OT: Michigan Undergraduate quality?

Submitted by andre10 on October 12th, 2010 at 4:47 PM

So I'm scrolling down by facebook homepage as I boredly procrastinate on homework when I see one of my friends taking heat from state fans because, you know. My friend (we are both current U of M students) retorts with the whole "state is a crappy school" schpeel, when another state fan quickly swoops in and begins going off on how "only michigan's grad programs are good" and that Michigan's undergraduate program is terrible and only skates by on the rep of the graduate schools.

Now, this is clearly not true, as a glance at any undergraduate ranking would tell you, but all slander usually has a kernel of truth, or at least an origin of sorts. Where would State fans hear or be told such a thing? and is there any truth to it?

Comments

Geaux_Blue

October 12th, 2010 at 4:56 PM ^

 

Now, this is clearly not true, as a glance at any undergraduate ranking would tell you, but all slander usually has a kernel of truth, or at least an origin of sorts. Where would State fans hear or be told such a thing? and is there any truth to it?

 

 

lilpenny1316

October 12th, 2010 at 4:57 PM ^

People say that when they go to an inferior school.  It helps them feel better when they're not accepted to UM.

UM undergrad schools are always highly ranked...well ahead of MSU.  And when it gets to graduate school level, the separation point grows wider.

elaydin

October 12th, 2010 at 4:59 PM ^

Interesting observation, and I think there's some truth to it.  You can get a very good education at many, many universities.  You get out what you put in.  This is especially true for large state schools with good graduate programs.

The primary difference between the Michigans and the Michigan States is the quality of your classmates.  The actual teaching that goes on depends on the department and the professors you get (or don't get).

I went to school at UC-Berkeley and I can tell you the undergraduate education was very mediocre.  TAs taught many classes, many professors were indifferent (or cared only about research), class sizes were large, etc..  My classmates, however, were very smart.  That, more than the actual professors, was what drove the students to achieve.

caliblue

October 12th, 2010 at 10:26 PM ^

I agree ! Actually my BS ( chemistry ) was much harder than Med School. My year they broke down and admitted a few Sparties to Med School, attempting a sort of in state equal opportunity program. The Sparties howled about how hard it was while the rest of us thought it was not as bad as Undergrad ! I was accepted at MSU Osteopathic ( ranked above their med school ), Creighton, Indiana,Wisconsin,and Case Western before I stopped sending out applications but I was rejected at MSU Medical School. I have that rejection letter framed, right next to my UM Med School acceptance letter and Diploma !!!

Abe Froman

October 13th, 2010 at 12:25 AM ^

my umich undergrad (also from the chem dept) was freakishly hard, and more difficult than my med courses.

most of my classmates in med school attended state or other smaller michigan schools, and i was always amazed at how rigorous they thought med was.  for us umich biochem majors, basic medical sci was **almost** like vacation.

 

this was just my experience with biochem...  i cant speak for the biopsych majors out there (you know who you are) who seemed to be sweating it out next to sparty.

EGD

October 13th, 2010 at 9:40 AM ^

I can also attest to the fact that competing with Michigan undergraduates better prepares you for graduate programs.  Law school in my case.  I was a mediocre student at UM but I graduated in the top 10 of my law school class (at Louisville).  I found law school to be much easier because with the lesser competition level, the grading curve was more forgiving and it wasn't necessary to work as hard to get As.

blueheron

October 12th, 2010 at 5:19 PM ^

I also believe that your peers determine the quality of your education (not to mention the quality of your networking opportunities after school).  I feel sorry for people who obsess over class size, % of classes taught by full professors, etc.

+1

- - -

Tidbit related to the original post: When I was at UMich several years ago the average ACT for undergrads was 28.  It was 21 at MSU.  Significant difference ... I don't know whether the gap has narrowed since.

- - -

Remember that MSU is huge.  From those same years I remember that UM had about 20K undergrads compared to MSU's 35K.  On size alone you'd be guaranteed to find a critical mass of "normal" people in East Lansing (for example, in their honors program).  You wouldn't have to spend too much time setting couches afire.

UMdad

October 12th, 2010 at 6:24 PM ^

I need to preface this comment by saying that I went to UofM and greatly enjoyed my time there.  That being said, I can see how class size, etc. can make a difference in someone's collegiate experience.  I have friends that went to Kettering (then GMI) and they had a much more intimate experience with the faculty of their university.  Not only did the advisors know them personally, but the professors did as well.  It reminded me more of a high school than a college.  While I was in many classes of less than 20 students (especially in the upper levels) and had a few Profs that I knew pretty well,I can definately see how you could feel lost in the system there.  If you weren't a very social person, you could stay in your dorm for weeks at a time and I doubt anyone would notice you weren't there.So, don't discredit those who worry about those types of issues.  

