Engineering Degree - MIT vs UW Madison

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Engineering Degree - MIT vs UW Madison

Postby ram » Wed Sep 30, 2009 2:13 am

My daughter is a high school senior who wants to become an engineer, not yet sure about the exact branch. She has an ACT score of 35, excellent SAT scores (better than the average MIT student). She is one of the 5 members of her high school team that won the National ocean sciences bowl beating 49 other state teams earlier this year. Has been the state champion for the last 3 yrs. Also state champion/national participant for the national science bowl and in the top 1% of her class throughout. Also a semifinalist for the national merit scholarship and an AP scholar.
We believe she has a good chance of being accepted at MIT. College cost at MIT will be 62.5 K x 4 yrs = 250K. At University of Wisconsin , Madison also a well rated college, the instate cost will be 15x4 = 60K. At my income level I do not anticipate getting any need based aid. (MIT does not pay merit scholarships). I can afford the MIT education. The question is - Is it worth it?
She will almost certainly get additional education. Perhaps a masters and an MBA or a PhD. How much will the undergraduate degree matter at that stage. My high schoolmate who is a Phd from MIT says that if a person wants to become an engineer and has an option of doing it at MIT, then he should not let it go. I am not in the engineering field and would like all opinions, especially from engineers, people who recruit engineers, MIT alumni/ UW Madison / Ivy school alumni. Thanks.
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Re: Engineering Degree - MIT vs UW Madison

Postby sommerfeld » Wed Sep 30, 2009 2:45 am

ram wrote:College cost at MIT will be 62.5 K x 4 yrs = 250K.

ouch. when I was there 84-88 it was .. much less.

One thing that would give me pause is any significant uncertainty about what sort of engineer she wants to be.

MIT has more graduate students than undergrads, and there are plenty of grad students there who did their undergrad work at state schools.

On the other hand, MIT provides greater opportunities than most schools for undergraduates to get involved in research (and get paid while doing that).
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Postby DaleMaley » Wed Sep 30, 2009 3:35 am

Wow, $250K for an engineering degree!

When I got my degree 31 years ago at U of Illinois, My cost was $10K and starting pay was $18K ....for a 1.80 to 1 ratio of starting pay to college cost.

My son graduated about 2 years ago...electrical engineering degree from state school.....$50K college cost and $50K starting salary gives 1:1 ratio.

In the Midwest, we don't see many MIT grads.......I have never met one.....but I really don't see how this degree ever pays off. I would vote for the state school degree.......not the MIT degree.

Also don't forget that very few people finish in 4.0 years.......many take 5 years. My son did it in 4.5 years. That's a big cost factor at a place like MIT.
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Postby J-e-L-L-o » Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:25 am

I would say...depends on what engineering major she wants to do.

Money is obviously an issue. If it was not, then you would not have posted and your child most likely would go to MIT. Well MIT is a phenomenal school, and there are others as well when it comes to majors. Look up the US News college undergrad ratings for engineering degrees.

There are engineering schools, and there is MIT. Sure engineers get great jobs in different industries, but MIT students get exposed to cutting edge research and experiments early during their school career. There is a big difference in taking a class from a professor than taking a class taught by a Nobel laureate.

But the main thing is atmosphere. Your child seems very gifted. Someone of that nature NEEDS to be surrounded by peers that will stimulate and have a lot of the same attributes.

There are a lot of merit scholarships out there, she has to apply herself to get them. send them to www.fastweb.com... The motto is go to the best school for the anticipated major and has a great depth of program to be great in different areas. (In case one changes their mind... it happens) And I think your idea of financial aid might be a lil one sided...here is a page from MIT that might help you sleep at night

http://web.mit.edu/sfs/financial_aid/fi ... stats.html

good luck

*edit
by the way, make sure they apply to most of the great engineering campuses- Stanford, Cal Tech, Berkeley, John Hopkins (excellent medical engineering opportunities) Georgia Tech, Universtiy of Illinois..and handful of others.
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Postby kenbrumy » Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:47 am

In a past life I recruited BS ChE and Mech engineers at MIT for operating engineering positions with a non-US multi-national chemical (among other things) company. I'll be real blunt and say they got a very slightly higher starting offer by being from MIT but they disappeared into the salary curves after that. Within 3 years, the MIT premium disappeared. I saw no higher performance levels for people from MIT over the state schoolers.

I heard lots of stories from graduates about wonderful undergrad research opportunities and the ability to get involved in research. Many were also buried in more student debt than I could imagine.

If she is planning to get an advanced degree, MIT or another "name" university would be a better place to get a masters or PhD. Then they'd pay her to go there.

Two of my kids went through Texas A&M's college of engineering. They both got good jobs out of school. A year at TAMU currently runs around $15K including books and personal expenses. Scholarships are available and my kids got some academic based ones.

For a BS I can't see how the expense is justified. If she went to the state school and you GAVE her the nominal $200k difference, it's hard to imagine she wouldn't be better off long term.

There are also a lot a changes a kid goes through between being a senior in high school and graduating with a BS in engineering. She may want to be a top researcher with a prestige PhD now but she may completely switch majors before graduating.
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Re: Engineering Degree - MIT vs UW Madison

Postby SarahShaw » Wed Sep 30, 2009 5:03 am

Send her to someplace like MIT or Cal Tech if it's in any way feasible. This isn't the place to pinch pennies. Of course Sand Box University will be cheaper, and you'll be able to find people who will rationalize that their education from there was "just as good" as one from MIT. If you send her to MIT you won't have to rationalize your decision.
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Postby nisiprius » Wed Sep 30, 2009 5:26 am

Oddly enough, I did undergraduate work at MIT and graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, but neither was in engineering. My experience is of course decades out of date.

I think they're both great schools.

The situation at the University of Wisconsin is, I think, typical of the great state universities. There is nothing you can't learn or do there, but you have to be motivated to go get it. Passive students who expect to be shepherded through their college education can get lost. I coached my daughter, who went to a state school, that she had to take charge from day one. I suggested that she have a goal of trying to set foot inside every building on campus before graduating, that she USE every elective to explore weird and interesting stuff outside her major, that she had to start being master of her educational fate and captain of her academic soul from the word go. I'm please to say she took it to heart and did all sorts of interesting things like getting a part-time job in the "adaptive computer lab" (gadgets and software to help people with visual or other restrictions use computers) where she got a lot of IT experience, stuff like that.

The scope of a place like Wisconsin is unbelievable. MIT is not a small school, but UW is so much bigger and there is so much stuff going on. That may or may not represent an opportunity. Probably the density of world-class engineering was lower, but there were plenty of UW engineering people were doing all sorts of things that were impressive and exciting to me. For example, their engineering department happened to have a special interest in FORTRAN, sat on the FORTRAN committee, had written their own FORTRAN compiler, and had a kind of expertise in FORTRAN and numerical computation that did not exist at MIT at that time. (MIT went in for AI and LISP).

