This is going to be my ONLY response to you because you deal in stereotypes and emotions and not objectively verifiable facts. The real question is why YOU are so obsessed with trashing Columbia? What is your connection to it? Why does it bother YOU that I have praised the school? What is it to you?
What is your connection to Harvard? I suspect you HAVE no connection to Harvard, though you may actually have dreamed of having one. I have an ACTUAL connection to Harvard as I explained in my post. I was actually accepted by Harvard and received my Ph.D from that institution. I also taught at Harvard. I LOVE Harvard. I also said that the prestige of a school was no measure of a student's absolute fitness with a school. Several of my Harvard students felt they may have made a mistake, picking the school simply on the basis of its prestige, and not sufficiently weighed whether or not is was the right FIT. My undergraduate institution was UChicago. You would surely trash it as "not as good as Harvard" therefore I probably made what in your mind was a dumb decision. But UChicago was better for ME, than Harvard would have been for my undergraduate education.
The point of this thread is that the O.P is trying to make sense of which school will be better for HIM, not debate the relative prestige of either. I also said that the neuroscience programs at Harvard and Columbia WERE DIFFERENT!!!!! I did not say that one was BETTER THAN the other. I urged the O.P to review the curriculums and find out which "take" on neuro fit him BETTER: Harvard's or Columbia's. My recently admitted Columbia relative spent a good deal of time researching neuro programs and the content of Columbia's combined neuro/psych program seemed a BETTER FIT with his/her interests.
Your assertion that Harvard is objectively better than Columbia on every measurable scale is a ludicrous statement, if the point of the O.P's post is to figure out at which school he will feel most comfortable. The fact that his Columbia visit was great and his Harvard visit was not is NOT something he should ignore. Maybe he caught Harvard at a a bad time. Maybe on his next visit to Harvard everything will click for him. Great. But a truly intelligent person does not go to a school solely because of the prestige value. From Chicago I had no problem getting into every single every graduate school to which I applied, despite the fact that on objective terms Harvard is more prestigious. That will be true for our O.P if Columbia ends up being his choice. There is NO OBJECTIVE measurement for personal fit with a school and your obsession with prestige is irrelevant to the O.P's general undergraduate welfare.
You need to take a chill pill about Columbia. You seem to have no connection to it. You clearly DID NOT get into Harvard, or your response would have been a bit more nuanced and PERSONAL about your Harvard experience and why your opinion, then, should have mattered. My beef with you is that you clearly speak from NO EXPERIENCE of either Harvard OR Columbia. Unless you can give us proof of a connection and objective evidence to support your relentless bashing of Columbia, I must call you out as someone WHO HAS NO CREDIBILITY ON THE SUBJECT OF COLUMBIA!
I think it is extremely unfair of you, if you have no connection with Columbia, to use the forum as a place to work out your emotional problems with a school that, for obviously SUBJECTIVE and not objective reasons, you do not like. Respect the right of persons who are excited about their opportunities to enjoy them and discuss them without the heedless interjection of your emotional hostility. Please Sir, get a life!
This is my only intended engagement with you on this subject. I have stated my opinion. The end!
Last edited by swingtime; 04-04-2012 at 10:17 PM.
Reason: a single letter
Although Harvard Square might seem exciting at first, remember that its initial "glow" will dim soon after you get used to it. On the other hand, there's virtually unlimited places you can go if you live in Manhattan (in fact, the subway's right in front of the campus so you can literally go to, say, Times Square in a few minutes). But I have to admit that Morningside Heights can get boring after a while (though that applies to almost all college towns).
Columbia has much better school colors than Harvard, a better looking wall diploma and has had more Nobel prize affiliates than any university in the world. While Columbia can't claim to have such notables as the unabomber, Jeffrey Skilling or George W Bush as alumni, it still has a loyal following among its former students. It has even been found to be good enough for both Roosevelts to choose after having been at Harvard and for Jeffrey Sachs to jump ship from Harvard's faculty to teach at Morningside Heights.
I spent many a year in Harvard Square as a Harvard Ph.D. student, and absolutely loved it! One of the best places on earth, in my opinion. The mother of my Columbia admit relative has had some of the same misgivings you have had about the safety of New York and Columbia's environment. Much of the apprehension stems from stereotypes about the area that no longer hold. New York is now one of the safest cities in the U.S. Columbia is NOT in Harlem, but it is relatively near Harlem. And Harlem is NOT what it was even 15 years ago. My advice would be: don't worry so much about outdated urban stereotypes. At least, that should not be the reason why you make what I believe is a hard choice. And it IS harder than some on the thread will allow. The Columbia Core is a huge part of the Columbia educational experience. But, Core Curriculum-wise, Harvard will be more flexible in that its core distribution requirements do not mandate that you and every other undergrad take the exact SAME Core courses. That should be a consideration. As for your intended major interests of nuero and East Asian. Actually Columbia and Harvard both have exceptionally strong programs in each. While I was at Harvard Simon Schama, a Harvard history prof whom I thought was amazing, moved to Columbia. He seems NOT to have regretted the move! Both schools have great profs. At either one you will get a fantastic education, but at each A VERY DIFFERENT EDUCATION.
