LAC's or Universities as Prep for Grad School?





Click here to go to the NEW College Discussion Forum

Discus: College Search and Selection: June 2004 Archive: LAC's or Universities as Prep for Grad School?
By Boxmaker1917 (Boxmaker1917) on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 09:26 pm: Edit

I personally am strongly committed to a liberal arts education. However, I am seriously questioning the repeated mantra that LAC's are better preparation for grad school. I'd appreciate the view of others....

For the sake of argument, let's assume that the student is NOT in a pre-professional track --i.e., not pre-med, engineering, pre-law, etc. Rather, our hypothetical student is majoring in modern languages, Latin, philosophy or English lit.

1. Argument that LAC's offer smaller classes: A large, public university will tend to have huge introductory classes. But upper level course tend to be seminar and probably have no more than 15-20 students. By the same token, many intro classes at a LAC also will be huge. While the university may have 300 in a lecture, many LAC's will have 80 to 100 in an introductory lecture. A University may have many TA's pursuing their doctorates who typically will lead discussion and study groups of 15 to 20. The TA's often are readily available with lots of "office hours" for individual questons. While these TA's may not be the renowned Professor Somebody, they typically are at the level of writing their dissertations and probably know a lot about topics covered in the intro classes. By contrast, the LAC probably has NO TA. While the eminient Professor X can address questions and concerns during office hours, s/he may not be as readily available to students in the intro classes. (They also have to do their research and attend committee meetings. They also may be older and more likely to want to spend time with family than a grad student/TA.)

2. Many public universities now offer honors programs that afford the same opportunities for discussion, research, personal relationships with professors as do LAC's/

3. For the types of majors presumed here: A LAC may have 3-4 faculty in each area; a university may have a dozen. this means more and diverse courses, a wider range of expertise, more contacts for grad school acceptance ("who you know") and a larger groups of similarly-minded students (more discussion, more collegial support).

4. A university will have so many more areas of study and course offerings, a student can follow a more personalized core curriculum. For example, instead of a cours in "18th century Romantic Writers," perhaps the course is "Neoclassic imagery in 18th century Romantic poetry."

5. The belief that LAC's require more writing: Probably true for lower level classes but I don't think there is much difference by the time you are a Junior. As for research, the library facilities of a University versus most LAC's would tend to be superior. While the papers may be fewer. perhaps they would be just as good (or even superior?) because of current research and theories readily available via library or faculty.

6. Students get to know the profs better at a LAC: Again, probably true for freshmen and sophomores. However, I think most juniors and seniors -- especially those headed for graduate programs -- have found a way to make personal contact with the faculty

Probably additional points on either side.... Please post your view!

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 11:31 pm: Edit

I believe that an excellent education can be had at any size school. However, as the size of the school increases, the onus of seeking out individual intruction falls more heavily on the student. An average (less assertive, demanding) student will be less likely to get individual attention.

I think that you are underestimating the effects of class size and T/As a bit. In my four years at Williams, I believe that I had ONE class with 50 students (a film course that was 100% lecture by a flamboyant "entertainer" style professor). An upper level class with 20 students was unusually large. The norm would have been more like 12 students and it's not uncommon to find upper level seminars with six students.

For an interesting perspective, read this article:

http://www.collegenews.org/prebuilt/daedalus/cech_article.pdf

While specifically on the subject of sciences at liberal arts colleges versus research universities, most of the broad concepts apply across the board. It is a fairly comprehensive look the differences between small LACs and large research universities from a professor's point of view and echos everything my brother the college professor had advised my daughter in conversations about the college hunt.

It is written by Thomas Cech. He attended Grinnell College as an undergrad, then received his PhD. from Berkley. He is a Chemistry professor at a large research university, U. of Colorado, although he has recently been named president of the Howard Huges Medical Institute. He also won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1989.

By Boxmaker1917 (Boxmaker1917) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 12:20 am: Edit

interesteddad, thank you for your comments. I disagree that I am completely uninformed about the difference between a LAC and a large university, although my info may be a little out-of-date. I attended a small LAC (under 500) and had one year-long, lower-level class with 103 students. Even in that small school, I had as many classes that were lecture/multiple-choice oriented as seminar/essay oriented.

My stepdaughter just graduated from our state university (50,000+ students) and her largest intro class was 200 students but with a discussion group of 18 students. Her TA had finished his dissertation and was awaiting his oral defense. I believe he was quite capable of teaching and explaining the subject matter covered by the lower level class.

I earned my masters and Phd at a private, prestigious university and did some TA work there. Most of the undergrad classes in the humanities were 25-45 students. I also taught at a large, state university where I had three undergrad classes. One class averaged 100 kids; the other two averaged a dozen or so kids. The first was lower level and taken mostly by freshmen and sophomores; the other two were taken by juniors and seniors majoring in my area.

Although I abandoned academia for the corporate world some time ago, several former colleagues have become deans (and even one university president!). Just as it was in my day, getting into a grad school program was based as much on who you know as what you know. I think there is very little difference here b/w a LAC and the local state school.

Again, I believe in the concept of a liberal arts education. I am questioning whether a small LAC (versus a large university) is necessarily a better place to pursue it.

By Collegeprof (Collegeprof) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 01:19 am: Edit

"many intro classes at a LAC also will be huge."

Not true at the LAC where I teach. The vast majority of 101 classes are capped at 35. We do have a few departments that offer 101s that go up to 70, but probably no more than 3 or 4 depts.

"The TA's often are readily available with lots of "office hours" for individual questons. While these TA's may not be the renowned Professor Somebody, they typically are at the level of writing their dissertations and probably know a lot about topics covered in the intro classes."

TAs can certainly be competent and helpful, but many of them do it only b/c they need to pay the bills--they're not interested in teaching. It's basically a gamble--you can get a wonderful TA, and you can get some awful ones.

"By contrast, the LAC probably has NO TA. While the eminient Professor X can address questions and concerns during office hours, s/he may not be as readily available to students in the intro classes."

This is definitely not true where I teach. I spend the vast majority of my time with younger students in intro classes, b/c I know that they're the ones who need my help the most--upperclass students are more independent and self-reliant and often don't seek out profs as much. I've never heard first-year students complain that their profs weren't available to them outside of class. I feel strongly that an undergrad gets more personal attention (and better-quality personal attention) from profs at a LAC than from TAs at a big school.

