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I don't like this question. It's not about math, but rather about the specific merits about a given institution. It's also not asking for general advice, but for advice applicable to the OP's specific situation (that is, applying to Montclair State). Worst of all, questions of the form "is X good?," where X is an institution (or, even worse, a person) threaten to degenerate into gossip.

Here's how I would have preferred to see the question worded:

"I am currently planning to apply to a master's program. (Additional details about intentions, areas of interest, etc.) There are several institutions I am considering applying to, but I don't know how to evaluate them. Can anybody suggest criteria for evaluating the suitability of a master's program?"

On the other hand, perhaps I'm just being prudish here. What do other people think?

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    $\begingroup$ I agree. You are not being prudish. I voted to close as "too localized". $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Dec 16 '10 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ you may want to link this discussion to the question in the comments there, so the OP has a chance to modify his question before closure votes pile on. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Dec 16 '10 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Willie: done, thanks. $\endgroup$ – Akhil Mathew Dec 16 '10 at 19:12
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Your intuitions are all correct -- this is the very reason that the "too localized" close reason exists.

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  • $\begingroup$ In another answer, an SE admin (Robert Cartaino) opined that it is OK to ask for reviews of books (and product recommendations). But surely if graduate program reviews are "too local" then all the more so for book/product reviews. Please elaborate. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Dec 17 '10 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill Dubuque: You are mis-characterizing my view (granted, the treatment describing my view is a bit light in that question). I'm saying that the user would need to get really, really specific about what are their criteria; what SPECIFIC problem are they trying to solve... to come even close to being an answerable question with any authority. Asking if a school is good is certainly off topic regardless but, that aside for a moment: Asking simply "Is this school good?" doesn't even come close to providing the detail and any criteria needed to answer the question authoritatively. $\endgroup$ – Robert Cartaino Dec 17 '10 at 20:12
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    $\begingroup$ @bill well the key difference is that I can have a book shipped to me anywhere in the world, whereas Montclair State University can't be.. :) kidding aside, geography is a strong case for too localized. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Dec 17 '10 at 20:12
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There's also a case to close it as argumentative. E.g. Imagine if someone decided to present some reasons that this particular institution was not so great...

In general, career advice questions are dangerous. What happens if the advice is followed and it turns out to be a bad choice for that particular person?

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Unless there are more suitable sites to which career or education questioners should be redirected with a URL, where else other than here and MathOverflow are people supposed to go for advice on math-related careers and education? Although many questions can be abstracted from specific locations and circumstances, sometimes knowledgeable (or more knowledgeable than OP's) opinion on university X or career path Y is a crucial part of the necessary information. For example, a computer programmer may contemplate entering a mathematics degree program at a specific local university, and (due to work or family constraints) have no other universities under consideration. At that point it is really a question about the merits of a particular institution and the questioner may have no other way of gathering data relevant to the decision.

Maybe in future there will be specialized sites to handle this, but I don't know of any right now, and locking out those who aren't in the university system already is a vicious circle. People ask here in part because they lack a non-internet source of information. Also, some might want to ask delicate questions anonymously.

OP providing an email address might be a useful protocol for career questions, to allow the super-localized or subjective material to be sent off-site. Most career questions will touch on many non-localized matters that would be valuable to post.

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