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Best Nerd College Experience

By EricHeinz in Culture
Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 06:24:30 AM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

I've been researching engineering schools over the previous year and was wondering what the k5 consensus was on the best nerd college experience. I'm planning on majoring in electrical engineering but opinions on other similar majors (CS, CE, etc) are more than welcome.

I've been looking into some of the higher tier schools like MIT and Stanford, but my main qualm with those is their high price (> $25000). While they along with UC Berkeley and Caltech probably are the biggest name engineering schools, I have read that schools such as Harvey Mudd, Rose-Hulman, and Cooper Union have outstanding reputations. They, however only offer up to a Masters Degree and are therefore much smaller.

One of my biggest interests has been The Cooper Union because of its location (downtown NYC), its small class size (35 EE's a year), and its full tuition scholarship. However, I haven't been able to find much in the way of personal accounts of former or even current students. I would greatly appreciate some insight as to the best places to receive high-level education and be surrounded with bright and interesting people.


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Best Engineering College
o MIT 31%
o CalTech 17%
o Stanford 5%
o Berkeley 15%
o Harvey Mudd 9%
o Cooper Union 3%
o Rose-Hulman 7%
o Carnegie Melon 7%

Votes: 51
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Best Nerd College Experience | 91 comments (79 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Best Nerd College ... (4.00 / 1) (#2)
by rajivvarma on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 01:11:02 AM EST

I can tell you, without a doubt, that the best nerd college in the U.S. is the University of Chicago. Seriously, parties are more often found in the library than at fraternities! And even the "fraternities" on campus aren't even remotely close to the ones seen on other campuses - out of the 5 total (I think), 3 are really close to churches. However, I really enjoy it here, and I would definitely rather be here than any other college. Of course, it would've been nice to go to a state college and, well, meet with women sometimes, but I guess that's the price I pay being here. :) Anyway, it's not at all an engineering college, and it's not known for CS, but it's still a great nerd/geek experience.
Rajiv Varma
Mirror of DeCSS.

Oh boy (4.00 / 2) (#27)
by medham on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 01:06:52 PM EST

Of course, it would've been nice to go to a state college and, well, meet with women sometimes,

So, let me get this straight: you think that state college women are more likely to be into nerds such as yourself than the women at U Chicago?

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

You are correct (4.00 / 2) (#31)
by rajivvarma on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 01:34:33 PM EST

Ah, yes, I suppose you are right, medham. Funny, I never thought of it that way, for some reason!
Rajiv Varma
Mirror of DeCSS.

[ Parent ]
Ehhh... (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by MicroBerto on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 10:06:22 AM EST

Don't kid yourself -- there's plenty of fine women out there who like dorky and nerdy guys! There comes a point when they finally realize who's going to be making the money, and would like to have a DECENT conversation.

You just have to leverage it into your game the right way... you can't be a filthy geeky fool, but you gotta slip in the big words and let em know what's going on in there :)

- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
[ Parent ]

Mmhmm (none / 0) (#88)
by pietra on Sun Mar 03, 2002 at 10:50:57 PM EST

There comes a point when they finally realize who's going to be making the money, and would like to have a DECENT conversation.

Yes, I know who's going to be making the money: Me. And I sure as hell don't want to be having a decent conversation with someone who assumes that 1) I'm only interested in having this decent conversation so I can get into his wallet, or 2) that I don't have any resources to make money on my own. News flash, little boy: There are female CS majors in this world as well. Very few of us like being treated like gold-digging idiots. If you really want to meet interesting and intelligent women, get a clue.

[ Parent ]

Yawn (3.50 / 2) (#10)
by kjb on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 02:20:27 AM EST

Don't rely on a bunch of strangers to pick your college for you.

Even if I wanted to tell you where to go, I graduated too long ago to recommend anything to you. The CS department where I went is probably totally different from when I went there in the 80's.

Another thing: anyone who graduated from the school more than 2 years ago is probably full of it. Beware.

Now watch this drive.

HMC for Engineering (4.50 / 2) (#12)
by snowlion on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 02:52:15 AM EST

Here's what I understand about the colleges.

Stanford is for communications majors, psychologists, and other social sciences. Berkeley is for tech majors who want to go to a large populated college, or who have an activist streak in them. MIT is Mecca for Computer Science and Computer Engineering. I know little about CalTech.

Harvey Mudd College is for Engineering. It does not matter what type of Engineering; If you go to Harvey Mudd College, you will learn Engineering. You will be worked excruciatingly hard. Course loads at Stanford are tiny compared to course loads at Harvey Mudd. When you finish your 4 or 5 years at Mudd, you work for a company, or go to another school for graduate work.

Of all the places in the world, there is no place that I Love more than Harvey Mudd College.

Map Your Thoughts
see (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by Delirium on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 04:39:05 AM EST

That's what everybody tells me. But I go to HMC, and I have so goddamn much free time. And a high GPA. Weird, eh?

But yeah, I have friends at Stanford who manage to do 30 hour/week sports and still finish everything fine...I don't think I have quite that much free time here...

[ Parent ]

Which Dorm? (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by snowlion on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 06:27:32 AM EST

I was a Westie in 1995, but quickly moved to East.

I understand that all the dynamics have completely changed, though.

West, at least when I was there, was the drunken party dorm. I remember not being able to go to sleep at 7pm because the guy across the hall would be playing his porno's with the volume loud. Here's what he'd do: He'd take his speakers, and place them outside of his room, and shut the door. He'd start a porno video. Then, he'd adjust the volume so that it was a nice volume- within his bedroom. Meanwhile, the entire courtyard is filled with panting and heaving and sighing and groaning. And I had the luck to be in the next room over... (Lower right fishbowl.) Cool thing about living in West: Donut Rally. Cops pulled over a car that had just been given crates of left over donuts after the shop closed...

East was much nicer, which I transferred to after my first semester (which was terrible- 21 units, CS60, AF-ROTC, and living in West...). East was called "the Hippie-Slut Dorm". Patri Friedman, grandson of Milt Friedman, was my suite mate. The fireplace was converted to a hot tub (do they still do that? there were rumblings from administration...). We had an awesome life there. I made some of the best friends in my life in there.

But I understand that East dorm is now the wino/alchoholic dorm; At least that is what I heard from Whit, who's finishing his PhD at Berkeley now. That's too bad. {:(}=

It breaks my heart to think about Mudd too much; I Love that place with all of my soul.

If you do not already, you will.

Map Your Thoughts
[ Parent ]
Hmm (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by dennis on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 04:14:51 PM EST

He'd take his speakers, and place them outside of his room, and shut the door.

He sure made it easy to sabotage them, if anyone had any initiative...

[ Parent ]

who the hell is milt friedman (3.00 / 3) (#37)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 04:50:33 PM EST

the only thing i remember about patri
is that he would talk the professor
during class and start rambling so often
that people plotted to make a 'shut up patri' t-shirt.

[ Parent ]
Patri (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by snowlion on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 08:09:52 PM EST

Milt Friedman is the founder of a great bulk of Libertarian thinking. Patri's dad is some sort of famous anarcho-capitalist.

I've read Snow Crash and know better.

Myself, I'm an anarcho-socialist.

You should have made those shirts.

Personally, I like Patri. He's a real breath of fresh air to my thinking. I disagree with him on a number of things, but I understand why he thinks as he does.

You can see how he's doing at his webpage.

Map Your Thoughts
[ Parent ]
yet another hmc student... (4.50 / 2) (#42)
by AnomymousCoward on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 06:21:31 PM EST

few quick points ...

West, at least when I was there, was the drunken party dorm.

not much has changed there...

East was much nicer, which I transferred to after my first semester (which was terrible- 21 units, CS60, AF-ROTC, and living in West...). East was called "the Hippie-Slut Dorm".

Maybe you think this because you're an eastie. We (we being everyone except east) refer to it as the "gay dorm", occasionally as "the one with the weird people", and from time to time as the "large building with piss stained walls". Stereotypical? yep. Accurate? probably not (except for the piss stained walls, that's hard to dispute). And no, they dont do the hot tub thing anymore .. thank god .. the last time they did it, I just remember seeing a lot of very unattractive people naked. That pretty much screwed up my weekend.

Other stereotypes: south is the quiet dorm filled with unicycling nerds (damn I'm glad I finally got out of there), north is the dorm of beer drinking pseudo-jocks, atwood and case are, ... well, atwood and case .. too many people, all locked in their suites and hallways .. linde seems to be coming to life, finally ... lots of drinking, and its proximity to pitzer makes it a decent place to obtain "other" substances.

I've decided I really dont like this school. I really cant take the mass of people so convinced of their own intelligence that they overlook the small things such as bathing and hygeine, common courtesy, or common sense.

Vobbo.com: video blogs made easy: point click smile
[ Parent ]
Yup! (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by snowlion on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 07:55:11 PM EST

That's us! Over in East Dorm. {:)}= Yup; We're the hippy-sluts. No friendlier place on campus, rivalled only by South.

New is the on-sit embassy for Pitzer. Drugs and raves. At least thats how I always thought of it.

7th is for people who case themselves in their room.

"Linde" is for the rich and well to do; At least, want to be, if not actually.

I really cant take the mass of people so convinced of their own intelligence that they overlook the small things such as bathing and hygeine, common courtesy, or common sense.

Eh; I don't know about that. Maybe if you hung out with some of us, you'd find that we weren't like that. Myself, I ITR'ed after two years. No delusions of intelligence on my part; Most of it was confusing. I did manage to have a good time though, and learned a lot.

Did you write the Mudd paper article, "The State of Nappiness at Harvey Mudd College" by any chance?

The only Easty that I knew of that was really pumped up about his intellectual prowess was Drew.

Common Sense is entirely lacking at HMC. Common Courtesy exists within select cultures, and they only recognize their own culture as having common courtesy.