Some of your points are definitely valid--you *can* get individual attention at a large school. It's just much harder. Also keep in mind the incentives that drive the prof. At a LAC good teaching/advising is rewarded, and you can get fired (turned down for tenure) if the students feel that you're not helpful and available. At a large research university, the quality of your teaching is almost completely irrelevant--as long as you're publishing and getting grants, you get tenure. Time spent with undergrads is time not spent on research--it does nothing for your career. Some large-school profs are great teachers nonetheless, but again, you just can't expect (on average) the same kind of commitment that you get from LAC profs.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 01:46 am: Edit

>> It's basically a gamble--you can get a wonderful TA, and you can get some awful ones.

If you are paying $12 grand for a state university, then I think taking your chances on TA's is OK. Where I start to question the practice is at private universities charging $40 grand a year and still trying to pawn off TAs as experienced college professors.

Seems like to me that, for that kind of money, you should expect a professor who has COMPLETED his PhD degree AND gained considerable experience as a full time college teacher. What is the point of paying gourmet prices unless you are getting a top-shelf entree?

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 02:34 am: Edit

As far as the specific question (prep for grad school), the tables given on pages 4, 5, and 6 of the link I posted shed some light on that. The tables show the number of PhDs earned (in math, science, and engineering) per hundred undergrads. One table for the top 25 LACs, one for the top 25 research Universities, and one combined table. The combined table shows that the LACs stack up very, very well.

I believe that similar trends would show up if we included PhDs in the humanities plus professional school degrees (M.D. and Law). The percentage per 100 undergrads would be very high from the LACs.

This does not mean that a particular student can't be well prepared for grad school from any type of college. But, on average, the better LACs send a very high percentage of their undergrads into grad school programs. Shockingly high, actually. Who would have thought that Swarthmore is fourth in the country in percentage production of science/engineering PhDs. behind only three decicated tech schools (Caltech, MIT, Harvey Mudd)?

Of course, the tables also show that the top private universites do extremely well in churning out grad school students, too -- supporting my contention that many types of schools can provide an excellent undergrad education.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 10:30 am: Edit

Here is a link with percentage of Phd.s and the schools where they received undergrad degree.
Note the high showing of LACs.
http://web.reed.edu/ir/phd.html

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 11:09 am: Edit

Here's a link with the original source data used by the Reed website:

http://web.centre.edu/ir/student/OverallBaccOrigins.pdf

The first set of data in the PDF is a complete ranking of 1276 colleges and universities in terms of PhD's earned per 100 undergrads. This chart includes math, science, engineering, and non-science PhDs However, it DOES NOT INCLUDE professional degrees including M.D., Law, Divinity, etc.

The data clearly favors highly regarded private schools (both colleges and universities) and also tends to favor small schools over large schools. In both cases, I think it probably has more to do with self-selection of students inclined to (and financially able to) pursue academic PhD.s

It's interesting that the first public univ. on the list is UC-Berkeley at #51. Of course, this makes perfect sense. Compare the percentage of students going to a 4-year college from an elite prep school and a good public high school. The elite prep school already has pre-selected the college bound students, whereas the public school enrolls a broader cross section.

Nevertheless, the strength of the small LACs in producing successful PhD candidates is pretty striking in the data.

By Foreignboy (Foreignboy) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 11:25 am: Edit

Er... my question is, so what? (bluntly put)
Don't tell me the average Kalamazoo College graduate makes more than the average Harvard graduate.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 12:58 pm: Edit

>> Don't tell me the average Kalamazoo College graduate makes more than the average Harvard graduate.

Who the heck knows? How would you find out? How would you classify the significant number of Harvard graduates whose family wealth puts them in a position where they don't have to "make" anything in the conventional sense of a salaried position? For example, I have a college dorm-mate who entered the family business, first as president of a family owned winery subsidiary and now, I believe, as President of Seagram's Liquor. Does what he "makes" accurately reflect the earning potential of an average graduate of a good liberal arts college? No. Does Bill Clinton's relative low salaries as Arkansas governor and President of the United States hurt Yale's average? How 'bout John Kerry's marital net worth? Does that boost Yale's tally?

If anything is irrelevant, I would say that average salary of graduates would be it. Too many variables that have nothing to do with the college.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 03:30 pm: Edit

Bill Gates who dropped out of Harvard is the richest man in the US yes?
That doesn't have as much to do with the fact that he dropped out of college as does his private prep school education and his upper middle class background that encouraged him to challenge himself as well as his own hyper focus personality.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 03:47 pm: Edit

That, and the fact that Bill Gates happened to be in the right place at the right time to accrue the benefits of a paradigm shifting invention (the personal computer).

By B18c1cx (B18c1cx) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 03:54 pm: Edit

Wow, this forum is getting even more polluted with lies by the day... will you rather lazy cc members do some research once in a while before even thinking about posting false information... I swear, I've heard somany false statistics, fake threads, and those who quarrel with others to make their future school look good.... just yesterday I read some1's post who said, "All of the Claremont Colleges are equal in prestige and now ALL have ACCEPTANCE RATES OF UNDER 10%, I believe." !!!!wtf!!!! That is just a ridiculous thing to claim,

Just as LACs do NOT have anywhere near 80 people in an introductory classes. My largest class so far at Franklin & Marshall College was about 24. My seminar was exactly 16. If you go to US News.com, you will find the % of classes under 20 and % of classes over 50. Research, then speak....say it with me.....research, then speak.

I feel like I am in the middle of a discussion with my neighborhood wives club... a lot of rumor...not much truth.

-B18cicx,
Just my fueled $.02

By Barrons (Barrons) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 04:28 pm: Edit

Many highly regarded LAC's will have intro classes that are pretty large--50-100. The whole class size thing for an intro class is pretty ridiculous. It just does not matter that much. You are there to get some basic info and theories--not to debate them. That comes later.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 04:36 pm: Edit

My daughters hum 110 class has seminar and lecture.
The lectures were 50-70 students depending n how many went to class and seminars were about 15.
I agree that in lecture classes, size is not as important as in lab or seminar classes when students take a more active role in interpreting the information
( but actually 50-100 is not large at all considering that at an university an intro class may have hundreds of students, then it can make a difference if the room is so large that you can barely see the projection screen and the people around you are working on homework for other classes.)

