Friday, September 23, 2005

Of University Snobbishness: What class are you in?

There are good schools deemed inferior cos they are 'cheap on tuition'; and then there are the super elite ones which are supposedly head and shoulders above the rest.

Choice quote:

After all, whether you like it or not, a university is a brand name, and while a Lamborghini and a Lexus may both be great cars, the Lamborghini is the one that turns heads.

Reminds me of a joke circulating amongst students of a JC (in Singapore) in the mid 90s regarding MIT. Reproduced here thanks to google.

Letter from MIT

The following is an exact transcription of a letter John
Mongan received from MIT, and the reply that he sent them.
Unfortunately, they chose to discontinue their correspondence
at that point. I have heard, however, that their recruitment
letter has been revised and is far less snotty than it once

April 18, 1994

Mr. John T. Mongan
123 Main Street
Smalltown, California 94123-4567

Dear John:

You've got the grades. You've certainly got the PSAT scores.
And now you've got a letter from MIT. Maybe you're surprised.
Most students would be.

But you're not most students. And that's exactly why I urge
you to consider carefully one of the most selective
universities in America.

The level of potential reflected in your performance is a
powerful indicator that you might well be an excellent
candidate for MIT. It certainly got my attention!

Engineering's not for you? No problem. It may surprise you
to learn we offer more than 40 major fields of study, from
architecture to brain and
cognitive sciences, from economics (perhaps the best program
in the country) to writing.

What? Of course, you don't want to be bored. Who does? Life
here is tough and demanding, but it's also fun. MIT students
are imaginative and creative - inside and outside the

You're interested in athletics? Great! MIT has more varsity
teams - 39 - than almost any other university, and a
tremendous intramural program so
everybody can participate.

You think we're too expensive? Don't be too sure. We've got
surprises for you there, too.

Why not send the enclosed Information Request to find out
more about this unique institution? Why not do it right now?


Michael C. Benhke
Director of Admissions

P.S. If you'd like a copy of a fun-filled, fact-filled
brochure, "Insight," just check the appropriate box on the

May 5, 1994

Michael C. Behnke
MIT Director of Admissions
Office of Admissions, Room 3-108
Cambridge MA 02139-4307

Dear Michael:

You've got the reputation. You've certainly got the
pomposity. And now you've got a letter from John Mongan.
Maybe you're surprised. Most
universities would be.

But you're not most universities. And that's exactly why I
urge you to carefully consider one of the most selective
students in America, so
selective that he will choose only one of the thousands of
accredited universities in the country.

The level of pomposity and lack of tact reflected in your
letter is a powerful indicator that your august institution
might well be a possibility
for John Mongan's future education. It certainly got my

Don't want Bio-Chem students? No problem. It may surprise
you to learn that my interests cover over 400 fields of
study, from semantics to
limnology, from object-oriented programming (perhaps one of
the youngest professionals
in the country) to classical piano.

What? Of course you don't want egotistical jerks. Who does?
I am self indulgent and over confident, but I'm also amusing.
John Mongan is funny
and amusing - whether you're laughing with him or at him.

You're interested in athletes? Great! John Mongan has played
more sports - 47 - than almost any other student, including
oddball favorites such as

You think I can pay for your school? Don't be too sure. I've
got surprises for you there, too.

Why not send a guaranteed admission and full scholarship to
increase your chance of being selected by John Mongan? Why
not do it right now?


John Mongan

P.S. If you'd like a copy of a fun-filled, fact-filled
brochure, "John Mongan: What a Guy!" just ask.

John never got a reply.

mit generic acceptance
"Getting an Education from MIT is like taking a drink from a Fire Hose." - Jerome Weisner, MIT President ('71-'80)

Edit (12 Oct): MIT's International Students' Undergraduate Admissions process, and the numbers for the class of 2009. The competition gets worse with each passing year.


L'oiseau rebelle said...

I love that spiel about UM being a better place to go then UW because UW is a large impersonal college with classes taught by TAs. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.

And I wish I've kept a copy of that Atlantic Monthly article that went, "What's so good about Harvard? I attended Harvard, did nothing in 4 years, and still graduated with a degree." (I can't remember the author or title.) To which most people replied, "You did nothing in Harvard because, well, you did nothing in Harvard."

One thing I'll concede, though, is that (most) people who went to elite schools, which by narrow definition include Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, and excludes U of Chicago and Caltech, have superior skills in resume building and selecting the right people to write their college applications. Which translate into useful skills in the workplace, I guess.


I wonder how many people go on these rants about "The only prestigious universities in the world are Harvard, Princeton and Yale" are actually alumnus from those colleges.

takchek said...

And then there are those who managed to gain admission, but couldn't go because of finances.

Had to settle for the cheaper state schools, even though these are the flagship, decent ones.

vivienne said...

Unfortunately, that scholar guy that you linked probably belongs to the sort of students who makes sweeping statements such as: "all Aussie unis are inferior" and "all UK unis, with the exception of Oxbridge and Imperial, are shite" simply due to enrolment of poly and non-scholar students.

In my opinion, assessing the quality of the school based on a single digit as well as the amount of school fees in this case, could just be an excuse for not knowing what you want and hoping the 'brand name' of the school would bring you a desired outcome.

I've heard cases where well renowned researchers have dished advice for postgrad studies in certain research fields where Oxford was concluded as 'a terrible place' and Cambridge is simply termed as 'a place you could consider'. In fact, places that they recommended are those that these students would perceive as second/third grade unis. And this also reflects my experience in choosing postgraduate schools for my field of interest.

Anyway, I'm definitely not suggesting that brand name schools were built on air and I'm highly certain that they have their strengths that allowed them to maintain their lead. But it's important to note that the quality and focus of research can be unequal in all schools which may in turn affect the quality of your education.

As terrible as UK unis are thought to be, at least I've never felt like a commodity, and traded with the likes of oil and sugar, to industries that offer the best economic promise by pimps masquerading as educational insituitions.

L'oiseau rebelle said...

In any case, that guy seems to be going for biology, and if I'm not mistaken, UM's biology dept isn't exactly the best dept around. First thing he'll have to do is to fight with hundreds of others to get the classes he wants.

Let me guess what scholarship he's on...

And he wants to be treated like a human being?

Anyway, tuition fees is more like five digits than a single digit :-(