How much does name matter?

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twistor
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Post by twistor » Tue Feb 12, 2008 5:19 pm

I certainly didn't go here simply because it was Ivy Leage.
I can't blame you for going. A younger me might have done the same thing. Who doesn't want to have a bit of an edge?

What I'm saying is that the perceived "edge" is artificial. The advantage gained from going to an ivy league school in a subject like physics (where you probably won't make as many connections as you would if you were in business) is that OTHER PEOPLE perceive the school as being good, regardless of the actual quality of the program.

What I'm saying is that the perception of Harvard and Yale as being good or great schools skews our ability to measure their programs objectively by ANY criteria.

We all want simple answers. Having ivy league schools provides simple answers to questions like, "what school should I pick?" When people hear a name like "Yale" they say "ooooh, Yale..." without ever asking any questions, the assumption being "Yale is a great school." You might have to work to convince your family/friends you made the right choice in picking State University X because their program Y has some excellent professors.

To state it simply, Harvard is a brand name.

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Post by peder » Tue Feb 12, 2008 5:30 pm

Twistor, I think you're belittling dlenmn for going to an ivy League.

"Ah yes, when I my younger foolish self, I would have picked an ivy-league, but now I know better."

Look, the reason why they usually have a "brand name" is because they have something to back it up (and yes, even in physics!). To me, there's no distinction between Harvard or UCSB. To others, there is, and that was the original intent of my post. Whether it be an artificial edge or not, Im wondering if any of you take that into account, or have at least thought about it.

I wasnt saying, yes, school XX is MUCH better than school YY.

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Post by butsurigakusha » Tue Feb 12, 2008 5:36 pm

I read about an interesting study done by a professor at Princeton, I think. He compared the long term career success of those who graduated from ivy-league schools, and those who were accepted to ivy-league but chose not to attend. He found that there was no difference in the long term success. So, it appears from this study that an ivy-league education isn't really what makes ivy-league grads successful, it's just the fact that generally ivy-league grads are talented to begin with.

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Post by shouravv » Tue Feb 12, 2008 5:41 pm

<>
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How much does name matter?

Post by woooster » Tue Feb 12, 2008 5:50 pm

Twistor: "1) I did not think [chicago] program trained students as well as Madison. "
What do you mean by that?? If you mean the course education, then may be. But if you are trying to say the grad school program as a whole. I doubt it. In your phd program, course education is really a small part of it, the most important and part is your research. For certain experiment, like particle physics or astrophysics. "Ivy Schools" have a a bigger and stronger group, therefore they will have more involvement in the experiment. As a student, you will have a better chance to learn more and from more people.

"To state it simply, Harvard is a brand name.", I would also add that 'and a great school in physics' in the end.

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dlenmn
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Post by dlenmn » Tue Feb 12, 2008 6:51 pm

@ twistor

I agree almost completely with your last post. "Elite" schools are by no means the be all and end all of education -- they make sense it some situations and don't make sense in others. It's some of your other comments that I disagree with -- I've made it clear which ones.

@ peder

Yeah, the first two sentences gave me that impression too, but I'm not going to dwell on it. There's been enough hating in this thread already.

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Post by physicsdude » Tue Feb 12, 2008 7:07 pm

<...>
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Post by grae313 » Tue Feb 12, 2008 7:10 pm

before you just read the rankings and cry "bullshit," take a minute to read what they actually are. They are only meant to represent one very simple thing. It is not meant to be the be all and end all in physics rankings. Answering "which school is best" is pretty tough. All this ranking claims to do is answer the questions, "which schools produce the most publications with the most citations and have award-winning faculty?" That's all it does, that's all it claims to do, and that's all these rankings show. Rankings are only valuable if you know what methodology was used and consider them accordingly.

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Post by physicsdude » Tue Feb 12, 2008 7:16 pm

<.>
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grae313
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Post by grae313 » Tue Feb 12, 2008 7:22 pm

Image

you really are a prick, aren't you? It's not just an act with you.

That's OK, I'm an asshole, too.

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Post by physicsdude » Tue Feb 12, 2008 7:24 pm

<.>
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Post by grae313 » Tue Feb 12, 2008 7:26 pm

also very creative, I see.

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dlenmn
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Post by dlenmn » Tue Feb 12, 2008 7:26 pm

@ physicsdude
I don't have the time for this either :)
AND you might have won some lottery in Nigeria
Wow, word travels fast, eh? I'm gonna be rich!