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 05:09 pm: Edit

Wow, this forum is getting even more polluted with lies by the day... will you rather lazy cc members do some research once in a while before even thinking about posting false information... I swear, I've heard somany false statistics, fake threads, and those who quarrel with others to make their future school look good.... just yesterday I read some1's post who said, "All of the Claremont Colleges are equal in prestige and now ALL have ACCEPTANCE RATES OF UNDER 10%, I believe." !!!!wtf!!!! That is just a ridiculous thing to claim,

B18~

How interesting that you opted to take the discussion from the thread it was originally posted to this one to vent about the same issue. Was it because your point of contention had been made ... pointless as the "erroneous" information had been corrected almost immediately with ... supporting facts? Or was it that the other "truth" (in this case, your assessment of Scripps) earned a quick rebuttal?

On this site, you will find a LOT of people with a keen interest for numbers and statistics and a great aptitude to back up their posts with reliable facts. Why don't you start supporting your OWN posts with some facts and make an effort to type coherent posts. Frankly, I do not understand your point about the size of LAc's classes. To me it is quite contradictory. So, in order to please the old wives club and the other equalLy dense posters, could you start writing cogent arguments?

In the meantime, I would suggest to you to consider dialing back the attitude and the tone of your posts.

Indeed, research -and god forbid, read the posts- and then ... speak up!

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 06:33 pm: Edit

Boxmaker - some of your points are well taken. However, I think there is no "one" right answer for every student. Rather, for some students a large university will be a better choice for undergraduate studies --- and for other students an LAC will be preferrable. It's all a matter of fit and personal preferences. It's true, however, that, as Interesteddad says, you can get a great education at either choice...or at many of the other choices available in higher education (i.e., comprehensive uni's, religious schools, community college-then-transfer, etc.)

Again, there is no one "right answer" that fits everyone.

By Kevin720 (Kevin720) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 08:04 pm: Edit

B18: Since when did you, of all people, get endowed with the official voice of reason?

Based on your past inaccurate posts that I've encountered, you don't have much to be proud of. Based on your past inaccurate posts, it wouldn't surprise me that you're the zealous, founding leader of that wives club. Quit being such a palpable hypocrite and, like Xiqqi rightfully mentioned, worry about backing some of your own illegitimate claims before taking the ridiculous liberty of chastising others.

By Madelinemay11 (Madelinemay11) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 09:11 pm: Edit

For an Arts education, LACs have blazing good training! Look at the courselist at Amherst, and you'll see unending courses on "history", "Women in 1860-1880", "Western Music" etc!

For a Bachelor of Art's degree, you can't go wrong witha top LAC.

For a Bachelor of Science, or Engineering degree, however, you may want to go to a full University instead of just a college, because you'll have have access to cutting edge research and professors.

Amherst college's website refers its students to a public school, UMass-Amherst, if they want to get involved in research oriented study. You can browse the website yourself to find out more details, and to see the cutting-edge Arts courses available.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 09:48 pm: Edit

>> Amherst college's website refers its students to a public school, UMass-Amherst, if they want to get involved in research oriented study.

Amherst says no such thing.

To the contrary, I suspect that Amherst has more undergrad science students involved in research projects than UMass does. For UMass to match Amherst's per student undergrad research grants, one out of every four dollars received for research at UMass would have to be earmarked for undergrads. I do not believe that to be the case.

Not to mention that Amherst College has 5 times the total endowment of the entire UMASS system and 75 times more per student endowment, all of it earmarked exclusively for undergrad education.

What Amherst does say is that students who are interested in a very specialized topic may take advantage of the resources at the other schools in the five-college consortium, including UMass. Knowing the difference in quality of the two schools, as well as the attitude at elite Bay State colleges (such as Amherst) towards ZOOMass, I doubt that very many Amherst students avail themselves of the opportunity.

By Haon (Haon) on Saturday, June 12, 2004 - 02:01 am: Edit

On the subject of liberal arts colleges and class size:

At my liberal arts college, yes, there are several (maybe 3 or 4) courses offered in the entire college with enrollments over 60. Every single one of those which I am familiar with also has smaller discussion, lab, or conference sections, usually between 10-15, taught by a professor. However, let's not dwell on what is possible, let's dwell on the norm, as that is what you will be taking. The fact is, the norm at most universities is not classes with 150+ students, but as previously mentioned on this thread, classes with 25-45 students. However, the norm at my liberal arts college at least is 10-25 students. If not the majority, then a large percentage of intro courses are capped at 19 students, and nearly all of the 200+ level courses are even smaller. There many departments that do not offer classes with enrollments greater than 20. Next year the enrollment size of the classes that I am planning to take (as a sophomore) are 40 (for a 101), 19 (also for a 101), 12, and 2. I know people who graduated this year who never took a class over 20 students. While universities don't ONLY offer huge 200 student courses, there IS a class size difference between at least my LAC and any university I've ever heard of.

On the subject of class offereings...LACs don't offer less in-depth courses. You're just as likely to find "Neoclassic imagery in 18th century Romantic poetry" at an LAC as at a Uni. LACs don't always even necessarily offer fewer course offerings total (although most do). What LACs DO offer less of is sections of a course...instead of offering 6 sections of "Neoclassic imagery in 18th century Romantic poetry," an LAC will offer 1 or 2.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Saturday, June 12, 2004 - 02:36 am: Edit

Or you can compromise and go to a mid-sized university which focuses on the liberal arts that offers the course offerings, majors, resources, graduate classes etc, and that has very small class sizes. It's not either/or.

By B18c1cx (B18c1cx) on Sunday, June 13, 2004 - 06:20 pm: Edit

Kevin720, was it you who made that claim about the Clarremont Colleges? If so please don't post back.

Please refrain to address other posters in that manner. You are not in a position to tell other posters not to "post back". Bullies tend to have a short life on CC.
Moderator Trinity

By Kevin720 (Kevin720) on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 07:42 am: Edit

lolol

Funny how you fail to mention your inaccurate assessment of Scripps and Pitzer in the very same post of my corrected error. Funny how you have the audacity to type up such a relatively meaningless quip after your initial point of contention had been deemed invalid and pointless twice over. lol

This silly dialogue I will not sustain. The sophomoric, palpable hypocrisy!

