Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

US Colleges: A big joke ?

  1. Nov 4, 2011 #1
    US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 5, 2011 #2
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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.
  4. Nov 5, 2011 #3
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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.
  5. Nov 5, 2011 #4
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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.
  6. Nov 5, 2011 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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.
  7. Nov 5, 2011 #6
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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.
  8. Nov 5, 2011 #7
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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. :|
  9. Nov 5, 2011 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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.
  10. Nov 5, 2011 #9
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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.
  11. Nov 5, 2011 #10
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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.
  12. Nov 5, 2011 #11
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    [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.
  13. Nov 5, 2011 #12
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    [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.
  14. Nov 5, 2011 #13
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    [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.
  15. Nov 5, 2011 #14
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    Edin Dzeko, do you have any scientific research backing up your claim???? Or is this all merely your own opinion and experience??
  16. Nov 5, 2011 #15
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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.
  17. Nov 5, 2011 #16
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    Why do you think so?
  18. Nov 5, 2011 #17
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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.
  19. Nov 5, 2011 #18
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    Edin just wants to be loved. :)
  20. Nov 5, 2011 #19
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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.
  21. Nov 5, 2011 #20
    Re: US Colleges: A "big joke"?

    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.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook