Does it matter what school you go to?

Discussion in 'Community' started by Abstract, Aug 21, 2004.

  1. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #1
    How important is it to go to a decent school? Lets say you go to an average schoool. Are you bound to start off the job market with a slight handicap? Will schools in foreign countries not recognize your uni because it isn't well known?

    I'm thinking about starting a PhD in Medical Physics, and there are several places I'm considering. I go to Wollongong in Australia right now doing my Masters, and sure it doesn't have a world-reknowned reputation like Harvard, but its a good Uni in Australia (I think?). However, I'm actually thinking of doing a PhD in either London or Toronto, and I'm not sure if my Masters is internationally recognized and such. Its hard to ask my Uni, because they would just tell me how reputable they are. ;)

    And the problem is that there are so many uni's in London that I'm not sure if going to a school other than UCL, Kings College, or Imperial (and whatever else is out there) is a good idea. Should I even bother with Uni's that I've never heard of? Remember, I'm doing a PhD in a (fairly) medical related field with research involved.

    Are uni guides any good?

    PS: I'd recommend Wollongong to anyone. :) I like U of W, but I can't imagine living here for 4 more years completing a PhD. I like big cities. :eek:
     
  2. broken_keyboard macrumors 65816

    broken_keyboard

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    #2
    I know there are web sites that will assess your credentials and tell you the equivalent U.S. qualification - an Indian (dots not feathers) fellow who was working in the U.S. that I knew used one. Maybe they can tell you how recognized your Masters is.

    I think it probably is important to have a brand name Uni if you are going to be working in a competitive field. I'm not sure how competitive medical physics is. Would it be worth moving from Australia to U.K. or Canada though? I'm not sure. Maybe there are just U.S. qualifications and non-U.S. :)

    I suggest you look for what country you are likely to end up working in and get a qualification there. Are there companies doing interesting stuff in Oz? Maybe you would ultimately have to go to the U.S. to get an interesting job.
     
  3. gwuMACaddict macrumors 68040

    gwuMACaddict

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    #3
    hehehe

    dots, not feathers... maybe we can get this moved to political discusion ;) :D
     
  4. JesseJames macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    Another one of these threads eh?
    Oh hec, just go to Clown College. Better off in this economy. Do clowns have good 401k?
     
  5. themadchemist macrumors 68030

    themadchemist

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    #5
    From what I know, and don't listen to my thoughts because I'm just a lowly undergrad, it does seem that a brand name degree helps one get a job at university (as I'm assuming you would want). Not only does the reputation of the school probably aid in impressing future employers, but it's more likely that top research institutions will actively search for graduates from top programs. Plus, it's more likely that your thesis adviser will have connections to tap and strings to pull in your favor.

    But in the end, it's how good you are, right? Nobody wants a Harvard PhD who can't publish papers. One of our biggest name chem professors, who is quickly reaching national and possibly world renown, went to Penn State for his PhD. But he's good at what he does, or at least, at bringing in money. So my school, ranked significantly higher than Penn State, is happy to have him and give him half a floor to himself.

    But the Harvard PhD + being ridiculously prolific always helps, too, like another one of our chem profs who sold his wonder drug to Pfizer.

    As far as Canada, isn't McGill (sp??) supposed to be a very good school? Maybe some of the Kanucks would know more. And then, in England, Oxford and Cambridge have wonderful programs. However, you'd know better than I would whether any of the schools I just mentioned are actually in or near Toronto or London. I'm not sure.

    Anyway, best of luck! I'm sure no matter where you go, you'll be successful if you're good at what you do.
     
  6. macsrus macrumors 6502

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    #6
    There have been many studies on this subject....

    The latest trends are showing that it really doesnt matter...

    Furthermore there is a growing data pool that shows... students who attend the most expensive schools actually dont recoup the extra cost of their education....

    They would be better off going to an average college and saving the money that a Ivy League education would cost in the bank.
     
  7. themadchemist macrumors 68030

    themadchemist

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    #7
    It definitely depends on what field you're in. For law school and business school, it makes a HUGE difference. It could be the difference between practicing law at a high-powered New York firm and practicing in Bumpkin, Louisiana.

    I have a feeling that it also matters if you're going into anything related to academia. There, too, it seems that the name matters because the name also comes attached with a lot of personal connections and many important impressions regarding a given program.

    However, I'd say that if, say, you want to start your own business, then it's not as big a deal.

    The paragon illustration is the difference between private practice and a teaching/university hospital. If you want to open up shop somewhere, then none of your patients is going to care where you went to school. However, if you want to work at a prestigious university hospital, practicing AND researching, then your medical alma mater and the location of your residency increase in importance.

    One thing's for sure--If an employer is faced with the option of two candidates that are mostly equal besides the place of education, he'll go with the Ivy Leaguer.
     
  8. Dros macrumors 6502

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    #8
    Medical physics sounds like a small community. If you can find a strong advisor at a small school, it won't matter about the school because everyone will know who is good and who isn't. But unknown school and mediocre graduate advisor is digging yourself a hole. See who you may want to work with at each place, see if they publish in well-known journals, are invited to speak at meetings or organize meetings, have placed their students in good positions that may interest you in the future.
     
