A question that will show how naive I am

<p>We are just getting started with our first child in the whole college search thing.</p>

<p>I will pose my question as an example: </p>

<p>If you major in Biology at a school like Stanford -- are the actual Biology courses much more difficult than they would be at a "normal state university"?</p>

<p>Or put another way -- the more selective the school is -- the harder the classes are? The higher the ACT/SAT requirement the harder the classes will be?</p>

<p>I never went to college -- so to me, a Biology course would be a Biology course. Wouldn't they utilize the same books - the same material(for the most part) ?</p>

<p>So again -- do the courses get harder and harder as you go up the college food chain? </p>

<p>Thank you so much! Signed Naive.</p>

<p>Dear Naive,</p>

<p>I will answer your post with an anectodal story; others can chime in.....my daughter is a junior in high school enrolled in an honors level biology course (actually taking the final today); her textbook has been used in this class for years......when we bought it, there happen to be a list of the other institutions that had signed up for the online companion....all of them are colleges; not one high school.....</p>

<p>Mind you, this is not an AP course...</p>

<p>So, in answer to your question, it is possible that the "Stanford" biology course will use the same textbook as a "state U". But it is also possible that the course will be made more difficult by the instructor....and you can assume that the competition in that particular class will be greater at a school where the selectivity to be admitted is greater....</p>

<p>But nothing is a sure thing in this regard.....for all you know, the course could be easier at Stanford....who knows?</p>

<p>hope that helps!!</p>

<p>Signed, Rodney</p>

<p>ps welcome to CC!!</p>

<p>I think it's probably true in general, but not universally so. Even when schools use the same books, the students at the elite schools are often better at being students at the kids at state schools. That means that your kid will be "competing", so to speak, with those kids with the high stats. It means that the discussions and the students' writing will be at a higher level, as well.
I do think that the teacher of the course determines the difficulty, not the books.
But then if your kid is there too, chances are that he will fare very well! So I wouldn't worry about it.</p>

<p>Yes, an Intro to Biology course will cover the same material at most colleges, and may use the same textbooks. However, the same course at a more competitive college is probably more demanding in terms of quantity and depth of; reading assignments, homework, lab projects, writing assignments and tests. </p>

<p>Of course, that is a generalization that does not apply to specific instances. For example, I attended U of Vermont (UVM) where I took an unbelievably rigorous Mineralogy course from a professor who told the story of him failing the Harvard graduate-level Mineralogy exam, requiring him to re-take that course before he could proceed with his graduate studies. He then resolved that when he became a professor, no student of his would ever fail that exam. Over a long career, he had the opportunity to confirm that resolve, and as a consequence, I am quite sure that my Mineralogy course was at worst equal to that of the one offered at Harvard.</p>

<p>I think the answer could be it depends. A biology class may use the same textbook, but it may have different labs, or more supplementary textbooks.</p>

<p>For example I took first year German at Harvard and then several years later took a class at a community college in Pasadena to brush up as I learned my husband to be was going to do a post-doctoral fellowship in Germany. The CC class covered the same amount of grammar. It used a different book (which I actually liked better as it had more practical vocabulary.) But the biggest difference was that the Harvard class started reading a detective novel a couple of months before the end of the course. We also spent more class time doing things that weren't in the book. I can still sing a bunch of German folk songs I learned in that class. </p>

<p>Finally while most of my CC classmates were reasonably serious about the course, all of my Harvard ones were.</p>

<p>"So again -- do the courses get harder and harder as you go up the college food chain?"</p>

<p>The top schools would have you believe this and that is part of what continues to feed the admissions frenzy each year, however. Course by course, every school across the nation has some overlap and some things that are quite different. Within colleges/universities there are very fine programs and others that are not so good. You will discover some of these as your family moves through the process. College is what you put in to it. Best wishes with the search.</p>

<p>Even if they use the same book (my high school AP bio class and my college intro bio class used the Campbell bio book), they will differ in the speed and depth of the material covered. And the students will be better motivated and possibly better prepared at the more rigorous university. The quality of your classmates has a huge impact on the quality of the class. If the professor doesn't have to spend as much time going over basic stuff, there will be more time to get into specifics and details.</p>

<p>Also, Stanford will probably offer more classes covering more topics in bio than the normal state university.</p>

<p>Mathmom -
Was that Emil und die Detektive? I remember reading that in German class!</p>

<p>OP
Welcome to CC! The differences in courses at Highly Selective U versus Normal State U may be greater once you get beyond the introductory course. At some Highly Selective U's and LAC's, the upper division undergraduate courses may be the equivalent of graduate level courses.</p>

<p>My philosophy is, "you get what you pay for." A major in Biology at an very selective school may be a bit more rigorous than at State U, because of the higher stats of the general student body. It also can be a bit more challenging because your child will have to be engaged with other students who may be more competetive. Also private institutions can recruit very talented, well published professors that are tops in their field and alumni connections can provide for good internships, networking and future jobs.</p>

<p>Introductory lab science courses are the points at which the content of various colleges' courses diverge least. They do tend to follow widely available texts, and you don't necessarily get a lot of extra benefit by taking a 500-person lecture class with 500 super-smart peers. So if all you were doing in college was taking Bio 101 and Chem 101, Stanford wouldn't deliver much extra value. But taking courses like that is actually a tiny part of what one does in college, even academically.</p>

