Are anecdotal stories worth anything?
Last summer at ds's REU he felt he was one of the most prepared students and had some of the strongest research background. The other kids were mostly from tippy top schools (MIT, ND, Rice, UPenn, etc). I think he was one of the only kids to finish his project as well.
At Bama, he is currently part of a research team and has his own project and meets right alongside the grad and post-doc with his mentoring professor. Meaningful research? It has been presented at conferences.
Of the kids from his REU last summer who are currently rising seniors that applied for REUs this summer, he was the only one accepted first round (and multiple acceptances......and REU acceptances have a lower acceptance rate than grad school.) His acceptances were to top projects as well. Only a couple of others ended up receiving any offers.
Yep, his below 100 school is producing inferiorly equipped, low caliber students (which is why his his physics GRE is so pathetic. His classes don't teach at a high enough caliber to achieve a 980, only a 960.)
But you need to remember that your son is tippy top himself and in a group of tippy top kids in the Honors Program UA has worked to develop. He's not "run of the mill average" for Alabama.
No one is saying there aren't tippy top kids at all schools - or pretty much all anyway. It's whether they are the majority of students - or not.
Alabama has done a good job developing their Honors system and middle son used it as a safety school himself (rolling admissions, cheap) even though they don't offer his major. BUT, if you want to talk anecdotal, we have students from our school who have attended and are attending Alabama and they tell me that classes outside the Honors program aren't nearly up to a similar caliber. At schools with only tippy top students, those classes don't exist. There's no need for them.
In terms of overall ranking it is ranked 103. Its physics dept is ranked 95. Some people's perceptions are that institutions below the top 10 or 20 or 30 or....50 schools aren't of the same caliber. However, the reality is that UG physics material is fairly standard. Most schools use the same exact handful of textbooks.
Many schools do use the same or similar textbooks, but they don't all teach at the same level or depth. Many classes middle son's had at his school have textbooks for background material for students to read - expected reading - then teach things more current than the textbooks.
If I'm remembering correctly, your son didn't need most of the intro classes at UA because he tested out of them. I took middle son's Bio 101 first test to our local cc prof (who claimed all Bio 101 classes were the same) and it took him less than 10 seconds to realize he was wrong. "Why are they testing that?" he asked. "That's not needed until grad school!" Well, kids at this college are doing undergrad research (roughly 80% anyway). They need to know research stuff. It's assumed they already have his level of Bio coming in to Bio 101. There is no "lesser" Bio course students can take at his school. There is an even higher research Bio 101 though - still considered Bio 101.
Youngest son sat in on middle son's Bio class once - having taken the cc course - and called his own class "Bio-Lite" afterward. He described the difference to me. "In our class we were told, 'there's an enzyme that helps with this interaction.' In middle son's class they were learning about 9* different enzymes dealing with the process, what they were by name, and the function of each." Both classes were Bio 101.
* number might be off with my fuzzy memory, but it was a significantly high number
I suspect if your son had taken and/or sat in on similar classes from various schools he'd have seen a difference too. He'd probably see a difference sitting in on lower level classes at UA.
ETA The cc prof no longer claims his Bio 101 class is the same class kids will get at college. He tells them it depends upon where they go.
Edited by creekland, 17 May 2017 - 10:51 AM.