@bluebayou and @CantbelieveNJ : Grading norms/means are about the same at the intro. level (I went and looked at various intro. STEM courses and some allow you to look at a syllabi at USC and they will usually explicitly report target averages and what a course grade will be curved to if necessary) so the intensity issue isn’t relevant. Even if you compared Emory to Berkeley and UCLA it is similar. The unusual brutality at a place like Berkeley usually comes in core courses that serve the engineering programs. For example, usually the pre-engineering calculus based physics course at many schools differs from that a regular STEM major or pre-health would take. The latter courses generally use the C+/B- or mostly B- average targets at places like USC and Berkeley as does Emory. I find that lots of students are exxagerating and being hyperbolic about “grade deflation” at certain schools. In reality, many other similar caliber schools grade similarly in STEM. Some student bodies just don’t talk about it or complain via social media as much, so I think that misconception about Emory is sort of derived from that.
And Emory students aren’t that “loud” or as present on social media as other top private schools, so you just don’t hear as much from them and most willing to say something, generally claim that these targets are “fair” and that you get out what you put in, and this may be because Emory doesn’t have D-1 sports or a giant party scene so students kind of just come in expecting the academics to be a certain way and are more open minded about what “rigor” should look like. You just sort of do the work and complain to friends in person every now and then. There is no culture of going to social media and warning people or complaining about tough grading and tests in certain courses. At Emory, no one cares that much to sort of expouse any sort of academic reputation regarding opinions about difficulty and all that.
For example, here is the grade distributions for all of gchem 1 at Berkeley:
(to prove Emory targets this, I’d have to post syllabi which are in my google drive and I just don’t wanna bother with that right now but am willing to maybe PM OP with them if they don’t believe me lol).
Now versus USC/other Ca universities that are elite, non-honors level classes may be delivered differently because enrollment per section in Emory intro. courses are generally quite a bit smaller than USC and other even similar enrollment (USC has much larger undergrad enrollment than Emory’s medium sized peers like Gtown, WUSTL, Vanderbilt, Cornell, Brown, and whatever other privates it labels as its peers) peer schools ranked above and below. It means they can do certain things less likely to be prevalent at USC.
I also suspect neuroscience is structured differently at the two, and depending on how picky a student is, it may matter. Emory has a pretty stringent 4 course core which I think is unusual among schools offering neuroscience majors. They definitely have the right intentions in how they structured it, but some students do value this concept of “freedom” in course selection and don’t know much about learning goals and skill development. I’ll go look at USC’s neuro program and get back to see if I can confirm, but I am sure it is structured more similarly to other schools.