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Assuming you could afford tuition, which US undergrad programs do you think are worth the price?

[OP]
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Jun 10, 2015
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Assuming you could afford tuition, which US undergrad programs do you think are worth the price?

Let's say you have $300K saved up for education (yep tuition + R&B is about $70K per year at top flight privates :facepalm: ) and are a smart kid (or the parent of one) who wants to maximize his or her potential. You are otherwise wealthy and this cost is easy for you to swallow.

Are there any US universities that you would strongly consider?
Last edited by redflagdealsnewb on Jan 10th, 2019 4:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
14 replies
[OP]
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Jun 10, 2015
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-Harvard, Princeton and Stanford degrees can be beneficial for many Americans. You may be roommates or hall-mates with the son of a billionaire or the daughter of a nobel prize winner. Your graduating class will be recruited by the major banks, software firms and consulting companies. I think Princeton has more students from Canada than from any other non-US country in the world, so clearly some Canadians attend this institution.

I believe all three provide financial aid to international students. Essentially tuition is discounted if your parents make less than a certain income level.

-Top Liberal Arts Colleges (LACs) like Williams, Amherst and Pomona send many of their alumni to well known grad programs. Class sizes top out at 15-30 students and they are taught by tenure and tenure track faculty who take pride in teaching. Furthermore, every exam is written (no multiple choice). Clearly there is some value in this type of education as it cultivates communication and critical thinking skills.

Personally I would recommend a year or two at a LAC then transfer back to Canada to finish the degree. A LAC + STEM is a very good combination. Canada is a very provincial country. I think a LAC education will help you see this at an early age. Brush up on critical thinking and communication at the LAC then finish up with an engineering degree (cheap Canadian tuition).
Last edited by redflagdealsnewb on Jan 10th, 2019 4:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
[OP]
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Jun 10, 2015
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As an aside:

A tenured faculty member at a top 3 Canadian university told me that it is NOT the job of a university to teach or foster critical thinking skills. He said this is what parents and the secondary school system are for. I wouldn't be surprised if this is a commonly held view on Canadian campuses. For the record he came from a STEM field.
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In my personal but limited experience, US universities have no systematic advantage over Canadian universities when it comes to quality of undergraduate education. There are, of course, differences between big and small schools, etc., but these differences transcend borders.

The advantages one gets from attending an elite US university are basically (a) networking, (b) something to put on your resume (more important in the US), and (c) non-academic resources like athletic facilities.

US liberal-arts colleges are great, but even if were possible to transfer into an Canadian engineering program partway through (and I'm not sure it is in fact possible), you've lost those three critical advantages by doing so.

As a final note, just being "smart" and having money are not enough to get into a place like Harvard or Princeton -- at those schools, the vast majority of entering freshmen are high-school valedictorians (they graduated at the top of their high-school class). They take a much more holistic approach to admissions than even big-name Canadian universities. If you haven't been a key member of a varsity sports team, founded a volunteer organization, won a music competition, etc. you will have a hard time being admitted.
Jr. Member
Jan 17, 2018
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Like others have said, the networking part is important.

I think MIT is definitely up there and after looking at their admissions page and what the university is about, I will have my daughter apply there when she is a senior. They do need based tuition, so it isn't the crazy 50k+ that some schools are in the US.

MIT is great for networking, but what I really like is the school's mission and how I see my daughter being a world citizen and taking on more ownership of making the world a better place.

Any Ivy League school, plus Standford, MIT and a few others will open doors world wide. Is that worth 50-75k a year in investment? I think that is another debate. I can tell you though, I met with someone recently who goes to a top US school and their intern job this summer pays $7000 a month. I don't know of any Canadian university that can place interns in jobs that pay that much. This is also not in the field of accounting or law, which is where I might expect to see such a high number. She tells me when she graduates, if that firm hires her, the starting salary is 150-200k. That type of salary to start makes a 75k a year school investment worth it.
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Handcake wrote:
Jan 10th, 2019 5:48 pm
I think MIT is definitely up there and after looking at their admissions page and what the university is about, I will have my daughter apply there when she is a senior. They do need based tuition, so it isn't the crazy 50k+ that some schools are in the US. [...]
My comments to this would be that (a) you should talk to recent-ish alumni (5-10 years post graduation) and not necessarily believe what you read from the marketing literature -- which tends to paint a rosy picture, that (b) the hardest part about going to a place like Stanford or MIT is not paying for it, but rather getting in (which depends on much more than marks), and finally (c) people who get effortless As at their city's best high school go to Stanford and MIT and become C students, despite the rampant grade inflation at those universities. The first year is psychologically very challenging and many students cannot cope.

They are phenomenal universities but this is something to consider. I can elaborate further if needed.
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JHW wrote:
Jan 10th, 2019 7:15 pm
My comments to this would be that (a) you should talk to recent-ish alumni (5-10 years post graduation) and not necessarily believe what you read from the marketing literature -- which tends to paint a rosy picture, that (b) the hardest part about going to a place like Stanford or MIT is not paying for it, but rather getting in (which depends on much more than marks), and finally (c) people who get effortless As at their city's best high school go to Stanford and MIT and become C students, despite the rampant grade inflation at those universities. The first year is psychologically very challenging and many students cannot cope.

They are phenomenal universities but this is something to consider. I can elaborate further if needed.
Hi. Thanks for taking the time to post some advice. For myself, I work in education, so I am aware that the chances of getting into those schools is quite slim. For example, MIT only takes 100 international students each year, which makes the competition very high. A school like Columbia for example, has a higher number of international students in its intake, so the chances are better.

There are a lot of students who get As in high school, and still get As in university. It is about the skill set the student has. Do they have good time management? Do they wait to do everything at the last minute? Are they able to think in different ways and put together things to form a bigger picture? Can they say no to the party scene?