Oh well; I guess I was wrong. I do know that there were Mudders who really hate Mudd. I overspoke saying, "You will love it."

Myself, it was the most amazing experience in my life. I have a hard time meeting Mudd type people out in the boonies of the "real world".

I talk with MIT grads and Berkeley grads and what not, and they're all interested in getting a paycheck, doing their work, getting a girlfriend/wife, children, car, the whole nine yards. I'm not terribly impressed.

Map Your Thoughts
[ Parent ]
hippy sluts is a disturbing mental image. (4.50 / 2) (#50)
by AnomymousCoward on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 09:08:10 PM EST

first, see subject. then continue.

"Linde" is for the rich and well to do; At least, want to be, if not actually.

As a two year linde resident (I got stuck in south as a sophomore...), I disagree. Linde is for small groups of people who hate the mess and general shit of the quads, but enjoy having fun. Its generally moving towards drugs/alcohol, due to some imports from west (damn ravers), but in general, its much easier to live out here than in west/north, and the people seem more "normal" than in east/south.

Did you write the Mudd paper article, "The State of Nappiness at Harvey Mudd College" by any chance?

No, but I'd like to read it..... I was actually the person who was running/hosting/maintaining the now dead ihatemudd.com .

When all is said and done, I appreciate this school. I really have nothing but great things to say about the faculty, and the staff in general. I greatly value the education, My GPA certainly shows that this school is challenging me. The people, though, really bother me from time to time.

Regarding the people:
   I dont know if its the easty who sat behind me in math3 and put his bare feet up next to my head, or the group of easties who wear unwashed, wrinkled terrycloth bathrobes to class/dinner/etc that makes me dislike the entire east crowd, but it's obviously just a stereotype i choose to believe because it gives me a place to focus my general dislike. I could also go on about how I dislike west, and south, and portions of north, but I wont. I dont think anyone who understands the stereotypes would care for my analysis, and the rest of the readers of this site have no clue and are wondering why this discussion continues...

Vobbo.com: video blogs made easy: point click smile
[ Parent ]
mild dorm change note (and some rambling) (5.00 / 1) (#81)
by flaterik on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 12:06:23 AM EST

New is the on-sit embassy for Pitzer. Drugs and raves. At least thats how I always thought of it.

Actually, scumby moved out of atwood (new) and the studious asian kids moved in. it's now boring as all hell.

The electronic music kids from west and elsewhere coalesced on the north side of linde, and the fratty contingent expanded a bit on the south side.

north side of linde is now the ravey place, rather than new. despite the constant 4/4 beat and cloud of pot smoke, the people there are actually pretty damn good academically. in fact, it was my experience that many of the very smartest people were the ones having the most fun and being the most out of their head.

oh yeah, and westies are bigger stoners than drunks nows, and the assholishness has subsided quite a bit.

i suppose i have other thoughts on mudd, as well. the academics are great, as are most of the professors. and, regardless of their lecturing ability, the profs are ALWAYS willing and able to help you out if you take initiative.

social life is extremely bipolar. there were a lot of people at mudd that i couldn't stand. but there also tons of mudders that i just adore. there are brilliant nice people, there are people that made me wonder how the hell they got accepted, much less made it through 4 years.

if you're looking to work your ass off whlie having the distinct oppurtunity to have an amazing amount of fun, mudd is a great place. erik (-- 3 years in west, 1 year in linde cs major, tons of partying, decent gpa)

[ Parent ]

the profs are good though (4.00 / 1) (#52)
by Delirium on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 09:25:07 PM EST

I've decided I really dont like this school. I really cant take the mass of people so convinced of their own intelligence that they overlook the small things such as bathing and hygeine, common courtesy, or common sense.
I'd come to the same conclusion if the faculty weren't really so damn good. For the most part they know their shit, know how to teach it, and are generally nice people. Some of them even have the nerve to occasionally tell the people asking dumbass questions to try to show off that they read ahead in the book to shut the fuck up, which is always pleasing. For the most part, the rest of the staff is excellent as well.

But yea, for one reason or another, the student body is really fucked up. Go anywhere off campus and suddenly people are much more normal. Even UC Berkeley. And the fact that HMC isn't very well-known or prestigious amongst the general public makes people kind of defensive about how smart they are and how great their school is (witness all the shirts insinuating that HMC students are smarter than Stanford or CalTech students). There's nothing quite so irritating as seeing someone who is clearly not very intelligent (and yes, there are plenty who fit that category; just because you can write a C++ program doesn't mean you're a fucking genius) boasting his intelligence in an obnoxious manner. In my visits to Stanford I've found the student body there much less irritating in this regard.

And the "dorm personality" thing is kind of annoying as well; reminds me of "school spirit" in high school. Rah rah go north dorm let's have a pep rally. Bah.

I could go on for hours, but I doubt anybody really cares, so I'll leave it at that.

[ Parent ]

Huh? (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by jrh on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 06:02:32 PM EST

Stanford is for communications majors, psychologists, and other social sciences.
I'm sure that would come as a surprise to the roughly 1000 Stanford EE students. (Mostly grad students, but the department is the largest in the university in number of students; CS is second.)

[ Parent ]
MIT (3.00 / 3) (#56)
by neoptik on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 10:39:43 PM EST

is not just for comp sci. For example, USNEws says we have the best graduate Econ department. We are said to have the best graduate engineering schools as well. Then we have Sloan, the Whitehead Institute, the Media Lab...and then a whole bunch of really smart computer nerds. I'd say that the engineering education you get at MIT is at least as good (maybe better) than the one at HMC. Then again, I'm just a freshmen.
*sigh....* so many distributed computing projects.....so few computational resources....
[ Parent ]
My take on Mudd (5.00 / 2) (#57)
by Glurfle on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 10:52:05 PM EST

I went to Mudd for 5 semesters. ITR'ed (flunked out) 2 years ago, and have a petition due this coming Thursday to see if they'll let me back in.

I hated the place when I was there. I'm surprised it took me that long to flunk out. I couldn't stand the majority of the people there, so I just sort of skated by and waited to leave. The only thing that really kept me there was inertia. During orientation they make a big deal about how 90% of the incoming students will have to cope with not being in the top 10% for the first time in their lives. From what I saw, those 90% didn't cope very well. Too much of the social interaction I saw involved intellectual one-upmanship or just overwhelming arrogance. The interesting thing is that the actual top 10% types tended to be nice, relatively well balanced folks. You'd never know from the yapping going on just where these people actual were in the class rankings.

So why am I trying to get back in? The place kicks ass. Get away from the annoying 50% or so, and you'll find some of the most interesting people in existence. I love those people to death. I'm not surprised that every year or two I hear them making plans to start commune-like areas to live together after they graduate. If I ever have a chance to populate a world from scratch, I'm starting with a dozen Mudders of my acquaintance.

Mudd vs. other colleges: Yes, you will be worked excruciatingly hard. I don't know about other colleges, but I've discussed with Stanford and Berkeley CS grads, and the Mudd curriculum blows them out of the water. Don't even get me started on state schools. The other reason I'm trying to get back in is that in a 3 semesters of various senior level CS courses at state schools in CA and MI, I've learned approximately what's covered in CS60 at Mudd. I think the title of that class is "Intro to CS." Need I say more? (The discrepancy is doubtless nowhere near that great, if indeed even existent for places like Caltech, MIT, etc.)

As for the nerd experience...well, that's probably a matter of perspective. When I was having fun, it was great. I did a lot of interesting things which may or may not be interesting to other people. Human billiard balls and strip tag in the Wash, duct tape daggers in the academic complex, laser tag around the security building, seeing how many people could fit in the sink/dryer, finding out how to get on the roofs of Honnold and Sprague libraries, storm draining, duct crawling, and various other things, some of which we were caught at. (If the term $6480 means anything to you, that probably identifies me.)

I've rambled enough. Bottom line: If you go there, you may absolutely love the place. You may absolutely despise it. Or, like me, you may do both.

"Student V" (Did those apologies get posted to students-l?)

[ Parent ]

which was the "student v" apology? (3.00 / 1) (#59)
by AnomymousCoward on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 11:05:32 PM EST

I know i've been "student g" before, and i'm a junior so, depending on how you count your 2 years, I may be familiar with your "student v" case ... so, what was it, share with the class?

Vobbo.com: video blogs made easy: point click smile
[ Parent ]
UIUC (4.66 / 3) (#13)
by sbutler on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 03:10:48 AM EST

What, no University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign? Really, for the fields you are interested in it is great. Also, some really cool software came from here. I don't see any other universities listed in IE's About box. Also, ranked 2nd in its field at US News and World Report

For in state the tuition is great. About $6,000 for engineers. Out of state it is more, but can't be too bad (this isn't counting room and board, about another $4,000). If I were you I wouldn't pass up this state school.

Note: I do currently attend UIUC

Oh God!! (1.00 / 3) (#24)
by jabber on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 12:37:02 PM EST

You almost had me... UIUC is a great school indeed, but if they're listed in the About box of IE.. Damn man.. ;)

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Nitpicking (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by damiam on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 02:25:07 PM EST

Netscape didn't come from the University of Illinois, Mosiac did. Netscape later hired the Mosiac authors to write Netscape, but Netscape has no Mosiac code in it.

Microsoft purchased the rights to Mosiac and based IE off of it. So actually, it was IE that came out of the University of Illinois, not Netscape.

[ Parent ]

Mosaic/Netscape (3.00 / 1) (#38)
by cameldrv on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 05:10:38 PM EST

Netscape 0.9 had several bugs in it that were exactly the same as Mosaic. The killer though, is that a dialog box in Netscape 0.9 was misspelled in exactly the same way as Mosaic. The Netscape people were pressed for time, they had the Mosaic codebase on hand, and they knew it because they wrote it. You do the math.