They actually address the MIT weirdness in the article:

"Because the company counts only faculty members listed under specific departments, it missed some scientists connected to MIT's numerous interdisciplinary research centers. Some of those scholars are the principal investigators on multimillion-dollar grants that other physics faculty members also work on, says Ms. Snover. But those grants and the scholars' publications did not get counted in the physics rankings.

Mr. Martin counters that faculty members who are purposely not listed on a program's Web site should not be counted, because if they were heavily involved with graduate students, an important criterion for being part of a graduate program, they would be listed."

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twistor
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Post by twistor » Tue Feb 12, 2008 8:40 pm

I'm not trying to belittle anyone. I'm saying that if I were given the opportunity I might have chosen the "better" school knowing only the claims circulated about it. I now know that the school you attend is not nearly as important as the work you do there and the connections you make. This part of science is very much played down because scientists don't like to admit that it exists. If you work with a big collaboration you're going to spend a lot of time giving talks and trying to get collaborators to publish papers with you. This is called advertising. Getting your name and the name of your group out there makes you well-known in your field and thus more likely for you (or your advisor) to get tenure and grants. It's very much about who you know and less about where you go.
In your phd program, course education is really a small part of it, the most important and part is your research.
A small but important part. Your education is the foundation for your research. Without a solid foundation you will not have the right knowledge to build your research on.
before you just read the rankings and cry "bullshit," take a minute to read what they actually are.........All this ranking claims to do is answer the questions, "which schools produce the most publications with the most citations and have award-winning faculty?" That's all it does, that's all it claims to do, and that's all these rankings show. Rankings are only valuable if you know what methodology was used and consider them accordingly.
Nobody thinks that way. No one says, "Harvard was ranked #1 based on faculty publications." The whole point of the ranking is that the schools that end up on the top are supposed to be the "top" schools. You are right in the way the rankings are determined, but how they are interpreted by the mass public is a very different thing.

Maybe Harvard is a great school for physics but don't try to base that on some phony ranking system.
So, it appears from this study that an ivy-league education isn't really what makes ivy-league grads successful, it's just the fact that generally ivy-league grads are talented to begin with.
This seems reasonable to me.

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grae313
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Post by grae313 » Tue Feb 12, 2008 9:19 pm

twistor wrote:Nobody thinks that way. No one says, "Harvard was ranked #1 based on faculty publications." The whole point of the ranking is that the schools that end up on the top are supposed to be the "top" schools. You are right in the way the rankings are determined, but how they are interpreted by the mass public is a very different thing.

Maybe Harvard is a great school for physics but don't try to base that on some phony ranking system.
I haven't expressed an opinion on Harvard or the rankings presented in this thread. (I tend to agree more with your position, if anything). I was only saying it should be taken for what it is. You can rank a list of fruits in rainbow order or in the order of which you like best, or from smallest to largest. A ranking is completely meaningless unless you consider what it is a ranking of, and that was all I was saying. I agree completely that this ranking doesn't mean Harvard is a great school. All it says is that they publish a lot, and that is all I take it for, because that's what it is a ranking of.

If the text behind the list of schools really says these are supposed to be the best institutions overall, not just the best in achieving "scholarly output", then I would have to disagree with that completely. Not because scholarly output is not an important metric in an institution's worth, but because there is a lot more to it and as you have said, everyone has factors unique to themselves that may make an institution better for them.

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Post by will » Tue Feb 12, 2008 9:33 pm

When a hottie bumps into you at the bar and you tell her you go to Harvard (or somesuch), he/she's not thinking about where they're ranked in a particular subfield of physics, measured by the number of citations of faculty publications... And the people at those schools know it.

Rankings are inherently dishonest, no matter how open and honest they are about their metric.

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Post by grae313 » Tue Feb 12, 2008 9:40 pm

lol..

hottie: "what school do you go to"
physicsbum "Haaaaavuud"
hottie: "ooooooh!! Neat! not only are they ranked in the top five in physics, but they also top the list of scholarly output!"


I agree with you, will

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Post by dlenmn » Tue Feb 12, 2008 9:48 pm

For the sake of getting this stack of papers graded and having my advisor not hurt me, I should avoid getting in to any more protracted arguments tonight. However, I'll say something anyway (perhaps I'm not so bright).

