what means Ivy league?!

betelgeuse1
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what means Ivy league?!

Postby betelgeuse1 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:10 pm

I don't have the currage to ask now anything else than very general questions but let's start like this:
Everyone around the world knows about the US-tops... (one of the advantages of being "leading" in most fields is that you are known by other people...) I would like to know what is the difference between the usual university rankings and the "Ivy's" and things like that. Also I would like to know what are the advantages of getting in the top schools... sounds silly and I imagine everyone thinks that a top PhD means being better paid after that but, what does it really mean working let's say in a top 10 university? There are so many rankings flying around (Times, Webometrics, shanghai etc.) and then there are the "leagues" and other things... Of course, I am searching for a specific research area but I was thinking: if I have the chance to go at a "very top" school would it be advisable to start thinking at leaving my research subject and start something else? I think this is just a sort of pre-GRE philosophy disorder :mrgreen: but hey, I can ask!

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twistor
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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby twistor » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:35 pm

I'm glad you asked this question. I think we have a tendency to take for granted that people always know what the best schools are, and what it means when someone says an institution is "ivy league."

Traditionally, Ivy League refers to an athletic conference of 8 schools: Harvard, Dartmouth, Brown, Cornell, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Penn State. These are also some of the oldest schools in the nation, and have a tradition of being very exclusionary. Because of this they epitomize social elitism. There also happens to be some high quality research going on in them.

To the general public there is a big difference between going to a school that's considered ivy league and a school that is not. This mostly has to do with the name. Because of the aforementioned schools highly exclusionary policies they have been historically very difficult to get into. The general public tends to believe this is because they only want the smartest people in their schools. This might be true to some extent at the graduate level, but at the undergraduate level the schools have a history of picking what they considered to be "well-rounded students." This generally meant that if you were black, Jewish, ethnic in any way, poor, smart but not athletic, or generally not well-connected to the upper crust of society your chances of getting in were essentially zero. Though many of these policies have changed (to some extent, anyway) the schools generally have very low acceptance rates and charge a very high tuition. You can think about this like branding. It's become so entrenched in American society that Sony makes quality products that people will pay more for a Sony TV even if you can get an equivalent TV for far less. Same goes with a Harvard education.

At the graduate level the key to picking a school is to find a program that meets your needs, an advisor that you work with, and at a location you find acceptable. Even though scientists at Harvard might be doing some top-notch research and making the front page of Nature, if that's not the area you want to be involved in you should go somewhere else. At the graduate level the name of the institution is less important. That's because you are ultimately going to be judged by the quality work you do, and the quality of your work does not depend on the school it was done in. It might depend on who you work with, and there might be a larger number of exceptional scientists at Harvard than your local state university because Harvard can pay them more and because of the status it offers them, but you can usually find at least a few good scientists any where you go.

I don't know if having a Ph.d. from an Ivy League school will necessarily mean you will be better paid, at least as physics goes. The way I understand it is that it's very hard to go up the elitist ladder but easy to go down. This means if you get a degree at local state U. it's going to be hard to get a faculty position at a prestigious university, but not vice versa. There are definitely some benefits to going to a well-known, prestigious school but you have to ultimately weigh them against what you want to get out of the program/your life.

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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby physics_auth » Fri Sep 04, 2009 2:29 pm

twistor wrote:To the general public there is a big difference between going to a school that's considered ivy league and a school that is not. This mostly has to do with the name. Because of the aforementioned schools highly exclusionary policies they have been historically very difficult to get into. The general public tends to believe this is because they only want the smartest people in their schools.....


Exquisite analysis ... implicitly answered some questions at a personal level (because I am also torn between choosing a school according to its reputation or according to if the research done there matches my own research interests). I think that the selection of graduate schools according to what one wants to pursue in their life is most wisest. Nevertheless, I am of the impression that most students (in this forum also) choose a school only because of its reputation, but noone of them can foresee ... where will their ultimate "working position" be.
Thanks Twistor

Physics_auth

betelgeuse1
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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby betelgeuse1 » Fri Sep 04, 2009 2:40 pm

physics_auth wrote:
twistor wrote:To the general public there is a big difference between going to a school that's considered ivy league and a school that is not. This mostly has to do with the name. Because of the aforementioned schools highly exclusionary policies they have been historically very difficult to get into. The general public tends to believe this is because they only want the smartest people in their schools.....