When you say "biology" at Wisconsin, for example, you are talking about something like forty different departments in, I dunno, four or five different schools.

MIT is a "better" school but I wouldn't put too much weight on that unless the school "clicks" with her personally.

BTW Wisconsin has a first-rate library and MIT has an unbelievably bad library, at least in relation to the quality and reputation of the school itself. I'm probably showing my age by even worrying about, you know, those things with the paper pages in them.

Wisconsin has a mild reputation as a party school. My son went to a similar university majored in engineering with minors in skiing and partying and we, um, had to pay tuition for five years instead of the four we'd budgeted.

I liked Madison better than Cambridge. Very interesting dynamics as it is 1/3 college town, 1/3 State Capital, and 1/3 down-to-earth working town. Biology grad students would go out to the Oscar Meyer meat packing plant to get the cow eyeballs for the classes to dissect and so forth.

I think the comment about a school "edge" only lasting a few years is true. I also think that if you go on for graduate education the graduate school is more important than the undergraduate school, and I believe that graduate schools try to avoid "incestuous" relationship and it's tough for an undergrad at X to get into the graduate program at X.

If she likes MIT go for it, but the unofficial motto of MIT is "IHTFP"* and she might want to think about that.

*"IHTFP" is even on some of the MIT class rings.
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Re: Engineering Degree - MIT vs UW Madison

Postby Valuethinker » Wed Sep 30, 2009 5:33 am

SarahShaw wrote:Send her to someplace like MIT or Cal Tech if it's in any way feasible. This isn't the place to pinch pennies. Of course Sand Box University will be cheaper, and you'll be able to find people who will rationalize that their education from there was "just as good" as one from MIT. If you send her to MIT you won't have to rationalize your decision.


Sarah

UWO is anything but 'sand box university'. It is one of the top universities in the US.

The problem with MIT is the 250k debt.

It will make it almost impossible for OP's daughter to pursue Phd studies (a professor's salary with 250k debt would be insupportable-- profs make maybe 60k-70k, rising to 120k say, that will not amortise that kind of debt).

She'll wind up going into investment banking or law or a top management consultancy like McKinsey to pay the bills.

It would be in my judgement, better to go to graduate engineering at MIT, than to be an undergraduate engineer there UNLESS:

- significant scholarship money from MIT
- desire to work in investment banking or top flight management consulting where starting salaries are easily $60k a year and $200k a year 3-5 years out is the norm
- significant parental financial wealth

Better to go to UWO (with a scholarship?) and graduate after 4 years with minimal debt. THEN do a top Phd.

I say that with a heavy heart. MIT is an exciting place. But it's not $250k in debt exciting.

Another risk for MIT engineers (undergrad) is that it is seen as a 'nerd school' and so when you go out for non engineering job interviews, you are competing against slicker, smoother undergrads from Princeton, Harvard and Wharton (Penn) that may not know as much, but are better 'faces' for the banks and the consulting firms (or are perceived as such, and have more alums in these places).

In summary, if you want a science career, you are better off having a 'cheap' undergrad.

I believe if you are an undergrad at UWO, you can do summer school at MIT? Well worth doing (if the right project).
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Postby scubadiver » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:19 am

Wisconsin would be my choice. On price it's a no brainer. On quality, there is a perception that MIT will provide an better undergraduate education. I challenge someone on this board to provide evidence indicating that students who choose MIT (or Harvard or Yale) over a top US state school are actually better off in 10 or 15 years. On that note, studies have indicated that students who complete their undergraduate degree with debt are less likely to pursue post-graduate education than their debt-free peers. The reasons for this are obvious, although I'm sure it is correlated with family demographics.

Both are great schools, but regardless of which school your daughter chooses, it will be up to her to take advantage of the opportunities they provide.

IMHO, if you want to fork out big $$, save it for grad school....

EDIT: The "challenge" I issued above could be perceived as fight'in words by some. I do not want to hijack the OP's thread. However, Wisconsin has a very clear cost advantage over MIT. Does MIT provide any quantifiable quality advantage over Wisconsin? If so, the OP's choice becomes more difficult. If not, well, Go Badgers!
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Postby MrMatt2532 » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:41 am

You say she will almost certainly get more education. If she stays in engineering, then she will almost certainly get paid to go to graduate school. That is the time to go to a school like MIT in my opinion.

By the way, I'd put big ten schools a class above the average state school. You could call me biased. It is the only group of universities in which all of its members are members of the Association of American Universities (AAU). University of Chicago is also associated with the big ten schools academically. If she is looking for a more well-rounded experience for her undergraduate experience, then a big ten school is the place to go.

Your daughter sounds like a top student. Even though madison is a big school, there will still be ample opportunity for her to stand out and excel.
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Postby chipper » Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:47 am

I did my undergrad at an excellent state university and my grad at MIT. I would say that MIT takes better care of their undergrad students than a typical large state university does. The availability of summer co-op program, undergrad research, small class size, etc are advantages of studying at MIT.

MIT is not just for science/engineering careers. Even if she likes to pursue a career like investment banking or consulting, MIT grads are heavily recruited for their analytical/quant skills. She would not be in disadvantage compared to Harvard/Yale grads in job interviews.

Also, keep in mind that financial aids are available (grants, scholarships, loans, work-study). Most students do not pay the full sticker price.
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Re: Engineering Degree - MIT vs UW Madison

Postby RJB » Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:35 am

ram wrote:I can afford the MIT education.


I think you answered your own question.
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Postby livesoft » Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:47 am

My daughter is a HS senior. We are going through the same kind of decisions. My advice is to apply to schools and then worry about the decision after seeing where one gets accepted. I am encouraging my daughter to apply to wherever she thinks she might want to go: Stanford, MIT, Rice, CMU, etc.

If she gets accepted, then we start thinking about what happens after that.

Also be sure to have your daughter read this from a (former?) MIT prof: http://philip.greenspun.com/careers/women-in-science
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Postby Angeline » Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:58 am

We faced the same dilemma when the eldest of our 3 applied to college. He applied to just 2 colleges. One was MIT and the other was University of Michigan, just 30 miles down the road, and we were thankful that the decision was taken out of our hands when he didn't receive an acceptance from MIT. If he had been accepted, there's no doubt in my mind that we would have used all our savings to pay for it. He's now doing a PhD at an Ivy League, all expenses paid by the college plus a stipend.

By the way, one of the negatives that people always raise about state schools such as U-M is the huge classes, but since he entered with enough AP credits to have Junior status by December of his Freshman year, he was able to skip almost all required classes, and was in classes of as few as 20 students. I think the education he received there was second to none.

My advice is that your daughter should certainly apply to MIT, and you face the question of what to do once she's accepted. Maybe you'll be lucky and she won't get in!

