Which matters most?

Click here to go to the NEW College Discussion Forum

Discus: College Search and Selection: September 2003 Archive: Which matters most?
By Acochra (Acochra) on Tuesday, September 02, 2003 - 02:59 am: Edit

Also, another question:

I've got limited funds for college and plan on eventually going to graduate school to get a masters.

Do you think people guage your intelligence and abilities more according to where your bachelor's degree is from or where your graduate degree is from?

I'm thinking I may go for a cheap middle of the road school or a school where I can get good scholarships and then going for an elite grad school.

Or would it be more impressive to go to someplace like Stanford for undergrad and then go to a middle of the road grad school?


By Argilospsychi (Argilospsychi) on Tuesday, September 02, 2003 - 03:28 am: Edit

I think grad school carries much more weight. You'd be better off with a pHD from Harvard and a bac from university of Miami than the other way around. Of course, it also depends on the strength of the program at the specific institution

The rub is that it may be harder to get into an elite grad school if you don't go to an elite undergrad school.

What field do you plan on persuing in grad school? In many areas, grad schools often pay you to go to school there through teaching assistantships and research. I think things like med school and law school are the ones you pay for. And doctors and lawyers make bank -- you'd pay off those loans in no time.

Also, how much money does your family make? Do you have siblings in college? You may qualify for need based aid (you might be surprised to find you do). Many elite undergrad schools offer very good need based financial aid (e.g., Stanford, Ivies) and some offer both need and merit (e.g. Tulane, Harvey Mudd) which would lift some of the burdern of undergrad tuition.

If you don't qualify for financial aid, look at some elite state schools like CAL, Berkeley; Michigan, Ann Arbor; Wisconson, Madison; and N. Carolina, Chapell Hill. They cost much less and are also highly regarded by grad schools.

By Batman (Batman) on Tuesday, September 02, 2003 - 04:01 pm: Edit

If you perform well at a solid undergraduate school you'll be able to get into a top grad school. Undergrad institution is far less important than the Grad school you choose. Do yourself a favor and forget any ideas of going into a lot of debt trying to pay for an expensive undergrad education. Go to the very best undergrad school you can afford, kick butt there academically, and bank your money for a top Grad school in your chosen field.

By Magenta (Magenta) on Thursday, September 04, 2003 - 04:46 pm: Edit

What an interesting question. For myself, I am not nearly as impressed by where someone went to graduate school as undergraduate school, but it's because I have personal friends who got their graduate degrees at MIT and Hopkins who I am pretty certain are not even as smart as I am (and their spouses have said the same), and I am not even "gifted" (the spouses won't admit to that, but it's true). However, I have yet to meet someone whose *undergraduate* degree is from MIT or Hopkins who doesn't strike me as a top 2% (i.e. gifted) intellect type (which isn't to say none exist, but I think the ratio of sharp people is higher in the undergraduate than the graduate programs, or at least this is the case in the computer field at Hopkins and was the case for a particular engineering I won't name at MIT years ago as for all I know, the guy reads here and I don't want to hurt his feelings).

That said, *professionally*, the exit degree is the crucial one, and if your last degree will be a graduate degree, it means your graduate school. What's also nice is some people get their graduate tuition covered in full by the university (who often pays you to go there as they are getting farily cheap labor and they get to earn the profits from your inventions, etc.) or an outside employer (like if you get a masters at night while working a day job. These opportunities depend on your field of study and the given university, of course.

By Magenta (Magenta) on Thursday, September 04, 2003 - 05:06 pm: Edit

Oh, one more thing...going to an elite undergraduate school and then going to a not so prestigious graduate program won't look good, I don't think. When you have the elite undergraduate degree, it is sort of expected by many people that with that edge, you will get into a top graduate program unless there is something amiss. However, people don't often raise an eyebrow to someone going to a non-prestigious undergraduate school and then a prestigious graduate school - they often just figure it was financial matters that were behind the choice of undergraduate school.