  9. Abstract thread starter macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #9
    Yeah, McGill is a great school. U of Toronto is great as well. Its one of the better universities in North America. Their research papers get the 2nd most citations in the world, and their library is huge, especially for medicine. They only trail Harvard at both. ;) Their other programs are generally rated excellent as well. I'm actually from Toronto, so that's why I'm considering my home city for once. :)

    Anyway, there's no clear answer to my question because my area of study is so darn small. Its hard to look up related statistics when you're in a program that's neither a pure physics program, nor a medical-related program at any schools.

    Anyway, I'll try to play it safe and (hopefully) get myself into a good school somewhere, since its very difficult to find out if Med Physics is good at any particular schools. Worst comes to worst, I'll just stay in Wollongong (boooring) or go to Durham, England, since I did work for the head of Medical Physics there 2 years ago for 6 weeks. Maybe he'll remember how much he liked me and help me out. :)

    Thanks.
     
  10. Daveman Deluxe macrumors 68000

    Daveman Deluxe

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    #10
    I think the general rule of thumb is that getting into a prestigious university doesn't help you get into a program at the next level up. For example, a prestigious alma mater for your baccalaureate isn't a huge deal to getting into a prestigious grad school, and a masters from a prestigious university won't help you out a whole lot in getting into a prestigious doctorate program. But when you're applying for jobs, and ESPECIALLY in the academic world, the reputation of your most recent degree CAN make or break it for you.

    For an example, I know a guy who got his B.A. in music education at Arizona State, his M.A.T. at Oregon State, and now he's getting his Ph.D. at Florida State University--the premier program in the nation for choral education. ASU is kind of prestigious, OSU isn't a real heavyweight yet, but FSU is primo in this field.
     
  11. Mord macrumors G4

    Mord

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    #11
    dont go to kings go to imperial or ucl but remeber london is expensive, very expensive liveing here you could live like a king in say bristol, which is a top notch uni.
     
  12. wordmunger macrumors 603

    wordmunger

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    #12
    All I can say is that when my wife was at a prestigious American university (Columbia) getting her Ph.D., they didn't even recognize Master's degrees from foreign countries. If you were admitted to Columbia in the graduate program, you had to start at the same level as American students who only had Bachelor's degrees. Take that for what you will: American snobbery, or a reflection on the quality of higher education in other countries.
     
  13. revenuee macrumors 68020

    revenuee

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    #13
    I'm very happy going to McMaster myself
     
  14. Abstract thread starter macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #14
    @Hector: Why not Kings College? Are there other uni's in London that are good? I've seen names like Queen Mary and City, as well as a few others that sounded a bit dodgy. Also, I lived in London for a year several years ago. I loved it. :) I don't want to stay at my current school is because I like large cities, and can't imagine living here for 3-4 more years. Plus I'm hoping someone will pay me a stipend of 13000 quid or so. That's not much money (I may have £2000 saved at the end of each year), but I'll manage. I may not be eligible since I'm a non-UK and EU resident, but I'm not sure yet. If I'm not eligible, I'm probably not going this route.

    @Wordmunger: This is exactly why I asked here. If that's true, I wonder if that's true at the other uni's with this program. I've emailed someone at UCL asking them about the funding and degree recognition. I believe it all has something to do with your particular program being accredited, but I'm not sure how officlal it is in International terms. It may mean that since my Med Physics program is "accredited", it will be recognized by foreign universities. Or it may not mean anything except in Oz. :(
     
  15. Abstract thread starter macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #15
    @revenuee: I went to McMaster for my undergrad! I was in the Medical and Health Physics program there. :cool:
     
  16. revenuee macrumors 68020

    revenuee

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    #16

    Thats awesome ... i'm working toward a B.A. in theater and film ... LOL -- not quite as high up in the social ranking as Health but i like it.

    I'm from Hamilton myself, and stayed at home, i thought my first year would suck but i got involved in an Off campus student program, and from the sounds of things i was better off since dorms have tons of rules, while off campus students can do whatever they want with their place ... :)

    but thats cool to meet a MAC alumni here on the boards -- when my mother went back to school she went to MAC as well, degree in Commerce --- seems like kinda of a family thing now :)
     
  17. Mord macrumors G4

    Mord

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    #17
    kings collage just seems filled with idiots, never go to a uni south of the river ever it's like a rule of thum south of river = sucky stick to ucl and imperial they are both fine univercitys, i'd go somewhere like bristol or any medium sized city
     
  18. aus_dave macrumors regular

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    #18
    That is for sure. I recently dropped my qualifications off my business cards, as they were irrelevant to the business that I run.

    It was hard to do as it took 4 years of study to get them, but it doesn't make any difference to the clients or to turnover :).
     