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 12:35 am: Edit

Years ago, I attended a top LAC, and was a graduate student and TA at a top private university, so I have direct experience of both, even if it is dated. (I can't really comment on LACs or universities lower down the list.) Some things which stick out in my mind:

1. You can get a GREAT education at both.
2. Both can prepare you for graduate study.
3. If you are an academic superstar at either, you will get good attention from top faculty regardless.

So any comments have to be directed at students who were good enough to get in, but wouldn't likely be at the very top of the college class (the Rhodes and Marshall and Watson scholars, etc.)

The LACs have smaller classes. The importance of that lies in the fact that all class discussions are led by full faculty, rather than TAs. And all lab sections are led by faculty. That's what you pay for at the LAC, and that's what you get. Some of the best universities now realize they missed the boat on this one, and are playing catchup. But still, TAs play a larger role in your life at the university, including grading your essays and exams.

But the lectures at some of the really fine universities, even if 500 people attend them, are often fabulous, and can open your mind in ways that a small class with an indifferent professor never could. The larger number of course choices at the university goes without saying, and, because sooner or later one has a specialty in graduate school, one can establish credentials for graduate admission early (especially if it is a small and competitive field -- think Egyptology.)

The big difference is NOT in large versus small classes, however, but the degree of one-on-one mentoring and counseling. Here, for the average student attending, the top LAC beats out the best university virtually every time, or so was my experience. Top faculty at the prestigious universities are top faculty by virtue of their research and publication, not because of their mentoring skills, or even their availability for mentoring. This extends to research, especially scientific research. Again, the very top students at the university will find themselves doing research alongside graduate students and with top faculty, but most won't. I saw much, much more in the way of student-faculty research, including publications in the best journals, coming out LACs than I ever saw from even the very top universities. Most students at the top universities do not even get close to "cutting edge" research, and the top faculty are busy mentoring graduate students. There is less "cutting edge" research at the LACs, but when there is, the students are part of it.

I saw far better advising, far more directed internships, far more long-term relationships developed between students and faculty at the LAC (again, with the average student) than I ever saw at the university. (I have also seen students at LACs who end up with none of these -- which the LAC would consider a failure, but would barely even cross the screen at the university.)

The biggest disadvantage I saw at LACs (and it is significant) was not in preparation for graduate study. Rather it was in the greater homogeneity of the student body, and, often, the lack of a critical mass to create viable subcultures of interest. This is especially true at the smaller LACs - by trying to admit large numbers of "well-rounded" students, they can end up with a student body which is very "round". I mean if there aren't 20-30 students for the opera club, even a student-run production just isn't going to happen. This does have impact in the academic realm, as in the best of all worlds, the curricular and the extracurricular feed each other in ways that build both competence and confidence.

By Kevin720 (Kevin720) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 01:38 am: Edit

Mini-That's a very well written comparision of this topic at hand. Nicely done. It's definitely a post from which I can open up my mind to and draw in believable and insightful information.

Out of curiousity, which LAC and which private graduate school did you attend?

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 03:35 am: Edit

Let's look at the top 3 LAC's and the top 4 Universities:

The first number is percentage of classes under 20 and the second is classes over 50.

Amherst: 67, 4
Williams: 70, 7
Swarthmore: 69, 2

Harvard: 75, 13
Princeton: 69, 11
Yale: 77, 8
Stanford: 69, 12

Source: 2004 US News

So the top 3 Universities have a much higher percentage of their classes with under 20 students but also a higher percentage with over 50 students. Why is this? I think Marite did a good job explaining this. Like students at LAC's, students at these schools can pick small classes BUT they also choose large lectures because of the people teaching. It's not like they get stuck in large intro classes, because my classes next year are all pretty small.

Face it, the academic giants and celebs of this country don't go to teach at Swarthmore (in general). They go to Harvard, Yale or Princeton. You'll find more big names here and the students want to take their classes because learning from geniuses is often more valuable than discussions subjects you know little about.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 03:42 am: Edit

Mini has written many posts about attending Stuy, Williams, and Oxford.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 03:51 am: Edit

woah..and he's not rich?

plus..how can research universities in england and america be compared? american universities coddle students so much more. my parents went to oxford and it's VERY different. There is very little handholding there, so his generalizations may not be true for top private universities here.

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 09:56 am: Edit

Grad school was University of Chicago.

By 3togo (3togo) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 12:10 pm: Edit

Let's look at the top 3 LAC's and the top 4 Universities:

The first number is percentage of classes under 20 and the second is classes over 50.

Amherst: 67, 4
Williams: 70, 7
Swarthmore: 69, 2

Harvard: 75, 13
Princeton: 69, 11
Yale: 77, 8
Stanford: 69, 12

Source: 2004 US News

*************************************

Wow ... the first thing that pops out to me on these lists is not the differences but how similar they are (I would have guessed the University numbers would have been much more different).

I was an undergraduate engineer so I was in lots of 100-200 people courses at Cornell. But at the same time my calc class with 200 people was running there were a bunch of language and music classes running with 2-10 people in them.

The big university numbers may come out this way because of the huge variety of courses offered (which will include a ton of courses with few students) ... while I would guess the LACs have a tigher distribution of class sizes with many-many less of the really big classes.

Interesting

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 01:00 pm: Edit

Grad school was University of Chicago.

I wanted to leave some mystery in publishing the unauthorized biography. :)

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 02:17 pm: Edit

"Face it, the academic giants and celebs of this country don't go to teach at Swarthmore (in general). They go to Harvard, Yale or Princeton. You'll find more big names here and the students want to take their classes because learning from geniuses is often more valuable than discussions subjects you know little about."

--

This is undoubtedly true. Just as undoubtedly true is that they didn't become academic giants and celebs either from teaching undergraduates, or the quality of their teaching of undergraduates, or their mentoring or counseling of undergraduates (if they did this at all, it would be directed at grad students who would truly feel cheated if they didn't get the bulk of attention), or the fact that their research made use of undergraduates.

That's what makes it an academic marketplace -- you get to choose what is most important to you.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 04:31 pm: Edit

They didn't become celebs because of their teaching quality or any of those things, but students wouldn't pack their classes and label them "performances" if they were awful teachers. They're not only famous in the outside world but also on campuses where the students who've taken the classes recommend them so highly. Their reputations precede them and all they have to do is be able to communicate their vast stores of knowledge.