Actually, make it two more things, as I also want to note that what will impress people most is the work you have to show for your time and how you present yourself. Bill Gates is a college drop out - think anyone cares that he has no college degree let alone graduate degree? He's created an empire and despite people saying he has Asberger's, he seems to present himself pretty well the times I've heard him speak. If you know your field well, have a quick wit that isn't degrading to others, show keen powers or observation and/or an ability to connect well with others....a bunch of stuff like this is what is most likely to impress people, seems to me. As Shania Twain says, "So you're a rocket scientist...that don't impress me much...have you got the touch?" I myself know a college dropout whose IQ I would estimate to be higher than these MIT and Hopkins graduate school alum (though I don't suspect *most* drop outs are smarter than most people with graduate school degrees from any school - that guy isn't the typical college drop out). And three of the most wildly intelligent people I know all went to non prestigious colleges (one had a 1580 or 1590 on his SAT in the days before recentering when his score was far rarer than a 1600 today and I think had a 4.0 unweighted GPA and went to the local state U which was very strong in his two majors and then to Harvard for a physics doctoral program; the other two are brothers who both went to a no name small college in Ohio near the farm they grew up on and finished college in one year at age 19 thanks to that university letting them test out of tons of credits and then they got their law degrees at 22, one did the law degree simultaneous with an MBA, and they started their own law firm and became multi-millionaires rather quickly, but both no SO much more than law and business...they know art, history, literature, etc. to a degree I just don't see in anyone else...it's just wild, and they are also great socially, though the one ran for governor and didn't win...everyone in their town knows them and they know all these people by name and the place isn't that small but probably over 100,000 residents...again, it's just wild walking down the street with them). In confess I dated two of these guys (and the third married my first cousin) and broke it off with them for different reasons, but even had those reasons not existed, it would never have worked out as I was so outclassed by them intellectually. I didn't want to spend my whole life going, "Huh?" As it is, I have turned out to spend a good part of my life that way having the kid I did, but that's another matter.

So anyhow, for *me*, undergraduate degrees don't impress me as much as lots of other things.

By Argilospsychi (Argilospsychi) on Thursday, September 04, 2003 - 06:06 pm: Edit

that was...interesting

By Ksolo (Ksolo) on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 01:13 am: Edit

Where you received your graduate degree is more important. Also note that graduate school is more difficult to gain admission into than college. So even the low ranked grad schools have more competitive admissions for their grad level programs, than their undergraduate.

It's really better if you go to a prestigious undergrad, and following that, going to a prestigious grad school. This is the best situation. BUT, if this cannot be done, and money is an issue, then opt for a state school for undergrad.

With the person who posted about Bill Gates and various other examples where people achieved despite not having undergraduate or grad level education, they are few and far between. How many other Bill Gates exist? He's one in 6 billion people. Focusing on education provides you with far more security.

With graduating from a prestigious undergrad, you not only have that brand name degree, but you also have a nice door for networking in the future. And then if you do the same with a graduate degree, you then again, have another NICE door for networking. Not to mention, both prestigious undergrad and grad level programs will challenge you the most. Plus, you'll meet many students of your caliber. You'll grow intellectually, and you'll be humbled, since everyone else is just as smart or smarter.

By the way, all the money you shell out for undergrad or grad school is an investment. It's not necessarily debt. It's an investment you've made. Yeah, money has to go towards an investment. But this money is expected to be made back up.

By Magenta (Magenta) on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 09:39 am: Edit

I didn't mean to imply that Bill Gates was the most common kind of college dropout - I figured people would all know that he isn't. But successful college dropouts are well more than 1 in 6 billion (and as far as that 1 in 6 billion goes, we are ALL that, my son pointed out to me, as even identical twins aren't completely identical in who they are and thus 1 in over 6 billion).

Here are some other successful college dropoutsfrom http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/7734/cdoaa.html :

F Scott Fitzgerald dropped out of Princeton, Dec. 1915
William Faulkner dropped out of the University of Mississippi
Edward Albee (playwright) dropped out of Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, after 3 semesters

Woody Allen (Woody Allen) was expelled from New York University and City College of New York
Steve Martin (wild & crazy guy) dropped out of Long Beach State College, where he was a philosophy major; though Steve had excellent grades, he says he became disillusioned upon reading Wittgenstein's view that "all philosophical problems can be reduced to problems of semantics"!!
Rosie O'Donnell (movies, tv, K-mart ads) dropped out of Dickinson College and Boston University
Ellen DeGeneres (tv) dropped out of University of New Orleans
Dan Aykroyd (SNL) dropped out of Carleton University, Ottawa

