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Does undergrad school matter and how?

RebeccaJayRebeccaJay Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
Hi

I would like to ask how much it matters, and in which ways, what undergrad school you attend, when you apply and want to survive and thrive in a good grad school?

Cheers
Rebecca

Replies to: Does undergrad school matter and how?

  • RebeccaJayRebeccaJay Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
    (At least when it comes to sciences, specifically mathematics-cs-physics oriented)
  • Mom2aphysicsgeekMom2aphysicsgeek Registered User Posts: 3,736 Senior Member
    My ds is a sr at Bama doubling in math and physics. He is applying to grad school this fall, so we will see the outcome in the spring. His experience at Bama has been fabulous. He scored extremely high on the physics GRE. He has had REUs at 2 top physics universities and his name is on research being published and presented at an international consortium.

    He entered Bama already taking courses at a high level and has been taking grad courses and devoting a lot of time to research. I think he feels well-prepared for grad school and that he is a strong applicant. I can't imagine him having a better UG experience b/c Bama has been fabulous about offering him excellent opportunities.
  • BeaudreauBeaudreau Registered User Posts: 1,005 Senior Member
    @RebeccaJay - This topic had been extensively discussed on this board. You could Google it or scroll down. Concerning engineering, sciences, and math, I think the consensus is that if you graduate from a decent college with great grades, strong research experience, solid recommendations, and a good GRE score, you should be fine.

    The wrinkle is that at a top engineering/science/math college, you may have more research opportunities and opportunities to work with well-connected professors. For example my son is an aerospace engineering major at Texas A&M. He is working this fall with two professors conducting research in space plasma propulsion, one concerning laser measurement techniques and one concerning plasma modeling. One just earned his PhD from Michigan and the other from Princeton, which are two of his three top choices for PhD programs in plasma space propulsion. It's a relatively small field where pretty much everyone knows everyone else, so they also know the researchers at Georgia Tech, his other top choice. Of course, now he needs to work hard in the labs with his professors. They won't help him unless he earns it.

  • MandalorianMandalorian Registered User Posts: 1,530 Senior Member
    Yes. In-field networks are very important and related. Say you did your undergrad at School X and you want to apply to Grad School Y. A letter of recommendation from a professor at School X who is an alumni of Grad School Y is going to carry a lot of weight.
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,672 Super Moderator
    How much does my undergraduate school matter for graduate admissions?

    This is a tricky question to answer, and opinions are going to vary a bit. The general consensus seems to be "Some, maybe a lot, but what you do in undergrad is way more important than where you go."

    Let's be honest - professors, like most people, can be swayed by prestige. But it's not the sparkliness of the name; it's the familiarity with the department, the faculty, and the work and rigor that go into that program. If your field has excellent departments at Wisconsin and Duke and Michigan and Stanford, then if you come out of one of those universities the professors at your graduate schools know that you had good training at the department. They know the faculty members there - maybe they went to grad school together, or collaborated on past projects, or were postdocs together - and they trust their word in letters of recommendation. They know that the cutting-edge research is coming out of so-and-so's lab, which just happens to be where you did your RA job. So when your application crosses their desk, a lot of the things you discuss are known quantities.

    However, this does not mean that if you go to East Carolina University, Cal State Northridge, UNC-Wilmington or Loyola Marymount that you have worse choices of getting into graduate school. This also does not mean that "a 3.3 at Stanford is the same/better than a 3.7 at CSUN." This also doesn't mean that you should go deep into debt to attend a more prestigious school, or transfer away from your current undergrad. It's simply a data point - one that's taken into consideration. There are lots and lots of people who go to excellent graduate schools from these schools and other smaller regional publics and lesser-known privates. What's more important is what you do. So get involved in research (yes, there is research going on at places like these), form relationships with professors (yes, they still count even if they don't know Professor Fancypants at Harvard), try to do a summer research internship at a different university, and take the most rigorous courseload you can (consider taking graduate courses if you are able).
  • RebeccaJayRebeccaJay Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
    I'm sorry to not have replied for so long. Life... stuff going on.
    Thank you a lot.
    Thank you Julliet, this explains it very well.
    Yup, it's probably a good idea to read the board *facepalm*
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