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The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

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Male
Quite Bright
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Date: Aug 05 2004
Major: Biology (This Major's Salary over time)
Like others have said, if you're out-of-state and from your average town, Ann Arbor is a tough place to be in. I came from an upper-middle class family of the "American Dream" immigrant type, and I felt poor here the entire time. AA is an extremely expensive place to live, and what would have you living well in other college towns only gets you by here. I struggled the entire time just making sure I had a roof over my head for the next year.

The Students

The school is indeed full of wealthy kids from the better areas of Michigan, both coasts, and from abroad. While I didn't think snottiness and stuck-up attitudes were really that huge of a problem(that varies from individual to individual), the display of wealth - the BMW's and SUV's and the clothes have its unavoidable effect on the surroundings. The worst effect the wealthy kids have is that, while many of them are very bright, already have their futures handed to them on a silver platter. They can buy their way out of any of life's little inconveniences, they have connections to good jobs and graduate schools - and so they don't need to work as hard as others do. Ann Arbor is nothing like 10 miles away from it, and its both a secluded, urban, culturally-rich college town and a twisted fantasyland playground for the rich whom you can hardly believe truly exist.

Diversity…a joke despite any statistic you'll ever read, because diversity isn't in the numbers, it's in the interaction. The rich Jewish kids from New York and Florida join certain frats/sororities, the rich WASPS join other ones. Groups of every other color and religion quickly segregate themselves as well. The funny thing is everybody probably gets their pot from the same sources. These groups generally get by and along and stick to themselves(hence the labels of snottiness), although I've heard some stories of increasing friction.

The trick of getting by at UM socially no matter who you are is you find your niche. 99% of UM and Ann Arbor will mean nothing to you, but your little social circle will be your world. Whether that's a good thing or not, at least UM is big enough to have alot of social circles.

Party scene - depends on what social circle you run in, but overall I would rate as mild. Libraries were more packed than bars and house parties were often more dry than not and small talk/gossip was usually louder than the music. At least it taught me to keep a "game-face" on at social scenes instead of how to bong-down 4-5 beers.

Academics - very challenging and little grade-inflation. You earn your A's here in most classes. There's alot of hard-working students who are very smart, but didn't get into an Ivy League. Despite the rankings, UM is the school you go to because you didn't get into your first choice. It's not your first choice either because you know nothing is going to be set afterwards as far as medical or law school or that plush dream job - at least not like having graduated from Harvard or MIT. UM is still a big state school and thus a diploma meat market. So you're up against alot of very smart, hard-working kids who know their futures aren't set like they would be at an Ivy League and thus work harder. You've got the wealthy out-of-staters for whom life has already been set(and UM's out-of-state admissions is considerably easier because of the tuition fees) and they don't make you feel too good either. They generally disappear from the upper-level classes by your 3rd year and do whatever it is they do, so then you're now only up against the hungry ambitious kids on the grade curve. It seems like everyone is too busy studying their butts off and competing instead of getting collegial with classmates, goofing off, and tinkering with possibly innovative ideas. A UM student will probably know more and will have worked much harder than his/her Ivy League counterpart, but the Ivy Leaguers are the entrepeneurs and founders because they have more time on their hands, feel more secure with their peers, and have more risk-taking freedoms with their careers and lives. UM's large size is a big problem and my 400-level classes often had more than 100 students. I rarely had contact with my professors(never bothered with office hour lines because I didn't need to). I also felt there was very little opportunity for extracurricular learning experiences such as research because those spots are often very few and very competitive due to the huge number of ambitious students. Undergrad, especially LSA and the sciences, is a red-headed stepchild here compared to the funding and emphasis placed on graduate programs. I don't think you should have to pay a very high tuition just for the chance to compete for a spot.

Despite good grades and very-high standardized test scores, I ultimately failed to get acceptance to professional schools, very likely due to my trouble finding extracurricular activities and getting professors to know me at this very large school. A maize and blue diploma, no matter how hard you worked for it, isn't a ticket for anything later in life and it barely factors in my professional career today. Anyways, faced with a career switch before my career even got started, I didn't find UM's career services and general environment conducive to that endeavor, a primary reason being that the high tuition costs and cost of living encouraged me to get off campus sooner rather than later.

Despite all this, I probably would have done it all over again because of the friends I've made and the good memories I've accumulated. Of course, that can be true anywhere, but I also appreciate some of the survival skills I've learned there because the competition to get ahead, that minnow in shark-infested waters feeling, the social interactions and heirarchies that passes for diversity, sadly mirrors the real world, in a smaller-scale and slightly-twisted way. I wouldn't recommend UM to another person like me, however.

Responses
responseWhile this comment mostly true, this speculative part couldn't be more false: "A UM student will probably know more and will have worked much harder than his/her Ivy League counterpart, but the Ivy Leaguers are the entrepeneurs and founders because they have more time on their hands, feel more secure with their peers, and have more risk-taking freedoms with their careers and lives. "
I've met nothing but lazy, barely educated, UM students, who seem to think they are somehow leaders and the best, without an original thought in their head. The Ivy League students I've met have really been quite the opposite.
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The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
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