You have an enviable choice. But at the end of the day, pick the school where you feel most comfortable: socially, intellectually, personally. Good luck!!!!
Can I just take a moment to appreciate swingtime's comments, which bring up legitimate concerns that too few admits consider?
Just to respond to a few points that need clarification:
While Columbia isn't in Harlem, Harlem is one of the richest neighborhoods left in the large American cities of the USA. Columbia is privileged to reside so close to a cultural epicenter of NYC. Yes, Harlem can be dangerous at night, but so can SoHo. Also, the Broadway side of Columbia's campus is awesome--it's a shame you didn't have a chance to walk up and down the street in this area. I live on 113th and Broadway this year--the food and activities around campus are incredible. Riverside is also such a nice area--they were shooting a TV show/movie there today.
Just to directly address your comment, NYC is the king of cafes and boutiques. There are plenty cafes on Broadway near campus, but if you venture down to SoHo--which many of my female friends do--you're guaranteed an awesome day of shopping and great lunch no matter where you sit down to eat. That's why people choose Columbia--it's impossible to get sick of campus life because there are so many options. I wonder if you had a chance to see campus on a nice day? Today was beautiful and there were tons of kids hanging out in the central campus.
As for academics, I can't speak much to specific fits for your major. I do know that generally social/hard science majors love the Core. It allows you to explore intellectually for a few more years before you have to strongly commit to one area for graduate school. My close friend is a biochem major and russian lit minor--this minor was largely facilitated by the Core--and he loves both aspects of his education.
I'm an engineer, so I mainly just wanted to speak up on the experience aspect. I'm also a scholar with access to summer funding, and I guarantee you it makes your summers so much less stressful. If you fail to find an internship, you can do something more interesting like traveling to Brazil to study some neurological phenomena and get fully funded to do so. Last summer I wrote a review of the solar industry and lifeguarded on the side while getting paid to do this research. The scholar program is severely underrated--if you take advantage of it, you'll open up some incredible doors.
One cool option for medical research to consider is Mount Sinai, which is very close to campus. I know a few people who have done research there over the summer. I hope all this helps, please don't listen to the trolls on this thread and simply consider the information at hand, Harvard is an incredible option and you can't go wrong either way!
Thanks tymanx2. Really the summer funding is one of the big things swinging this in Columbia's favor. That's not to say Harvard doesn't have money enough to fund a lot of undergraduate research things and stuff like that, but the special consideration is nice.
I love both schools. So to see people bashing either of them is like... surprisingly annoying for me. Can we just focus on the positives instead of "X is better than Y because Y is crapblahnegative" ?
That being said, the rest of NYC has a lot of great things to offer, as does the rest of Boston. I'm mostly focused on the immediate neighborhood because that's where I would be spending the majority of my 3 or 4 years. I visited on an absolutely gorgeous day (my host student said it was the first nice day in a while actually) I just happened to be on the Amsterdam Ave side since the admissions building is on that side, so once we left campus, we happened to be on that side of the street, and started our excursion from there.
I really don't know how I feel about the Core. Everyone says they ended up loving it, but at my high school, we have something extremely similar and it frustrates me with its rigidity and lack of options when I want to study a bajillion other things.
That being said, I just got off the phone with a current Columbia student, and the fact that you CAN triple major, that it's at least an option whereas at Harvard the comparable major/minor system is a bit more strict is also something to consider.
In terms of cost, I don't get any financial aid either way. Columbia is $5000 more a year, and cost of living in NYC is higher than that in Cambridge/Boston, but that summer grant thing is still really tempting. At Harvard though, at least if I get lucky, I have the chance to graduate in 3 years and cut out an extra 57,000 that way, which I know isn't the best way to cut costs, but you must admit it is an option at the least. Since after this, I'm looking at Med/Grad school which is another large debt.
Curriculum-wise, I don't like Columbia's neuro program as much as Harvard's, but right now Harvard's is.. confusing because of their joint concentration policy. I wish I could talk with an adviser because I don't even know if I'll be able to study exactly what I want. The closest I've found to "fudging it" is a joint concentration in East Asian Studies and History & Science with a Mind, Brain, and Behavior track if I want both. Which is... I have no idea. It feels like a mess right now because I haven't spoken with anyone who understands it. But with Columbia's neuro program, the major at least doesn't feel as strong to me as Harvard's. Which I gotta give 'em credit, it seems like they're trying to beef up but right now, 'tis what 'tis.