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some additional insights

Postby greenspam » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:10 am

fully agree with most posts that the grad education is more important than undergrad, and that grads from state schools can do just as well in careers as mit or ivy league grads...

would like to add some more insight concerning the specific type of engineering she would like to pursue. in biomedical engineering, for example, MIT is ranked #5 after hopkins, georgia tech, ucsd, and duke.
so, the rankings in engineering are definitely a function of the specialty.

just a bit more also on the 'nerdy' atmosphere at MIT, it was certainly there when i lived in boston, right across the street from MIT frat houses. we routinely crashed their parties and 'stole their dates' (animal house ref), who, by the way, the nerds had to 'bus in' from some of the all-girl schools surrounding boston. it was a riot. but i digress...
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Postby mas » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:15 am

J-e-L-L-o wrote:There is a big difference in taking a class from a professor than taking a class taught by a Nobel laureate.

My experience (not at MIT) is that the professors that are better at research and are more well known, are worse at actually teaching.
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Postby livesoft » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:16 am

There is a big difference in taking a class from a professor than taking a class taught by a Nobel laureate.

The above caught me eye. The difference is not always good, but I suspect the intent was to suggest that it is good. I don't think getting a Nobel prize tells one anything about what kind of teacher and mentor one might be.

Full disclosure: My name can be found several times at this site: nobelprize.org I am not a Nobel laureate.
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Postby GeekedOut » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:26 am

One thing to keep in mind, MIT is competitive as all get out. You're not competing with the kid next door for that A anymore, or even that rich kid down the block that can afford your private school. You are now competing with the best and the brightest from around the world. Does your daughter really want that level of competition?

Last I looked, the average incoming GPA for my major at my University was 4.03. Obviously weighted, and there may be some grade inflation, but still, do you want to be in a curved class where everyone got straight As all their life? I sure hated the stress...

UoW may not be significantly better, I've heard stories of Stanford being much easier than Berkely, UCLA, because it's less dog eat dog. It's just one thing to keep in mind in the whole college application season.

Then, if she wants to be a popular engineer, like Chemical, it most likely is impacted, further stratifying the students. I'd suggest she figure out first want kind of job she wants, and narrow the degree. Then look at the specific programs at each school.
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Re: Engineering Degree - MIT vs UW Madison

Postby ohiost90 » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:35 am

SarahShaw wrote:Send her to someplace like MIT or Cal Tech if it's in any way feasible. This isn't the place to pinch pennies. Of course Sand Box University will be cheaper, and you'll be able to find people who will rationalize that their education from there was "just as good" as one from MIT. If you send her to MIT you won't have to rationalize your decision.


You'll just have to rationalize that MIT was worth 5x the cost of UW. I agree the posters saying UW undergad, MIT (or expensive ivy league) grad school and beyond.
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Postby Valuethinker » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:36 am

GeekedOut wrote:One thing to keep in mind, MIT is competitive as all get out. You're not competing with the kid next door for that A anymore, or even that rich kid down the block that can afford your private school. You are now competing with the best and the brightest from around the world. Does your daughter really want that level of competition?

Last I looked, the average incoming GPA for my major at my University was 4.03. Obviously weighted, and there may be some grade inflation, but still, do you want to be in a curved class where everyone got straight As all their life? I sure hated the stress...

UoW may not be significantly better, I've heard stories of Stanford being much easier than Berkely, UCLA, because it's less dog eat dog. It's just one thing to keep in mind in the whole college application season.

Then, if she wants to be a popular engineer, like Chemical, it most likely is impacted, further stratifying the students. I'd suggest she figure out first want kind of job she wants, and narrow the degree. Then look at the specific programs at each school.


The stereotype which DOES NOT apply to MIT, but does to many of the other Ivys, is of rampant grade inflation

and rampant grade inflation v. state schools. State schools don't have the same need to pacify alumni.

However engineering is reputed to be different most places (or it was, 1 am 15 years out of date).
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Postby GeekedOut » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:40 am

VT, I was speaking of High School GPA being above a 4. I was only making the point that the incoming students have never known anything but exceptional success, but now everybody is of the same caliber of awesomeness, which makes it harder to excel.

For what it's worth, MIT apparently uses a 5.0 scale. So that B- you just got in Physics is now a 3.7, not a 2.7. Might help for clueless job interviewers.
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Postby verbose » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:51 am

I had a full-tuition scholarship to University of Dayton based on my high school grades, test scores (SAT 1400), honors, activities, etc. I majored in mechanical engineering. I was unable to keep up with the college work, not because of ability, but because I couldn't manage my time in the very unstructured world of college (and I finally entered the dating scene). There are no coasting classes in engineering. I finally did finish my degree in mechanical engineering at Wright State University, also in Dayton.

You have to pick an engineering major from the start, and though most freshman courses apply to multiple majors, sophomore courses don't. It wasn't until controls class, which was a senior-level course, that I realized that I would have enjoyed electrical engineering more. Also, in mechanical design, another senior-level course, I realized that my 3-D visualization abilities are too poor to actually design anything that has 3 dimensions. That's a brain difference, and most women have poorer 3-D ability than most men.

One unspoken requirement for engineering is high school shop and drafting. All the professors assumed that I had that experience. But since I went to an all-girls high school, I didn't. It put me behind in several classes and I was too shy to say anything to the professors about it.

Note that in engineering, co-op jobs aren't optional. (They are at some colleges, but they shouldn't be.) I had one co-op job, but it required me to find housing for 4-month on/off periods in Muncie, IN. My roommate and I signed a one-year lease, which we ended up breaking (we didn't think we would, but we were young and thought subletting was easy). I didn't return to Muncie because the city was such a miserable place to live. Then I was unable to find any co-op job in the Dayton area. The companies wanted to hire sophomores, but I was a junior with a GPA of less than 3.0, and it was the recession of the early 90s. Without more co-op experience, I wouldn't be able to get a job in the engineering field.

That's when I dropped out of UD. I got jobs in office temp work, a field that was only open to women back then (not explicitly, but in reality). This led me into computer programming because word processing at the time was macro programming. I would temp one semester and go to school the next (at Wright State), then finally my husband (yes, got married in there somewhere) got me a job as a junior computer programmer.

And, that's what I am. Many years later, I'm now an experienced software developer with a degree in mechanical engineering. I switched to part-time college, and by the time I graduated, I had a full-time software development job and only one semester of engineering co-op experience. I would have had to take a pay cut to actually work as an engineer.

I've also discovered that the pay scale for software developers is higher, on average, than the pay scale for engineers.

I ended up debt-free. My years at UD didn't cost much at all. My parents paid room and board, and tuition was on a scholarship. My parents helped pick up the tab at Wright State, but it was a state school with low tuition, and I only went two quarters a year. When I got a full-time job and switched to part-time school, my employer picked up most of the remaining tuition. I paid for books and my living expenses.

