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comment by b_b
b_b  ·  457 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Neoliberal Arts: How college sold its soul to the market

My Nephew was weighing last year the three schools that he got into: U of Michigan, Stanford, U of Washington. He asked my advice. I said Washington's the cheapest, since you live in Washington. "But I think I need to leave the state, because I hate it here." Fair enough. "So where can I get the best education?" The best education only comes from within. "But I want to study physics." Ok then go to Stanford, because both schools have Nobel winners but it fuckin snows in April in Michigan and we don't have the Pacific ocean. "That's it?" Yeah.

I didn't go to an elite college. It has not affected my life negatively (obviously I don't know the counterfactual, but it at least hasn't inhibited me from achieving that which I've set out to), and I don't have any debt. I think elite college educations are some of the most overrated products we can buy. "The market" has incentivized me to be collegial, pursue my interests doggedly, and choose a field where I am happy 99% of the time. There are certain fields where I'm sure it matters what school you went to (law, business, e.g.), because you need to meet all the other people who think they're smarter than everyone else. But for the rest of us, no one gives a shit. You can't learn anywhere if you're not committed to learning, and you can learn everywhere if you are. Open a physics textbook and pore over it long enough and you'll get a Stanford level education. My buddy loves to point out that he went to Georgetown for med school, which was at the time the most expensive med school in the nation, and he works along side people who went to school in the Caribbean. If where you went to school matters in your field, you're probably in a field ruled by vanity.

kleinbl00  ·  457 days ago  ·  link  ·  

And let's be clear: those fields exist. I didn't get into the Peter Stark program at USC because my last name isn't Coppola. At the same time, my first week on the job, I had my coffee made by a guy who had just graduated from the Peter Stark program at USC. Saved me $200k right there and then, I did.

If you're going to work for Bain or Goldman Sachs or their ilk, a Harvard degree probably matters. If you're going into research, studying under someone who knows their shit matters. Dated a girl whose sister had a theorem named after her by the time she was 20; her grad school choices were MIT, Stanford and Columbia. MIT gave her a $4k a year scholarship, Columbia wanted full sticker, and Stanford offered her a $20k a year stipend. So she went to Stanford and is now at the Max Planck Institute.

b_b  ·  457 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Grad school is a whole 'nuther beast. The advice I would give out about grad school (in the sciences, because that's all I know) is (a) you don't need to go to an elite university for undergrad to go to an elite university for grad, and (b) don't pay attention to schools when deciding where you want to go--pay attention to individual researchers. There are far higher concentrations of good quality researchers at elite universities, and that's pretty much what makes them elite. Firstly, those people aren't teaching your intro to chemistry course. Second, there are tons of great researchers at state schools, they just may be less densely concentrated. Prospective grad students should decide what field they're interested in, find the best profs in that field, then contact the prof directly. Then go to that school if and only if they offer you free tuition plus stipend. No one should ever pay for science education (at the PhD level). Ever.