[ Parent ]
Netscape (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by srichman on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 12:40:39 AM EST

Netscape didn't come from the University of Illinois, Mosiac [sic] did. Netscape later hired the Mosiac [sic] authors to write Netscape...
I think "Netscape hired the Mosaic authors" is a bit of an understatement. Marc Andreessen headed the Mosaic project at UIUC and cofounded Netscape to commercialize Mosaic. I think it's fair to say, then, that Netscape "came from" UIUC. For instance, everyone says that Sun came out of Stanford and Berkeley, even though there wasn't a research group at either campus pumping out commercial Sun boxen.

[ Parent ]
People (5.00 / 2) (#14)
by Weezul on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 03:21:45 AM EST

The benifits of those big name school are real, but they are not exactly what you would expect.

Here is an example: Your average undergraduate even at MIT dose not need a famous analysist teaching em' calculous. It's the few people will go on to do graduate work in a field who will find these people useful. Yor average undergraduate at MIT benifits from the great math faculty by having future mathematicians as class mates.

My point is that ultimatly the people you meet at collage are one of the more importent factors. For this reason I would suggest that you find out what you think about the school "personaility."

Still, if money is a big factor for you, many states have very good state schools (Berkley is a state school).. and some are cheap. I think my tuition at Georgia Tech a few years ago was $800 to $900 per quarter (in state) and that was paid by the state. I greaduated having saved money. Since I took lots of graduate math classes the only real diffrence between my education at Georgia Tech and my education at a bigger name school are:

1) All my friends work at startups instead of running startups (or getting a PhD.).

2) I was underexposed to some importent areas of mathematics like: Algebraic Geometry, Number Theory, and Algebra. Currently, I'm doing my PhD in a branch of Algebra (model theory) so this has hurt me, but I also have a better Analysis background then most Algebra graduate students.

btw> Personally, *I* would avoid the tiny places like Harvey Mudd and CalTech since their size will limit your experences. I suppose there are advantages to living in NYC however.. :)

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
collages: connect the dots creativity (3.00 / 1) (#19)
by suick on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 05:03:28 AM EST

But I do like paste.

Your average undergraduate even at MIT dose not need a famous analysist teaching em' calculous.

...nor will your average undergraduate get a famous analyst--more than likely they'll get a graduate student. Said "famous analyst" is too busy with research to teach undergraduates.

order in to with the will I around my effort sentences an i of more be fuck annoying.
[ Parent ]
Calc classes at MIT (4.00 / 1) (#55)
by neoptik on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 10:37:28 PM EST

...this semester were taught by either Arthur Mattuck, Jerison, or Hartley Rodgers...pretty good lineup, I'd say.
*sigh....* so many distributed computing projects.....so few computational resources....
[ Parent ]
ANALyist?! (1.00 / 2) (#80)
by scanman on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 11:03:18 PM EST

I knew it! There is a gay Linux conspiracy!

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

[ Parent ]

We're Lambda Lambda Lambda and... Omega Mu! (4.50 / 2) (#15)
by Skwirl on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 03:42:28 AM EST

Okay, everyone knows that CMU, MIT and CalTech are havens for super-intelligent nerds, but what about nerd-friendly colleges for people with slightly more realistic SAT scores?

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
Maybe... (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by prosthezis on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 04:26:33 AM EST

How about one of these?

...if you write one more diary entry complaining that you're not cool enough to be invited into the other geeks' role-playing sessions, I'll fucking kill you! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]
Well I go to Harvey Mudd... (5.00 / 2) (#18)
by Delirium on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 04:46:49 AM EST

...so if you want any additional information you can ask me. It's hard to really describe what it's like in broad terms; depends on what you want to know. It's part of the Claremont Colleges consortium (which includes Pomona), so there's plenty of liberal arts classes available in addition to the engineering/science/math classes if you're into that sort of thing.

It's probably the best college of the ones I've visited as far as professors go. Since it's all undergraduate, the professors are hired primarily based on their ability to teach, not based on their research skills. And thus they teach all the classes, even the recitation sections, something not common at places like CalTech. There are no TAs, because there are no graduate students (there are student graders and tutors drawn from the undergraduate students, but they don't actually teach any classes or sections). My freshman Physics class, for example, had five professors teaching it so they could cover all the sections without going over 30-person class sizes. And profs are easy to contact (they answer email at all hours of the day/night and are usually in their offices when not teaching a class).

Of course there are disadvantages - with only 700 students, they can't offer every conceivable class (there's a good variety of specialized high-level classes, but you can't find a class on absolutely everything like you could at a large school like UT-Austin or UC-Berkeley). But in general I'm very happy with the quality of the teaching.

The people are another story; whether you like them depends on your preferences I suppose. There's both good and bad points in that category as well.

My school (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by Anonymous 7324 on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 12:37:37 PM EST

is kinda like yours, except labs are supervised by TAs. No biggie. We have several tiny grad departments here, but I'd saw we benefit from them more than they do from us, both in terms of funding, and in terms of the caliber of professors that we get.

What I particularly like about it here however, is that undergrads can take graduate level classes for credit (often for major credit), and that if you have favorite professors who are Really Good(tm) at some things, you can bug them to open up 1 on 1 tutorial classes. Now those are sweet!

[ Parent ]
a question (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by Pink Daisy on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 12:56:52 AM EST

What's it like to go to an undergraduate school? I had that option five years ago when choosing a school, but in my corner of the world the only undergraduate schools either have poor reputations or no engineering programs. Thus my mind was made up against one as soon as I started seriously looking.

As for what I got, I'm lucky enough to be in a school that assigns equal weight to teaching and research. There are definitely professors who are bad teachers, but not many of them. On the other hand, the number of really excellent teachers is also limited. For three years I just put up with it, but the value of a research school became apparent to me in my senior year. I was able to take courses that really drew upon the cutting edge; upon the research of the professors and their familiarity with other work in the field. For my undergrad thesis, I worked on a project that has significant intellectual value. Doing either of those things takes some motivation and there are many people here who don't take the opportunity. For them I guess fourth year is just another year, with nothing but harder courses and more work.

How do professors compare? Do they keep up with their fields in the same way; attending conferences and presenting recent work in classes? From what's been said I gather you do get more direct interaction and a higher standard of teaching. For people who want to proceed in academia, how do you choose a direction? Since you can't really look at the research that your professors are doing, how do you get the flash of, "That's cool, I wonder what I can do in that area?"

Also, try not to judge TA's too harshly. A school is for learning above all else, and some of us have to learn how to teach. As someone who is new to that (a tutorial in my case, not a whole course!) I must say that we care about students and do our best. We're learning how to teach, and for some unfortunate TA's, learning to speak english at the same time. I guess that isn't your problem, though. Ok, enough apologies; I don't want everyone to think I'm as bad as I think I am.

[ Parent ]
some comments (none / 0) (#79)
by Delirium on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 10:37:45 PM EST

How do professors compare? Do they keep up with their fields in the same way; attending conferences and presenting recent work in classes? From what's been said I gather you do get more direct interaction and a higher standard of teaching. For people who want to proceed in academia, how do you choose a direction? Since you can't really look at the research that your professors are doing, how do you get the flash of, "That's cool, I wonder what I can do in that area?"
Most of the professors do keep up with their fields. This is especially because many of them are young (I'd say about 30-40% of the faculty are younger than 40, and at least several are in their late 20s), so they're looking to build resumes in case they want to eventually get a more prestigious appointment somewhere. During the school year they don't do much research because they're too busy with teaching classes, but they do research over the summers, and some take semesters off to do research elsewhere (as visiting professors usually), so they have done research, and since many are fairly young they haven't completely forgotten their PhD research either (which might actually be more immediately relevant to a student wishing to go to grad school). The departments also put a large emphasis on having students keep up with current developments in their major field by bringing in speakers from other universities on a weekly basis to fill in information on research areas that we might not have a local prof. for (and in c.s. at least, you're required to attend these weekly talks for your junior and senior years).
Also, try not to judge TA's too harshly. A school is for learning above all else, and some of us have to learn how to teach. As someone who is new to that (a tutorial in my case, not a whole course!) I must say that we care about students and do our best. We're learning how to teach, and for some unfortunate TA's, learning to speak english at the same time. I guess that isn't your problem, though. Ok, enough apologies; I don't want everyone to think I'm as bad as I think I am.
Yeah, I didn't mean to paint everyone with the same brush. One of my freshman profs here was actually a grad student at a nearby college, though he had to go through the official hiring process as a part-time prof. (so they can still say "no TAs teach classes"), and he was a really good prof. Though I've heard a lot of complaints from friends at large schools (UT-Austin in particular) about c.s. TAs who sit in the computer labs playing counter-strike and actually get annoyed if people come ask them questions. And they often complain that it's really difficult to actually talk to a prof. there, whereas I appreciate being able to just walk into a prof's office pretty much any time during the day (except when they're teaching classes), or email and get a detailed response usually within hours.

[ Parent ]
Rose-Hulman (3.66 / 3) (#21)
by garlic on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 10:02:33 AM EST

benefit: all classes taught by professors
drawback: it's an engineering school that only recently started accepting women. That means very, very few women there. It is an excellent undergraduate school though.

I would say that unless you know you want to go straight to MS or PhD after undergrad, don't worry if the school has a graduate program. In fact, it may be better to go to a school for undergrad that focuses on undergrads.

I'd also recommend going to a university with colleges besides engineering. Engineering is fun, but you don't want to be surrounded by only engineers.

Basically, it looks like you need to know more what you want in a school since their are so many options. There are a lot of topped ranked engineering schools in the midwest (where I'm from). The state schools like University of Illinois, Purdue, University of Wisconsin, and Michigan University all have highly ranked engineering programs and cover the large public university side. Rose-Hulman is also highly ranked undergrad focused technical school focussed on engineering. Valparaiso University and Bradley University are both smaller private university's that have good engineering programs and a variety of other stuff going on. Valparaiso is consistantly ranked well for being good value.

HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.

Bradley (2.00 / 1) (#28)
by sbutler on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 01:11:00 PM EST

Yes, but you forget that Peoria sucks.

- Stephen (a Peoria native)

[ Parent ]
Cornell (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by mrnancy on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 10:59:45 AM EST

I'm currently a sophomore in EE here at Cornell and I love it here. Some people find it too big, (~3500 people per class), but i love it here. With so many people, you're guaranteed to find someone who shares interests with you, and hey may not even be nerds! I hav friends in majors from government to Industrial and Labor Relations to City and Regional planning.

Also, the Co-op program is a great way to get work experience while still an undergraduate. Just some food for thought, since I hadn't seen us mentioned yet.

P.S. Our hockey team is ranked 8 in the country. :)

Cornell has a good hockey team (none / 0) (#89)
by irksome on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 11:30:58 PM EST

So do a lot of the other smallish schools in NY. St Lawrence, Colgate, RPI, Niagara, and Union to name most of them. (Notably absent on that list is Syracuse ... but that's a story for a different board)

As a hockey fan, unless you're in Syracuse, NY State is a great place to be. (SU has a good engineering program too, but they don't have hockey)

Strange though, that I, someone who grew up as a huge hockey fan at a <a href="http://www.umich.edu">school</a> that had a great hockey program (#4 in the country right now), and ended up at a <a href="http://www.syr.edu">school</a> that only has club hockey ...

I think I am, therefore I'm not.
[ Parent ]
several questions here (5.00 / 2) (#23)
by Pink Daisy on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 11:25:53 AM EST

First quality of education... If you're looking for the easiest possible way to learn, an undergraduate school is probably good. You'll get more attention, and because instructors are hired for teaching ability rather than research ability or some combination, they will have both more time for dealing with students and in many cases be better at explaining things. At the same time, you lose a bit. There won't be as much variety of advanced courses. And while undergrads don't get much that comes from current research, if you want to learn how these people think, it is definitely better to learn from Steve Cook about complexity and computability, or Michael Stumm about operating systems. If you have aspirations of research I'd reccommend a school with a respected graduate program, even though the undergraduate program may not be as strong. Of course, I'll plug my school, the University of Toronto. It's a public school, so tuition is low, and although it is higher for foreigners (like Americans), it is still cheap compared to private schools.

The second thing you seem to ask is about the culture of the school. That's a much tougher question, since only someone who has been there knows what it's like. You can postulate a bit, though. Schools in cities will have a city around them if you don't like the campus life. Schools in cornfields in Arkansas will have, well, cornfields in Arkansas for the nightlife. Also, larger schools usually have reputations for being less personal, but have a very wide range of student activities available if you take the time to search them out. Having more students means that there will be more people with any particular interest.

There are other issues, of course. Stuff like class sizes, costs, and whether the bookstore is owned by Follet. Some of that you can find out on your own, and the rest you will have to ask people other than me.

A point about college bookstores (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by medham on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 01:12:17 PM EST

You're right to decry the corporatization of the U bookstore, but it should be pointed out that thinking faculty will order books through private local bookstores instead. There could be some problems, perhaps, with very large classes; but it's best not to take those anyway.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Cooper Union and Caltech (4.66 / 3) (#30)
by flieghund on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 01:22:26 PM EST

Though I did not attend either Cooper Union or Caltech, I did consider attending Cooper Union (for architecture, but the situations you describe are similar) and currently work with a guy who attended Caltech.

First Cooper Union. As you mention, a small school with a very high quality education (small class size + excellent professors + excellent facilities), plus a full-tuition scholarship if you get accepted. The two downsides that I found (that ultimately scratched Cooper Union off my list) were the application and the housing situation. The application process is rather long and involved -- which I suppose it has to be due to the limited number of spaces available. If you really want to go there, this shouldn't be an issue for you. The housing situation, however, was a serious issue for me. At the time I was looking (about seven years ago mind you), the only school-sponsored housing was limited to freshmen. After your first year, there were extremely limited spaces available for selected upper-classmen, but most students in their second year and above were on their own. At most schools this may not be a problem, but apparently Cooper Union is located in a rather well-to-do area of town, so the limited housing around campus is quite expensive. This would have essentially forced me to live some distance from the school and endure daily commutes. Compared to every other school I was considering, where student housing was cheap, local and abundant, this was a real concern and ultimately led me to look elsewhere.

And now Caltech. Though I never considered Caltech (no architecture), my boss is a Caltech grad. We have discussed Caltech on a couple of occasions as my cousin is currently considering attending there. The school features an equally rigorous application procedure, including a face-to-face interview, but does not offer a full-tuition scholarship as does Cooper Union. While Caltech is certainly the larger school of the two, it is still relatively small with only a few thousand students total (compared, say, to my alma mater, which has around 30,000). The really great thing about Caltech, according to my boss, is the student culture. Apparently it was the inspiration for Real Genius, one of the best college movies ever filmed.

I hope these second-hand accounts are helpful to you. I should point out that most of my information is dated (but still accurate to the best of my knowledge), so YMMV. The absolutely best piece of advice I can give is to visit the school in person during the school year and talk with every student you meet. A school can look absolutely spectacular on paper, but be a real drag in person; the reverse is also true. Unless post-graduation networking is a serious concern of yours, the "name" of a given school should be one of the last issues you consider. Visit the campus and see what it is really like.

Using a Macintosh is like picking your nose: everyone likes to do it, but no one will admit to it.
The Cooper Fucking Union. :) (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by reshippie on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 02:18:31 PM EST

I went there as and EE for just over a year and a half. While I don't really regret going there, I definitely do not regret leaving either. One of the big things, at least for me, is that in order to graduate in 4 years, you need to take 6 classes every semester.

Someone already mentioned the application process, though for the Architectural school. It's not the same for engineering. There's a standard form to fill out, then there's a list of short answer questions. I can't really remember what they are, I applied about 4 years ago. The thing is, though, a few years ago, the school paper published a formula they got a hold of, don't remember it, unfortunately. It looks at your GPA, your rank, and SAT scores. If you get above a magic number (not specified in the article), you're in. If you get below another number, you're not. If you're in between, they actually look at the rest of you're application.

With respect to the living arrangements, there's 1 dorm, which pretty much only houses freshmen and RAs. There is no meal plan, but each room (3-5 people in 2-3 rooms) has a kitchen with stove and microwave and fridge. Basically, it's an apartment building that Cooper owns. After freshman year, if you're not an RA, you go find your own place. Depending on how far you're willing to walk, or take the train, it's not that bad. If you want to live near Cooper, though, don't plan on having your own room, unless you've got some cash in the bank.

I met some really awesome people there, and very much enjoyed being at a small school. Don't plan on really exploring any other academic interests, though. The "Humanities Dept" doesn't have that many profs on staff, and about half of them are Art History specialists. After Freshman year, there isn't a great deal of interaction between the 3 schools there, but there are always a bunch of fun events each semester. Drama puts on a production, completely run by students, there's a concert of bands students are in each year, there's usually 1 party at school per semester. Uh yeah, rambling.

So yeah, if you think you can handle the work, which isn't too bad individually, but x6 gets rough, I'd say go for it. EEs have very good job placement there. People that have heard of Cooper know it's good. If you can graduate there, you can get a good job. Feel free to email me if you have any further questions, this post is feeling a bit long.

Those who don't know me, probably shouldn't trust me. Those who do DEFINITELY shouldn't trust me. :-)

Rose all the way (4.50 / 2) (#34)
by lordsutch on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 02:40:05 PM EST

Probably the #1 mistake of my life was my deciding to leave Rose-Hulman after my freshman year. But I was 18 with my head completely up my ass and something of a chip on my shoulder, and thus I did. (Then again, if I hadn't left Rose-Hulman, I probably wouldn't be working on a Ph.D. in Political Science. But if I hadn't gone for a while, I probably wouldn't be a Linux geek and wouldn't be a particularly adept statistician.)

In all seriousness, Rose is probably the most supportive environment you'll find. Unlike MIT and most other universities, you're not competing for attention with grad students, and you get to do real research as an undergrad. You'll even have a reasonably well-rounded social life, even though Terre Haute, Indiana, is not exactly fun central. (Eventually you will learn that this is an advantage, because the distractions in Terre Haute are few and far between.)

Linux CDs. Schuyler Fisk can sell me long distance anytime.

I was a teenage Mudder (5.00 / 4) (#36)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 04:32:46 PM EST

Disclaimer: I flunked out of Mudd after 1 year with a GPA of about 0.76 (because they dont count your first semester towards the GPA, just the second) so I might be a little biased. But here goes:

" . . . the best nerd college experience. . . . " " I would greatly appreciate some insight as to the best places to receive high-level education and be surrounded with bright and interesting people. "

This is extremely vague. You need a better idea of what you are getting into. Go visit come campuses, sneak in and sit at the back of the lecture halls at various classes, walk around the dorms, the bookstore, library, professors offices, etc. Ask people extremely stupid questions. Take long walks on the beach and ask yourself what you want to do with your life. When you are in your dorm and you wake up at 1PM saturday after partying all night, you will not feel like doing homework the rest of the day. If you have contemplated things a bit more philosophically, perhaps you will be able to logically persuade yourself to go ahead and do it.

Every college is full of 'bright and interesting people'. After having been to a public state college for a few years, I came to the conclusion that the main difference between the students at fancy schools like Mudd and CalTech is that the people who go to the fancy schools are more often wealthy, elitist, and white, but that is about it. Yes, there are 'slackers' even at a place like Mudd who let their group members do their work for them, who cheat on tests, etc etc etc. Then there are people who are building their own audio-amplifiers, starting their own companies, etc, just like any other school.