Also, I have to question your comment about the average ACT being a 28.  I scored a 31 on my ACTs which was in the top 1% scores my year.  That was good enough to get me into the honors college at UofM.  I have a hard time believing that there was an average of 28 for the entire university.  Where did you get that number from? 

WolvinLA2

October 12th, 2010 at 6:38 PM ^

That's interesting you question the ACT number, because I worked in the admissions office my junior and senior years ('04-'06) and I want to say 28 is low.  I remember discussing criteria and thinking that my 3.9, 29 ACT that got me in might not be good enough 4 years later.  Either way, I'm positive the average at UM is not below 28.

Although 31 is a good score, are you sure it's top 1%?  I knew a number of people with 32+ scores, and I didn't think it was that rare. 

UMdad

October 12th, 2010 at 7:03 PM ^

Yes, 31 was in the top 1%.  I graduated high school in 1995 so maybe the scoring system has changed or it has gotten easier, but at the time a 31 was VERY good.  Don't get the wrong impression, though, I am not saying I was in the top 1% of students at UofM. I am just a very fast reader, and therefore a good test taker.

Edit  - Take Wikipedia for what it is worth, but they had a 31 in the 98th percentile of 2009 tests and a 32 in the 99th.  A 28 would be in the 92nd

WolvinLA2

October 12th, 2010 at 7:37 PM ^

Wikipedia sounds about right.  If a 28 is top 8%, then I would imagine the average student at UM is above the 8% line.  Compare that to HS GPA - almost all UM students are in the top 10% of their high school class, and for most high schools, being right at the 10% line probably isn't good enough to get in.  The average UM student is probably around the 95th percentile for GPA relative to their high school, so I wouldn't be surprised if the ACT followed suit, putting the mean at somewhere in the 29 range.

blueheron

October 12th, 2010 at 6:55 PM ^

I can remember a few instances where a full professor with "people skills" would have been a welcome break from a TA with a shaky grasp of "Engrish."  I just don't think that's as important as peer quality.  But, I can see where someone with a different personality would place greater value on other measures.

As for the ACT scores, my source is obscure (maybe something like "Detroit News Guide to Michigan Colleges" circa 1990-something), but I distinctly remember 28 for some reason.  Interestingly, K College was right with Michigan.  GMI was just a notch lower.  I think Michigan Tech was between them and the rest.  I remember being surprised that Albion was at or below MSU.

ZooWolverine

October 12th, 2010 at 6:24 PM ^

As a professor (not at Michigan), I will add that your peers in class also dictate how much you will be pushed/challenged in a class.  At a top university, your peers are better, and the same basic couse can cover more material, have tougher assignments, etc. so that the students understand the material better and develop stronger skills.  There are always students who won't "get it" at the top schools and brilliant students at poorly-regarded schools, but the proportion of students at various places on that spectrum definitely has an impact on the level of teaching that's possible in the course.

gebe659

October 12th, 2010 at 10:08 PM ^

MSU has become much more selective over the past decade or so, particularly since Lou Anna K. Simon took over.

I don't know when you applied, but MSU's average ACT score is now a more respectable 25. Its Honors College has also grown, which I assume has helped those admissions statistics (minimum to get into the HC as a freshman is a 30).

Michigan's average score is indeed around 28, which is impressive for a public school. For reference, Northwestern's average ACT score is 31/32.

BlueVoix

October 12th, 2010 at 5:47 PM ^

Interesting observation, and I think there's some truth to it.

The observation is that U of M is a terrible undergraduate school...so there's some truth to that?  Wha?

The primary difference between the Michigans and the Michigan States is the quality of your classmates.  The actual teaching that goes on depends on the department and the professors you get (or don't get).

This is partly true, but the departments on average of a Michigan versus a Michigan State, or a Cal versus UC Davis are night and day.  The caliber of professor, TA (influenced by caliber of the graduate programs), and resources are not something to pass off as irrelevant.  Michigan and Cal are destinations for many, many programs, both undergraduate and graduate.  MSU and UC-D are destinations for a very small set of programs.

I agree with you that individual results will vary.  Getting into Michigan does not guarantee someone will be more successful than someone that only gets into MSU.  Same thing for Cal and Wazzou.  But on the whole, those students at Michigan and Cal will have the desire to achieve more (your point) and will have the resources and atmosphere to succeed (my point) to a far greater degree.

elaydin

October 12th, 2010 at 6:18 PM ^

The observation is that U of M is a terrible undergraduate school...so there's some truth to that?  Wha?

My bad.  That's not the point I was trying to make (which I think we agree on).

Student are better.  The education itself, at least in my experience (engineer), isn't that different.  Also, I'm comparing places like Cal to places like Minnesota/Ohio State/MSU/etc.  There are plenty of resources at all of those schools.  

Engineering also tends to be more selective anyway (either self selective or selective by admissions).