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 04:45 pm: Edit

We don't disagree -- I'm surprised you think we do. I've been there -- and I have been in classes with academic superstar teachers that have changed my way of thinking and my life. And sometimes, poor teaching quality is overcome by their "vast stores of knowledge" (I've seen that more often.)

What they DON'T do is mentor or counsel undergraduates, or use undergraduates in their research. (again, with rare exceptions for the undergraduate superstar). Their graduate students (I was one) would be really, really pissed off if they did -- after all, that's what the graduate students are expecting. And if I ran a prestigious research university, I wouldn't WANT my "star" faculty used this way -- that's NOT what I'd pay them for.

Learning from geniuses is a great thing. It is not the only thing. In retrospect, I myself don't rank it particularly highly (relative to other things that can be gained as an undergraduate), but others do, and I think that's terrific - that's what makes a market.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 05:12 pm: Edit

It is not the only thing, and that's why students don't only take their classes. They don't need to mentor or counsel - you can get that from the smaller classes. And some students don't feel the need to be coddled - HYP has a reputation for independent rather than dependent students. What kind of student needs counseling etc in EVERY class? That's overkill. The number of these classes you'd take would obviously not be the majority of your classes, so I don't even see a need for a mentoring relationship.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 05:40 pm: Edit

Well, well, if you do no need mentoring, counseling, or even interaction with your teachers, why don't you simply stay home and read the books and research of the infamous genius who also dabbles as a teacher? After all, that is the pinnacle of independent study.

Same difference!

By the way, not every leader -or genius- in his field has felt compelled to join the HYPS of this world. Actually some of them have blatantly refused to join them and preferred to teach in the relative obscurity and comfort of a smaller school.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 06:20 pm: Edit

Actually, getting a tenured faculty gig at a place like Williams or Swarthmore is one of the most prized plums in academia. The pay is great ($130,000 is one figure I've seen). You have lifetime job security. You live in a beautiful community. You get to teach great kids. There is not relently pressure to publish and snag grants. And, you are required to take a paid sabattical every three years -- to be a visiting teacher at some other great school, to do a research project, or just do something fun like travel.

Research universities can be great jobs, too. However, there tends to be a lot more political backbiting due to the constant pressure to procure research revenue for the department.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 06:38 pm: Edit

Political backbiting? In academia? At prestigious institutions? Please oh please tell me it's not so.

By Perry (Perry) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 08:14 pm: Edit

Actually, at top LAC's there's quite a bit of pressure to publish, although not as much as large research universities. Nonetheless, take a look at the faculty profiles on the websites at leading LACs and you'll find that most of them are on the publishing treadmill.

By Madelinemay11 (Madelinemay11) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 09:00 pm: Edit

"HYP has a reputation for independent rather than dependent students. What kind of student needs counseling etc in EVERY class? "

Tropicalbanana - that sounds very arrogant. Not everybody can be geniuses like the Ivy students are, and prefer the LAC academic settings that provide nurturing, moral cheerleading and allow tight bonds to form in a very small family like setting.

Although most LACs aren't for a mainstream science education, they have the best history/music/literature and other arts classes possible!

Some people complain that LACs are filled with caucasians. It's not that they exclude minorities -- most asians/internaional students don't even apply, so you can't really blame LACs for being all-white...those are the main students that apply. I'm sure that if more asians applied, they'd be accepted as well.

By Bee_Bee (Bee_Bee) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 10:58 pm: Edit

"Although most LACs aren't for a mainstream science education, they have the best history/music/literature and other arts classes possible"

sighs...LACs are great for sciences. When will you get that through your head.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 11:09 pm: Edit

>>>>>Well, well, if you do no need mentoring, counseling, or even interaction with your teachers, why don't you simply stay home and read the books and research of the infamous genius who also dabbles as a teacher? After all, that is the pinnacle of independent study. Same difference!

Why bother commenting after clearly not bothering to read what people say? I said you don't need EVERY class to have a nurturing professor. I'm not saying that universities do not have mentoring etc. Look at the class sizes and you'll see that's not true. And reading is an inane comparison to actually attending the lectures.

>>>>By the way, not every leader -or genius- in his field has felt compelled to join the HYPS of this world. Actually some of them have blatantly refused to join them and preferred to teach in the relative obscurity and comfort of a smaller school.

Perhaps, and this is noteworthy because it's not the norm. If this was the standard practice, and these leaders were spread out evenly between HYP and other schools, then some of them refusing to join HYPS would not be something remarkable.

>>>>Although most LACs aren't for a mainstream science education, they have the best history/music/literature and other arts classes possible!

I disagree with just about everything you said, Madeline. First, LAC's don't have the best history/music/literature classes possible, and second, you can get a mainstream science education at an LAC. In fact, Harvard and Yale (I don't know about Princeton) aren't even that great for sciences and technical fields and other LAC's might be better. But not in history, literature etc. Actually I think LAC's are better for sciences and HYP are better for liberal arts.

>>>>Tropicalbanana - that sounds very arrogant. Not everybody can be geniuses like the Ivy students are, and prefer the LAC academic settings that provide nurturing, moral cheerleading and allow tight bonds to form in a very small family like setting.

Well, actually students in every school are probably quite similar in that regard. Look, your parents are going to be paying around $40,000 or less depending on financial aid. Of course youíre going to want to form meaningful relationships with the people teaching you. But only the most insecure, immature student is going to need that for every single class. No student Iíve ever met (and I visited tons of LACís and only 3 universities) liked every teacher, even in tiny classes. No matter where you go, youíre just not going to need personal attention in every aspect of your education. And for those who can handle the independence, it doesnít matter anyway, because regardless of how small the school is, youíre never going to make personal contacts in every class.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 12:42 am: Edit

Why bother commenting after clearly not bothering to read what people say?

If it is all the same to you, I rather keep on reading what people write and listening to what people say. I find it hard to change old habits as inane as they may be.

By August (August) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 01:06 am: Edit

>> Not everybody can be geniuses like the Ivy students are, and prefer the LAC academic settings that provide nurturing, moral cheerleading and allow tight bonds to form in a very small family like setting.

Hi! Get a clue!

Do you really think that all Ivy students are geniuses? And ... a preference for a liberal arts college environment is just a result of non-Ivy caliber intelligence?