The professors, now, that is a big difference, as another poster said. Professors at a school like Mudd probably have more freedom to choose what they teach and how they want to teach it. They also have several thousand dollars worth of equipment to let students get a hold of and use in experiments. For example at Mudd there were 8 or 10 gas chromatographs for a freshmen chemistry class or a bunch of SGI workstations for a sophomore graphics class. (its been 6 years but those are close to the facts) The professors also have more time to have individual one-on-one sessions with students to build that whole 'networking' thing. Also at Mudd as a senior (somtimes junior) you do a 'clinic project' where you do some research and/or engineering project for a 'client' (read more on the web). and the professors help set this up and work closely with the students. This happens at state schools too but it is less common.

Research: 1. Go to groups.google.com and look around for old posts talking about Mudd. They will be there. 2. Go to the harvey mudd student web pages. Each person has their own IP in their dorm room, so undoubedtly they set up all sorts of linux boxes with web servers running on them to publish stuff. They will give you a bit of insight into the sorts of people who go there and if you will 'fit in' or not.

Dorms: If you are a 'nerdy nerd' try to get in Linde or Case dorm, stay the hell away from West dorm unless you enjoy having beer enemas ,listening to death metal at full blast all day long, and burning your furniture in a pit fire when you get frustrated. Yes, they will haze you, by putting your head in the toilet and flushing it. This is called 'being whirled' if i remember correctly and living in a less odious dorm will probably keep you whirly-free (although nobody is really safe).

Keep in mind that Mudd has an extremely small number of possible majors. There is no petroluem, environmental, industrial, etc. Thus unless you know EE is 'your thing' always keep the idea that you might transfer out of Mudd to another school if your interests change. Or heck, if you know you want to go to Enormous State U for their Civil Engineering degree, ask them if they will accept you into the masters or phd program if you have an EE degree from Mudd.

Keep in mind that Mudd still costs 20,000 dollars or more unless you get some major financial grants.. Then keep in mind that if you get those grants you will be paying back 80,000$ worth of loans for the next 10 years of your life. At a school that is say 7000 a year you will have maybe 20,000 in loans to pay off. That is a huge difference. It may seem like pie in the sky now but just put yourself in the shoes of the fresh college graduate, ask yourself if you are ready to work your ass off paying back 80,000 worth of loans straight out of school. I know some people who have 'felt trapped' being in this situation because deciding something when you are 18 feels alot different from paying for it when you are 23 or 24, although you will probably not have much trouble finding a job you may have trouble liking it.

"Fancy" schools are overrated (4.00 / 2) (#39)
by cooldev on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 05:39:53 PM EST

Every college is full of 'bright and interesting people'. After having been to a public state college for a few years, I came to the conclusion that the main difference between the students at fancy schools like Mudd and CalTech is that the people who go to the fancy schools are more often wealthy, elitist, and white, but that is about it.

I concur. I went to a (good) state school, but most of the people I work with attended schools with higher reputations, such as MIT, Cornell, Berkley, Harvard, Yale, and so on.

The only major difference I've seen in the people who come from big name schools is that they're more arrogant.

At the undergradate level there doesn't seem to be much difference. In fact, schools which place a high emphasis on research can have worse than average undergraduate cirriculums, where classes taught are by inexperienced TAs instead of professors. At the graduate level this turns around and those schools become more valuable. I've also noticed the arrogance seems to wear off in people with a graduate or post-graduate education.

One final piece of advice: Nurture your nerdy side, but try to become more well-rounded too. I overly focused on CS, which got me on track to a great career, but sometimes I fancy returning to a nice midwestern state school and getting a degree in something like English.

[ Parent ]
Another "Me Too" (4.00 / 1) (#41)
by elefantstn on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 06:02:41 PM EST

I also went to a large state school, despite being accepted at schools like Chicago and Carnegie Mellon, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Not only did I get a great education (I feel as prepared and well-rounded as my Ivy League friends), but I have zero debt from my college days, which in this economy is fantastic.

I came from a very small high school, so I worried about fitting in, but that was also no problem at all. At a school with 45k+ students, there are bound to be at least a couple dozen you get along with, from the oppressive jockocracy ("baseball caps everywhere!") to the SCA geeks wearing armor outside in 90-degree heat (I'll never understand that).

So basically, I just want to second the large school recommendation. Find one with a good curriculum, meet with the professors in your field, etc.

[ Parent ]
one more thing (3.00 / 3) (#45)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 06:59:44 PM EST

At mudd alot of assignments you will get will
be on the 'brain twisting puzzle' level.
Like 'if you are going the speed of light
and you are carrying a wooden pole into a barn
and your length is contracted, what will happen
to the barn doors?'. Or Prof. Benjamin will
give all sorts of crazy math puzzles. Or they
will say 'what happens if the earth has a hollow
cylinder through its axis and you drop a steel
ball into it'.
High level
concepts will be thrown at you at freshmen and
sophomore level, but in a bigger school they
might wait till junior or senior to throw
it at you. At mudd they dont actually grade you on this
stuff, because the class average
will be like 50% so it doesnt matter if you get
everything. At a bigger school you will usually
only see crazy assignments like that at the junior
or senior level. But still, it is nice to see all
these wild ideas because that is what the people
who are on the cutting edge of industry are thinking about,
the R&D folks and the CEOs and the scientists
and engineers who are driving things are all over that
sort of 'out of the box' thinking.
I am not sure why this discrepancy exists, I think
it has something to do with self-esteem...
The crude arrogance of a fancy school is a dual
edge sword: it can work against the students
as they become somewhat haughty towards
'the lower people' and this can mess them up
emotionally and career wise. However the arrogance
can also work _for_ the students because they never
think "i am just at some crappy state school,
who cares about all these big ideas". They think
'why not try to calculate what would happen
in a 10 dimensional universe? after all i am
at a fancy school'. At a state school it can
become a viscious cycle where professors are
encouraged to do grade-inflaction and have
75% = C, and where students are taught to think
they shouldnt pursue wild dreams because they
are not at a 'fancy school', and where they
are worried that ArthurAnderson or IBM wont
hire them unless they have a 3.0 GPA.
This is one aspect of Mudd that is missed at a
bigger school, where teachers may not have
time for all this creative meandering, and
where students are often more 'pragmatic'
and may complain about assignments that
do not have immediately apparent uses in industry.
This is not to say that you cannot explore
these odd and unusual ideas and questions
at a bigger school, you will just have less
opportunity to bump up against them,
discuss them with teachers, and you
will have to pursue them on your own
rather than doing them as part of class.

[ Parent ]
ok two more things: on majors (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by turmeric on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 12:07:55 AM EST

When I was at mudd they were just starting this thing where you could actually do your major at another of the claremont schools but still have your degree say you were from mudd. You have to take some major portion of your classes from mudd so it is no cakewalk, but you could still theoretically get one of the majors offered at Claremont-Mckenna, Scripps, Pitzer, Pomona, etc, and it would still say 'harvey mudd' on it. This includes 'humanities' majors i think and maybe some other majors... check it out and ask around.

Furthermore, Harvey Mudd's general engineering degree is probably so good that it would help you get into any engineering field you wanted to study somewhere else... although you better check with some people in the field you want to swith to before you go through 4/5 years of mudd and expect to go there.

[ Parent ]

hazing isn't really a problem anymore (4.00 / 1) (#54)
by Delirium on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 09:31:13 PM EST

Yes, they will haze you, by putting your head in the toilet and flushing it. This is called 'being whirled' if i remember correctly and living in a less odious dorm will probably keep you whirly-free (although nobody is really safe).
Due to recent California laws and court decisions that ban hazing (and more importantly, hold schools liable for hazing that occurs), this can easily be avoided if you're so inclined. To avoid being sued, HMC requires all dorms to collect a "no-prank" list of freshmen at the beginning of the year, and no hazing or pranking of any sort is allowed of people on this list (including the "frosh prank" "tradition" where they basically steal stuff out of the freshman rooms and make them find it). So I lived in West freshman year and didn't have significant problems. Except for the shitty music that was played loudly at all hours of the day.

[ Parent ]
frosh prank (4.00 / 1) (#58)
by AnomymousCoward on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 11:00:16 PM EST

There was a frosh out here this year (he happened to live in nevada, which, if you dont know, is heavy on drinking and other generally disorderly conduct) who basically said "fuck you all, you have 24 hours to put my room back the way i had it" ... and it got done ... he got some shit on the dorm email list, but everything turned out "OK"....

Not that i realy call whirling "hazing" ... the one (just one) time it happened to me, it was more retaliation, and at least I drew blood on my way to the bathroom.

Vobbo.com: video blogs made easy: point click smile
[ Parent ]
College is not destiny (5.00 / 4) (#43)
by jrh on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 06:22:53 PM EST

Your undergraduate institution is not your destiny. I honestly think non-academic considerations should be at least as important when considering where to go for an undergrad degree. I'd (quite literally) be driven to suicide by someplace cold and isolated like Cornell; some people definitely prefer to live in the middle of a city like Berkeley or Boston as opposed to a bubble like Claremont or Stanford. And campus culture varies as much or more than curricula. Do not go someplace you will be miserable, whatever its reputation.

Whether it's a good thing to be in a large research-oriented department or not is a complicated question. Certainly some might prefer the environment of, say, Princeton, which has a small but decent EE department, to behemoths like Stanford or MIT where you sit in larger classes but have more interesting projects going on around you. As for mostly or entirely undergrad schools, I have no idea how the experience would compare.

If you're at all considering going for a PhD, the most important criterion for me would be a strong undergraduate research program, which I'd assume would be present to some extent at most good universities (with graduate programs--I don't know about those without). If not, you might be more interested in co-op programs.