CalGoBlue

October 12th, 2010 at 8:03 PM ^

I live in Northern Cal, went to law school here, and 40% of my classmates were Cal grads.  They are about the same intelligence-wise as my U-M classmates (although none of them will admit it). 

The reason I am commenting is your analogizing U-M/MSU to Cal/UCD is misplaced.  UCD students are far smarter than MSU students.  UCD students are not quite Cal level, but pretty good.  I think a better analogy would be U-M/MSU to Cal/CSU (California State Universities with a number of locations). 

I realize this is probably an esoteric contribution, but WTF, it's better than thinking about our linebackers and secondary!

blueheron

October 12th, 2010 at 8:17 PM ^

Did the Cal grads believe they were a notch above UMich grads?  Just curious ... in the SF Bay area I have occasionally encountered people from Stanford and UCB who lump Michigan with Oklahoma and all other states in flyover country.  They're in the minority, though.  Most are familiar with Michigan's "public ivy" reputation.

CalGoBlue

October 12th, 2010 at 9:50 PM ^

They realize that U-M and Cal are equivalent academically, it's just an ongoing, good natured, joke that they won't admit it.  And, yeah, there are a few ignoramuses too, but not many. 

BTW, I'm in Sausalito, where are you?

blueheron

October 12th, 2010 at 10:51 PM ^

My post was somewhat misleading.  I lived in Silicon Valley for a few years but I'm now back in the Midwest.  I still go out there pretty frequently.  Can't say for sure when I last heard UMich equated with OU ... :)

caliblue

October 13th, 2010 at 4:51 PM ^

I did my Cardiology fellowship at UC Davis. It is far above MSU in student quality. Joe Silva and Faith Fitzgerald were in charge at that time. Joe was my concentration advisor at UM a few years previously and Faith was the Dean of Students at UM Med school during my time at The Med School. They also brought along many junior UM faculty who were not high in the pecking order yet. This is partly why. UC Davis is more like Wisconsin: solidly academic and a school all in the state ( or is that staae ? ) and west respect but is not as well known in the rest of the US.  

CalGoBlue

October 12th, 2010 at 8:03 PM ^

I live in Northern Cal, went to law school here, and 40% of my classmates were Cal grads.  They are about the same intelligence-wise as my U-M classmates (although none of them will admit it). 

The reason I am commenting is your analogizing U-M/MSU to Cal/UCD is misplaced.  UCD students are far smarter than MSU students.  UCD students are not quite Cal level, but pretty good.  I think a better analogy would be U-M/MSU to Cal/CSU (California State Universities with a number of locations). 

I realize this is probably an esoteric contribution, but WTF, it's better than thinking about our linebackers and secondary!

WolverBean

October 12th, 2010 at 6:22 PM ^

TAs taught many classes

I've never understood this complaint.  I've had lousy TA's, sure, but it's been my experience that, on the whole, the TA's try harder and care more than the professors do when it comes to teaching classes.  They may not have the same depth of experience in the field, but they're also more likely to understand what parts of the course are difficult, and have a better sense of what level to present the material on.

Full disclosure: I've been  TA six times, three of those times for professors who really didn't care in the slightest about teaching, so perhaps I'm just biased.

 My classmates, however, were very smart.  That, more than the actual professors, was what drove the students to achieve.

This is an extremely important point.  I learned as much from my classmates as I did from my professors (both at Michigan and at Berkeley), and have seen as a TA how when the prof sucks, the students still get a lot out of the course -- sometimes more, because they have to figure it out for themselves.  This is one of the main things that top schools like Michigan offer, and is also the reason why students in the Honors program at MSU are head and shoulders above their non-Honors classmates.  And bringing this back to the OP: MSU can offer this in a select set of classes; Michigan offers it across the board.  That's the Michigan Difference.

UMdad

October 12th, 2010 at 6:34 PM ^

I think my opinion on the TA thing was permanently swayed by one TA who taught a argumentative writing class.  First of all, the TAs went on strike that year and all they really got out of it was a new title, so she was adament that no one was allowed to refer to her as a TA.  Secondly, she arbitrarily decided that all papers would be on various women's studies issues.  Then, in the final straw, she berated a male student because he wrote a paper detailing why women should have equal access and opportunity in athletics by being offered separate but equal teams with equal resources and support.  He included medical information about blood oxygen levels, ratio of heart size to total body size, etc. to prove that it would be unfair to expect women to be able to compete evenly with male counterparts.  She was insulted and said women were only at a disadvantage athletically right now because athletic shoes and training equipment were designed by men, for men.  She also said that if you looked at the graph of world record times in women's track and field events vs. men's you would see that by 2020 women would have better records in virtually all events.  When he said that the women's records were probably increasing faster because women had only been encouraged athletically in the last few generaltions she actually threw him out of class.  I never again took a class taught by a TA.

