US Colleges: A big joke ?

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Main Question or Discussion Point

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.
 
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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
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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.
 

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