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MIT/Cambridge/ Oxford/Ivy league

Discussion in 'Education & Personal Growth' started by Megalife, Oct 26, 2011.

  1. Megalife

    Megalife Platinum IL'ite

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    My Child aspires to get into one of these universities? Though my childzz still has a while to go...i wuld appreciate if any of our friends have children who r already in these kind of Universities in UK/US... and what to expect once u r there?
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2011
  2. sokanasanah

    sokanasanah IL Hall of Fame

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    There have been a fair number of views, but no responses. I think your question is broad enough to elicit an entire book as a reply. So you may want to split it up into some specifics. I assume your child is old enough to know the names of these universities, so I guess he / she is at least in middle-school. The question then becomes whether this is a child's fantasy (or Mum's?!! :)) or whether there is sufficient motivation and a capacity for delayed gratification that will make achievement possible.
    I know a bit about these universities, so allow me to share some brief thoughts:
    First, the education systems at Oxbridge and American Ivy League schools are very different. There are some differences between Oxford and Cambridge, however, both follow what is known as a tutorial system, where in addition to classroom lectures, students work closely and individually with a tutor for each subject. You can attend any lecture in any subject at the university, but you go for a degree in your chosen field. You specialize in your final year. The exams are essays (answer 3 out of 5 questions, five out of 10 and so on), all or nothing exams by which I mean that you take exams at the end of the year (not many tests like mid-terms, finals, quizzes and so on as in the US). If you fail, you get a 3rd class degree - no chance of improving mid-term grades in the finals and all that. At the end of three years you get a first class, 2:1 (high second class), 2:2 (lower second class) or third class degree. It is fantastically difficult to get a first. The Oxbridge system has a long, successful tradition. However it is not for everyone. For students trained outside of a British school system it may be hard to navigate. Also, the expectation upon entrance is quite high. There is not much time to look around and 'find oneself' as American students tend to do. It is an outstanding education for someone who knows how to navigate the system. The Oxbridge terms are very short- 3 terms of 8 weeks each every year. Outside of that, you are expected to do a lot of work by yourself. However the negatives are that it is a little inflexible and unforgiving. For most people there are entrance exams to take. If your child is enrolled in a British school (O-Level / A-Level system), then it may be easier for him / her to fit in.
    American universities are much more flexible and very varied in their approach. The choices would depend on taste and preferred major. There is more room to explore. It is possible to get a double-major in Music and Mathematics if you want to or Chemistry and Art History or any 'weird' combination. The system is more forgiving of failure. You can make up lost ground. Grades are for individual courses (with a cumulative average for overall performance called a GPA), based on exams, quizzes, papers and problem sets. Exams are often multiple-choice, short answer or problem solving, seldom essays. You have to register and pay for any course you want to attend, although some universities will allow you to go to any lecture.
    Anyway, I could go on and on and on and on and on. I just did not want to see you get no responses!
     
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  3. Megalife

    Megalife Platinum IL'ite

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    Firstly, my sincere thanks!:thumbsup.... you seem to be an professional enough to write an authoritive reply to my vague post. I tried to be vague on purpose so that it catches some professionals attention! Couldn't thank you enough.
    Permit me to bother you a bit longer! My son is in High school and attends the SABIS system of education which is a pretty intensive curriculum specially in terms of Math. He has done extremely well over the years being consistent in his achievements!He has been the over all grade topper (from 8 divisions, 30 students per div) for all his classes, raising the bar for himself at every level. At the same time he is very actively involved in most extra curricular activities ( he plays sports but would rate him as an average in this). This is to give you a fair idea of the person in reference. He studies on his own with no tutor/mother/father helping him. French (High French) is his second language.I wouldn't say as parents we aren't ambitious for him; but more than us he is determined and focused! However, since we live in the middle east and UK is more approachable, we always try to have this OXbridge as a viable option, Contrarily, he is more for the US universities with an Engineering degree at MIT his dream goal, Haverd or other Ivy leagues follow! The Sabis curriculum which he follows incorporates both UK/US curriculums, hence making the potion very vast and intensive ( at times we as parents do think it is a way too much for these young minds!). In grade 10 he will be answering his IGCSE board and similtaneously work towards his APs ( to be honest I am not too clear on this ). But most of the top students from this school go with/without a scholarship (international students catogory) to the worlds leading university. Last year the senior year had students going to Dathmouth (US), Imperial (UK) and a reputed medical school in UK (think itz the Royal college of Surgeons).
    Your mail has been very helpful and clarified the mode of education at the Universities in both the countries! Any further advice/thoughts would be very welcome! BTW are u a product of one of these elite Univ..just curious?:)
     
  4. sokanasanah

    sokanasanah IL Hall of Fame

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    OK, good, 9th or 10th grade is not too early to start planning. Glad to hear that your son is self-motivated. I expect that he wants to major in a STEM subject.
    Oxford and Cambridge are both very grand, very beautiful, with a tradition every bit as imposing as those old spires. There is something very moving about walking the ground that Newton walked, in having a window pointed out to you as the one that let in that ray of sunshine that changed our vision. It is inspiring to see Steve Hawking whiz by on his wheel chair, to remember that some of the cobblestones one is stepping on have been there since the middle ages. There is no argument one can make against a long history of extraordinary achievement and contribution to civilisation. However, in a very general sense, restricting myself to undergraduate training over a broad spectrum of high achieving students, I am with your son in his preference for MIT. The reason is that, in my opinion, the chances of success are greater, the exposure to academics, research and entrepreneurship much broader, opportunities for exploration wider. American universities have at once a more structured and more flexible, forgiving system – even a pressure-cooker like MIT. Oxbridge is a bit more rigid. You have to get up and running very fast. For the right kind of student, this is useful, but sometimes it may work against you. For a student trained at an English public school the transition is more straightforward. Unfortunately it would take too long to elaborate. (Plus, others may disagree.) Keep in mind that these days most top-level scientists, especially in the experimental sciences, build their reputations in the US and then return to the UK to take up prestigious positions. It is very, very hard to choose, I know. In the end it boils down to personality, taste and probability of success. For the first two, you know your son better, for the last, I would gently recommend Harvard / MIT.