You must be awfully smart to be able to judge other people's intelligence and competence as authoritatively as you do! Congratulations!

By Kevin720 (Kevin720) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 01:11 am: Edit

Each student has his/her own unique degree of predilection for individual attention and mentoring. Some students want it, some need it, and a few don't even care for it.

At the collegiate level (especially at the top universities and LACs), however, that need for immediate attention should be reducing as a result of the student maturing and evolving into the independent scholar, researcher, professional, etc.

That's not to say the availability of personal mentoring isn't helpful or advantageous, because it is. The knowledge that there's a competent professor present to assist you is a very assuring thought. After all, like Mini and Tropicanabanana said earlier, that's a big part of why you're paying top dollar at a LAC.

I do agree that as a generality, LACs definitely provide better in that respect than universities do (HYPS can hardly be an accurate reflection of universities overall). But ultimately, the correct degree of individual attention depends on the student.

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 01:39 am: Edit

"At the collegiate level (especially at the top universities and LACs), however, that need for immediate attention should be reducing as a result of the student maturing and evolving into the independent scholar, researcher, professional, etc."

I'm getting too old. I don't remember most of the content of the lectures I attended by the academic superstars (there were many!), and at times I readily admit to having been too immature to appreciate them in any case. I hardly remember half the courses I took (hey, I was at three different colleges and universities, so I should be excused!) Many of the professors, even those I liked, are faceless to me now.

But the mentoring relationships I had -- both in and, perhaps more critically, outside of classes, remain priceless. The need for individual attention became greater as I matured in my academic career, as I began to venture into less charted territory, both academically and professionally. Research questions became more difficult to handle, and having a mature intellect there to bounce ideas off became more and more important as time went on.

I was blessed by being able to have some such relationships. Not many. Some. (Interesteddad and I actually share one! as well as memories of Charlie Samuels.) I know for a fact that, as a TA, I was unable to provide such mentoring or counseling to my charges.

Now the undergraduate student superstars at both the larger prestigious universities and the best LACs were able to get that kind of attention as undergraduates. But for the rest, such relationships were relatively rare in the universities, and I remember my friends at Harvard and Columbia (I didn't have any at Yale) being very jealous at the time.

This was especially true in the sciences. At the best LACs, undergraduate student-faculty research collaborations were close to being the norm; at the research universities, they were extremely rare exceptions (again, except where the superstar student was essentially adopted into the core of graduate students.)

And it is interesting, at 17, and setting out to conquer the world, I wouldn't have had a clue regarding what was going to turn out to be important to me, and I certainly wouldn't contend that it would be the same for everyone else.

My d. has chosen a place where, as a freshman, she is already a research assistant. Actually, she has already started -- she has had multiple communications with her mentor, they've exchanged packages of material, and they are busy scoping out their project together. (an ironic sidelight is that her research mentor is a Five-College professor housed at Mt. Holyoke, not at Smith, which she is attending.)

I'm happy for her. I'm also happy for Tropicanabanana, who will have the opportunity, if she chooses, to learn directly at the feet of Donald Kagan and Harold Bloom before they go sailing off into the sunset, and Louise Gluck, the Poet Laureate. And for Xiggi, who will join one of the most intense, exciting academic environments I know of in America today. And for Interesteddad's d., who will be reminded throughout her academic career at a "Friendly" institution that she is obligated to give something back. And for Haon, who is sitting up there freezing his butt off in the Purple Valley, surrounded by beauty on four sides, two unparalleled art collections, fine composers in the making, the best set of undergraduate astronomy professors in North America, and the Hopkins Forest. And for Thedad's d., and I hope our two become good friends.

And TheDad, InterestedDad, and I get to sit around and kibbitz. I think the three of us would all agree: grab it for all it's worth -- it doesn't last long.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 02:41 am: Edit

Mini, my biggest awareness right now is that if my D has certain great experiences, she will miss out on certain other great experiences. Or, you can flip that if you want...she'll miss some but have others.

Which is why at some point the opportunities and trade-offs between LAC's and universities is all in the noise, at least for the schools under implied discussion. The way some people post, you'd think it was L'Ecole Polytechnique and Cal-State Bakersfield.

This is an intense exciting period of life students are going through where options will be both defined and discarded. It's kinda like reading a good novel...I'm curious to see how it all comes out.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 12:19 pm: Edit

>> Which is why at some point the opportunities and trade-offs between LAC's and universities is all in the noise, at least for the schools under implied discussion. The way some people post, you'd think it was L'Ecole Polytechnique and Cal-State Bakersfield.

So true. People here think I'm an LAC shill, but I spent the better part of a year extolling the virtues of medium and large universities to my daughter and we travelled to Charlottesville, Chapel Hill, Atlanta, and elsewhere.

To me, the key is to have an open mind recognizing the pros and cons of each type of institution. The final selection should not be based on the erroneous notion that any one type is "better", only that specific qualities make one type of school a better fit for an individual student, recognizing even then that there will be some tradeoffs.

By Kevin720 (Kevin720) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 02:07 pm: Edit

Mini...again, a very interesting perspective you bring to this post.

Perhaps my current impression of mentoring relationships is inconsistent with yours due to my lack of experience as a college student.

But perhaps this inconsistency in philosophy can also partly be attributed to the fact that I'll be majoring in business, a major less involved with the intimate collaboration with coveted professors to produce research papers and novel abstract theories, a major instead more oriented toward learning business fundamentals, finding the proper internships, and meeting prospective employers.

I still contend that it's essential for the student to learn how to study, research, and produce independently at this stage of his career. If those skills aren't learned now (ug school), when else would they be learned? After all, in most cases, the warm cove of the friendly faculty will disappear as the student exits the world of academia and enters the professional world. It's the whole concept of developing the independence and competence both as a student and as a person, and learning how to rely on yourself more than anyone else that's truly important.

Whatever the case may be, I'll keep your insightful message in mind as my beliefs may very well change in the future. As I progress being student in college, perhaps eventually I'll come to realize the truths you've revealed.

