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Research University Advantages: Top Professors, More Majors and Graduate Degrees

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A lot of colleges use the National Candidate’s Reply Date, which gives students until May 1st to make final decisions on attendance and send in deposits to hold their place for the fall. That means you’ve most likely decided where you’re going to college, but not all schools do not follow the May 1 deadline.

If you’re still weighing your options, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s important to find the college that’s right for you and your needs, not the college that your parents or your friends think is a good choice. Nothing in life is perfect, so all schools have their pros and cons, but if you’re planning to enter certain fields that require advanced degrees (such as medicine or law) it might be in your best interests to attend a school that is considered a research university.

Research universities typically expect faculty to spend a large portion of their time on research.

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, which identifies groups of fairly comparable colleges and universities in the United States, came up with the term Research I University in 1994. Although the Carnegie Classification has changed their categories and terminology since 1994 and that official term is no longer valid, a school is typically considered to be a research university if it:

  • offers a full range of baccalaureate programs
  • is committed to graduate education through the doctorate
  • gives high priority to research
  • awards 50 or more doctoral degrees each year
  • receives annually $40 million or more in federal support

The 2008 Annual Report from Center for Measuring University Performance (which is a research center at Arizona State University) provided a list of the top American research universities based on several different factors, and the top 10 are probably schools that you’ve heard of: Columbia, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania, Yale, Duke, University of Michigan— Ann Arbor, John Hopkins University, and University of California— Berkeley.

Professors at research universities are often the tops in their field. People often assume that professors who specialize in research aren’t the greatest teachers, but most of them carry their passion into the classroom and get their students just as interested and energized in the topics at hand. They are always learning the most recent, up-to-the-minute things, most of which isn’t even published in current textbooks.

As a student of those “research professors,” you may be able to work directly with them, either as assistants or research project interns. You never know when you may be working on something that changes the world!

Research universities are typically very large schools, which some people find intimidating. That’s understandable, but the sheer size of a research university also means that there are many more majors, sometimes hundreds to choose from. For example, you may be able to major in biology just about anywhere you go to school, but a research university may offer biochemistry or genetics, which you won’t find just anywhere.

Research universities can help you better prepare yourself for graduate school because you’re able to speak with current grad students. Smaller liberal arts colleges won’t always give you that opportunity, and you might even have a better shot at being accepted into the graduate school of your choice if you attended a research university. The fact that you studied under top research professors might weigh pretty heavily on your applications, too.

One of my closest friends has loved animals since we were in elementary school together, and she is now a veterinarian. She’s definitely one person I consider to be a huge because she has her doctorate without having a Bachelor’s degree. Why? She went to the University of Florida and was so successful in her undergraduate career that she was accepted into their vet school as a junior. She never had to complete her senior year and get her undergraduate degree. It’s not to say that this is the path everyone wants to take in life, but in her case, it certainly wouldn’t have happened if she was going to a small, unheard of college.

Research universities may also have their own chapters of educational organizations that don’t exist at smaller schools that wouldn’t have enough interested students. You’ll be able to join and participate in a wider variety of groups, which might help you out down the road as well.

Research universities aren’t for everybody, and that’s okay. It’s just good to weigh your options and know what’s available. StateUniversity.com is full of resources which can help you learn about colleges and universities all over the country, so be sure to check them all out. Before I sign off on this post, I’m going to – once again – stress the importance of choosing the school that’s right for you!

For Reference:

2008 Annual Report from Center for Measuring University Performance


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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