Same school for undergrad and grad?

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gliese876d
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Same school for undergrad and grad?

Postby gliese876d » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:46 pm

I have heard many allusions to the negative impact of going to the same institution for graduate school that you did for undergrad, but I was wondering if anyone had any hard evidence of the potential impact, positive or negative that such a thing might have to one's future career opportunities. Carl Sagan went to U of Chicago for undergrad and grad, and I know there are other examples such as this, but everyone I talk to refers to going to the same school for graduate studies as "academic nepotism."

The reason I ask is that my situation is very complicated. Being a divorced mother of two, and having an ex who is reluctant to allow me to leave the state with my kids (apparently in PA the law views it such that the parent wanting to leave has to get "permission" from the parent who wants to stay), my options may be limited. On top of that, my first choice school right now is UC Santa Cruz, so he is even more reluctant since it's all the way across the country. My only other acceptances at this point (aside from two acceptances I have already turned down) are UC Riverside, U of MN, and my alma mater, Pitt. UC Riverside poses the same distance problem and I didn't like the school as much during my visit; and U of MN... well, to be honest I don't think I can handle the winters there. That pretty much leaves UCSC and Pitt. If I can't get my ex to agree to letting me move with the kids to CA, I may end up needing to go to Pitt.

On the bright side, Pitt and Santa Cruz are only 3 rankings apart (Pitt is a pretty decent school), and I have professors here that have already stated their willingness to work with my research interests, plus the cost of living is *way* cheaper here than in CA, but I'm worried about how it will look to future potential employers if I have gotten my PhD the same place I got my BS. I have demanded that my ex grant more relocation flexibility when it comes time to look for employment, since in the long run, I think it's more important to have that flexibility when looking for a job, and he seems like he will agree to this. But how bad do you think it would be for me to stay here? Any thoughts or concrete examples to share???

cato88
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Re: Same school for undergrad and grad?

Postby cato88 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:49 pm

Any perceived negative perception of going to the same school is not really true.
Like you said Carl Sagan went to the same undergrad/grad as did Allan Guth.

JohnWillkins
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Re: Same school for undergrad and grad?

Postby JohnWillkins » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:20 pm

I think it may help to know what career path is intended... looking to teach? go into industry? etc. Really, I can't imagine it matters much for either. The only obvious fault would be fewer contacts or professors that knew you well.

For teaching I'll use the example of my small school. 1/16 professors in physics had the same university for their BS and PhD. I think I saw 4 or 5/16 with an MS and PhD from the same university. At Cornell, I saw 1 of the first 16 listed as having gotten their degrees from the same university. A believe I saw another one or two with an MS and PhD from the same university. The professors at my school aren't Carl Sagan (I feel we can call him... quite talented and able to surpass a minor issue like a stigma over going to the same university for your degrees). Additionally Harvard has one of the first sixteen that went to the same undergrad and grad.

Given this, I really can't imagine there is THAT much of a stigma in academia. In industry I can't imagine why they would care, as it seems like there is less prestige focus.

astrofan
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Re: Same school for undergrad and grad?

Postby astrofan » Tue Mar 17, 2009 12:44 am

I am pretty sure that is said just because you would be in the same place for a decade. Perhaps you would not be as well connected, but that doesn't matter if your undergrad institution is at a top school.

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Andromeda
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Re: Same school for undergrad and grad?

Postby Andromeda » Tue Mar 17, 2009 3:42 am

Meh, unless I hear from somewhere else in the next month I might be doing the same! I heard that one of the main reasons to go somewhere else is to just see how physics/astro is done in other places because on average it's better to get a broader feel for such things. Lots of other disciplines don't even think this though, all my engineering friends just stick around for their advanced degrees at the same uni.

Of course, my personal plan if I don't get in anywhere else is to probably go for just the masters and apply again. I know one research group I'd like to work with, but on the other hand I'm hesitant because I know my dept's bad side a little too well and hate the winters. Too early to tell right now of course, but we shall see.

admissionprof
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Re: Same school for undergrad and grad?

Postby admissionprof » Tue Mar 17, 2009 5:53 am

We generally suggest that undergraduates go elsewhere for their PhD, since it gives one more contacts and connections, and the diversity in approaches is always good. But we also suggest that staying is ok if there is a compelling personal reason to do so. In your case, there certainly is a compelling personal reason, and I see absolutely no stigma that would be attached to staying. Nobody cares that much about where you were an undergraduate, anyway.

babazula
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Re: Same school for undergrad and grad?

Postby babazula » Tue Mar 17, 2009 7:13 am

"When I was an undergraduate at MIT I loved it. I thought it was a great place, and I wanted to go to graduate school there too, of course. But when I went to Professor Slater and told him of my intentions, he said, “We won’t let you in here.”
I said, “What?”
Slater said, “Why do you think you should go to graduate school at MIT?”
“Because MIT is the best school for science in the country.”
“You think that?”
“Yeah.”
“That’s why you should go to some other school. You should find out how the rest of the world is.”"

- Surely You are Joking, Mr. Feynman

cato88
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Re: Same school for undergrad and grad?

Postby cato88 » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:20 pm

Feynman has a flare for storytelling and everyone knows simplification makes for good storytelling.
As i mentioned Allan Guth was an MIT undergrad/graduate student and obviously professor and I wouldnt say Feynmen is less qualified than Guth especially since Feynmans Undergrad thesis is much more impressive than Guth's and Feynman also was a Putnam Fellow.

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gliese876d
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Re: Same school for undergrad and grad?

Postby gliese876d » Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:21 pm

Thanks for your input everyone. I was thinking it was probably a trumped-up thing, but I just thought I'd get some others' opinions. I aspire to pursue a career in academia, and my ex seems more o.k. with the idea of relocating once I'm looking for a job. I think besides the distance and the young age of our kids, he is also concerned about my ability to provide for them on a graduate income, and feels less apprehensive about the idea once the kids are older (by the time I get my PhD they'll be around 12 and 10) and I would presumably have a higher income (though I've heard postdoc positions don't pay that well and seem to be a necessary step on the way to a faculty position).

astrofan
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Re: Same school for undergrad and grad?

Postby astrofan » Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:18 pm

Yeah, Post Docs don't get paid much either (for that matter, its only when you become a full professor that you start seeing really good money). $35000-$45,000 for your first post doc position would be about right for universites. Add about $15000 to those numbers for Labs




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