I broke out the AA ranking simply because they were not reputation based -- I certainly don't think that looking articles published, citations, awards, honors, and grants received is The Way to rank schools. That said, I don't think it's an entirely useless metric. If profs are publishing lots of articles, that are getting frequently cited, winning awards, and getting lots of grant $$$ then they're probably doing some research that people find interesting, which is probably a Good Thing.

Of course, maybe the department's interesting research is in plasma and your interested in condensed matter, which the dept doesn't have all that great research in. In that case, the ranking isn't so useful to you. However, to first order, the ranking likely shows something about how much interesting research a department is doing, and that type of information can be useful (more so to administrators than to prospective grad students, but still of some use to us -- we can't look at and visit every group at every university to search out research we find interesting; rankings, like this one and others, can provide a starting point).

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twistor
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Post by twistor » Tue Feb 12, 2008 10:06 pm

I haven't expressed an opinion on Harvard or the rankings presented in this thread.
Sorry for the misunderstanding.
we can't look at and visit every group at every university to search out research we find interesting; rankings, like this one and others, can provide a starting point
Why not? There are only so many and with the help of the internet they can be quickly narrowed down.

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Post by fermiboy » Tue Feb 12, 2008 10:16 pm

If you really want political power in this country, you should apply to Yale, instead of Harvard. I did just in case I want to run for president in the future. From wikipedia:

The Boston Globe wrote that "if there's one school that can lay claim to educating the nation's top national leaders over the past three decades, it's Yale."[17] Yale alumni have been represented on the Democratic or Republican ticket in every U.S. Presidential election since 1972.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yale

If Billary is on the Dem's ticket this year this trend will continue.

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Post by dlenmn » Tue Feb 12, 2008 10:16 pm

Here's my back of the envelope math.

285 programs listed on grad school shopper (american institute of physics list)
say 1/2 ~=140 are physics (rather than astro, geophysics, etc., but perhaps we should count all of them).

Say each program has 10 groups (I think that may be on the low end)

That's 1,400 groups to investigate. Say they take an average of 5 minutes a pop (some will be quick, but the interesting ones will take a while).

That's 7,000 minutes or 4.86 days. Say you only find one half of one percent of them interesting. That's 7 programs to visit, probably at 7 different schools.

I don't have 4.86 days to search through web sites and then another ~2 weeks to do visiting.

Let's say it only takes one minute per group. We're still talking ~24 hours of web browsing. I don't think doing a brute search is efficient.

EDIT: I should add that, if you know you want to work in subfield X, then your job becomes much easier (especially if X is a small subfield). This was not the case for me. I'm pretty undecided, although I'm leaning towards CM experiment. But who knows, maybe I'll get sick of leaky vacuum pumps and want to do theory. Plasma stuff also interests me. Who knows where I might end up?
Last edited by dlenmn on Tue Feb 12, 2008 10:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by fermiboy » Tue Feb 12, 2008 10:33 pm

I don't how much time I spent looking exactly, but it was on the order of tens of hours. I researched all the programs I applied to very thoroughly, including popping each PI's name into arxiv.org and reading a few abstracts. I also used gradschoolshopper extensively to estimate my chances of admission. The rankings meant nothing to me, what was important to me was research, location, and chances of admission. So some us did spend a lot of time on this.

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Post by cancelled20080417 » Tue Feb 12, 2008 10:36 pm

I think twistor has a valid point.

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Post by dlenmn » Tue Feb 12, 2008 10:37 pm

I spent a lot of time on it too, but only after narrowing down the field. Rankings were one thing that helped narrow it for me -- other things like area of research and location didn't pare down the list far enough.

EDIT: Also, most of the thing I used to pare down the list (like location) are arbitrary in terms of how interesting I might find the research. At worst, rankings are equally arbitrary in that respect.

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twistor
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Post by twistor » Tue Feb 12, 2008 10:44 pm

I think it's worth spending as much time researching it as you possibly can. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. It's going to affect the next several years of your life and you want to know what you're getting into.

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twistor
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Post by twistor » Tue Feb 12, 2008 10:46 pm

Also, most of the thing I used to pare down the list (like location) are arbitrary in terms of how interesting I might find the research. At worst, rankings are equally arbitrary in that respect.
It's arbitrary but there's nothing wrong with it. Location is a meaningful metric. Choosing a graduate school is a major life decision and deciding where to live is part of that decision.

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Post by fermiboy » Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:09 pm

I think location is very meaningful. That's why I didn't apply to any schools in the south. I just couldn't see myself being happy down there in the Bible Belt with all the fundies. Stereotypical yes, but it was a great way to eliminate a whole bunch of programs.