  19. jefhatfield Retired

    jefhatfield

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    #19
    i like the idea of going to progressively better schools if you decide to go beyond the undergraduate level...public colleges have the advantage that almost no matter what you do, you will recoup the cost of school...private colleges have the advantage of better connections throughout life since it's connections which are the lifeblood of a private institution where as a public school relies on the state

    in the working world, nothing replaces doing a good job and everybody will see high school grads odering around college grads in every town and every size business...bill gates did not become rich because of college, but because of his vision, his knack for business, and his timing, he is the world's best example of a high school grad with tons of college grads to boss around ;)
     
  20. iGav macrumors G3

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    #20
    My best mate studied Medicine at UCL... she graduated last year, and spoke well of the Uni.

    UCL also has a a fearsomely good reputation as a Medical School. ;)
     
  21. wPod macrumors 68000

    wPod

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    #21
    big name degrees help get big name jobs. if you want to work at one of the top medical establishments in the world as a lead physician then yes you should go to a school with a big name. if you want to work in the local hospital in your home town then any degree will work just fine. so it depends on what you want in the end.
     
  22. The Past macrumors 6502

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    #22
    The short answer is, it matter which school you go to. The long answer is, it matters a whole lot more than you can imagine which school you go to. So, you see, my point is, don't underestimate the significance.
     
  23. Grimace macrumors 68040

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    #23
    I've spent years researching this very question. (This forum topic also existed a few times before)

    The real answer is: no, it doesn't matter where you go, on *average* - #3 below explains what is important.

    The lifetime earnings of someone who completes a bachelors degree will be $1 million more than someone who only completes high school (B. Long, 2000.) The figures obviously go up for advanced degrees. Upper tier private schools can provide better connections in getting a job, but those schools represent the upper 1% of all higher education. (3700 institutions in the US)

    Things to keep in mind:
    1. More than 50% of the people in higher education in the US are in community colleges.
    2. Ivy League schools make a lot of headlines but represent less than 1% of US schools.
    3. It isn't *which* school you go to, it is *how much* schooling you get - if you are talking about monetary gains over the period of one's lifetime.

    A bigger/better undergrad name is sometimes helpful if you know you want to go to graduate school. In that way, name is linked to *amount* of schooling; which is linked to monetary gain.

    To those who like to disagree just for the sake of argument - yes, there are always exceptions, but on *average* this how it is. I've spent a long time researching this, if you need proof, I can post an extensive bibliography on the subject. Enjoy your time at university, it is worth more than any dollar figure can buy.
     
  24. jefhatfield Retired

    jefhatfield

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    #24
    from all my political arguments with you, i never thought you would say that, but i understand better where you are coming from pinpointing having higher education vs having an elite higher education and which one makes the bigger difference on average
     
  25. jefhatfield Retired

    jefhatfield

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    #25
    in my field, computers, or rather fixing hardware and software issues with them, i stopped putting my degrees/certifications on them because of the same reason

    to really succeed where i live, small rural town/region under 100,000 people, your best bet is still to have a storefront in an easy to get area like downtown in the central city

    my biggest competitor, and all us techies' biggest competitor is the only store in downtown...the next two most successful stores are in outskirt industrial areas known for street crime so it scares away certain people

    the rest of the techies/businesses, like me, operate from our homes and sometimes supplement that with short corporate gigs/projects

    the owner of the big downtown store who is the number one techie has his mcse certification, and a microsoft solutions provider license, and a phd in computer science...but it is not those letters behind his name which get him the work...he also does not put those letters behind his name on his card...but he happens to come from a rich family which was able to pay for his good storefront in its good location

    our town/region is so small that everybody who is a techie knows each other and it's kind of like follow the leader...there is no real justification for a computer techie and/or apps programmer to get a phd or masters, but quite a few techies in town besides this man do possess their phd in computer science or related field...a couple are former professors of the field who found the non academic world less stressful, less political, and more lucrative...money or the promise of money makes people do weird things and then it becomes keeping up with the jonses...it's cult like in the fact that one day, all the small stores fixing computers in this town will be owned by phd's...i like knowledge for knowledge sake and it takes a lot of it to work with computers/software, and keep up, but i am convinced that you still don't have to have a phd to own and operate a computer repair shop ;) but i would like to hear stories of other people who know of computer repair shop owners and maybe this is a common trend

    one very, very common trend here is that there are tons of ex-lawyers who live here and open restaurants...granted there is not a lot of need for lawyers here but it's kind of a strange phenomenon here

    but back to the computer store story...

    people drive by everyday and there is always someone new who discovers them and the store is a good place for one stop shopping...you can fix your machine, buy floppies/cd disks, power surges, usb cables, toner, etc and the customer service and convenience justifies the 90 dollars an hour or so he charges for repair work...it's kind of like starbucks which is expensive but very convenient and easy to find being centrally located

    i meet many young students in engineering or computer science who want to live here, knowing there are no good IT jobs or high tech companies immediately nearby, and they are all shooting to be the highest paid independent techie in town...but they don't know the single most important thing is to have a central location storefront...which is expensive and makes most college and junior college computer graduates either change their field if they decide to stay here in paradise or move to the much less desireable cesspool of silicon valley
     

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