I hate to see people going into debt for college. You have no idea what kind of growing-up experiences your daughter will have in those years. I've typed up my experience here so you can see how a high-achieving high schooler could decide that other things (especially that man I married) are more important than working so hard on college.
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Postby sgr000 » Wed Sep 30, 2009 8:57 am

Valuethinker wrote:
GeekedOut wrote:One thing to keep in mind, MIT is competitive as all get out. You're not competing with the kid next door for that A anymore, or even that rich kid down the block that can afford your private school. You are now competing with the best and the brightest from around the world. Does your daughter really want that level of competition?
The stereotype which DOES NOT apply to MIT, but does to many of the other Ivys, is of rampant grade inflation

and rampant grade inflation v. state schools. State schools don't have the same need to pacify alumni.

However engineering is reputed to be different most places (or it was, 1 am 15 years out of date).
This made me grin... I got my PhD at MIT, taught undergrads & grads there for quite a while, and now work in a pharma where I can see MIT from my window. I've spent > 30 years in the orbit of "the 'tute", as it was once locally known.

Valuethinker is right: there is most definitely not a grade inflation problem at the Institute; lots of undergrads wish there were. GeekedOut also has it right: the competition is fierce, and it's against the best in the world, not just your home city.

For example: my first teaching job was running a physics help session for frosh taking accelerated physics (8.012, in tool-speak). These were all the smartest kids in their high school, then they came to the big leagues and said "hit me as hard as you can". Well, that's what happened: they would come to class sometimes in tears, because this was the first time in their lives they hadn't been able to do the homework at all. So I'd stand them up at the blackboard, tell them to write down everything they had, sensible or not. Then a little nudge ("conserve energy here", or "what do you think the angular momentum is there?"), and suddenly the light would go on. In fact, the light would go on blazingly bright, because they were smart kids. They'd leave feeling enormously better, actually saying thanks (which was kind of weird the first few times). It was one of the most gratifying jobs I ever had, but it made clear the incredible stress levels.

Since then, there's been some effort to control stress levels, but that was after my time. A policy of deliberately admitting more women seems to have had a salutory effect.

Amusingly, I later taught first year grad students. Same issues as frosh: each one was the smartest in their previous institution, was now playing in a bigger league, and had to get used to not being the smartest kid in the room. Same treatment: get them to write their stuff on the board, and remind them of what they already knew. Good therapy in the long run, stressful as hell in the short run. My first year of grad school I was absolutely certain that I'd suddenly become irreparably stupid. It got better, but it was a really rough ride.

Having said all that: I got my undergrad degree at a state school. The "honors programs" at state schools are actually pretty good. They're not quite like MIT, but they cost 1/5th as much and are plenty good enough to get you into places like MIT for grad school, which is the thing that really matters in some disciplines.

So, if you can afford it, maybe leave it up to your kid. By all means visit the campuses and see what they're like.
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Postby FafnerMorell » Wed Sep 30, 2009 9:32 am

As an engineer of 20 years at Texas Instruments (designing the silicon chips that go into cell phones, hard disk drives, routers, etc), I'd lean more towards UW Madison - but it depends a bit on where she sees herself in 10 years or so (and that's tough for a high schooler to envision - heck, it's tough for those of us in middle age). I went to Marquette undergrad (and Rice for a masters) & have family around WI, so I've got a soft spot for Wisconsin schools.

Most of my colleagues are from non-Ivy league universities. MIT is a very good school, but UWM, like University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, also has a very well recognized engineering program - if I was interviewing someone, I'd weight them about equally. For the interview, the key things are generally - "did you co-op/intern & what did you do there" and "what school projects did you work on that are relevant to what we do"? These days, engineers coming out of school are expected to already have a lot of practical experience (I'd argue it's a bit unfair, but that's life). The good news is a lot of universities recognize this, and strongly emphasize co-op/intern programs and both group/individual engineering projects.

Unless you're doing pure research, a Masters is often viewed as more desireable than a PhD. It's perhaps unfortunate, but PhDs are often typecast as being inflexible outside their area of expertise, whereas often engineering requires a "jack of all trades" mentality.

Now, if your goal is to be one of the top ten experts in a very specialized area (and probably doing pure research in it) - by all means, get the PhD (and probably select the school based on the advisor - you want to be learning from someone who's in that top 10 list). MIT is an excellent spot for this (although UWM also has some of the top dogs in computer architecture, Georgia Tech for DSP, Stanford & other CA schools are also extremely strong as well).

If she's interested in electrical engineering, EE Times (www.eetimes.com) is an invaluable resource. If she's interested in embedded systems (say, designing the next iPod or cell phone), Embedded Systems Design (www.embedded.com) is great - and reading through old Jack Ganssle columns there often touch on subjects like education & engineering.
http://www.embedded.com/columns/embedde ... tid=193951

As a side note - be sure to talk to her about investing/saving early, etc. I really wish I had started as soon as I started work, rather than skipping a few years of free 401K matching money <grin>.
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Postby Sheepdog » Wed Sep 30, 2009 9:46 am

This is maybe a repeat of others, but I will write this anyway.
If she wants to go beyond a bachelor's degree, a degree from MIT may mean a lot in being admitted into the best graduate programs, but that does not mean that a graduate from a top public university cannot do as well, it is just that MIT has a ring to it in some academic circles. Even a private small engineering college with high "ratings" like Rose-Hulman Instititute of Technology gets better recognition than some public colleges. Graduates from Rose-Hulman are admitted to top graduate schools like MIT every year.
If she wants to go to "work" after graduating with her bachelor's degree, she can become as successful from her state school as an MIT graduate. The aforementioned Rose-Hulman has over 95% employment at graduation every year. Purdue University's engineering school employment was around 90% at graduation last year. Graduates from Purdue's undergraduate progams are also admitted to top graduate schools.
My son, a mechanical engineering graduate of Purdue in 1993, has advanced rapidly through GE to a highly rewarded corporate position. In industry, from where you graduated is not important after you are hired. As soon as the employee starts to work, advancement is based on their accomplishments, not their undergraduate degree. What she does after she is hired will determine her success.
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Postby Wolkenspiel » Wed Sep 30, 2009 9:57 am

GeekedOut wrote:One thing to keep in mind, MIT is competitive as all get out. You're not competing with the kid next door for that A anymore, or even that rich kid down the block that can afford your private school. You are now competing with the best and the brightest from around the world. Does your daughter really want that level of competition?

Last I looked, the average incoming GPA for my major at my University was 4.03. Obviously weighted, and there may be some grade inflation, but still, do you want to be in a curved class where everyone got straight As all their life? I sure hated the stress...


I think the pressure at MIT comes from a slightly different angle. Grades are not supposed to be curved, but based on "mastery of the material" (although some of my colleagues are known to ignore this). Point is that the students are not competing against each other for the last A - in fact, in particular for the higher semesters there is a sense of comradery among the students in the face of common adversity. That's not to say MIT isn't tough, but it is student vs workload, not student vs student.