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 04:34 pm: Edit

I may sound like a broken record but I believe -with passion- that there is a reason why there are 4,000 universities and college in the country. All of them serve a purpose and have their own niche. The differences between schools are subtle and subjective. One can evaluate the merits of a particular library acoording to different criteria: one could be the size of the private collections, the numbers of books or ... the helpfulness of the sweet librarian Mrs. Iknowwhereeverythingis! Not to state the obvious, but could I compare my own criteria to Mini's daughter when I know nothing about music composition and botany or to TheDad's daughter when the only thing I know about ballet is what I read in TheDad's post. I respect Tropicanabana's verve to defend the merits of Yale although excessive cheerleading grows old after a while. It is obvious that she will be in heaven in New Haven. Let's hope that the blissful environment will help her discover and understand that some of us prefer a purgatory!

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 05:07 pm: Edit

>>>I was blessed by being able to have some such relationships. Not many. Some.

That's my point. You're not going to need a nurturing environment for every class. That might even be stifling. Since the number of life changing professors you meet would be limited at any school, it doesn't matter if 10 out of the 10 classes you take in a year are tiny or if you take 9 small classes and a popular lecture. That's all I'm saying - that people exaggerate the difference in mentoring etc you'd get in an LAC and in midsized private university that's focused on liberal arts. And there's a special science internship/research type thing for freshmen similar to what your daughter is doing.

>>>>>Let's hope that the blissful environment will help her discover and understand that some of us prefer a purgatory!

With all that smog, you won't be able to tell the difference between Claremont and purgatory.

By Demingy (Demingy) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 06:47 pm: Edit

"Whatever the case may be, I'll keep your insightful message in mind as my beliefs may very well change in the future. As I progress being student in college, perhaps eventually I'll come to realize the truths you've revealed."

Wow, Kevin, that has got to be one of the more mature statements I've heard here. ;-)

By Xiggi (Xiggi) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 07:09 pm: Edit

With all that smog, you won't be able to tell the difference between Claremont and purgatory.

Oh, I don't know what I will see from my modest dorm room. I'll just go through the usual routine and do the best I can in a less than perfect world. If you would deign to come down from your elite pedestal, you may even enjoy the life of common mortals.

As my grandmother likes to say "Hoge bomen vangen veel wind" (translation from dutch is Tall trees catch a lot of wind). I wish you luck!

By Thedad (Thedad) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 07:14 pm: Edit

Kevin, look at the ability of students to study, research, and produce independently at the end of their college experience.

You seem to set up a weird dichotomy between "novel abstract theories" and [real work] like business fundamentals.

By Kevin720 (Kevin720) on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 11:22 pm: Edit

Thedad: I was simply emphasizing the importance of independence for the student. Since universities generally provide less individual mentoring, perhaps it's necessary that their students force themselves to take the initiative and learn how to be more independent rather than heavily rely on the personal instruction of professors (which may not necessarily be a bad thing). Again, it is a generality and not an accurate reflection of all LACs and universities.

As far as the "dichotomy," I was referring to the example Mini illustrated regarding her needs later on in her academic career:

"Research questions became more difficult to handle, and having a mature intellect there to bounce ideas off became more and more important as time went on."

Since business majors (and most other majors) don't write abstract research papers to the extent that science majors do, perhaps the need for that type of personalized attention later on in the career doesn't apply to the same extent either. (Notice how I didn't say "no individual advice will ever be needed by non-science majors," because obviously that's not true). Is this incorrect?

Another thing, I never utilized the term "real work" in any of my posts. Please don't subtly instill those words in my message. Of course science majors have real work. I was merely making a comparison of two clearly different fields and the nature of their respective fields.

Tropicanabanana/Xiqqi: I live about 10 miles away from the Claremont Colleges. The smog isn't that bad, although I've lived here for over 10 years and perhaps I've gotten too accustomed to it to even realize it's present. lol

Demingy: Given that we're in CC, it really doesn't require a superhuman effort to sound the least bit mature. :-D

By Thedad (Thedad) on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 12:13 am: Edit

"real work" seemed to be the contrast to "abstract theories." Abstract vs. the concrete fundamentals of business.

By Ariesathena (Ariesathena) on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 04:19 pm: Edit

Since universities generally provide less individual mentoring, perhaps it's necessary that their students force themselves to take the initiative and learn how to be more independent rather than heavily rely on the personal instruction of professors (which may not necessarily be a bad thing). Again, it is a generality and not an accurate reflection of all LACs and universities.

True, but very incomplete. When you start college, you are really still a high school student. Sometime during second semester, everyone changes a bit mentally. The pscyhological changes are very pronounced. Once you really start to make the transition from high school student to college student, you can appreciate that there is an entirely new level of work you are expected to do. My high school science courses were excellent but simply could not compare with the rigors of organic chemistry or physical chemistry labs. In high school, you are able to do all of the work, usually without help. College is very different. Very few 18-year-olds can write a coherent 20-page lab report on calorimetry, but the chemistry majors will be required to write one (and about five or six others over a semester). Mentoring becomes very important for that transition from fairly basic assignments to very rigorous collegiate academia. I remember spending hours with a few other students (in a 9 person lab course) with a TA, having him explain how to calculate electronic transitions and then explain how to properly write a lab report, with abstract, introduction, experimental, conclusions, and appendices.

By senior year of college, many students feel as if classes, homework, problem sets, and exams are fairly boring. They really are able to handle huge research projects, intense writing, or whatever professors want to throw at them. Mentoring during the upper years is important in that professors can help to make the material more relevant and to further challenge their students.

I guess I do not, and probably will not ever, see mentoring, or lack thereof, as a dependece/independence issue. It is often much more about pushing students to a higher level than they would achieve on their own. A student straight out of high school could try to write a very academic lab report, but would, without prior training, do poorly. In a college with individual attention, the student would get it back with notes and corrections, then be taught to do it properly. In a larger school without such attention, that student would just get it back with a grade - and not really learn to do it properly. Just my two cents.

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 12:15 am: Edit

I'm not talking about individual attention versus no individual attention. That would obviously be a useless debate. I'm talking about individual attention all the time versus individual attention where it's truly needed (this applies to both) and less when it's not even necessary.

By Barrons (Barrons) on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 12:25 am: Edit

And some things you can only do at larger schools.

http://www.news.wisc.edu/9895.html

By Kevin720 (Kevin720) on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 01:50 am: Edit

Ariesathena-I never suggested that the transition from high school to college would be easy. Of course it is difficult, for both LAC and university students. I merely pointed out what my impression of what one difference is between these two institutional styles.