The other day I was watching the primaries and it reads "Huckabee wins AR." I was thinking AR was Arizona, not Arkansas, and I was about to withdraw my application from Arizona when I realized my mistake. I'm half serious. I don't want to live in any state where the majority of Republicans would vote for that creationist idiot.

edit: I changed this post to so that it instead of "serious", it says "half serious," which is what I really meant.
Last edited by fermiboy on Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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will
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Post by will » Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:15 pm

If you honestly thought that there was any chance of McCain not winning Arizona, then you need to read up on your politics.

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Post by cancelled20080417 » Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:22 pm

Twistor, you are already on 496 mark. If you reach 500, I am going to shoot you down right from here. Damn it, just hold on there until I reach there.
deactive your account again and go with twistor2. :lol:
Quiz got totally lost. I think he is trying to figure out the deep meaning of Garden's post and the sacrifice of the innocense or Kittels Solid state! who knows.

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Post by fermiboy » Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:23 pm

Actually the first I thought I had was "McNain didn't even win his home state?" It's happened before, you know, at least in the general election (Gore 2000, as one example). It's not like I thought Huckabee had won AZ for hours or something. It was a split second thought. I think I was just looking for an excuse to reject a school, instead of having them reject me.

Nice comment implying that I'm not well read in politics, though.
Last edited by fermiboy on Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by butsurigakusha » Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:24 pm

I am not sure how I feel about living in a state where simply having the name Kennedy will guarantee you political office. Maybe I should withdraw my MIT application.

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Post by will » Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:43 pm

I'm not sure how I feel about living in a state where there are politicians.

I'm withdrawing all my applications immediately.

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Post by fermiboy » Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:50 pm

Let me clarify, it's not a political issue to me. I'm excluding states because voting for Huckabee indicates support for his religious beliefs. Huckabee beliefs are anti-science, beliefs that about half of Americans happen to share, with a huge majority in the Bible belt. So I don't want to live in a place where most people think like him. I'm just using the voting as a measure of this kind of anti science thinking, I could care less about the politics of the voters. So to me it's an education issue. I want to live in place where people are (relatively) educated. Hence that's why I would have withdrawn if that situation had happened. Like I said, it was more of a payback fantasy: rejecting a grad program instead of them rejecting me.




.

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Post by will » Tue Feb 12, 2008 11:58 pm

I understand, and it's all well and good if you want to use that to aid your decisions in where to attend grad school... But just as many Huckabee supporters are Bible-thumping anti-intellectuals, many "educated" people are pretentious communists who don't really understand half the things they dogmatically believe either, so it may as well be religion.

You'll find people who challenge you intellectually in every corner of the globe.

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Post by fermiboy » Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:02 am

You know I told the Arizona story because I thought it was funny (at least to me) on several levels, and it was related to how I used location to select schools. Then all I see is smartass replies like I was totally serious. I was only being half serious, the part about not wanting to live with ignorant creationists. Like I was really going to email Arizona and tell them I withdrew. You people need to chill. Everyone on this board (including me) is such a smartass and/or asshole these days.

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Post by fermiboy » Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:07 am

will I didn't mean to say that your last post was smartass. We crossed posts over the interwebs.

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twistor
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Post by twistor » Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:09 am

Everyone on this board (including me) is such a smartass and/or asshole these days.
The stress is getting to us and we're lashing out. This is normal.

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fermiboy
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Post by fermiboy » Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:12 am

I should have said we need to chill. I guess I'm lashing too, hence the creationist bashing (they're so easy).


edit: I think I just need to chill.
Last edited by fermiboy on Wed Feb 13, 2008 3:03 am, edited 2 times in total.

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twistor
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Post by twistor » Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:28 am

Politics is becoming far too religious in this country. This is mostly due to our inability to stand up to a group of people and tell them they are wrong.

EDIT:

I should stop posting tonight before I get to 500 so others can have a shot at it.

EDIT #2:

I could just keep editing this post so my number of posts doesn't increase.
Last edited by twistor on Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by cancelled20080417 » Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:31 am

yeah, not jus tonite, just stop it there now and tell us only after u hear back from Wisconsin or Chicago, alrite.


EDIT : u don have to answer to my post.

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Post by will » Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:35 am

I'm sorry too, most of what I was saying is directed more at the people on here who act like you'll only meet people worth meeting if you go to Hahvuhd, and it's gotten me edgy.