If the student is only chasing the grade, yeah they are going to be in for a shock when they hit university. If they are chasing the knowledge, they will be fine. Case in point was the student I mentioned who was getting an internship for 7k. She was my student for 3 years. She was always chasing the knowledge, not the grades. The grades came as a consequence of that chasing of knowledge and the ability to use it. She got into Duke and has been a straight A student the whole time. Granted, this isn't the norm for most students, but for those who set their priorities in a certain way, they will succeed.
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Handcake wrote:
Jan 11th, 2019 4:52 am
For myself, I work in education, so I am aware that the chances of getting into those schools is quite slim. For example, MIT only takes 100 international students each year, which makes the competition very high. A school like Columbia for example, has a higher number of international students in its intake, so the chances are better.
Yes, and again, it's not just about marks. The kind of high-school career that gets you into the best Canadian universities will not necessarily get you into the best American ones.

Also to note that many of these elite schools are much smaller than most people realize. MIT is maybe one-tenth the size of U of T, when it comes to undergrad enrollment. Stanford is maybe one-fifth. Caltech is the extreme example, it is smaller than many Canadian high-schools.
There are a lot of students who get As in high school, and still get As in university. It is about the skill set the student has.
Yes, you are correct. My point is that there are people who do extraordinarily well in high school, through natural talent and / or through hard work, and after coming to schools like Stanford or MIT and putting in the same amount of effort, they end up near the bottom of the pack academically. This is simply due to competition -- you are taking the best or second-best student from every school in the USA and putting putting them all into these elite universities, and not everyone can be at the top anymore.

In the end it may not matter, as "C-student" graduates from Stanford still end up with phenomenal careers, but it can be a major shock to the system for those who are not psychologically prepared.
[OP]
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Jun 10, 2015
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Canada
I think there is probably enough demand in Canada for a high calibre Liberal Arts College. Of course there already are a few in the Maritimes, but they aren't accessible for many from a travel perspective. The Claremont Colleges in Southern California share resources and I think are a good model.

Establishing a Liberal Arts College is very expensive and surely requires a billionaire benefactor. Students want to attend an institution that will be around in 30 years time . Someone will need to make a serious investment in order to give students and faculty that kind of peace of mind.

The vast majority of families in Canada will not pay more than $20K a year. Therefore a prospective LAC will need to have a substantial financial aid endowment and/or government subsidies.

There is a small LAC called Quest in BC. However, it has faced some serious financial difficulties. I doubt Quest will exist in 20 years time (another institution might take it over) .
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redflagdealsnewb wrote:
Jan 12th, 2019 2:21 am
I think there is probably enough demand in Canada for a high calibre Liberal Arts College.
My impression is that existing universities are trying to "incubate" LACs within their walls. Western is, for sure. U of T started out that way. Even the Arts and Science program at McMaster (which I don't hear much about anymore, but was well renowned in the 1990s) falls into that category, arguably.
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JHW wrote:
Jan 12th, 2019 10:28 am
My impression is that existing universities are trying to "incubate" LACs within their walls. Western is, for sure. U of T started out that way. Even the Arts and Science program at McMaster (which I don't hear much about anymore, but was well renowned in the 1990s) falls into that category, arguably.

I would definitely say this is the case. Carleton has their prized humanities program that is a bit like this.

TBH, I think there's way too much hype around Ivy league schools and top tier universities in general. I work in academia and when I'm at conferences some of the most interesting and useful research is being conducted by faculty members and students at what would generally be referred to as "lower tier" schools. Perhaps at the undergraduate level the school names matter a bit more, but if you're wanting to go to graduate school your supervisor matters MUCH more than the school you attend.
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I can only speak of STEM, from an non-academic point of view (no interest in research). With a scholarship, the top US universities are at least a notch above the top Canadian universities (UofT, Waterloo etc.). The potential industry contacts you get from attending Stanford are very valuable, and the prestige is second to none when you apply for jobs. If you have to pay $200k+ for the degree, then the top Canadian universities might be the better choice for most students. Silicon Valley is home to a surprising number of Canadian graduates, many of them from Waterloo. Anything other than the top 20 universities in the US is a complete waste of money compared to Canadian universities.
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redflagdealsnewb wrote:
Jan 10th, 2019 4:02 am
Let's say you have $300K saved up for education (yep tuition + R&B is about $70K per year at top flight privates :facepalm: ) and are a smart kid (or the parent of one) who wants to maximize his or her potential. You are otherwise wealthy and this cost is easy for you to swallow.

Are there any US universities that you would strongly consider?
Your question is extremely vague. What's your idea of "maximize potential"? Future employment income? Intellectual development potential? Career satisfaction? The best school for economics won't necessarily be the best school for engineering, medicine, or art history. Way too many variables to your question to give a real answer.
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Mosho1 wrote:
Jan 13th, 2019 1:45 pm
With a scholarship, the top US universities are at least a notch above the top Canadian universities (UofT, Waterloo etc.). The potential industry contacts you get from attending Stanford are very valuable, and the prestige is second to none when you apply for jobs.
Yes. My point is that this (the contacts and "prestige") is why they may be a notch above the top Canadian universities. It isn't because students are taught by better teachers, or learn the subject any better -- they don't (in my experience).
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Typhoonz wrote:
Jan 13th, 2019 10:44 am
Perhaps at the undergraduate level the school names matter a bit more, but if you're wanting to go to graduate school your supervisor matters MUCH more than the school you attend.
This is extraordinarily true in STEM, where evereyone knows who everyone else worked under. The thing is that the top schools generally have a high concentration of big-name professors, whereas mid-ranked schools may only have a few.

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