, I would've gone to any college in any country, which grants a proper degree, i.e, not a "scam".

Now, if what I want out of my college years is meeting lots of different people, learning as much as I can from as different fields as I can while getting a solid background in math, then which college I go to becomes very important.
 
  • #24
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I personally would love to be able to all out agree with the idea that colleges leaving students unprepared for jobs is a bit shady, but still find it hard to for the following reason -

It seems perfectly clear to many that you go to school and major in what you want to, and then get a job...that may or may not be unrelated. I am talking of all kinds of people, not just those going to fancy schools. It seems like a lot of people are even likely to underperform in school and focus on other things because they have been fed that personality, etc etc are more important.

I guess college education should expose one to the idea that the market fluctuates, and different skills are needed at different times; it is then an easy leap to knowing that learning exactly what is taught in schools is not necessarily what you need.

The job of alerting an individual to job prospects and graduate prospects probably lies with the advisors, so if these fail, I agree there is quite an issue.
 
  • #25
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For instance, if someone majors in English literature, is it fair to say that the college needs to warn them that getting straight A's won't get them a job necessarily? If they aim for a career based on English literature, then yes that department should aid them by having good advisors who make it clear what is necessary for an academic career.

In a field such as engineering, there seems to be more responsibility, because engineering is after all a field based on doing, and the skills learned, while hardly directly translated into industry skills, are still more fundamentally relevant than most skills learned in school are to the eventual career.
 
  • #26


To the original statement: I don't think a college should have to hold your hand to get the intellectual side of your interests fulfilled. Theres more than just lectures and grades. There's REUs, undergrad thesis options, etc etc that aren't required but are most certainly there if you feel to itch that intellectually curious side. Don't stop there, there's PhD holding professors all around who are genuinely excited to talk to you, especially if you're actually and keenly into their research. And if you say the environment is bad, that's just a poor reflection of you. There's more than just the party scene and the dumb people, and you don't have to listen to them or hang out with them. Again, no one needs to hold your hand.


However, for the most part, I feel like most U.S. colleges are a huge joke, at least considering the vast amount in the U.S.. I know it's been beaten to death, but there are just simply waaay too many people going to college because U.S. society has expected something out of them, and thus the classes are dumbed down, etc etc.
 
  • #27
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too many people going to college because U.S. society has expected something out of them, and thus the classes are dumbed down, etc etc.

Why does many people going to college due to societal pressure need to mean dumbed down classes? There is pressure to be educated in all sorts of places, and the standards could be kept at a high level. If that pressure were truly there, people would then do the minimal work to pass even a tough course. The real trouble is that the courses are not necessarily enforced to be at such a standard!

I bring this up because I really think it is in some ways at the heart of the matter. Your post seems to work only under the assumption that people who study hard in any meaningful way must be intellectuals - that is, studying for interest in the academics, without severe external non-academic motivation. What I mean of course is that you suggest that when your average American is compelled to go to college, average meaning not possessing tremendous intellectual drive, a byproduct is apparently that they are instructed at a silly level. But I ask: why must someone have that much intellectual drive in order for the college to be conducted at a high level?

This issue even carries over into the more advanced levels. For instance, why is AP Calculus taken by so many people nowadays, despite their needing such little background in calculus in practice? It's because the course has become a GPA boost and an expected little side thing needed for various schools, and a higher GPA in an easy calculus course will almost always be better than a lower GPA in a hard calculus course for admissions purposes. Why? Well, for top schools like Caltech, they'll probably just take someone with an A in a hard calculus course. For less super-scientific schools, a higher GPA is almost always going to be safer (especially for state schools with numbers-driven processes).

The conclusion is that the dumbing down is simply a result of the people in charge being OK with it, not necessarily a reflection of students. It's giving the students too much credit to claim that how motivated they are or how much of a commodity college education is to them determines what level the professors teach at widely across the board. It's the fault of whoever decided that they'll lower the bar enough that almost anyone can pass classes they shouldn't be able to without more effort.
 
  • #28
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Why does many people going to college due to societal pressure need to mean dumbed down classes?

Because in the United States, secondary school is very uneven from location to location, and a lot of what ends up happen in the US universities is remedial high school.

Also, it's not clear at all that classes are being "dumbed down." If you look at the early 20th century, the "elite universities" basically let anyone in that fit into a certain social class, and the standards by which people could pass was not that high.