Bill Gates (Microsoft) dropped out of Harvard, 1976
Steve Jobs (Apple, NeXT, Pixar) left Reed College in Portland, Oregon, after 1 semester
Steve Wozniak (with Jobs, founded Apple Computer)
Lawrence Ellison (Oracle Computer)
Michael Dell (Dell Computer) dropped out of the University of Texas

Other Business:
David Geffen (Geffen Records, Dreamworks SKG) flunked out of University of Texas, Austin, AND Brooklyn College, NY
H Wayne Huizenga (Blockbuster Video millionaire, owner of Miami Dolphins, Florida Panthers and Florida Marlins) attended Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for 3 semesters
Ted Turner (media mogul) -kicked out, I hear!
Ron Popeil (tv huckster, RONCO)
William Hanna (Hanna-Barbera)

Barry Goldwater ( berRepublican, Au H2O) Can you believe the anti-hippie himself tuned in, turned on, and dropped out? (Well, he dropped out at least)
Rush Limbaugh (media personality, tie salesman) spent 1 year at Southeastern Missouri State University before dropping out

Tom Hanks (actor) dropped out of CalState, Sacramento
Dustin Hoffman (actor)
Warren Beatty (actor)
Richard Gere (actor)
Burt Reynolds (former actor)
Sharon Stone (actress)
Bruce Willis (parody of an actor)
James Cameron (director of "Independence Day")
James Dean (actor, rebel, postage stamp)
Bill Murray (SNL, movies)
Andie MacDowell (actress)
Michael Keaton (actor)
Dennis Quaid (actor)
Kevin Sorbo (tv's Hercules)
Marisa Tomei (actress)
Brad Pitt (actor)
Stan Brakhage (experimental filmmaker)

David Byrne (Talking Heads) dropped out of the Rhode Island School of Design
Perry Farrell (Jane's Addiction, Porno for Pyros)
Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails)
Yoko Ono (you know) dropped out of Sarah Lawrence College
Burl Ives (appears in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas Special!)
Arlo Guthrie (singer) dropped out of Rocky Mountain College, Billings, Montana
Charlie Rich (Memphis blues musician, singer, songwriter)

Other Media:
Nina Totenberg (public radio) dropped out of Boston University

And as for college being an investment rather than debt, I think the two are not mutually exclusive...that college loans can be both an investment AND debt, and like taking a loan for a car, so long as it gets you where you want to go in relative comfort and you feel it worth the value, that's fine.

By Argilospsychi (Argilospsychi) on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 05:35 pm: Edit


Is it substantially more difficult to get into a prestigious grad school (e.g. Harvard, stanford) with an undergrad degree from a school that's not so prestigious, i.e not in the top 25 or so?

There are many actors/singers/radio and TV personalities that dropped out of college. But this is a completely different scenario. These people were *discovered,* and for artistic purposes. They weren't intellectuals who tried to make it in a business, scientific or other field and succeeded despite dropping out of college. There are of course those who have done that, but as Ksolo said, they are few and far between.

By Magenta (Magenta) on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 06:01 pm: Edit

I'm glad you mentioned science, and is reminded me of a college drop out who I've met in person who has done quite well for himself ($500K MIT-Lemelson award winner, I think a 30,000 sq. ft. mansion that only he and his mother and perhaps some staff live in, etc.) - Dean Kamen, who calls himself a physicist though I feel one should have at least a BS in physics to call himself/herself that, but he is certainly a successful inventor of things in the medical and transportation areas (likely other areas, too, but I'm thinking mostly those two).

I can't answer as to how much harder it is to get graduate school into programs from non-top 25 colleges, but I can tell you that a few years ago, more students in Harvard Medical School's freshman class came from our son's state university than any other university in the world except for Harvard itself. This state university isn't a top tier university overall, but it's a top tier *research* university with a rather strong biochem department. But they seem to place lots of graduates in top graduate programs around the world, so certainly it's not like graduating from a non-top 25 university will necessarily kill your chances of getting into top graduate programs.

By Argilospsychi (Argilospsychi) on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 06:08 pm: Edit

what university?

again, great for that guy you know, but it is a rare thing.

