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Is there a significant difference in the material taught across universities in the United States? For example, if I get a bachelor's degree in mathematics (or something related such as physics or engineering) from MIT would I learn a lot more math than if I was to go to say Liberty University?

How is Liberty University seen/regarded (compared with normal universities such as most state universities (UF, UM, UC, etc.) )? Will I likely have more trouble finding a job with a degree from LU as opposed to most other schools (of course except schools that everyone knows like MIT and such)? Thanks.

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  • $\begingroup$ I really can't speak to how much you'll learn at School A vs School B (I'll bet that, given a "good" program, it depends a lot more on the student than the school), but, on the other hand, prestige of the school can carry weight with some people $\endgroup$ – Tyler Oct 16 '13 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Tyler I'm not necessarily comparing MIT to LU but in general do you think that you end up taking more or less the same courses to get a math degree at pretty much any school? $\endgroup$ – Ovi Oct 16 '13 at 14:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Ovi: Not necessarily, no. Even at a single school there can be separate tracks that diverge quite sharply after the basic core. Differences between schools can be considerable: for most of my time at the school from which I retired a couple of years ago, a math major needed either to take a lot of readings courses or to get our MS in mathematics in order to have seen what a decent math major at many schools would have seen as an undergraduate. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Oct 17 '13 at 3:32
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It's not the difference in material being taught, it's how it is presented by the educators.

Professors could teach the same exact material at two separate universities, however...the presentation and time devoted to a class where the professor is a heavy researcher may not get a great deal of attention because they're under pressure to spend time on their own pursuits and teaching is just a duty they have to fulfill. On the other hand, that could be the complete opposite in some cases where the professor is incredibly passionate about the topic and interested in making sure everyone in their class is able to understand concepts.

So with this in mind, I would say yes there is a large difference in how the material is presented, not the material itself. Even at really great top 10 universities this can happen. Nothing guarantees a genuinely 'good' education.

As to your second point, the sad reality is that the piece of paper you obtain does to some degree determine how successful you can become...if you don't accept the fact that you need to work extremely hard to succeed. It's definitely possible to be wildly successful if you forge the path for yourself, no matter where you get your degree. If you want to just get a desk job at a company and settle into a nice career, then the institution will matter because employers believe that someone who goes to a top 10 has more drive and can be more easily molded to working.

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