It's giving the students too much credit to claim that how motivated they are or how much of a commodity college education is to them determines what level the professors teach at widely across the board. It's the fault of whoever decided that they'll lower the bar enough that almost anyone can pass classes they shouldn't be able to without more effort.

But then you have a problem that these sorts of things are all relative. You could create a class in which 10% of the people pass, but when what would be the point of such a system?

Also people tend to like high standards, when they think that they will end up in the elite. Once they find out that they are just like everyone else, then things end up being quite different.
 
  • #29
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I know it's been beaten to death, but there are just simply waaay too many people going to college because U.S. society has expected something out of them, and thus the classes are dumbed down, etc etc.

One of the purposes of college is in the US is young adult day care. Before the 1960's, this function was done by the Army.

If you don't think that colleges should do this, then the question becomes who should?
 
  • #30
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My sense of 'high standards' would mean raising the bar on what is taught, not making the grading harsher or the score distribution skewed to create fewer passing grades.

Plus, it is in response to the idea that standards are necessarily dumbed down because of widespread pressure to go to college. Whether or not this happens for sure, I do not know. IF there were such strong pressure to attend college, and standards were so poor, we could easily up the standard, and students would simply do what it takes to pass.

I do not think the 'elite' would change.
 
  • #31


A big problem is an assumption that *most* students initially make -- thinking that meeting the minimum requirements for a major will prepare them for their future (be it direct employment or graduate school then employment). In fact, as MsSilvy mentions, getting A's in those minimum requirements still won't guarantee this. Preferably, if the courses are required or "core" course, the student will look into possible options of WHO teaches the course, and then seek to take a course from someone who is challenging (i.e. has high standards) but is thought to teach well (in other words, not take courses from someone who is "easy")... in order to get the best possible basis. But then, while those minimum requirements are still being met, the student needs to tailor his/her experience and take courses from complementary fields (or graduate courses in one's own field) and gain experience through internships or through research positions.

If one is meeting the minimum requirements for the degree (especially with the minimum grades), one is merely a "revenue unit" for the "university as a business" (or as two-fish notes, enrolled in "adult daycare").

Students at ALL levels need to be thinking about this (from probably about 3rd to 5th grade in primary/elementary school... when tracking first starts) through the graduate/PhD level.
 
  • #32
f95toli
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I don't think this works because your attitudes and beliefs are strongly shaped by where you went to school. Also the idea that you are going to succeed regardless of where you went to school is something that doesn't make any sense to me.

I mean if you are going to succeed regardless of where you go to school, then why go to college at all?

But I think one can question the idea that going to a "top" school will more or less autmatically make you succesful. I have friends and collegues from all over the world, many of them studied at "top" universities and to be honest I don't see any clear correlation between how good the school was and how well they are doing now. Once you've worked for a few years other things seem to matter more.
This doens't mean that the school doesn't matter, but there are plenty of schools out there that are "good enough", the rest is up to you.
Also, I am not always impressed by people who have studied at e.g top universities in India or China. Some of these universities are extremely difficult to get into, but I've seen PhD students from them being consistently outperformed by students from small british universities. Hence, I don't neccesarily think this is a problem with the universities in Europe or the US.
 
  • #33
jtbell
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Why does many people going to college due to societal pressure need to mean dumbed down classes? There is pressure to be educated in all sorts of places, and the standards could be kept at a high level.

For that to work, standards would have to be kept at a high level everywhere.

Below a certain level, US colleges and universities are competing for students, not the other way around. If a student and/or his parents decide that a particular school is too "tough" for him (or it has a reputation for being too "tough") he can go somewhere else.

This also accounts for the steady escalation in facilities like dormitories, dining halls, fitness centers, athletics, etc.
 
  • #34
Dembadon
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...

I mean if you are going to succeed regardless of where you go to school, then why go to college at all?

That doesn't follow. This would, though: "..., then why care about where you go to college?"

Success being dependent on whether one goes to college in the first place is a whole other argument.
 
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  • #35
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world hastily needs to switch more to "techician universities" or that sort of thing where people have alot of options to choose from but not just an academic path. The amount of unsatisfied academicians is increasing quite fastly that is because goverments arent finding/funding other and more attractive options.
 

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