Exquisite analysis ... implicitly answered some questions at a personal level (because I am also torn between choosing a school according to its reputation or according to if the research done there matches my own research interests). I think that the selection of graduate schools according to what one wants to pursue in their life is most wisest. Nevertheless, I am of the impression that most students (in this forum also) choose a school only because of its reputation, but noone of them can foresee ... where will their ultimate "working position" be.
Thanks Twistor

Physics_auth

Yeah, I was asking exactly about the "working position"... I would like to know if someone of you jumped from a sort of undergrad to another sort of grad school and to explain the differences regarding "working positions" I don't care if you jumped from "high top" to "local U." or reversly. Just to have some impression about how it is. (well, it's true that repeating my gre after being admitted at a graduate school means that I also want to jump higer, it would be hipocritical not to admit that... but maybe this is why I'm asking...)
Until now my favorites are completely out of the Ivy league, so I was asking myself if I am capable of making a good choice... but I think I should worry about this later

excel
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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby excel » Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:07 pm

Traditionally, Ivy League refers to an athletic conference of 8 schools: Harvard, Dartmouth, Brown, Cornell, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, and Penn State.


You mixed up UPenn and Penn State :lol: :lol:
Obviously, UPenn's ivy league status is not doing much for them where twistor is concerned :lol:

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twistor
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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby twistor » Sat Sep 05, 2009 1:39 pm

wtf... Pennsylvania has TWO universities now?!

Times are changing, I suppose...

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grae313
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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby grae313 » Sat Sep 05, 2009 3:21 pm

I went to an un-ranked (read: too low to have a ranking) state school with no PhD program for undergrad and I'm now working towards my PhD at Cornell. I'm a rare case here. Although there are others here who came from small liberal arts colleges or state schools, they all seem to be well-known liberal arts colleges or highly ranked state schools. Anyways, this place has a reputation and has a lot of money. This allows them to attract some of the best professors and provide them with top-notch equipment. The equipment is relevant only to experiment, of course, but Cornell has world-class facilities for nanofabrication, materials characterization, etc, and this actually can make a difference in the quality of the research you do. However, my opinion is that it's perfectly possible to do great research at Universities with fewer resources--it's just a lot easier here.

So yeah, you can get an excellent education at a lower ranked University, and you can have a very successful career after graduating from one, I just think it's easier to do so from a higher-ranked institution. And certainly, you'll also find cases of Ivy-league graduates that did not have a successful career. I do think, however, that the statistics overall favor graduates from highly ranked schools. We've had discussions here where we went through some of the top 10 Universities and looked at where their professors got their PhDs from. They are overwhelmingly from top 20 Universities. If your goal is to be a professor at a top 10 University, you'll probably have an easier time achieving this if you get your PhD from a highly ranked school.

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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby physics_auth » Sat Sep 05, 2009 4:20 pm

grae313 wrote: If your goal is to be a professor at a top 10 University, you'll probably have an easier time achieving this if you get your PhD from a highly ranked school.


It sounds highly ambitious for a student -before starting their master, Phd studies and finishing their post-docs- to want to become a professor at a top 10 University. I don't think that most students who target at top universities have this as a basic incentive for applying ... . They have to weigh up great many factors ... and after all it is risky to think this way! Personally, I would chiefly prefer to become as reputable a scientist as possible and the issue of pursuing a working position at a top university is of secondary significance. Last but not least, i know of cases of people wholeheartedly dedicated to their science who are much more reasearch-productive compared to professors who work at top universities!!

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grae313
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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby grae313 » Sat Sep 05, 2009 4:59 pm

physics_auth wrote:
grae313 wrote: If your goal is to be a professor at a top 10 University, you'll probably have an easier time achieving this if you get your PhD from a highly ranked school.


It sounds highly ambitious for a student -before starting their master, Phd studies and finishing their post-docs- to want to become a professor at a top 10 University. I don't think that most students who target at top universities have this as a basic incentive for applying ... . They have to weigh up great many factors ... and after all it is risky to think this way! Personally, I would chiefly prefer to become as reputable a scientist as possible and the issue of pursuing a working position at a top university is of secondary significance. Last but not least, i know of cases of people wholeheartedly dedicated to their science who are much more reasearch-productive compared to professors who work at top universities!!