Whether spending the extra $200k makes sense financially or not is impossible to predict. If you can afford to send your daughter here, the most important thing is for her to try to understand the culture of the place and to see if it would be a good fit. One thing MIT will allow you to do is to find out how good you really are, and that may be a most valuable lesson.
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Postby stlrick » Wed Sep 30, 2009 9:57 am

A few considerations that have been touched on by others:

1. Your daughter is used to being one of the very best. If she goes to MIT, the odds are she will be average. Every single student has a high school record and test scores like your daughter. How will she feel about that? I had a friend who was at the absolute top of pure mathematics. His college instructors knew he had more pure talent than they did. He went to Princeton for a PhD and spent the first 3 years profoundly depressed when, for the first time in his life, he met people who were better than him.

2. For someone spending their career in Engineering, getting an undergraduate degree from MIT is like someone in law or academics getting their undergraduate degree from Harvard, Yale or Princeton. If she were interested in being an attorney, and you were choosing between Yale and Wisconsin, which undergraduate school would you choose? MIT vs Wisconsin is the same difference.
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Postby livesoft » Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:03 am

GeekedOut wrote:VT, I was speaking of High School GPA being above a 4. I was only making the point that the incoming students have never known anything but exceptional success, but now everybody is of the same caliber of awesomeness, which makes it harder to excel.

For what it's worth, MIT apparently uses a 5.0 scale. So that B- you just got in Physics is now a 3.7, not a 2.7. Might help for clueless job interviewers.


FWIW, the OP's daughter would probably blow away most MIT students based on what the OP stated about her grades and accomplishments. She is awesome already, probably runs with Nerd Herd and would have no trouble excelling at any university she chose to attend. She has already proven herself by being an AP scholar (do you know what that means? She still has a year of high school to complete!) and a National Merit Semi-Finalist (that's a huge feather in her cap). She is the one that would make it difficult for the other students. :)

I am writing this from the perspective of teaching and mentoring folks from high school through post-doc for almost 30 years.
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Postby FinanceGeek » Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:10 am

I think you need to analyze this as best you can on several levels:

* if you are worried about the "name" of where she attends school, the reputation behind your terminal degree tends to matter more than that of any prior degrees, this could point to a state school over MIT for undergrad if she is certain of doing graduate work.

* another poster mentioned never having met an MIT grad in the midwest. Indeed, there aren't many of us. MIT has the highest alumni concentration and hence networking value in the Northeast (e.g. Boston-New York-Pennsylvania-Maryland-Washington-Virginia corridor), second highest in Bay Area and Southern CA. The country wraps around, so there are relatively few grads in mid America and MIT has surprisingly little name recognition in many areas.

* MIT is extremely supportive towards building the ranks of women in engineering fields. The male/female ratio is pretty close to even these days, its important to disregard stereotypes of any prior generation.

* if she's going to work in industry, where she went to school won't matter 3-5 yrs after graduation in terms of career advancement. Its what she does in industry that matters.

The biggest thing that jumps out at me from your post is cost, qualifying for in-state tuition at a top state school like Madison is a huge factor, literally she can get the entire degree for the cost of one year of MIT plus presumably far less travel costs and adjustments in state. In my mind that alone makes it hard to justify MIT.

Make sure you check out http://philip.greenspun.com/ on the web, some of it is pretty dry humor but it gives you a feel for MIT from a current insider.

I suspect she'll do great no matter where she attends.
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Postby Valuethinker » Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:49 am

Sheepdog wrote:This is maybe a repeat of others, but I will write this anyway.
If she wants to go beyond a bachelor's degree, a degree from MIT may mean a lot in being admitted into the best graduate programs, but that does not mean that a graduate from a top public university cannot do as well, it is just that MIT has a ring to it in some academic circles. Even a private small engineering college with high "ratings" like Rose-Hulman Instititute of Technology gets better recognition than some public colleges. Graduates from Rose-Hulman are admitted to top graduate schools like MIT every year.
If she wants to go to "work" after graduating with her bachelor's degree, she can become as successful from her state school as an MIT graduate. The aforementioned Rose-Hulman has over 95% employment at graduation every year. Purdue University's engineering school employment was around 90% at graduation last year. Graduates from Purdue's undergraduate progams are also admitted to top graduate schools.
My son, a mechanical engineering graduate of Purdue in 1993, has advanced rapidly through GE to a highly rewarded corporate position. In industry, from where you graduated is not important after you are hired. As soon as the employee starts to work, advancement is based on their accomplishments, not their undergraduate degree. What she does after she is hired will determine her success.
Jim


Please take all of this with the right grain of salt.

In corporate life, having a degree from a place like MIT is a 'nice to have' for your first job. After that, no one will care.

But unless you go to a company where senior management also have MIT degrees, it can count against you. People think you are not going to be happy and there is reverse snobbery from people who went to state schools.

Where MIT probably flies, as an undergraduate, is if you are applying to McKinsey or Morgan Stanley out of undergrad. They like to pick their analysts from the top ranked schools in the world in *any* discipline. So Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, MIT etc. Much less so UWO.

The problem is that of those, MIT has a nerdy reputation, so probably less favoured. (it's probably better for working at Booz, say, than at some of the other consultancies).

And engineers have lower grades, generally, than other fields. Or at least they did, in my day. The reason being engineering departments grade to a bell curve, so a B- in 1985 was worth a B- in 1959. Actually worth more (the students were more diverse and so a more academically elite group had been admitted).

Whereas in most liberal arts, and by reputation the private schools more than the public. At least that is what those of us in Canadian public universities thought ;-).

My one friend who read engineering at an Ivy in the 80s (and was valedictorian) said that his college practised grade inflation-- but he was, and is, a well published academic genius.

There are analogies to going to a top-ranked law school in choosing a private undergrad college if your parents are not wealthy. You've kind of predestined yourself then for a 'big law' job, because you need a big law salary to service the debt. You may not be happy, but you will have a lot of prestige etc.

If you are going to have an academic or research career, you just don't want to be going into it with huge student debt. Because you are not going to make the money to dig your way out of that debt. Not in your career. You'll wind up in private industry because you cannot afford to stay a scholar.

If you are going on for a business career or law career, then getting into the highly ranked (and high priced) grad school is what counts-- you want to save your pennies for that. Being an Ivy undergrad helps (providing contacts, and those prestigious jobs right out of school like Morgan Stanley and McKinsey) BUT:

- the business schools have too many of the aforesaid, they want diversity in their class (like people who worked for real companies in engineering, as long as they had management responsibilities) and their actual preferred undergraduates are actually from the service academies (that mix of excellent academics and real world leadership-- especially Annapolis, West Point, USMC, Sandhurst etc.) rather than the Ivys. If you are a Harvard undergrad with 2 years at Morgan Stanley you are facing a *lot* of competition to get into B School, from people with very similar backgrounds when you apply to Harvard B School or Wharton

- the law schools seem to care most about undergraduate average and LSAT, and that means NOT going to the most academically tough school you can, but ranking highly in your class

Finally it comes down to having fun. Which is a mix of personal relationships with teachers, and the student life. Cannot speak to the former, but my impression of UWO from what others say here and elsewhere is that it has a diverse student life.

