Quality of Students : Top Ranked vs Low Ranked Universities

I can give another comparison for schools rankings and its important to attend better and top ranked schools for your profile.

While in Under Grad, we had a our first semester course on C++ programming language. I believe that was in second year of engineering.

As per university syllabus, book we had to follow was a typical programming book. But, I decided to buy the book written by the founder of C++.

I had heard about C++, but don’t  know anything more that. I’m new to object-oriented programming and I was expecting this book will teach basics of object-oriented programming and I can be better than others.

I started reading the book and I reached like 4th page on the first chapter. It had a line like this “As you already know, we do inheritance for so and so reason”.

Duh. I have no idea about inheritance in C++.

I skipped and went to a different chapter. First paragraph had something like this “according to the content you learned in chapter/section 10..”.


Another dead-end for me.

Then after reading few more chapters, its was all dead-end.

Book was written to a level of readers who are well-versed in C++.

I wrote this in response to comment posted by Sreekumar Menon at 5 Advantages of Studying in Top Ranked University

Beautifully explained. I have a couple of questions but before getting to that, a bit of nit picking: Traditionally, “Ivy League” refers to eight universities on the East Coast – Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale; not exactly what you might call “lower ranked” schools. But, notwithstanding that clarification, Dr. Liang’s analysis stands.

My question is a slightly different one. I don’t know if Dr. Liang is familiar with the Indian engineering colleges. But if a student completes her undergraduate degree from a major Indian Engg. college – let’s say the Vellore Institute of technology, not quite the Indian Institutes of Technology (the IITs) but close – with a 3.7 GPA where would she stand among her classmates at a place like MIT or Ann Arbor? Would she be able to hold her own among her peers at top American universities? Are the scores in standardized tests like GRE a good indicator of her intellectual level and preparedness for graduate study compared to her American classmates?

Now, I told my story about learning C++

Now, let me compare my learning experience with C++ and relate them to your question about standard of students at top ranked schools.

Student from VIT (most likely) doing B.E. in  Computer science would have learned C++ from the basic book.

Lets assume he got admit in MIT for Graduate program in CS.

Here is the difference – she will have class mates who have learned to program and write clean and better code.

Watch this video to and get amazed to see how a 17-year-old is writing clean and beautiful code.

Now, you get an  idea about how students interact with professors and have a plan for future. This kid is already having plans to do PhD in Stanford.

Do you have a plan? Have you explored available career options?

Now, going back to my example, you get an idea about the quality of students that go to top ranked school.

Time for action –

Share your career plan in the comments below and let me know if I was able to explain the difference between the quality of students in top and average ranked schools.

Next – 5 Major Advantages of Studying in Top Ranked Universities


  1. prabhakaran on January 12, 2013 at 1:50 AM


    I didn’t watch the video but I think the kid represents individual talent rather advantage about high ranked universities.

    I can give similar examples. Ramanujan was already a genius in mathematics and started to create theories in mathematics while learning school mathematics. The great physicist Einstein didn’t learn physics at a top school then. And so on.

    There is definitely great advantage in joining a top school,where you meet motivated people of similar interest, have great resources to study,freedom to choose subjects.

    But given to a committed person freedom to pursue his interest,enough resources(Good Lab,Internet,Library,etc ), good standard of living, then I think see many more prodigies.

    • peterparker on February 18, 2013 at 4:27 AM

      wrong, this is indian mindset, that kid must be brilliatn etc. Why don’t indians accept that there is a problem in education system in all field.

  2. Vignesh on January 11, 2013 at 6:53 PM

    This kid is an extraordinary person. Nothing more than that. This is all I will say.
    – Vignesh

  3. Aditi Gaur on January 11, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    While i thought the same, but when i read profiles of people who have really inspired me in the research world, quiet a lot of them ( if not all ) were from medium ranked universities. My opinion is that, going to a top school provides an intellectual environment, promoting creativity and excellence. But it only *promotes*. On a ratio scale i would say, that 30% of your ability, is contributed by the school and 70% of it is on your grasping and the desire to learn.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on January 11, 2013 at 5:37 PM

      Good comment. What do you think would be the impact on 70% grasping ability, if that 30% is taken away?

      • Aditi Gaur on January 12, 2013 at 6:52 AM

        I feel, and i have seen, that if you dont have 30%, then you can push up with the 70% you do have. That requires strong will to seek knowledge and perseverance. Thats how so many indians from average colleges in india, actually do very good in research field and have contributed immensely to their respective industries, in the US or in India. I have seen profiles of many such people who are IEEE fellows. But if you dont have the 70%, then 30% is not much good.