If finances are a concern but you don't want to go to a state school (which isn't something you should rule out at all), at least take a look at Rice, which is much cheaper than most other private universities.

And don't take anecdotes and opinions about any given school too seriously (e.g. omigosh my friend went to MIT and she says it's like so tough). There are things to love and hate about any school. And different universities are pretty hard for anyone to compare, as most students will only attend one. (Isn't it amusing how many seem convinced that the engineering curriculum they suffered through was uniquely rigorous and difficult?)

You're not going to listen... (4.16 / 6) (#44)
by tjb on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 06:49:18 PM EST

But here's my advice:

Forget about nerd-colleges. Unless you plan to be a PhD, nobody really cares where you went to college, and I wouldn't recommend becoming a PhD unless you have a pathological fetish for a single, *very narrow* subject area. If that's your bag (and there's nothing wrong with that), then ignore me, MIT/CalTech/HMC/etc are where you want to go.

Otherwise, the difference in education level between an undergrad engineering degree from MIT and one from Penn State is nearly meaningless. That's not to MIT isn't susbstantially better, but the difference is unlikely to be of any use.

The thing with engineering is, once you cover the basics (~junior year, maybe sophomore at MIT), everything else is only applicable in a narrow set of circumstances. In otherwords, learning OS fundamentals in depth is a Very Good Thing (tm) for any CS or CompE guy, but covering various advanced concepts down that road will only be of any help if you want to make a career writing Operating Systems. At any decent college, the fundamentals will be covered to about the same depth, and any classes after those are covered tend to be pretty specific. So an State college grad might have fundmentals plus OS/AI/DiscreteMath, while the MIT guy will have fundies + OS/AI/Databases/ComputerGraphics/AI2/CompilerTheory.

Did the MIT guy get a better education? Yup. Does it make a difference in any practical context? Not likely. The chances of one person pulling all those divergent fields together for a single project of any sort are nil. If you plan on being a professional developer of any sort, you'll probably have to learn a whole new path that they didn't even offer a course for, so now we're back to only the fundamentals being useful.

So my advice (if you son't want to go the PhD route): Go to a good college, but a) keep the cost low and b) Avoid the heavy workloads. College is the last time in your life when you can drink copious amounts of alcohol 5 days a week, meet chicks all the time, smoke pot, sleep till noon, bullshit all night, and generally have a great time with no responsibilities.

Make sure you go somewhere you can enjoy it all.


Ask the schools (5.00 / 3) (#49)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 09:04:55 PM EST

Don't ask us, ask the schools! Go visit them, more than once if you have to. There's no substitute for a campus visit where you can speak with students and professors. If you can realistically say that you have your choice of top-notch schools like these, they will be fighting over you and will be more than happy to accommodate any questions you have.

By "nerd college experience," I hope you don't mean playing Tetris on buildings and putting a car on top of the dome. It's amusing, but it shouldn't influence your college choice too much.

I guess the bottom line is, nobody here knows what you want out of college, you have to be more specific. Without question, the colleges you've named will all give you a first class education, and you will be surrounded by some of the brightest people in the country.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.

Purdue University Is Your Best Opportunity (2.50 / 4) (#53)
by AIndividual on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 09:26:42 PM EST

I'm shocked you didn't mention Purdue in your list of colleges. Here is US News & World Report's rankings for computer engineering schools with a PhD program, and here is their report for electrical engineering schools with a PhD program.

You'll notice that Purdue is ranked 12th and 8th Nationwide for those programs. I'm a Computer Science student at Purdue, and although US News doesn't have rankings for that, Purdue is ranked very high in CS also. It is a great, tough school. All of the large tech firms visit Purdue several times a year for tech job fairs. We have research parks where you can intern and work during the summers. My advisor said Purdue has more corporations visit the campus than any other school nationwide. (I don't know where he got that stat by the way....but we get a LOT)

Overall, Purdue is a great school for your education and job prospects. Come to Indiana!

US News CS Rankings (3.00 / 1) (#61)
by prosthezis on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 12:40:18 AM EST

Actually in 1999 US News did release rankings of graduate CS programs. Purdue is listed at 17, but I don't put much stock in the US News rankings. On the other hand Purdue's CS department has changed (for the better, I think) in the last couple of years. I also found this little article about research impact which mentions Purdue.

Anyway, if I had to go back and re-think my choice of colleges, I promise I'd still be here in West Lafayette. (And I do have experience with other schools.) :)

...if you write one more diary entry complaining that you're not cool enough to be invited into the other geeks' role-playing sessions, I'll fucking kill you! - Tatarigami
[ Parent ]

Obligatory UT-Austin post. (4.00 / 1) (#63)
by rebelcool on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 12:48:20 AM EST

Provided you arent against the publics (which if you are, you should rethink things and get your priorities straight).

Don't go totally by curriculum for your desired major. Think about location, other interests and always provide for the fact you like EE now, but may learn to HATE it when you get deep into the math and other things.

UT-Austin ranks 11th on the US news ratings (doesnt mean much), right behind cornell but ahead of big-name princeton. The CS dept is worldclass, but is VERY difficult to get into these days. I got in by the skin of my teeth.

Plus its in Austin which is a damn fine and fun town, well known for its rather interesting culture.

And need I even mention the #1 ranking by playboy for college cuties? They werent kidding :)

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Large vs. Small (5.00 / 2) (#65)
by Battra on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 02:39:10 AM EST

One thing that is very important in making the connection with the right school is finding out the appropriate size. I went to huge public schools (North Texas State [shudder] for a year and then UC Berkeley). Both were over 30,000 students and were hugely impersonal bureaucratic institutions. I remember losing an entire semester's worth of credits because I had a form that needed to be signed by the dean and I could not get a fifteen-second appointment to get the form signed until five weeks after the term was over.

At the time people said that it was training for real life; learning how to get along and work around the BS was just preparing us to be cogs in a giant corporation. Well, I wasn't interested in working for a giant corporation and fortunately have avoided doing so since leaving school.,p> Note that I'm not saying that big schools are bad and small schools are good. I have lots of friends who felt suffocated in smaller schools. In my own case, at 18 I could have used a smaller environment where someone knew who I was and could help show me the ropes. Finally, to reiterate what everyone else is saying, really you should take some time to explore the campuses and talk to everyone you can. You will get an idea pretty quickly what the places are like and if you think you could fit in there. Real life it long and dreary. Make sure you can go to a school where you will be challenged and will also have a good time.

30,000? For NTSU? Don't think so... (4.00 / 1) (#75)
by Torgos Pizza on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 06:21:48 PM EST

Both were over 30,000 students...

One small nitpick. North Texas State University (now known as University of North Texas) still hasn't reached an enrollment of 30,000. I'm guessing that about the time you were there the enrollment was just over 20,000. I just wanted to clarify that since your post centered around enrollment size.

I intend to live forever, or die trying.
[ Parent ]

Yep, you're right (none / 0) (#82)
by Battra on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 03:22:07 AM EST

Thanks for the correction. You are quite right, I overstated the enrollment of NTSU when I was there. Thinking back more closely, it was probably 22-23 kilostudents and Berkeley was 33-35K. In either case, both were really big schools.

I went to North Texas State to study music and the department there was great. I just found that I was incredibly frustrated by everything else outside of music. When I left, the reason I gave on my withdrawal form was 'absolute academic boredom'. Somehow, I don't think they liked that too much.

[ Parent ]

Credentials matter (5.00 / 2) (#67)
by rotenberry on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 10:49:55 AM EST

As someone who has worked for the US government (Nasa/JPL), academia (5 yr. as an asst. prof.), and in the private sector (9 yr. as a programmer) I can tell you this: credentials matter. However much you have learned, it is better to have learned it at a well-known university (or, as one of my Caltech professors used to say, a "snob school"). This is not a particularly nice part of our culture, but it is the culture we have to deal with.

Harvy Mudd used to require all undergraduates to participate in an "Engineering Clinic", part internship, part recruiting tool. You should find out if this is still the case.

The Caltech undergraduate undergraduate experience is very intense, and many persons find 4 years of it too much to handle. However, you will be surrounded by bright (and exhausted) persons.

Please do not assume a school with a good undergraduate program will also have a good graduate program (or vice versa). Indeed, many employers (including universities) prefer a person with a BA and PhD from different places since it indicates a broader background.

Finally, most people have experience with only one or two colleges. The first thing you should ask anyone who says "college A sucks and college B rules" is "Which of those colleges did you attend?".

Caltech is like no other place (2.00 / 4) (#83)
by karld on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 07:45:56 AM EST

My years at caltech were the hardest thing I have ever done. Having seen what schools like MIT and Stanford are like from spending time there (i live on the stanford campus with my girlfriend), they don't even compare.

The people at Caltech (undergrads, professors, grad students) are the smartest people I have ever met. And everyone is interested in teaching you and helping you learn.

Its also a piece of cake to get a paying research position in any field you'd like (ever want to be a sys admin for a super computer?).

Another thing to worry about is if you can handle it. I don't ususally look at those US News ranking, but I did just recently. Caltech is basically #1 in every category except graudation rate. Only something like %80 of enterring freshman graduate in 4 years. USN views that as a negative statistic. I think of it as a positive, but be sure you can handle it.

Besides the education, you'll get the piece of paper, and believe me it matters. I have been offered several jobs before even interviewing based on the fact that I graduated from Caltech. And attending the alumni events in the bay area is like a who's who of successful startups (although I haven't been in over a year..yikes).

And the best part of it all was the people. The one thing I realized about Stanford as soon as I started living here is that most people weren't like me. At Caltech, every night was a new conversation with gerniuses, and every morning was a rebirth with the feeling that I can do anything.

However, if you want any kind of action at all with the ladies, don't even think about Caltech.