<p>My kids attend/ed an elite-type college. The older one didn't purchase a single textbook, ever; she took no courses that were taught out of a textbook. The younger one has had to purchase five textbooks in three years (three introductory science, one introductory language, one advanced statistics), and that's all he will ever have. Even the base courses in his social-science major were taught from monographs and articles, not textbooks. And their advanced courses WERE graduate courses.</p>

<p>I think some of the foregoing posts are misleading, by the way. Good state universities will offer as much or more variety and quality of advanced classes in most fields as the top private universities. The big difference between Stanford and Cal or Michigan isn't in the quality of the professors or the course offerings. It's more in the consistency of the quality of the student body -- the state schools teach a broader range of students, including many who are true peers of the students at Stanford and many who aren't quite -- the extent to which students are accommodated, and the wealth of non-classroom opportunities and ease of accessing them.</p>

<p>mathmom--it was "Der Richter und sein Henker," wasn't it? I ask because that was a reading assignment from second-year German at a large public university I know of. (:))</p>

<p>Perhaps this will help you. Many of the elite schools do not accept AP grades at all or lower than 5's. They have found that they were not at the same level as the same courses offered on their campuses and in prior years, students floundered. Yet, the State schools pretty much all accept them for credit, many accepting a 3. (I am NOT saying this is bad.) A lot of those kids seem to be doing just fine.</p>

<p>I took a year of Calculus at UCRiverside my senior year of high school and then went to Cal - Berkeley for college and just enrolled in the next math course - first quarter, second year calc. That was a mistake. It turns out the course at UCR was geared for biological sciences and was not as rigorous or in-depth as the course at Cal. I essentially lost an entire quarter that I ended up having to make up on my own while taking the other course. So, I do think that some of the courses at the different colleges are called the same, but aren't.</p>

<p>It is actually a very good question and one that I wondered when my D started her search last year. I asked many people the same question from her college counselor at her high school, representatives of the colleges she was considering as well as the alumini that we knew from some of the schools.</p>

<p>We received a lot of different responses, most of which have already been stated. The one thing we were told, which I found interesting, was that the impact of attending a course at a higher rated college for a student that may be a "reach" for that school might be on the social side. In other words, the course work may cause a certain student to spend more time completing their work which could take away from any other college activities.</p>

<p>I think when it comes to the sciences a lot of introductory courses at least will use the same or similar textbooks, and cover generally the same material, but the difference comes in the problem sets and exam questions. For example, in my day I think almost every Freshman Physics class used the Halliday and Resnick textbook, at least for the people I knew. I think even my buddy at Caltech used this text, along with the Feynman lectures and other supplemental material. </p>

<p>The differences were two-fold-
1. His problem sets and exams were at an entirely different level than mine (at UCSD). Mine weren’t easy, but very similar to the textbook problems. I don’t know where his problems sets came from – maybe another planet.
2. A lot of the basic stuff he was expected to learn on his own, or in collaboration with his classmates. The way he explained it was you read the textbook chapter before the class and that was basically the starting point for the lecture.</p>

<p>Of course, this was 30 years ago, and entirely second hand anecdotal. So take it for what it’s worth.</p>

<p>
[quote]
I think some of the foregoing posts are misleading, by the way. Good state universities will offer as much or more variety and quality of advanced classes in most fields as the top private universities. The big difference between Stanford and Cal or Michigan isn't in the quality of the professors or the course offerings. It's more in the consistency of the quality of the student body -- the state schools teach a broader range of students, including many who are true peers of the students at Stanford and many who aren't quite -- the extent to which students are accommodated, and the wealth of non-classroom opportunities and ease of accessing them.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>D1 who attended UMichigan and transferred to Yale would say that this statement in on the nose.</p>

<p>
[quote]
bovertine posted:
I think when it comes to the sciences a lot of introductory courses at least will use the same or similar textbooks, and cover generally the same material, but the difference comes in the problem sets and exam questions. For example, in my day I think almost every Freshman Physics class used the Halliday and Resnick textbook, at least for the people I knew. I think even my buddy at Caltech used this text, along with the Feynman lectures and other supplemental material.</p>

<p>The differences were two-fold-
1. His problem sets and exams were at an entirely different level than mine (at UCSD). Mine weren’t easy, but very similar to the textbook problems. I don’t know where his problems sets came from – maybe another planet.
2. A lot of the basic stuff he was expected to learn on his own, or in collaboration with his classmates. The way he explained it was you read the textbook chapter before the class and that was basically the starting point for the lecture.</p>

<p>Of course, this was 30 years ago, and entirely second hand anecdotal. So take it for what it’s worth.

[/quote]
I still have Halliday/Resnick on my book shelf....We used Roller/Blum for the first 2 quarters and then it became a reviled textbook, so the next quarters we used Halliday/Resnick. I have to agree with this post - we too had planetary problem sets where problems did not look like they originated in earthly realms....or the textbook....I just didn't know any differently then....</p>

<p>Popular theory would hold that if the same student took that same Intro to Bio at Stanford & Berkeley, the grading curve would be more brutal at Berkeley.</p>

<p>And the Cal student would find it tougher to get to know the prof as the Prof might have 1200 students across 3 sections that term.</p>

<p>
[quote]
Mathmom -
Was that Emil und die Detektive? I remember reading that in German class!

[/quote]
Now that you mention it, I think we read that one too, but earlier in the year, the one I remember was an adult book, Durrenmatt's* Der Richter und Sein Henker.
<a href="QuantMech%20kudos%20to%20you!">/I</a> :)</p>

<p>Ah, I just remembered one time earlier when you posted the information. :)</p>