  4. Archit on January 11, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    I am planning to take up Energy trading as a career. I am graduate in Nautical Tech from BITS Pilani. I have a srong inclination towards energy trading…..I frequently predict things and, it comes out to be correct. I applied to UPES Dehradun for the course but was denied , saying that I wont be able to find a job after the course as my Undergrad degree does not matches what i want to be.
    I have been talking to various US universities , viewing my undergrad inclination and everything they just say get a GMAT score and we will take you.
    I mean ours is a system designed for brain drain. i am not boosting of myself but thinking of Non resident Indian nobel laurates as to why did they shift to US or other places.
    I do not think that IIM A will ever take a guy with 90 or say 95 percentile cat score.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on January 11, 2013 at 4:16 PM

      Archit – I used to work in IT for Energy Trading application called Endur. If you want to become a treader, then you can look at course offered in Mathematics, Financial Computing.

      • Vignesh on January 11, 2013 at 7:01 PM

        work* not worked.
        IT* Information Technology sector
        Energy Trading* if this is used then no need for IT. By the way, how can application be used as a company name? Is Energy Trading Application the name of a company?
        Treader* Trader
        course* courses
        Mathematics,Financial Computing* and instead of ,
        I don’t know how come a person like you has done/doing Master’s and working/want to work in United States. Your language is not even close to elementary level. I am sorry to say this, but its true.
        – Vignesh

  5. zzz on January 11, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    It depends on the kind of work/project done by the student with his/her knowledge that gets them to a top school. I had Visual Basic in my school, at that time we didn’t have a particular reference book mentioned for our syllabus, so we learnt from notes prepared by our teacher.
    And the way it was taught to us, everyone loved it, and we could apply our creativity and do randomly different experiments. But unfortunately, such teachers are not present in most colleges here.So, I feel a lot depends on the teaching also.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on January 11, 2013 at 4:19 PM

      @ZZZ – you don’t need teacher to teach programming. Right way to learn programming is by doing projects and taking hands on approach. Thats one of the difference in quality of students in average schools. they are depended on teachers.

      • gauravkaushik on January 20, 2013 at 8:21 AM

        i totally agree with this point

  6. bob on January 11, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    I think this post is worth less than the cyberspace it is taking up. It does not achieve what it sets out to do, and worse, it gives an example of a child prodigy to illustrate its point. It matters more on the potential of the individual student rather than the university. Those who think otherwise are really hypocrites using big words like “Research”, “Sabbatical”, “Forward Thinking”, without understanding what they really mean .

    • Varun on January 11, 2013 at 2:10 PM

      You are right Bob.
      But I think the assumption we can make here is about students of similar caliber graduating from different types of universities. The ultimate deciding factor is individual capacity like you mentioned and that is correct.
      The child prodigy example is not apt here. If genius in children were to be judged by his/her programming skills, then gifted children would only spring from technologically advanced countries. I agree with you on that.

      • Raghuram Sukumar on January 11, 2013 at 4:15 PM

        I listed the video here to show a kid talk about writing clean code. Quality of programmers who come from average or below average ranked schools will be reflected in their programming skills, unless they learn how to write beautiful code.

  7. Varun on January 11, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    If we are comparing Indian universities and the universities in the US, we would be doing a very poor job at that. I am a Computer Science student and I can say that there are strides of differences between how an undergraduate student learns a programming language in India (be it any of the universities) and how they learn in the US. The simple constructs and syntax are never a part of the teacher’s curriculum to be taught in class. The students figure out by reading texts and surfing the net. Only the internal working of constructs is taught in class. And the courses are highly practical. Assignments, exams and all methods of testing involve programming by the students and there are strict laws against plagiarism. Students in India are not exposed to this level of practicality unless they volunteer in projects and internships.

  8. Pranav A on January 11, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    Wow this kid really inspired me. About a year ago, when I graduated from college, I realized that I did not achieve what I could I have. I felt I didn’t quite learn much because I did not take the time to understand the content in my classes. I was too practical and I overlooked the importance of basic lectures.

    After spending the last 5-6 months reading articles/research papers/journals about various fields within Computer Sciences, I now have a fixed motive/goal that I want to achieve in life.

    I believe education should never end and that getting a degree just for the monetary benefits that might follow should never be the main motive.

    I really want to thank Raghu for posting some amazing inspirational posts recently. One of my favorites has been the “How to be an A-grade student at a B-grade University”.

    Please keep posting such articles, it really enlightens me!

  9. SriHarsha on January 11, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Eye opener post …!

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