FWIW a friend of mine taught math at MIT and found the students unbelievable stressed. One has a sense, fair or not, that one can 'coast' at many of the Ivys (but less so in engineering) but that is not the case at MIT (and Caltech, see the film 'Real Genius', is reputed to be worse).

The great thing about engineering at Oxford or Cambridge is they seem to have time to go rowing, get drunk etc. ;-).
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Postby HomerJ » Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:54 am

stlrick wrote:If she were interested in being an attorney, and you were choosing between Yale and Wisconsin, which undergraduate school would you choose?


I'd probably choose Wisconsin for undergraduate, and Yale for law school... Or is that not what you meant?
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Postby TheEternalVortex » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:00 am

UW Madison is an excellent school for engineering. While MIT is slightly better, it's unlikely to provide ~$200k in present value lifetime benefits over UW.

If she goes to grad school, then her undergrad won't matter any more. Again, MIT might give her a 1% advantage in getting into top 10 grad schools, but this is unlikely to make any financial difference in the long run.

Really, if she is as smart as you imply, then she's going to be in the top few of her class at UW, so her career opportunities aren't going to be limited. If she wants to do research, she'll be able to do it--professors are always looking for really bright undergrads to work with.

And 5 years after graduation it won't matter anymore. No one's going to ask where she went to college (unless they care about sports--and in that case the choice is clear ;) ). I agree with other posters that if you just gave her $200k right now, there's no way that she wouldn't be better off.
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Postby Rodc » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:04 am

I don't have quite the same level of direct experience as nisiprius and sgr000 (and few others I see as I read more carefully), but I have worked in a large research and development lab administered by MIT for the last 20 years.

I know many people with various degrees from MIT as well as other good schools.

My first comment would be to listen to nisi and sgr000 as people with direct experience of MIT.

I went to a good state U for both undergrad and PhD. I was one of the better students in my schools, though not quite at the top (well top in undergrad, not quite among the PhD students that made it through). A few of the other better students had done undergrad at places like MIT, but were only average there. So the talent pools are certainly different in depth.

Having said that, I am surrounded by many hundreds of top quality engineers from MIT and other good schools, and you can't really tell who went to MIT and who did not.

I think if your daughter has the chops to do well at MIT, she will do well at UWis-Madison.

UWis-Madison and MIT are really very different schools which will provide very different experiences. I would have her focus on just what sort of experience and environment she wants. Either can work well.

The major thing is simply avoiding a podunk school, because no matter how good you are it is hard for anyone to know if you are simply the best in a very shallow pool or are really good on an absolute scale. Plus even kids having a strong self-motivation benefit from some level of competition with other strong kids. But with the two schools she is considering, that is a minor issue.

My final thought is to look at the big picture: might she want to go to grad school? Do you want to help? In my day one hint that you were really not PhD material was having to pay your way: if you were any good the school would pay you to come. I don't know what the situation is today. If you want to help with MS or PhD, can you pay for MIT and have enough left over?

Well, one more final thought: in the throes of this decision it can seem overwhelming important. But really it is less important than many people make it. She will do fine either way, and after making some other life choices like where to live, which job(s) to take, who to marry (or not), whether or not to have kids, which house to buy, etc etc the emotion around this particular decision will likely fade into the background. Did for me anyway.

Best of luck.
Last edited by Rodc on Wed Sep 30, 2009 4:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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A Wonderful Problem to Have!

Postby altruistguy » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:09 am

1) This is a wonderful problem for a parent to have! Should my brilliant child go to one of the best universities in the world (at significant cost) or save LOTS of money going to a pretty good state school?

2) My perspective is from attending the University of Michigan (on a merit scholarship) in engineering and attending Duke University (on a merit scholarship) for both engineering and business graduate degrees.

3) I recommend going to the best, most selective university/college that you can get into that appeals to the child.

Why? You will have exposure to more capable, more ambitious peers at more selective schools. Those peers will tend to drive you more -- both at school and in the years thereafter.

When I think of the dozen or so engineering undergraduate peers that I've kept in touch with in the twenty-five years since graduating, virtually none of them could still be called an engineer. Virtually all of them evolved into extremely successful business people -- many of them successful entrepreneurs. One was even worth about $350 million at the height of the tech-stock mania of the late-1990s (he started a successful tech company and sold it to a larger company).

I've found that these extremely bright, extremely ambitious folks were useful to each other in the years since graduating.

If I had gone to a less selective school, it is likely that my peers would have been less bright as a group, less ambitious, and less successful in the succeeding years.

4) Summary -- don't discount the enormous benefit from associating with brighter, more ambitious peers at more selective schools.

5) SO -- IF you can swing it without going broke, I think that there is a great deal to be gained from attending a place like MIT, UCal Berkeley, Stanford, or Cal Tech.

If that doesn't work for you, consider the next tier, which includes UWis-Madison. ALso, consider Univ of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. It may actually belong in that "top tier" list -- and it is a pretty good value even for out-of-staters.

Eric E. Haas

P.S. Here's a useful list from Business week of the "best" undergraduate engineering colleges.
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Postby jegallup » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:16 am

My father was an engineer. I went to an engineering-oriented state university. I've worked with and around under and for engineers all my life. Engineers work for me now.

I've observed that no other credential a person can earn carries the cachet of an undergraduate degree from MIT.

I'm not saying that's fair or warranted or worth the high price--just that that's the way it is.
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Postby livesoft » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:22 am

While we are on the subject, what is the thought here of going to an out-of-state state university? For example, suppose student is a resident of Wisconsin. Does it make sense to go to UC-Berkeley or UIll-ChampaignUrbana or UMichAnnArbor rather than UWisconsinMadison?

I have my opinion, but do not want to show my hand before I read some responses. Thanks!
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Postby sommerfeld » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:31 am

Angeline wrote:By the way, one of the negatives that people always raise about state schools such as U-M is the huge classes..

as of when I was there, MIT also had huge lectures, especially in the required freshman calculus & physics courses, as well as the intro courses to various popular departments.

Generally you had a huge lecture two or three times a week and a smaller (20-30 students, one instructor) recitation section once or twice a week. Some classes added an additional tutorial section (4-5 students, one grad student TA).