You're utilizing inaccurate assumptions to make your point. You seem to suggest that the transition is virtually impossible without tons of personal attention, that it's mandatory for students to receive intensive, individual mentoring in order for them to become successful. And that definitely isn't true, or else students of large universities would be doomed to failure, wouldn't they?

And speaking of "incomplete" pictures, your illustration of the lab and the calorimetry is the quite the anecdotal scenario, don't you think? It can hardly be used to characterize the the course work of most 18-year olds. I guess in that particular situation, the personalized mentoring would be very useful indeed, and I'm sure university officials would be keen enough to realize that need in that particular area. And just because that specialized instruction is provided, it doesn't mean that success is guaranteed, as you seem to imply. I'm sure some students can manage fine without it, and I'm sure that some fail even with it.

We are speaking while using very idealized situations, though. No LAC will provide intense, individualized attention in every single class, just as the largest university in the nation will provide as least some personal help; in reality, they fall in between the extremes.

But again, my initial point encompasses the bigger picture: independence. It's not just about learning how to write calorimetry papers by yourself, but like I mentioned before, it's about learning how to study, research, and produce effectively on your own. I'm not saying LAC students can't learn how to be effective on their own, but rather the fact that university students are generally put in a position where they have to learn that skill. I'm not trying to degrade the value of individual mentoring, instead I'm emphasizing the importance of self-sufficiency.

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 10:43 am: Edit

Mentoring is so much more than individualized classroom attention! (Which is why this isn't simply about "small classes".) It's about sharing hopes and dreams, invitations to dinner, understanding what the professor is doing in HIS/her free time, talking about books and music and art and the latest scientific discoveries, setting up just the right internship and work-study project, caring for babies, wondering together, finding the perfect faculty to work with in graduate school and making personal contact (not just a letter of rec.) to make it happen, just, basically, helping a student grow into his/her new skin, and providing a role model for doing so. I saw all of this happen at the best LACs, and often. It was extremely rare at the prestigious research universities, and I know, because I worked with undergrads at them. (And again, if I was the Pres. of one of these universities, or even a grad. student, I wouldn't want my academic superstar profs spending their time this way.)

College and university can very well take place without any of this. In fact, for most students it does, and often very successfully. The topic was "prep for graduate school". Self-sufficiency is a given for anyone attending a top university or LAC and headed for grad school. What is not a given is how to be a member of a community of scholars.

By Demingy (Demingy) on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 11:00 am: Edit

In my mind, this whole debate is similar to the difference between having a job and having a career (I know someone is going to disagree with me here). Many people (if not most) have jobs. This is where they go, do their work, and collect a paycheck. Believe it or not, some CEOs could fall under this category (I'm talking about attitude-wise). A job is where you make a living, a career is where you live. When it is all about the money and benefits, then it is a job. When someone cares about what they are doing, then it is a career.

Students are similar to this. Many (perhaps most) students are at school to get the degree....which leads to the job with the money. It really doesn't matter where they go, because they can learn what is necessary to get the degree at a university or an LAC. For the rest, the students who love what they are studying for (the ones who would be willing to make simply a living wage doing what they love), mentoring is key. It doesn't matter if you are studying science or business.

By Ariesathena (Ariesathena) on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 12:01 pm: Edit

Kevin:

I do think that you will change your mind when you enter college.

Also, if I give an example of something, it is just that - an illustrative example. Of course it is going to be anecdotal. By the way, it is from my own experience. Even sophomores and juniors were struggling with the work. By the way, every single chem engineer and chemistry major had to take that course.

In easier classes, very few students need attention. In the more rigorous ones, the ones which really change who you are as a student, that attention can change a person from a student to a scholar. I still contend that the skills you learn in high school are simply not adequate to carry you through colliegate research.

There is a massive difference between hand-holding and mentoring. My experience at my small university was not unusual: dinner with faculty, maintaining friendships after the class was over, meeting outside of class to discuss work, career, courses. I do not think that taking advantage of that situation makes me a less independent scholar. When you get to college, you will quickly understand that you will be asked to do work that requires more skill than you have developed in high school. There is training in college that makes you a better student. You don't need mentoring in every class - even one or two classes a semester will do wonders for you as a student.

One final thing: when at my engineering firm, I was asked to write a final report for the project I was working on. I was 20. Most people don't do that until they are project engineers (not interns), and much more experienced. Two managers sat down with me for an hour and went over the report; I edited it heavily; repeat situation a few times. Well, at the end of it, they had spent only a few hours helping me, and I had come very far in the ability to write reports. (Not as easy as it sounds, by the way.) Without that mentoring, I would not have been able to produce as high-quality work.

My prediction is that you will argue this into the ground. Then you'll go to college, leave CC, and change. About a year from now, you'll probably think, "Wow, those people on CC were right." By the time you hit upper-level seminars, you'll do a complete 180.

By Kevin720 (Kevin720) on Sunday, June 20, 2004 - 02:17 am: Edit

Mini, Demingy, Ariesathena: all your points are well taken. Although I have to keep in mind that you've all attended LACs (except Ariesathena?) and inherently favor them, I respect your opinions because you've all been there and have personal experience to draw from to make your points.

However, this issue is turning into a lengthy discussion, when in reality, I truly don't believe there's that big a difference in our opinions. It's gotten to the point where I'm not even sure exactly what we're arguing about.

First of all, I never once directly devalued the importance of having keen faculty available for individual mentoring (and yes, Mini, I realize the scope of those two words which extend beyond the classroom). In fact, I've always believed it can be beneficial to the student as far gaining admissions to graduate school. All that I attempted to do was point out that since university students generally have less access to it, they have to adopt the attitude of self-sufficiency--another beneficial attribute as far as gaining graduate admissions. I still hold those beliefs.

Based on the recent posts, it appears as if you all believe that I'm adamantly against the receiving of personal attention, which definitely isn't true. I simply made my own point of contention, separate from yours; I didn't illegitimize your arguments for the sake of making mine.

But looking at the big picture: the initial topic was "better prep for grad school." There are a million important factors involved in the comparison of these two institutional styles. Yes, individual attention is one of them. And yes, I'll gladly concede, like I did before, that "as a generality, LACs definitely provide better in that respect than universities do." However, it would be foolish of us to overlook other important factors in this comparison.


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