However, if you are a lady, and you want action with the men, then Caltech is the place for you.

s/men/annoying prepubescent wierdos/

[ Parent ]
What do YOU want? (5.00 / 3) (#68)
by Maniac on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 11:03:30 AM EST

College is an investment - you get out what you put into it. Let's talk about money, the environment, and the effort involved.

I went to Harvey Mudd in the late 70's - it was $40,000 for four years then. A big investment for a kid with a single mom and about $5k of savings. I got through with a good scholarship [mainly freshman year] and working full time summers and part time during the year. Coming out of that, I got several good job offers and pretty good growth through my company. I consider it value well earned.

I will let others talk about what it is now. Back then, there was certainly pranks and hazing. I was on both ends of that - sometimes accidentally. I stayed in West Dorm three of four years and it was a great experience. Some of the other dorms were just too quiet, too focused on work. It was nice to take a break from Engineering Lab on Friday afternoon, get a beer and then come back to finish up.

The effort is certainly something to take into account. It was described as the "50% syndrome" - you go from being the best in your class to being an also ran. Getting a zero on a homework is a humbling experience. Also getting a 43 (out of 100) on the first engineering midterm and having the second highest score can also put it into perspective. You get a lot of practice at stretching your mind - it continues to be a very valuable experience.

If you want to cruise through life, don't go to HMC. If you want a challenge in Engineering, this is certainly a place to make that happen.

You sound like a Georgia Tech guy... (3.50 / 2) (#69)
by gte910h on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 11:47:46 AM EST

I think that you would find Georgia Tech to your liking and the liking of your checkbook. EE, CS and CompE (EE with a concentration in Processor Design) are all pretty challenging. Lots of undergraduate research opportunities, and there are big geek and non-geek aspects of campus. If you would like to talk more about looking here, or just want more information, my email adddress is [gte910h at prism.gatech.edu].

$6,175 Out of state per semsester
$1,727 In state

According to the following link, we have the 7th best EE undergrad program in the country, right after CalTech. Also, if you can keep a B average here, usually you can get back into grad school here. Look below for those figures.

Grad School Ranking....
College of Engineering
--- Industrial & Systems Engineering 1st
--- Aerospace Engineering 3rd
--- Biomedical Engineering 6th
--- Civil Engineering 6th
--- Electrical Engineering 6th
--- Mechanical Engineering 6th
--- Environmental Engineering 9th
--- Materials Engineering 11th
--- Nuclear Engineering 11th
--- Computer Engineering 12th
--- Chemical Engineering 14th
Ivan Allen College -
--- Information & Technology Management 4th
College of Sciences -
--- School of Psychology 80th
----> Industrial/Organizational Psychology 10th
Dupree College of Management 35th
--- Operations 16th
--- Quantitative Analysis 18th
--- Management Information Systems 26th

News & World Report Facts:
#2 Percentage of National Merit Scholars among public institutions in the United States

#2 Percentage of National Achievement scholars among public institutions in the United States

#5 Architecture school in the nation, Design Intelligence

#1 Industrial engineering program, U.S. News & World Report

#1 Number of bachelor's, master's, and Ph. D. degrees awarded to African Americans in engineering

#2 Number of bachelor's degrees awarded to all underrepresented minorities in engineering

#1 Largest optional co-op program

#3 Industry-sponsored research, National Science Foundation

#16 100 Best Values in Public Colleges, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine

Criteria (4.66 / 3) (#70)
by pilot on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 12:43:23 PM EST

I am in Canada, and am finishing up a 4 yr Hons CS degree. I had my choice of Canadian universities (and some top-tier US ones). Most people would have chosen differently from me. But, I'm glad with the decision I made. Why? My criteria:

Judge the area, not the university

  • Do you like the campus?
  • Do you like the campus hangouts?
  • Do you like the city and general area?

Judge the people, not the program

  • Are the people nice, or assholish (can be different from elitist)?
  • Are the professors approachable?
  • Are the professors doing research which interests you?
  • Look at the professor rankings, especially for 1st and 2nd year courses
  • Are your friends like the people there?
  • Would you be happy to become like the people there?

If you enjoy your university experience, you will do well. If you don't, you probably won't. Period.

Of course, the program and university matters. But so should some of the above (atleast for me :-) IMO, its not just the program and university, but the overall university experience which you are trying to decide on.

Too nerdy. (4.00 / 1) (#71)
by nutate on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 01:00:50 PM EST

Back in 1996 or so when I was looking at colleges, I found MIT too nerdy. As in people with the whole taped glasses and pocket protectors shtick going on. So in the end I went to Columbia after applying to only there and RIT. I had a great time there, I'm not actually done due to my own mental illness. (making you probably discount this comment entirely)...

But, it is in new york city, housing is guaranteed, and you can get a fair amount of scholarship, based on need only.

The engineering school is rather highly ranked, but small. I went for Materials Science and Engineering, and sadly, wasn't too good at it... :)

Oh well, good luck.

Picking a Uni/College (5.00 / 2) (#72)
by JonesBoy on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 01:36:42 PM EST

Take a look at the research. Whatever is being researced will be the topics the professors know the best, and will be able to teach the best. If they are not working on things that sound interesting to you, move on.

Ask the students if it is hard, and how much they get to party. I don't mean the programmed tour drones either. Go to a dorm and ask, or give yourself a private tour on a weeknight. The more time partying, the less academic the program is. The last thing you want to do, if you are serious about you education, is graduate from a mickey mouse school. Some of the larger, big name schools are like this. They take your money and hand you your grade so they look better in the rankings. You, on the other hand, get a lousy education. It should be hard. Thats how you know you are learning.

The same goes for grades. I know of some schools that don't give D's as an unwritten policy. This is an obvious grade inflation for the better rankings. The same goes for schools that hand out A's like m&m's. Not a good sign.

If you can, take a look at the higher level classes, and how the prof is teaching. If (s)he is holding a book, that is bad. If they are holding notes, that is not good. Notes on the desk are OK. If they are teaching (coherently, of course) with an unopened book and rarely used notes, then they know their stuff. They will be a good professor. (This is my experience. Your mileage may vary) You should not be paying 25k+ for someone to read you a book, or even canned notes. Remember that you are paying for a good teacher with good knowledge. If the prof is following notes and keeping to the syllabus exactly, they are reading aloud, not reacting to the class. A good teacher interacts with the class, and adresses the needs of their students, not the other way around. Open loop teaching isn't teaching, and it surely isn't worth a penny of your hard-loaned\granted money!

I wouldn't worry about the school not having a PhD program this early in the game. Chances are you may move around, or work in industry for a while before going that far. Espically since you still seem open to new ideas. My personal advice is to pick a small school that works you like a horse, and participate in a work program for a semester in at least your junior year.

Good luck!
Speeding never killed anyone. Stopping did.
Arizona (for men) (3.00 / 3) (#73)
by useful on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 03:10:55 PM EST

Ok I may be biased because I go here but the University of Arizona along with ASU is probably the best school for a guy, geek or not. I'm just going to rattle off examples why I like it here.

1. Cheap, I'm paying around 10,000 a year to live on campus food+books+tution+housing.
2. Sunny, we have good weather during the school year, you never go 3+ days without seeing blue sky in arizona.
3. Girls Girls Girls, it seems the school is 60-65% women, they are HOT too, besides the ability to wear skimpy clothes in AZ, 3/4ths of them are people that you could date. And playboy ranked our girls #1 and I'd believe it.
4. Jobs, we've got intel, ratheon & motorolla and they all offer jobs to students.
5. High ranking in many degree fields, PhD offerings.
6. Did I mention how many good looking women theyre are here? One of my friends got shot down by one because he didnt build his computer.
7. Weve got a 45 mb/sec connect
8. Wired classrooms, kinda cool when the teacher teaches class from his website & laptop.

Things I don't like:
1. I'd imagine like any campus the only good thing that everyone can do is drugs and booze. Sure theres Diamondbacks, icecats, skiing, lakes, mexico, movies, hiking, biking. But you need a car for most of them. Some pluses to this is that beer == more sexual experiences.
2. UofA has a dorm problem for anyone above freshmen, although theres a lot of off campus housing aviable. ( think geek compound )

I'm just rambling, please ignore any of my bad grammer/spelling errors.

the UofA (none / 0) (#87)
by Maserati on Fri Feb 15, 2002 at 12:21:01 AM EST

I was at UA. You will definitely want a car, but Tucson is a terrific place to drive. It is a good school, you'll get some crappy teeatment as a freshman - but that's normal.

And take Anthro classes, thats where the women were in 1987.


For the wise a hint, for the fool a stick.
[ Parent ]

MIT... Awww yeah! (3.75 / 4) (#74)
by Rocky on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 05:13:28 PM EST

My alma mater.

I haven't noticed below the BIG thing that MIT teaches you:

How to learn.

Never mind the damn material. The main thing you get from an MIT education is how to rapidly acquire, understand, and utilize technical information. After five years there, I was able to come into the work force and adapt to new stuff coming at me quicker than people from other schools.

It's like programming. It's not what languages you know that's important, it whether or not you know how to program.

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
Agreed (none / 0) (#84)
by niralth on Tue Feb 12, 2002 at 02:43:21 PM EST

MIT teaches you to learn, period. I got a BS in Mechanical Engineering from there, then two years later turned around and became a programmer because I could teach myself things _quickly_.

You could do a lot worse than MIT, trust me.

As for the money, the financial aid is all need based. I got plenty to put myself through college with only summer jobs to suppliment my income.

[ Parent ]
Does undergrad matter that much? (3.66 / 3) (#76)
by pridkett on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 07:02:44 PM EST

Here is an interesting question, does where you got your undergraduate degree matter that much if you're going on for a Ph.D.? It probably matters some when it comes to admissions, but not as much as most people think. It's a lot more likely to weigh on your GRE scores (basically another SAT) and what you've done.

