I have applied to both of these schools, for computer science, and should be hearing back from them within a month or so. They are probably both my top picks, and I feel that it is pretty likely that I will get into both. Assuming I get into both, I am trying to decide which school I would pick.
My first area of comparison is the quality of the computer science undergraduate programs. I know that WPI is known for its experience in technology fields, and would expect a great computer science undergraduate program. I have heard though from someone who has worked with UMass Amherst computer science majors that their undergraduate program is very impressive as well. I also know a UMass Amherst graduate who was a comp-sci major, and found a job shortly after graduation, getting paid around the median starting salary which WPI boasts. With further research, I found that UMass Amherst seems to have a higher computer science program ranking nationally, and a very impressive ranking at that. Some rankings were based on the graduate programs, but I am assuming that this is still somewhat reflective of the undergraduate programs, and I may continue to graduate school anyways. From what some people say, UMass Amherst isn't known as great school in general, but I do know that it has definitely been improving, and I have heard just as many people or more say that it's a great school.
Another area of comparison is the factors affecting my future career. I am unsure which school an employer would rank higher for a computer science major. From what I have gathered, UMass Amherst seems to be better known nationally for its computer science, but would an employer base their personal ranking on another factor, by evaluating the schools by other statistics such as SAT scores, etc. Would the employer even need to evaluate both, or is it known that one program is better than another already?
Social life is also something which, from reading reviews on this forum as well as elsewhere, seems to be drastically different at either school. I can assume that at UMass Amherst, I will be able to make whichever types of friends I want, party when I want to, and that there will be generally a lot of fun things going on. From what I have heard about WPI, it is said that most students hang around their dorms most of the time, and that many of the students may not be considered socially "normal" or fun to hang out with. I think because of this, as well as the fact that the male:female ratio is miserable, and also that the people going to a tech school may not vary as much as those at a widely ranging school may make my experience less enjoyable. I was thinking that joining a frat may be a solution to this issue, and would probably let me hang out with people attending a lot of the other nearby schools more often than otherwise. I do not have any real knowledge on the frats at WPI, how time consuming being in one may be, or if I would even want to be in one. I definitely could see myself fitting in fine at WPI, since I am a very tech-oriented person, but I'm not sure that it will be worth sacrificing the general "college fun" which can be had at another school.
Finally, a necessary difference to compare is that of tuition / expenses. WPI is much more expensive than UMass Amherst. Does the amount more being paid really have an equal value when it comes to getting a job? Is there even a difference between both schools when it comes to ease of getting a job (evaluated locally, and further away) and starting salaries? I think that I will be able to pay for both schools without taking out any loans, or possibly some for WPI, but nothing huge. Will the extra money saved by attending UMass Amherst be important after graduation (possibly for graduate school), or even during my time there?
Thank you to all who took the time to read through this and give input!
Any insight or opinions are welcome, but it would definitely be helpful to back them with some sort of source (a friend, someone you know, or statistics) so I know that your opinion is based on something.