By Magenta (Magenta) on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 06:28 pm: Edit

Our son? I don't post in online as our son is pretty easy to kidnap yet (being slightly under 5 feet tall and 80 pounds, though this is a big improvement from when he started at under 4'4 and 51 pounds) and we've heard too many stories of other young college kids having death threats and perverts following them around campus and what not. But trust me, it is *not* a school where you would expect Harvard Medical School to be getting a bunch of students unless you knew about its biochem reputation.

By Argilospsychi (Argilospsychi) on Friday, September 05, 2003 - 08:00 pm: Edit

crikey, how old is this kid.

furthermore, there's no way someone would see the location of his school on college confidential, hunt him down and then kidnap him.

By Magenta (Magenta) on Saturday, September 06, 2003 - 11:37 am: Edit

He's just turned 12, and while I agree that the odds are VERY small that someone would see his location here and hunt him down, ANY chance here is more than I care to take as there is just no reason for people to know where he is. Actually, some people could probably track him down just from things I've shared about what he's done, but if so, I'd ask that they keep it to themselves, again in the interest of protecting and child's privacy and health. When journalists from New York Times and Washington Posst and the like have asked for interviews, I have said, "Just out of curiosity, if some nut read about our son in your paper and tracked him down and killed him, leaving him dead to the side of the road or in some body of water, would you feel you had any hand in that or just write it off to that kind of thing happens?"

And there HAVE been people who have read my posts on boards and written me letters that sounded like they might be similar in stability to the mother of the cheerleader who hired someone to kill her daughter's friend as she feared that girl might make the squad and her daughter might not. I realize I am probably being cautious more than I need to be, but I would rather be too cautious than not enough (and at times, I also feel I am the latter). A couple years ago, people were hounding us to write a book on networking for kids (as our son really was doing any incredible job in networking with all sorts of people and getting all sorts of wild opportunities), and my son and I did start working on it, but then when I thought about how we'd have to do publicity and give away our privacy and open ourselves up to all sorts of quacks, I just felt it wasn't in my son's (or my entire family's) best interest to go ahead with the project, at least till he is older, and I felt bad then as I do suspect some of the tips really could help other kids, but kids will just have to wait for such a book till our son is older or someone else comes out with it (and likely, someone will; I started talking about writing a book called "The Paranoid Person's Pocket Guide to Staying Alive" when I quit working in 1989 and a few years ago, a number of such sorts of books hit the stores, followed by calendars, board games, etc.). In the meanwhile, I have been willing to give a talk on networking at a place where there were families with kids who have high IQs (these are likely some of the kids most likely to have success in networking for internships, individual scholarships, etc. while young); it wasn't open to the public but just to members of that group, and the only "cheerleader moms" I knew of who once got into that group had since been cut off from the group by those in charge, so they seem to do a decent job of protecting the group.

Anyway, you can look into what universities Harvard Medical School is getting its students from and see that they are far from all top tier colleges. That's all you really need to know, isn't it? If Harvard Medical School looks at applicants from all colleges, my guess is any graduate program would. This isn't to say the top tier colleges don't have an edge - I'm sure they do given the same caliber of student, but that doesn't mean a person from less prestigious colleges has no chance and should throw in the towel.

By Batman (Batman) on Saturday, September 06, 2003 - 12:03 pm: Edit

'Anyway, you can look into what universities Harvard Medical School is getting its students from and see that they are far from all top tier colleges. That's all you really need to know, isn't it? If Harvard Medical School looks at applicants from all colleges, my guess is any graduate program would. This isn't to say the top tier colleges don't have an edge - I'm sure they do given the same caliber of student, but that doesn't mean a person from less prestigious colleges has no chance and should throw in the towel.

My point exactly....

By Magenta (Magenta) on Saturday, September 06, 2003 - 12:26 pm: Edit

Yes, Batman, we share the same philosophy here. :)

And I was "Batgirl" for a Halloween party we threw back in the 80's...it was one of my more memorable Halloween's as some friends (who got engaged that night and my husband and I were later bestman and matron of honor for them) introduced me to white Russians (man are they good, but these were potent and I didn't realize it) and I ended up doing something I called "the Batgirl dance" and my husband (can you believe this?) videotaped the whole thing rather than taking me aside and saying, "Honey, you've had a bit too much, so maybe you should switch to drinking soda now"! I pray our son never sees that video, wherever it is...how embarrassing! Certainly not prestigious university material at ANY level! Glad I knew enough to pick a party school for undergraduate school, where I did do pretty well despite being out on the town (or campus activities) every night, but sorry I didn't know enough to find the same in a graduate school (or are there just no party grad programs to be found anywhere and even if I searched, it would have been a waste of my time?).