That being said, I've known since about 10th grade that I wanted to go on for a Ph.D. My strategy was just to pick someplace that would offer a good education for my money that was also small. And here's why; small schools make it easier to make connections and that's what the world is about.

I'm on a personal level with the deans and president of my University. I've received a wealth of opportunities beacuse of this, things that would be harder to get at larger schools. I had the opportunity to travel to postwar Bosnia and inwar Kosovo for a school project. I've worked for a couple of larger name internet .coms (and profited from the IPOs) because I knew the professors who ran them. State schools may have staties (read: brainless girls looking for the hookup) but...but...well, yeah, my school all the girls are psycho.

I could go out and push my school, but I think more important things are what YOU want to do. I happen to like research so for me going to school in Chicago was great. With two national laboratories within 50 miles of here, the research is pleantiful.
Read this story.

UC Berkeley (3.66 / 3) (#77)
by wildgift on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 07:43:49 PM EST

I'm surprised there aren't Cal boosters here. I found the university to be extremely bureaucratic and all that, but the overall environment was great. The competition is pretty intense, but so is the partying environment, and the intellectual scene is pretty strong too. The city is fantastic, especially if you're at all intellectual; great city library, interesting architecture, arty films, SF is across the bay, ongoing art and music programs, delicious food, a weird street culture, etc.

I keep running into Cal grads, and, maybe it's my biased perception, but they tend to be pretty independent people with an inordinate amount of confidence that things will go their way. A good number take "the road less travelled", and it seems to work for them.

It makes sense, in a sick sort of way, I guess. You take all the top students, the superstars of their high schools, and treat them like shit. Put them into a high-risk social environment, with poverty, crime, crazy politics, drugs, severe alienation, and intense competition. It's like "life as a weeder course", and the people left over are these intense, creative, nutty folks.

This probably turns most people off, but I'm sure a few people find it appealing.

How to choose; plugless advice (4.00 / 2) (#78)
by bowline on Mon Feb 11, 2002 at 08:28:38 PM EST

Think about the 'Oxford effect'. Oxford (or <insert name of fancy school here>) only accepts the best students, so it follows that their graduates are the best. Keep that in mind; the college won't define you nearly as much as you will yourself. It is more important that you feel comfortable with the people and the atmosphere than simply going to a hot name.

As one well versed in life as a CE & EE student, allow me to suggest that you consider some of these metrics of a school:

-Do you get along with the people at the school (esp. those in your major)? Do they seem like a fun group? Note that this is often very different from asking if the students are like you! Summon up your courage and talk to random people, try to make friends with them. If you feel really ambitious, get some e-mail addresses or phone numbers; send them some questions to help you narrow down your choices.

-For goodness sakes, look at the labs! Are the labs well stocked? Does the equipment work (and was it made after the Great War, calibrated since you were born)? What do you have to do to get access to a lab? At my school, many labs are pitiful, and you pretty much have access only during your scheduled class times. Find out if you can get free access to O-scopes, power supplies, etc., if that sort of thing interests you. I sure wish my school had open labs --Infastructure can be very important.

-Talk to some professors if you can. Are they friendly? Can they describe what they do in a way that makes sense to you? Keep in mind that big research universities may have brilliant professors who nevertheless can't teach or even answer seemingly simple questions. Are you happy struggling through EE material on your own, and attending classes that may not leave any impression upon the human mind? If not, go to a school that has really good Teacher Assistants. ;)

-Consider sneaking into a lecture. Does anyone ask questions? Can the professor answer them? Do the students seem interested? To some extent, one lecture isn't enough to measure a school with. Listen to the student banter before and after (during?) lectures, talk to a student about the lecture.

-If going outside sounds like something you might do, wander the campus, go downtown, etc. Does it seem like a fun place? Can you get around easily? Do you feel safe/secure? Will you starve before you can walk or bike to an affordable grocery store?

Outside of that, I suggest that you consider visiting a school that you are not very interested in. Perhaps a school that isn't so fancy. I noticed at another state school (one that is certainly considered the lesser against mine) that the both students and the administration were much more friendly. They didn't have a big name, but the students seem to stick together more, are less snobby, are more diverse, and have fewer complaints than those at my school. Of course, they don't have the big name to help find a job. They get jobs anyway.

So basically, visit the schools you are interested in, and maybe a few that you aren't really interested in. Test them mercilessly. Have fun while visiting them (or try to). At the very least this will give you some material to put in application essays. How you spent the four years will matter in the end a lot more than the piece of paper.

Here's a couple of college (and life's) secrets (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by strickje on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 12:30:58 AM EST

1) College (and life) are exactly what you make of them. You can go to a great school and get nothing out of it, just like you can go to PoDunk U. and get an incredible education.
2) Look carefully at the surrounding. Like the big city? Then don't go to school in a rural area.
3) I knew from age 13 on what I wanted to study and what I wanted to do thereafter. Yes, I'm doing it. That said, everybody I knew (some of which ended up at the schools listed in the poll, and others we could all name) ended up doing something different than what they expected. If you spend 4 years someplace for your undergrad, you'll probably be sick of it and be ready to go someplace else for your grad work. And, perhaps by that point life's experiences will take you into some other technology for those upper level experiences?
4) Human networking is key. Having a nice "snob school" title on the resume is nice, but actually connecting with people in the industries or companies you want to be involved with is what counts at the end of the day. A name school may give you that, but there may be better choices too.
5) There are lots of unknown jewels out there, especially for your undergrad experience. If possible, look at the career paths of people in the roles and positions you want. You may find they went about it in very different ways than you expect. Many successful people have gone places other than the well-known name schools, and done very well. Remember point #1 - it is really what you make of it. Sure, there are lots of MIT (or Berkeley, or ??) grad who are successful and well known. There are probably some that are living on the streets right now too.
6) Look for the most rewarding experience you can. You aren't really going to school to learn about computers; you only think you are. In fact, you are going to train yourself to think. This means taking a good assortment of classes, studying overseas, doing extra research, etc. Go to a place that won't simply fill your brain with knowledge (this can happen *anyplace*) but rather a place that will teach you how to "self-serve" in your brain filling.

Here's a sideways thought... (5.00 / 1) (#86)
by MiddleFunger on Wed Feb 13, 2002 at 11:08:12 PM EST

Advice, hmmmm..... First, go to the schools. Other people have said it, and it cannot be reiterated enough. If you don't spend time at them, you won't really know what it is like there. If you can, spend time in the dorms beforehand (my school does this during summers for upcoming seniors, though that might be too late for you). If not, go onto campus, and attend classes. Professors don't really care. In fact, if they ask, tell them what you are doing and why. They'll have more respect for you and probably be relieved that they have one fewer test/paper/lab to grade. A corollary of this is to talk to the students outside of the classroom. Find out what there is to do on and near campus. If all you want is to study, make sure that the atmosphere is there for it (note: don't attend UW Madison if that's the case). If you won't to have more of a social life, then, see what's around and if that social life will fit you (i.e., lots of drinking in small/large groups, LAN parties, bars, orgies, the drug scene, some combination of them all).
Second, find a place that will give you real world experience. I'm not just talking about jobs on campus or internships. Find a place where you can interact with all kinds of people. See if it is easy to study abroad (highly recommended by me and everyone I know). Remember, any decision that you make now is not final. You can always transfer somewhere else.

Much luck from the K5 forums,
Every day is a good day, when...
-Neil Swaab
(why did I switch that from HTML to plain text?) (none / 0) (#90)
by irksome on Thu Mar 07, 2002 at 11:31:45 PM EST


I think I am, therefore I'm not.
Colleges... (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by kismet on Wed Jul 31, 2002 at 03:47:33 AM EST

I can tell you a couple of things about some of the schools you're interested in... Cooper Union while free has a long application process... and they're not too good about sending you the application within a reasonable amount of time. (I know, I applied there).

MIT is situated in a great town, Boston - one of my all time favorite cities. However, MIT, overall, doesn't have a distinct atmosphere to it because of its average size (freshman classes are >1000). I've visited many times because I have many friends who attend the place and love it immensely. Also, like you said, MIT is expensive. My friends pay at least $5000 more than I do for school.

A lot of people from my high school went to Stanford and Cornell. Many of them like it a lot, but again, Stanford and Cornell are large campuses with large class sizes. Also, a lot of my friends refer to Cornell as being situated in the middle of nowhere.

I can't tell you much about Harvey-Mudd or Rose-Hulman... other than they're small schools...

And lastly, Caltech... It's a pain in the butt. I'm currently an undergraduate here, and I can't tell you how many nights I haven't slept or have slept under 4 hours. Being here is humbling, because everyone is as smart as you are, if not smarter. (With the really smart students getting close to full, if not full, scholarships.) If you want to do research, Caltech is definitely one of the places to go. However, this IS a reasearch-focused institute, so lecturing is NOT necessarily some professors' forté. And there are a few classes where TAs have a hand in teaching the course. Though the majority of the time, they're trying to provide hints for homework and teach you techniques.

All the EE majors I know, despite the hard courseload really enjoy being EE majors. And many non-EE students enroll in some of the EE lab classes because they're really interesting (albeit extremely difficult, with the majority of the students taking "E's" so they have more time to finish their projects). However, if you really hate math or physics, you probably don't want to come here. The core curriculum involves 5 terms each of physics (all the way up to quantum) and math, among other required courses. There's a lot of requirements to fulfill and only about 70-80% graduate in four years... Some people never graduate, and a lot of people realize they don't like science or engineering as much as they thought they did. Caltech isn't all work and no play, but it is mostly work. Despite it all, there are many unique traditions and supportive people that make Caltech special.

Before you make a decision, I recommend that you look at the requirements for graduation and the difficulty of the classes for each school.

Sleep is for the weak.

Best Nerd College Experience | 91 comments (79 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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