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Post by dlenmn » Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:43 am

The subject has shifted away from rankings since I last check in, but I'll post this anyway because it was on my mind.

fermiboy, I'm going to make some observations on your data. I'm only picking on your data because you've posted both a profile and an admissions algorithm. I hope this isn't taken the wrong way -- I don't mean any insult and I don't mean to say that your algorithm was anything other than what you said. In anticipation that I might have failed in my goal, I preemptive offer to buy you a beer (or your beverage of choice) should we ever meet in person (I offer the same, not presumptively unfortunately, to twistor). I promise that I'm not such a bad person in real life.
fermiboy wrote:The rankings meant nothing to me
That said, you could have had the same results if you had chosen the following strategy: let's go for 8-10 schools. I'll apply to ~2/3 in US new's top fifteen (you applied to 6 -- 5 in the top ten). I'll pick the other 1/3 from out of the top fifteen as safeties (you applied to 3). So even though you did not rely on the ratings, most of you choices were from highly ranked schools. I don't know what strategies other people used -- but the strategy I outlined would fit the choices of many people who posted profiles. If other people, like you, didn't rely on the rankings, then this could provide evidence that rankings are, to first order, of some use since people tended to end up with personal rankings similar to published ones.* That said, I think your safeties were more imaginative than they might have been if you had relied on the rankings.
fermiboy wrote:I'm wishing I would have applied to some more schools in the 20-30 range.
I used rankings in that way. I don't see why there's anything wrong with it.
twistor wrote:I applied to Chicago and Wisconsin for medical physics. I may yet apply to Purdue.

If I don't get in then to hell with graduate school.
Medical physics is a fairly small field. In that case, I agree that looking at all the options probably is a fine idea. You seem to know exactly what you want -- you were able to narrow it down to 2-3 schools -- and would not be satisfied with less. That is even more reason for doing very thourough research.

My situation is very different. For people like me who don't have a good idea what subfield of physics they want to specialize in and are fairly easily satisfied, I maintain that rankings can be a fine way to narrow down the field (because we lack such a sharp personal metric for doing so) and to choose a good spread of schools to apply to.

I hope that I haven't made too many more enemies by writing this. As other have observed, we're all pretty irritable right about now (perhaps we all have worms in our brains -- sorry that I couldn't link directly to the Mimi Herald's website; they're giving me trouble).

EDIT: I forgot to say, I'm going to pass out. Goodnight everyone.
* EDIT 2: I edited this sentence to clear up the thought process a bit.
Last edited by dlenmn on Wed Feb 13, 2008 11:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by fermiboy » Wed Feb 13, 2008 1:46 am

When I said 20-30 range I was just using it as a description of all the good programs outside of the US News and World Report top ten, such as Wisconsin, Washington, etc. All I meant was that I think I have overestimated how strong my application was, not that I needed to move up in the rankings. Also I cut some of those schools based on location and maybe I shouldn't have. If I could go back I would change a few schools on my list.

Maybe I should say that the US News and World Report rankings were meaningless to me. I applied to three Ivies, and I'll admit that the prestige that the general public gives to graduates from these places is intriguing to me. So I applied to few based on the criteria I mentioned

We know that making in academia is a an odds defying task, and most of us will end up outside of it. Now I love physics, but if I ever have to leave, I always tell myself that the consolation prize will be a higher paying job in "industry," where industry means all non academic or research type jobs. I think that having one of these Ivy degrees can be a huge asset in that regard. HR has 3 applications from UCSB, Illinois, and Yale. Which name makes them look twice? Sad but true.

If it's elitism than I guess I'm elitist. I don't think I'm elitist, I just think I'm playing the game. To me working as a professor is my dream career. If I can't have my dream, then I want the big bucks. I don't know if that's cynical, greedy, nihilistic, or whatever, but it's true.

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Post by fermiboy » Wed Feb 13, 2008 1:51 am

dlenmn,

no worries I wasn't insulted.

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Post by butsurigakusha » Wed Feb 13, 2008 2:04 am

@fermiboy

I hope you didn't take my comment as being smartass. I thought your comment was funny, and I just wanted to put in my own two cents. Sorry if came across differently.

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Post by fermiboy » Wed Feb 13, 2008 2:35 am

butsurigakusha, no worries. It was my admissions stress talking again.

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Post by fermiboy » Wed Feb 13, 2008 11:26 pm

I still have Dartmouth and Cornell for a chance at Ivy League greatness.



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