    For one young, successful graduate’s (MIT -BS & PhD) perspective on MIT and academic success, see: Study Hacks. I do not agree with all of his opinions, but it is certainly a great site for a high-school student for all sorts of advice on the psychology of performance.

    For maths education & training at the Olympiad competition level, see:
    Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) These are some of the very best maths-education books one can find. I don’t know if you can access the online courses from the middle-east, but they are very affordable and will help your son figure out his standing and refine his ability. The Maths Tripos is very hard. In Cambridge, the top maths students are called “Wranglers”. They are ranked as Senior Wrangler (first rank), Second Wrangler and so on, in deference to the significance of their achievement. Nowadays the rankings are not revealed, but traditionally (even today) the examiner tips his cap to the Senior Wrangler, and so that’s the only one that’s ‘public’.

    Obviously, take everything I say with a grain of salt. My intention is for you to use it as a starting point for a more informed exploration. I know what I am talking about, but nothing I say is intended as the last word.
     
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  5. Megalife

    Megalife Platinum IL'ite

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    I really appreciate the well thought out reply. Thanks a tons for sparing the time!!! We are in the middle of a long Eid break and couldn't log in for a few days!
    Glad to hear that your son is self-motivated. I expect that he wants to major in a STEM subject.
    Yeah, looking at his interest may be some techno engineering subjects!
    I am with your son in his preference for MIT. The reason is that, in my opinion, the chances of success are greater, the exposure to academics, research and entrepreneurship much broader, opportunities for exploration wider.
    I understand, but can't he always do his Masters from the US? Secondly, a few of our friends highly recommend MIT labs as a topping over the tart after a UG from any UK/ non Ivy league US university? Are the career opportunities same for UK (with PG frm US)/// US (pg frm US) ? Sorry for being so inqusitive...but u seem to be an authority on this nd wuldn't waste an opportunity!!!

    For a student trained at an English public school the transition is more straightforward. Unfortunately it would take too long to elaborate. (Plus, others may disagree.)
    Yeah, I think I knw what you mean...heard it as first hand experience from an ex-student at my sons school who just graduated from Cambridge.

    American universities have at once a more structured and more flexible, forgiving system – even a pressure-cooker like MIT. OOps is it tht bad???

    For one young, successful graduate’s (MIT -BS & PhD) perspective on MIT and academic success, see: Study Hacks. I do not agree with all of his opinions, but it is certainly a great site for a high-school student for all sorts of advice on the psychology of performance.

    For maths education & training at the Olympiad competition level, see:
    Art of Problem Solving (AoPS) Will definitely do so!

    Obviously, take everything I say with a grain of salt. My intention is for you to use it as a starting point for a more informed exploration. I know what I am talking about, but nothing I say is intended as the last word.

    Your post is very structured which is testimony of a Professional of high caliber, thnxxx nd God bless!
     
  6. sokanasanah

    sokanasanah IL Hall of Fame

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    There are many ways to look at undergraduate education. The simplest view is the idea of getting a "brand-name" degree. This is important in the sense that, once accomplished, no one take it away from you. However, I prefer a different view - that of getting the best possible education in the field of interest. For someone who follows the path of a tech degree, MBA and then a hot position in an investment bank or management consulting, the details (UK / USA, one first, then the other - whatever) are irrelevant. A brand-name with a reasonably good performance will do. For someone who wants to be a scientist, physician, engineer, academic, theoretician or even a tech-entrepreneur the goals are different. Your son needs to mature a bit before he can make up his mind about this. For the latter group, nothing beats a top US university.
    And yes, it is entirely possible to get a first-rate education outside of the ivy-league. However, the opportunities provided by Harvard / MIT are very hard to beat, so if finances or other constraints are not a factor, then these are the places to aim for.
     
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  7. Megalife

    Megalife Platinum IL'ite

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    Hi Sokanasanah
    Many thanks, he has been reading all your posts re. this. At this point he has enough time at hand to keep his options open, as u said.
    Plz. do keep in touch and thank you for all the valuable inputs.
    Megalife
     
  8. wizzie

    wizzie Silver IL'ite

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    Having studied in "top schools", I'd highly recommend him to do his best to get into them. It's worth it. Having surrounded by smartest people (profs., students, etc.) in the world can be intimidating. But once you get adjusted there is nothing better learning experience! And please don't let him settle for mediocre universities. Difference between mediocre and top school is by a magnitude of 10.
     
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  9. Megalife

    Megalife Platinum IL'ite

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    Wizzie
    Thanks for your inputs..... Yes he has zeroed down to an US univ....may b MIT ( engg) or finance at Harvard ! He is trying to make up his mind. Your suggestion?
    He cleared his AP psycology in grade 8 , age 12.... Scored 5 with self study, planning on env. Sc AP this yr. and o- levels in bio ( gr. 9)
    Cheers and again, tx.
    Mega
     

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