Note that many MIT classes make their material, including videotaped lectures, available for free on the web -- see http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm; you can see the scale of the lecture halls from those videos.
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Postby stlrick » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:33 am

rrosenkoetter wrote:
stlrick wrote:If she were interested in being an attorney, and you were choosing between Yale and Wisconsin, which undergraduate school would you choose?


I'd probably choose Wisconsin for undergraduate, and Yale for law school... Or is that not what you meant?


I didn't want to imply what I would choose, or suggest what he should choose. I wanted to give him a different way to frame the question for himself.
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Postby richard » Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:52 am

rrosenkoetter wrote:I'd probably choose Wisconsin for undergraduate, and Yale for law school... Or is that not what you meant?

That's a very nice combination :D
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Postby purduepete » Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:20 pm

There are a small fraction of engineers who are successful inventors, entreprenuers and early employees. They can truly change the world and the $250K cost is small peanuts for them. Like many on the Google team. Many of them have co-founders from the same undergraduate school (see Paul Grahams blog for why this is the case). Quite often the odds are higher at Stanford or MIT etc. The right peer group, a culture of risk taking even among the faculty is a very important attribute.

If you have the ability, willingness and need to take risk why would you not bet on MIT?
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Postby bstgeorge » Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:22 pm

I graduated from a large land-grant state school that specializes in engineering. I am also a recruiter for my chemical company.

We look for leadership, top notch grades, problem solving ability and related experience. I would highly reccomend that your daughter go to a school with a well established co-op program, such as Wisconsin. A student with a co-op from Wisconsin will have their pick of any job she wants, or going to grad school. If your daughter achieves like it sounds she does, she would certainly be able to find all of the opportunities that MIT would offer at Madison.

I might be a little biased, but the students who come out of large state universitites seem to have been exposed to a much more diverse group of students, such as people of different backgrounds, majors, and ability levels. Experience working with these people helps a new engineer tremendously.

Standing in the student section at Wisconsin and living is Madison looks like a ton of fun in addition to the education.

I think your best bet would be send your daughter to Wisconsin and then let her know that the difference in total cost will be there for grad school or for assistance with a down payment on a house.
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Postby thedude » Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:28 pm

When I was a chemistry grad student at MIT from 2000-2004, I got to know many of the undergrads. They were the smartest people at MIT, including the professors. And it was frequently the engineers - in particular, nuclear and electrical - who were the smartest (most MIT undergrads are electrical engineers, so the smartest kids are bound to be electrical engineers).

If I were in your shoes, I'd accept the cost as an investment in my kid's future. MIT undergrads (especially engineers) are probably more qualified to take on a very serious job than pretty much anyone else out there. MIT demands, from day one, that you push yourself to the highest level of achievement and education.

Virtually all undergrads do at least two years of research - cutting edge, creative, audacious research. Research can be a life-changing experience, exposing your kid to a new field she didn't know about, or helping her decide that grad school is not for her (and believe me, it's not for most).

Real life example: right after grad school, I took what turned out to be an awful job at a small biotech startup. 2 MIT kids were doing summer internships at the same time. They designed & built robotics. They added huge value to the lab operations and the CTO made it plain that he would hire these kids if he could.

Send her to MIT. I have my current job, with my upward mobility, in no small part because of my MIT degree.
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Re: Engineering Degree - MIT vs UW Madison

Postby 3CT_Paddler » Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:33 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
SarahShaw wrote:Send her to someplace like MIT or Cal Tech if it's in any way feasible. This isn't the place to pinch pennies. Of course Sand Box University will be cheaper, and you'll be able to find people who will rationalize that their education from there was "just as good" as one from MIT. If you send her to MIT you won't have to rationalize your decision.


Sarah

UWO is anything but 'sand box university'. It is one of the top universities in the US.

The problem with MIT is the 250k debt.



Valuethinker wrote:In summary, if you want a science career, you are better off having a 'cheap' undergrad.

I believe if you are an undergrad at UWO, you can do summer school at MIT? Well worth doing (if the right project).


VT you could not be more right on IMO. We are talking about an undergrad engineering degree, and U of Wisconson-Madison is a great engineering school. As someone who graduated with a civil engineering degree from a state school (Clemson University) I can tell you that a good state school is the way to go. I work with Ga Tech (Top 5 Engineering school) engineering grads, and what do you think the difference is in our abilities or achievement? Nothing... nada. Like VT pointed out, sometimes it matters what school you went to... but for engineering a good state school (there are many exceptions) is a good alternative. Once you work for a couple years what matters are the intangibles like drive and ambition.

On a side note I harbor resentment for the civil engineers at UW-Madison... not because of its academics (which are great), but because of a little competition called Concrete Canoe. UW and Clemson were big rivals when I went to Clemson. Clemson was dominant in the competition for several years, and UW had several dominant years right after that. My senior year we placed 2nd nationally to UW on a technicality that gave them the win. And to top it off nationals was hosted by Clemson that year. :x The races were always the best part. I would tell your daughter if she wants to be involved in a great project try Concrete Canoe. It gives you an excuse to go out on the water and paddle around too!
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Postby 3CT_Paddler » Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:38 pm

thedude wrote:When I was a chemistry grad student at MIT from 2000-2004, I got to know many of the undergrads. They were the smartest people at MIT, including the professors. And it was frequently the engineers - in particular, nuclear and electrical - who were the smartest (most MIT undergrads are electrical engineers, so the smartest kids are bound to be electrical engineers).

If I were in your shoes, I'd accept the cost as an investment in my kid's future. MIT undergrads (especially engineers) are probably more qualified to take on a very serious job than pretty much anyone else out there. MIT demands, from day one, that you push yourself to the highest level of achievement and education.

Virtually all undergrads do at least two years of research - cutting edge, creative, audacious research. Research can be a life-changing experience, exposing your kid to a new field she didn't know about, or helping her decide that grad school is not for her (and believe me, it's not for most).

Real life example: right after grad school, I took what turned out to be an awful job at a small biotech startup. 2 MIT kids were doing summer internships at the same time. They designed & built robotics. They added huge value to the lab operations and the CTO made it plain that he would hire these kids if he could.

Send her to MIT. I have my current job, with my upward mobility, in no small part because of my MIT degree.


I think many on here would agree that MIT grad school is a good path, but MIT undergrad? I think it is better to learn in undergrad what it is that interests you (engineering itself is very broad), and MIT is dishing out an expensive lesson.
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Postby thedude » Wed Sep 30, 2009 12:53 pm

3CT_Paddler wrote:I think many on here would agree that MIT grad school is a good path, but MIT undergrad? I think it is better to learn in undergrad what it is that interests you (engineering itself is very broad), and MIT is dishing out an expensive lesson.


Granted, going for grad school is probably much more cost effective. But I strongly believe that if I had gone to MIT for undergrad (I wasn't motivated enough as a high school student to even consider MIT), I would have learned so much more, seen so much more. As others have alluded, the MIT environment is one of a kind. Very competitive, true, but also offers smart kids the opportunity to achieve unparalleled things, even if only a first-rate education, at a young age.