Facility-wise, I liked Harvard's better. Apparently the floor in JJ I stayed in overnight had notoriously bad bathrooms, but overall, Columbia had a pretty exterior but the interior wasn't what I had hoped. Whereas Harvard seemed to have its stuff together more.
Ah long post is long. But anyways, that's where I am in this college decision see-saw. Like I said, a lot is going to ride on this Harvard visit, probably.
The dorms get a lot lot better. I'm in a converted apartment building this year (sophomore) and it has hardwood floors, a kitchen, and a few bathrooms shared by 8-9 people. So cool. Honestly, I don't get downtown too often, but it's nice to have the option. My favorite part about Columbia is the food around campus--NYC has a whole different level of quality.
From what it sounds like, you're leaning toward the academics of Harvard, which is understandable. I will echo other people in saying our East Asian program is quite good, and the NYC museums are top notch. The core is more flexible than it gets credit for--you'll probably be annoyed by Frontiers of Science, but you will likely enjoy LitHum, Contemporary Civ, and perhaps even University Writing (I did). In addition, you can fulfill your Global Core and Science Requirements with classes from your major. Columbia really encourages exploring--you don't declare in the College until second semester sophomore year. I would consider the Core a benefit--it sounds rigid, but it really just serves as a guide.
Finally, I really want to emphasize how the scholars funding works. It is unlike most programs in the Ivy league--literally, if your idea has an academic credence to it whatsoever, you will be funded. I know plenty of people who have gotten 6-8 thousand dollars to fly to some obscure country to complete an independent study. As I said, you could go to Japan to complete a survey of historical sites or really anything. Some of the projects are quite bizarre--I remember one kid went to some South American country to work with a start up that sold low-cost glasses in small villages. From what I've read and heard, medical schools are looking more for these sort of experiences and education tracks than ever before--Columbia certainly espouses the nontraditional college experience. Anyway, good luck--I visited Harvard back in the day and loved how it looked and felt, but honestly I'm glad I wasn't admitted. It's not my style at all, much too of a traditional college experience. Good luck!
OP, if you think you'd prefer Harvard Square/Cambridge to New York, you're not really into the Core, you want to crew, and you want to do pre-med, then go to Harvard. It's clearly the better fit. I love Columbia, but it doesn't sound like it's the best fit for you. The John Jay Scholar distinction is nice, but I'm sure you'll be able to get summer funding at Harvard. We do have a crew team (and I have friends on it), but crew is clearly less of a big deal at Columbia than it is at Harvard.
It sounds to me like you want more or a traditional college experience. That's not what I (or, I suspect, most of the Columbia students posting on this thread) wanted, but it's totally legitimate if it's what you want. And Harvard will give you that traditional college feel to a much greater degree than Columbia will.
Whatever you end up choosing, though, pay no attention to JamieBrown. He's just one of the anti-Columbia demagogic trolls on these boards.
I never really was into the traditional college experience (For a looooong time I wanted either BU or NYU simply because they had non-traditional, but then I got accepted at CC and H) but when you break it down that way, it does make more sense. Columbia was, for most of my junior/beginning of my senior year, my number 1 choice. And when I was applying, literally everything lined up perfectly from the best interview ever to the best overnight campus visit ever. When I was applying to Harvard, everything felt like it went totally wrong, so I was really surprised I got in, especially on the early action round of decisions. I'll still mull over it for a bit, go to their campus things and meet other students. we'll see.
but honestly pwoods, you kind of slapped everything into perspective for me with your post, and it didn't even take you 5 paragraphs haha. I was in so much turmoil about this, but as weird as it sounds I feel calm now. pfft thanks. p: wow that was a weird way to explain my feels.
Go to Columbia. There you will enjoy going to school with part time 30 somethings who obtained 3.0 gpa's and 1800 SAT's in high school and which receive the same Columbia University undergraduate degree as the other students and which take EXACTLY the same courses with the same professors as the other undergraduates and which are a whole 25% of columbia's undergraduate class.
Why does Columbia fail to include the stats, including the 33% acceptance rate of these undergraduate students?
JamieBrown, I went to Columbia and did indeed take many a class with General Studies students, who tended not only to be much more interesting than the College students, who were nonetheless quite interesting, but to do at least as well academically, despite the lower scores. If you have a very narrow, conventional view of college, Columbia isn't the place for you.
^^^dwharris, I am glad that you enjoyed your time studying next to the General Studies students at Columbia, which are part of the Columbia University undergraduate system.
Any thoughts on why Columbia, when reporting to outside agencies, fails to include the stats of these students, which are a full 25% of the Columbia University undergraduate school and attend the same classes with the same professors and receive the same Columbia University degree?