No! I wasn't saying that everyone here has that goal! Please don't misunderstand me. I was providing an example of my point that, although a successful and productive career as a scientist is possible from a variety of educational backgrounds, it is easier with an education from a top-ranked University. If you read carefully, my post is full of broad generalities and statistical trends, and I acknowledge the exceptions that exist multiple times. Of course scientists at lower ranked Universities may be productive and highly regarded! However, the people at the very top of their field are more often than not located at highly ranked Universities. These Universities have--on average--the best facilities and the best people. This allows the students attending these schools to have access to--on average--the most accomplished mentors and the best resources available for their research projects. This guarantees nothing, but can help a young scientist to do better research. Combined with the name recognition (which may well be the larger deciding factor, since many would give favor to a Harvard graduate over a state school graduate before knowing anything else about them), and the students graduating from these schools wind up with--on average--the better post docs/positions. Of course anyone can do great research and get a prestigious position/post doc after graduating from a lower ranked University. It's just a bit more difficult.

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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby physics_auth » Sat Sep 05, 2009 5:10 pm

grae313 wrote:No! I wasn't saying that everyone here has that goal! Please don't misunderstand me. I was providing an example of my point that, although a successful and productive career as a scientist is possible from a variety of educational backgrounds, it is easier with an education from a top-ranked University. If you read carefully, my post is full of broad generalities and statistical trends, and I acknowledge the exceptions that exist multiple times. Of course scientists at lower ranked Universities may be productive and highly regarded! However, the people at the very top of their field are more often than not located at highly ranked Universities. These Universities have--on average--the best facilities and the best people. This allows the students attending these schools to have access to--on average--the most accomplished mentors and the best resources available for their research projects. This guarantees nothing, but can help a young scientist to do better research. Combined with the name recognition (which may well be the larger deciding factor, since many would give favor to a Harvard graduate over a state school graduate before knowing anything else about them), and the students graduating from these schools wind up with--on average--the better post docs/positions. Of course anyone can do great research and get a prestigious position/post doc after graduating from a lower ranked University. It's just a bit more difficult.


Well, ok. Now it's clearer. Besides, the info you provided sound interesting for me. Furthermore, let me ask you sth: is it ultimately true that Cornell rejects physics majors who prolonged their undergraduate studies (let's say 1 more year)?
Thanks

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grae313
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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby grae313 » Sat Sep 05, 2009 5:22 pm

physics_auth wrote:Well, ok. Now it's clearer. Besides, the info you provided sound interesting for me. Furthermore, let me ask you sth: is it ultimately true that Cornell rejects physics majors who prolonged their undergraduate studies (let's say 1 more year)?
Thanks


Where did you get this idea? I dropped out of school for two years in the middle of undergrad, and took five years of coursework to get my double major. I was 16 when I graduated high school and 24 when I entered graduate school...

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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby physics_auth » Sat Sep 05, 2009 5:53 pm

grae313 wrote:
physics_auth wrote:Well, ok. Now it's clearer. Besides, the info you provided sound interesting for me. Furthermore, let me ask you sth: is it ultimately true that Cornell rejects physics majors who prolonged their undergraduate studies (let's say 1 more year)?
Thanks


Where did you get this idea? I dropped out of school for two years in the middle of undergrad, and took five years of coursework to get my double major. I was 16 when I graduated high school and 24 when I entered graduate school...


This is "the explanation" I saw in some site on the web by a student who was rejected by Cornell's admission-comittee. I erroneously combined this information with the fact that a co-student of mine -a really brilliant student- who applied at Cornell for 2009 was finally rejected (and after a long discussion we couldn't find a good excuse for his rejection...). Some moment later, I saw the student's explanation I mentioned ... which "seemed" to explain "the state of affairs" (since my co-student also prolonged his undergraduate studies to study for the tests and so on). What a relief to hear that this is not valid! Till now it was a real deterrent for me ... as to apply at Cornell or not. :D
Thanks a lot

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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby shouravv » Sun Sep 06, 2009 11:31 pm

Ivy / non-Ivy matters more for undergrad education, as it offers more "breadth" in you experience. But that does not guarantee success of any form, specially in grad school admission process. Okay there is a trend that good students go to good colleges and so on, but ... As for going to one of the eight Ivy league schools for graduate degree, well, you technically just can't do it. You see, "Harvard University" is not a part of the Ivy League, Harvard College is. And similarly: it is Yale's undergrad school, Princeton College, Columbia College, Cornell's undergrad school etc. that are in the "Ivy League" - the sports league - not the universities as a whole. Since you will apply to the GSAS in those schools ...