WolverBean

October 13th, 2010 at 1:36 AM ^

I can understand your dismissal of TA-led classes after a story like that!  My field is engineering, where we don't seem to run into that kind of problem so much.  Apparently the Navier-Stokes equations are a little less controversial than Title IX.

Interestingly, your friend probably got quite an education out of his combative relationship with your don't-call-me-a-TA.  Knowing your instructor disagrees with you and that you therefore must develop a strong, well-backed argument for your position can really force you to up your game, and think more deeply about the course material and how it connects to other topics.  It's too bad your TA couldn't recognize this and that your friend, rather than being rewarded for his above-and-beyond effort, was thrown out of the class.  On the other hand, I'm not sure there's anything inherent to the TA's TA-ness that led to this problem -- I could see a professor being just as closed-minded.  When a professor has been advancing a particular notion for long enough, s/he can easily become hardened against arguments for a different point of view.  I've seen that clearly even in engineering.

ixcuincle

October 12th, 2010 at 10:00 PM ^

This is why I'm always interested whenever someone starts hurling education smack across conference. I.e. cracking jokes at Nebraska or SEC educational programs.

BCS programs are pretty much all great programs, some are slightly better than others (The Big 10 is known as a stellar academic conference overall, and I'm not saying the SEC is on equal footing, but it's a little behind.)

All the BCS programs in my mind have great academic programs...Duke, Vanderbilt, Florida, Georgia, UNC, UCLA, USC, UC-Berkeley, Michigan, Indiana, Penn State, Boston College...and so on. Arguing about which one is the best is silly.

ixcuincle

October 13th, 2010 at 11:36 PM ^

Nah, they're pretty much all similar, with a few slight differences. Again, B10 programs are better, but you can't really say any of the major BCS programs are abysmal undergraduate educational institutions. They're all great schools with great research opportunities. I wouldn't be ashamed of attending any of them (well...maybe a few, Arkansas...)

PAC 10 - good schools, SEC - good schools with exception of Arkansas (I don't get the rap about SEC education, Vanderbilt and Florida are ranked higher than some ACC schools!), Big 10 as we all know stellar academic conference, BE has a lot of good schools (Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse), Big 12 (Kansas, Texas, OSU, Oklahoma), ACC (Virginia, UNC, Duke, Wake Forest, Boston College)

These aren't bad schools to attend...

harmon98

October 12th, 2010 at 5:04 PM ^

that just ruined my day.  I can't believe I went to a terrible undergraduate program all of those years ago when I could have gone to msu.  dammit Jim!  where were the internets back in 1988!!!

ThWard

October 12th, 2010 at 5:05 PM ^

Are many of UM's grad programs ranked higher than UM's undergrad?  Yes.  However, (1) so what?  There are fewer grad programs than undergrad programs in the country (i.e., not every school has a law school), and UM's undergrad ranking - whatever it is (25? 27?) is excellent, and (2) even if you accept the premise, that UM's grad schools are better, again... this supports disgruntled MSU students how, exactly?

"Yeah, your undergrad school is a 10-time All Star, but it's not going to make the Hall of Fame like the UM grad schools would."  In this analogy, MSU is a bench warmer on the HS JV team.

WolvinLA2

October 12th, 2010 at 5:40 PM ^

Almost anyone will agree that UM's grad schools are better than their undergrad.  UM's grad schools are better than almost any other institution on the planet, fact.  Take a look at rankings in grad engineering, grad business, law, medicine, etc and VERY few other schools are found at the top of all of those lists like UM is.

That said, I don't see how this discredits the undergrad.  So the undergrad is "great" instead of "amazing" like the grad school?  Both are average at best at MSU, so this kid is just dumb. 

Additionally, so much of the value of your degree comes from reputation.  What's more important, getting a good education, or prospective employers thinking you got a good education?  Employers look at University of Michigan and go "ooohhhhh wow" not "yeah, but their grad school is better."

macdaddy

October 12th, 2010 at 5:08 PM ^

if you keep telling yourself over and over that you're going to a better school, eventually you start to believe it as fact. Kinda sad really. What do they have on us again? Oh, that's right - turf science and animal husbandry.

macdaddy

October 12th, 2010 at 5:25 PM ^

However among large research universities they are clearly not in Michigan's league overall. Sheer size provides resources (financial, libraries, lab space, etc.) that smaller schools do not possess. Thus State will rank relatively well among all schools but among the subset of Big 10 schools MSU ranks dead last in the 2011 US News rankings.

Geaux_Blue

October 12th, 2010 at 5:39 PM ^

and that's fine, i just think the discourse gets muddied when they're completely tossed aside. the sad/ironic/funny/disappointing/whatever fact is that MSU had a variety of programs with solid national rankings on the undergrad and graduate side that were cut due to budget issues.