How important is undergrad school name?

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Joined: Wed Jul 05, 2006 6:55 pm

How important is undergrad school name?

Postby b1dole » Wed Jul 05, 2006 7:01 pm

(in getting into grad school). I go to a small LAC in the midwest that highly doubt any good grad school has ever even heard of. Will this hurt me when I apply? (How much difference will the school make, all other factors aside?) My school normally sends a person or two to Harvard for political science, and usually a few students to Duke-quality grad schools for Physics. Will the school be a no-factor or will it hurt me?

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Postby Bufalay » Thu Jul 06, 2006 2:15 pm

if, in addition to good grades (necessary but not sufficient), you have some quality research experience and good gre scores you should be competitive anywhere. I think that a good gpa from your school may mean less to the committies than one from another school, but with these other factors you will be fine.

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Joined: Fri Apr 07, 2006 9:15 pm

undergraduate reputation

Postby paradox » Fri Jul 07, 2006 7:03 am

It depends. I don't want to be too negative, but you need I think it's important to know what your dealing with. The biggest problem with a unknown school is that it has no reputation among admission committees. Reputation is important. More importantly, it's really the reputation of the people who recommend you. A recommendation from a colleague or someone with appropriate credentials carries more weight.

Also, smaller schools might not have as many opportunities for research. Do they send students to REUs (see the NSF's Research Experience for Undergraduates)? Do they have any preparation for the Physics GRE? Do they support undergraduate research? Do these students ever produce publications? Have ANY other students gone to a good grad school from your school. Also, you might find the lack of focus or interest by other students to be a bit depressing.

You have some positives going for you. If you really like the school, and are good, you should get the support of department. You should get more personal attention. Hopefully, this will reflect in more opportunities and better recommendations. Certainly good test scores and good grades will help. I think the biggest problem you face is the outlier factor. Good students tend to go to more prestigious schools. You're probably are already an outlier. You trying to statistically determine the feasibility of an outlier. If you really love what your studying and can reflect that in your work, that will go a long way in helping you get into the grad school of your choice.

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Postby b1dole » Sun Jul 09, 2006 5:43 pm


I will better explain my situation now. You seem to really know what you are talking about, and might be able to make a better assessment with the full picture. The physics program at my college has as many physics professors as physics graduates (8). It sends some students to REU programs, and students regularly do (and publish) research. One thing that I really liked was that freshman can and do do research. Those are some good things. Here's the bad: students at my school are not of the highest overall caliber: less than 5% got above a 32 on the ACT. The research budget is not super-high either. The profs are very, very good IMHO. All are Ph.D's and great teachers. However most of them are Ph.D.'s from the Univ. of Minnesota. (Is this bad). The profs have published stuff, but I am guessing that the grad admissions people havent read any of it. I'm double majoring wiht Numerical Computation, and one of my rec's will be prolly be from a Ph.D. from Ann Arbor. I also have some good things going for me. I was only rejected at MIT for undergrad, and the reasons that I am not going to Harvey Mudd, Carleton, or Notre Dame (all of which i was accepted at) are financial. I am also proactive and am reading the Feynman Lectures to compliment my physics education. I will do fine, I think (?), on the GRE. As for grad schools, my school has sent 1 student to MIT, one to Harvard, several to Duke, and many to Minnesota in the last 15 years (idk if that is good or not).

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Postby b1dole » Mon Jul 10, 2006 1:29 am

I might have explained that poorly....

What I was trying to say was that I am not an "outlier" based on quality, rather my school is an outlier based on quality. The main things that concern me are, as you pointed out, professors who, while very good, are not well-known and the overall student body. I worry that colleges might just lump me in with the 90% of the school that doesnt really have the same academic drive/passion/interest that I have. Also, while I sound negative, i really do like the other students alot.

I also described my school poorly. It's not a bad place. Heck, usnews put it in the top 70 liberal arts colleges (it's just not top 20 like the colleges i wanted to go to but couldnt afford). My school well-known and somewhat prestigous in my area and even in my state. It has produced Senators and Presidential nominees. Unfortunately, I don't know much about the success of the Physics graduates. All I know is that in the last 15 years, 1 alum has gone to Harvard, 1 to MIT, a couple to Columbia, 3 to Duke, and a bunch to Minnesota. I don't know if I should be encouraged or discouraged by these numbers. (there are 3-10 physics grads per year). Help!


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similar situation myself...

Postby witten_high_pitch_voice » Mon Jul 10, 2006 8:40 pm

I'm not really in a position to give you advice or anything simply because I'm in a similar situation myself, and the things you mentioned are more or less what I worried about. Not that I'm no longer worrying about these issues now, but I think one thing I do want to tell you is that as long as 'YOU' perform in best possible ways, you 'CAN' reach your goals. I'm saying this because the best example I have is one of my friend who recently graduated from the University I attend and got accepted to Princeton University with full scholarship(covering his entire postgrad period). I observed him carefully and analysed what he has done to reach his goal and during that process I realised that it is not really the fame of the university or fame of the professors here. What matters, I realised, is that he received straight A's for all of his papers, published not only one but several papers with high quality and no doubt excelled in GRE. I strongly believe that trying to achieve these kinds of things is more important than worrying about the fame of the University or how many students your uni sent to big schools. I think I understand your concern because I similarly worried about same things myself, but after talking to several people about my concern their response was more or less the same, that is, there are always people who are in a better situation than yourself so what 'YOU' have to do is to figure out what you can do with what you have right now.
So in summary I guess what I want to say is, try to persue excellence in your studies under the circumstance in which you are in right now, rather than calculating your chances based on those statistical numbers of how many people got accepted in the past. I assure you, this will get you where you want to reach.

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