If I could afford it, I would send my kid if she wanted to go. No doubt.
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Postby locke1141 » Wed Sep 30, 2009 1:07 pm

I lurk here a lot, but since I'm a recent female MIT undergrad grad, I should probably weigh in.

I just graduated from MIT in '07 with a BS in Nuclear Science & Engineering. I chose to work out in the industry at a vendor who has paid for a Master's in NE and will be paying for a MBA come summer. Since coming here, I've been advanced quickly and now work on a cutting-edge design team. Undoubtedly I got my initial job easier because of the MIT name, but all the advancements and education perks since then have been won through initiative and drive. Point is, I probably could have gone to state school, saved my parents a lot of money, and still been where I am today. If you think you'll recoup the money via salary premiums due to school name, you won't. If your daughter is as driven as you say she is, she'll land the job of her choice regardless of where she goes.

I'd be careful about doing MIT for undergrad for other reasons as well. I can count the number of technical "A" grades I earned on one finger. B and B+ grades, I need both hands and some toes as well. As a female engineer, she likely won't have many problems going into a big name grad school of her choice. A number of executives here have advanced degrees from MIT, although most worked in the industry between degrees. For myself, I worry whether or not I've limited my choice of grad schools (potential phd in far future) since my MIT GPA is less than perfect. It's certainly a lot less than I would have gotten at state school and I missed out on a lot of social experiences that a bigger, more well rounded school would have had.
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Re: Engineering Degree - MIT vs UW Madison

Postby zhiwiller » Wed Sep 30, 2009 1:07 pm

ram wrote:My high schoolmate who is a Phd from MIT says that if a person wants to become an engineer and has an option of doing it at MIT, then he should not let it go. I am not in the engineering field and would like all opinions, especially from engineers, people who recruit engineers, MIT alumni/ UW Madison / Ivy school alumni. Thanks.


I had the opportunity to attend Carnegie Mellon for my undergraduate degree. Being surrounded by people smarter than me did wonders for me after high school where I was the cream of the crop. It really pushed me to be better and helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses. Plus the curriculum was cutting edge - they didn't really have to wait for state board approvals for silly things - they just adapted and blazed the trails. Some public universities are able to do this and I don't know the bureaucracy at UW, but I know it is a problem at many public unis.

CMU opened a lot of doors for me that would have been otherwise closed. (EA, Microsoft and other companies have an agreement to hire a set number of grads or interns sight unseen from CMU and a few other schools simply on their pedigree - they must be satisfied because they are still doing it).

I'm now at a giant public school getting my MBA and the differences are night and day. Not that one is empirically _better_ than the other, just different.

The CMU education was priceless and well worth the premium. I think your daughter's MIT education will be the same. I wish her luck.
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Postby dbr » Wed Sep 30, 2009 1:09 pm

My opinion on balance, money being no object, is that I would not let an opportunity to attend MIT go by. There is simply too much intangible experience, wealth of interaction with the peer group, challenge, and solidity of educational experience to give up. There is also an indelible aura that pays dividends indefinitely.

However, it is very possible for a less than world class achiever to become lost in the wash at a school like MIT. A very good student at the MIT level (outstanding at the HS level) can also become overwhelmed by the pace, challenge, and peer group level there. It can be difficult to compete as a candidate for an outstanding graduate program when coming from a highly selective undergraduate program. For those seeking employment where a graduate degree is required it is better to come from an outstanding graduate program rather than from an outstanding undergraduate program. Interestingly, UW Madison probably rates as an outstanding graduate program in many departments while being a "state school" although a well ranked one in undergraduate departments, especially engineering. In short there are risks as well as advantages to attending such a school as MIT.

I do agree with the previous poster's excellent comments and particularly regarding the opportunities a school such as UW offers to those seeking employment in engineering directly from the undergraduate level. On the other hand, UW can be massive and bureaucratic and presents a possibly distracting undergraduate environment that takes some coping for the outstanding student to actually succeed. There are risks on this end as well.

As to whether the expense is justified, I am personally convinced that the extra cost of attending the elite school at full cost compared to the state school cannot be justified on any grounds other than "I have it and this is how I am going to use it."

By way of qualification I have attended schools at both the UW and MIT level including graduate education, have taught in a technical field in schools at those levels, and have sent children to both undergraduate and graduate educations in both state and elite schools. I have also been involved many years in hiring college graduates into an innovative technology company, both at levels requiring PhD education and at levels requiring bachelor's engineering degrees. To be more specific the list of schools involved were/are UW-Madison, Harvard, Dartmouth, United States Naval Academy, Colorado State University, University of Denver, University of California at Santa Barbara, and University of Minnesota. I don't care to sort out who attended what, which were the taught-at's, and which were the grad vs undergrad. Also Megacorp will remain referred to as such.
Last edited by dbr on Wed Sep 30, 2009 1:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Engineering Degree - MIT vs UW Madison

Postby cheapskate » Wed Sep 30, 2009 1:10 pm

ram wrote:I can afford the MIT education.


You have a very good problem on your hands - being able to afford MIT and having a talented, highly motivated daughter.

1) As many others have said, UW is an excellent school - easily on any list of the top 20 research universities in the US. And given that your daughter is talented and drive. There is little doubt she will excel at UW.

2) Given that your daughter is almost certain of doing graduate study. The thing to do would be to get an undergrad degree from UW and do graduate studies at MIT/Stanford/Berkeley etc on a full assistantship/scholarship.

3) If you do (1) and (2), you can simply drop the (250K-60K = 190K) into a Living Trust in your daughter's name, and she will have a very nice chunk of money when she finishes her education (in say 10 years) and enters the workforce (that she can use to pay down a very nice home for example).

I work in the tech sector as an engineer, and I interact almost daily with engineers who both went to MIT for undergrad, and those who went to large state schools (mostly Berkeley but also other large excellent state schools and got graduate degrees at Stanford). There is no difference between the 2 types of engineers in pay, quality of work performed or position within the company.
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Postby fluffyistaken » Wed Sep 30, 2009 1:16 pm

The top end of minds and opportunities is going to be higher in MIT (no slight on UW -- MIT is simply the top engineering school in the world). The question is whether the student is driven, focused, and yes, gifted, enough to make effective use of that top end.

If your daughter is not sure which branch of engineering she wants to study I would question whether MIT is a good match. I went to a top engineering school (not quite MIT but close :) ) and most kids knew what they wanted to major in going in and the "undecideds" definitely felt out of place in many engineering classes. Most if not all of them did eventually find their calling, of course, sometimes not even in engineering and often taking 5 years to graduate, but it meant that their first year or two they were not taking advantage of what the school had to offer the same way as other engineering students. Perhaps consider 2 years in UW and then the option to transfer to MIT once the field of study is determined?
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