Okay, more seriously, unless the school you are applying to have a strong department and reputed faculty working on exactly what you want to work on, brand name is not worth a cent. Just for example, if you want a PhD in Astrophysics, Penn State is actually better than UPenn, although for undergrad work, UPenn is simply the right choice. If you want to do observational astronomy work, Hawaii would be better than Cornell, and so on. Brand name matters, but just a little bit.

excel
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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby excel » Mon Sep 07, 2009 1:47 am

shouravv wrote:You see, "Harvard University" is not a part of the Ivy League, Harvard College is. And similarly: it is Yale's undergrad school, Princeton College, Columbia College, Cornell's undergrad school etc. that are in the "Ivy League" - the sports league - not the universities as a whole. Since you will apply to the GSAS in those schools ...


Just to clear up this point, the ivy league started out as a sports league of certain elite universities, but its primary connotation in society has to do with academic excellence, not sports. And the connotation is not restricted to just the undergraduate parts of the universities. Ivy league is a brand of sorts, and that brand has very little to do with sports and everything to do with academic excellence of the institutions.

In general, I agree that students should choose departments primarily on the basis of their interests, and not on how glamorous the university is. (I have seen many graduate students change their initial interests though).

However, the top schools (the 8 ivies + MIT, Caltech, Berkeley, Stanford, Duke, Chicago, Northwestern, etc.) tend to have an overall environment of much higher success than the less competitive schools. Sure, there are succesful and unsuccessful graduate students in all universities, but the concentration of high-achieving graduate students in the top schools is very high. For example, my lab's latest paper is in a Nature journal, and I am surrounded by students publishing in top journals, winning research awards etc. I think prospective graduate students should consider the implications of entering such a high-performing community.

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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby physics_auth » Mon Sep 07, 2009 7:12 pm

excel wrote:... my lab's latest paper is in a Nature journal, and I am surrounded by students publishing in top journals, winning research awards etc. I think prospective graduate students should consider the implications of entering such a high-performing community.


Excel can you please give a rough idea about how is the situation -in your surroundings- with the theorists? Do they churn out papers at the same rate as experimentalists? I would like to have an opinion on that issue (though I don't target at Harvard/ Berkeley/MIT/Yale/Princeton).

excel
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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby excel » Mon Sep 07, 2009 9:19 pm

physics_auth wrote:
excel wrote:... my lab's latest paper is in a Nature journal, and I am surrounded by students publishing in top journals, winning research awards etc. I think prospective graduate students should consider the implications of entering such a high-performing community.


Excel can you please give a rough idea about how is the situation -in your surroundings- with the theorists? Do they churn out papers at the same rate as experimentalists? I would like to have an opinion on that issue (though I don't target at Harvard/ Berkeley/MIT/Yale/Princeton).


In general, I think theory students tend to publish more than purely experimental students in my research area and surroundings.

However, I am not in a pure physics program but in biophysics in a graduate school of medical sciences. So, I am not sure how far my answer would apply to your situation.

Further, I would like to add: 1) most (but not all) of the bioscience papers that get into journals like Science and Nature involve some experimental work at least (for well understood reasons). In fact, most of us who do theory (like myself) usually work in collaboration with experimentalists, often multiple experimentalists-- leading to papers that have both theoretical and experimental components. From what I have seen, theory graduate students who take this approach have been generally productive and published in top journals. A graduate student publishing a purely theoretical paper in a Nature or Science journal is not too common.

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Re: what means Ivy league?!

Postby physics_auth » Tue Sep 08, 2009 10:40 am

excel wrote:
physics_auth wrote:
excel wrote:... my lab's latest paper is in a Nature journal, and I am surrounded by students publishing in top journals, winning research awards etc. I think prospective graduate students should consider the implications of entering such a high-performing community.


Excel can you please give a rough idea about how is the situation -in your surroundings- with the theorists? Do they churn out papers at the same rate as experimentalists? I would like to have an opinion on that issue (though I don't target at Harvard/ Berkeley/MIT/Yale/Princeton).


In general, I think theory students tend to publish more than purely experimental students in my research area and surroundings.

However, I am not in a pure physics program but in biophysics in a graduate school of medical sciences. So, I am not sure how far my answer would apply to your situation.

Further, I would like to add: 1) most (but not all) of the bioscience papers that get into journals like Science and Nature involve some experimental work at least (for well understood reasons). In fact, most of us who do theory (like myself) usually work in collaboration with experimentalists, often multiple experimentalists-- leading to papers that have both theoretical and experimental components. From what I have seen, theory graduate students who take this approach have been generally productive and published in top journals. A graduate student publishing a purely theoretical paper in a Nature or Science journal is not too common.


Enlightening enough ...
Thanks




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