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Choosing between a public college and a private college
You might be facing the choice between attending a large public university and a private university. Here are some relevant thoughts:
Some large public universities are much stronger than others
This is true even after restricting consideration to the best public university in each state and is true both of the students and of the faculty members. The case for attending a large state school is much stronger if it's among the best public universities.
Two indicators of the large differences between public universities across states are
Differences in SAT scores
The 75th percentile of SAT scores at University of Arkansas are
- SAT Critical Reading: 620 (83rd percentile)
- SAT Math: 640 (83rd percentile)
- SAT Writing: 610 (83rd percentile)
By way of contrast, the 75th percentile of SAT scores at University of California at Berkeley are
- SAT Critical Reading: 720 (96th percentile)
- SAT Math: 770 (99th percentile)
- SAT Writing: 740 (98th percentile)
These discrepancies corresponds to large differences in intellectual caliber.
Relative rankings of graduate programs
The US News and World Report ranking of a graduate program reflects the quality of the faculty in the department in significant measure. UC Berkeley's biology, chemistry and computer science programs are all tied for #1 or #2 in the country. By way of contrast, some large public universities are not among the top 50 ranked graduate programs in a given area.
Some other public universities that tend to have highly ranked graduate programs are University of California at Los Angeles, University of Washington, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and University of Michigan.
Large public universities have a lot of people to choose from
Under College selection: factors to consider we give some considerations in favor of going to a large university. Public universities can be very large, with some of them having 10,000 students per grade: this is 5 times bigger than the number of students per grade at Harvard. Even when a large public university has weaker students than a private university does on average, the best students at the public university can be better than the best students at the private university. (This varies on a case-by-case basis.)