I have often told our son the lyrics from the "I Hope You Dance" song ("And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance") and am just now thinking I should add, "Unless you've had some white Russians, in which case, sit it out!" :O

By Batman (Batman) on Saturday, September 06, 2003 - 07:16 pm: Edit

LOL Magenta! Please, please don't make us all start going into the college memory vault --- I can tell you that it would not be a pretty sight for me either. No, some things have to stay safely tucked away in the batcave -- kinda like your husband's video tape

By Magenta (Magenta) on Saturday, September 06, 2003 - 08:02 pm: Edit

Ha, I'm embarrassed to say that wasn't even in college days, but in days well after graduate school in a house my husband and I had bought - I was an adult, well, legally! If you couldn't already tell, I refuse to increase my emotional maturity past 16; I had to take a dive in my 20's to go from 30 maturity wise to 16 and don't want to have to sink to all new lows yet again by letting my maturity age grow! This is not like financial matters....being in the red is good, so long as it's a nice red dress and not red eyes! Hmm, there could be a connection here with "bonds" but this is a college site with young, impressionable TRUE teens, so I won't go there. ;)

Seriously, though, I got my picture taken with Batman at a Six Flags just a couple weeks ago. It was funny as he was trying to keep this very serious face and when I went to get my picture with him, I backed up to this fence and a belt loop of mine got caught in it and I screamed, "Help, Batman, the fence has got me!" The guy laughed such that we could hear it let alone cracked a big smile. I loved it! :)

By Batman (Batman) on Sunday, September 07, 2003 - 11:32 am: Edit

LOL -- Oh, so that was you!! (Just kidding). I agree-- have to keep a youthful heart. When my oldest started college a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I pledged that we'd remain forever youthful despite the obvious fact that our children will soon be at the same stage in their lives that we were at when we first met (Yipes!!).

By Magenta (Magenta) on Sunday, September 07, 2003 - 12:03 pm: Edit

The only thing is that you have to try not to embarrass your children in the process or staying youthful. I can't remember now what I did at Busch Gardens on vacation this summer, but whatever it was, I remember my son's response...it was something like (I can't put it as elegantly as he did): "Mom, I think you think that as I get older, I will be able to take your being more and more silly, but what you seem not to realize is that the older I get, the more your doing stuff like that embarrasses me."

No, I didn't listen. :( I was using these nose aerobics (things like a little basketball and hoop that you try to get the ball in with the hoop hanging from your nose and the ball on a string tied to plastic glasses) I got at the park later that night at the hotel pool, right in front of his friends. :( I have no sense, what can I say. Honestly, I feel a bit sorry for him. My mother was always the ultimate in class act - well, other than yelling at firemen who were blocking our driveway once and a few other times like that. She acted her age, but that was who she was - even as a kid, I heard from her parents she was like an adult in her manner and interests. I, on the other hand, am a girl who just wants to have fun...okay, maybe a middle aged woman who just wants to have fun. Life just seems too short to me to be stuffy (unless you have a head cold, of course - can't find a way of getting around those).

As for the children at the same stage in life as you were when you met your wife (and neat that you met in college), I don't think we will have exactly that sort of situation as our son started college at 9 and puberty at 10 (despite being the average age and way below average in weight for his age, so this was something weird the pediatric office hadn't seen before) and his "stage" has just never been clear for me unless it's a stage he is giving some presentation upon. Maybe when he gets married that will be a stage of life I can relate to with him? Depends on the age he does that, perhaps, as if it's 19 (which he once said it would be, but that was when he was 5, I think) or 39, I still won't relate, I don't think. So we are related but often can't relate, I guess. Though at least I know he is his own person with his own personality and interests and respect that, so it could be worse.

Report an offensive message on this page    E-mail this page to a friend
Posting is currently disabled in this topic. Contact your discussion moderator for more information.

Administrator's Control Panel -- Board Moderators Only
Administer Page