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Columbia or Upenn?

thestevebrothestevebro Posts: 42Registered User Junior Member
edited July 2010 in Columbia University
I play a sport and have been talking to the coaches at each school, sent them my test scores, etc.

Each coach has told me that I would be able to get into their school if I apply early decision.

These are my top 2 choices for college. I am not totally sure what I want to major in, but it will most likely be something around psychology/cognitive science/neuroscience. Again, I am not totally sure what I will major in.

Which school is overall "better" for undergrads? I will probably go to graduate school, so which school will set me up best for this?

I've seen both campuses and like Columbia a bit better, but I like Upenn's campus as well. I know Columbia is more prestigious, but which is really better?
Post edited by thestevebro on

Replies to: Columbia or Upenn?

  • confidentialcollconfidentialcoll Posts: 2,491Registered User Senior Member
    what sport are we talking about? Penn football had an awesome year last year (although Columbia didn't fare so badly), Columbia has traditionally had an awesome fencing team (although last year wasn't great).
  • thestevebrothestevebro Posts: 42Registered User Junior Member
    The sports part doesn't really matter to me. Both schools have great teams and facilities for my sport.
  • amnc11amnc11 Posts: 51Registered User Junior Member
    I noticed that the perspectives you are being exposed to on the Penn forum have been pretty negative in regards to Columbia's atmosphere.

    Admissionsgeek wrote this a short while back, I think it might help you to read why one student loves Columbia so much:
    "I think it is best to explain Columbia as a series of dualities. On the one hand you have a completely self-contained campus life, on the other you have the city. On the one hand you have the structure of a Core, on the other you have the spread of academic, social and career opportunities.

    The first idea I like to harp on for you 'traditionalists' out there, is that you can spend 4 years at Columbia and never leave Morningside Heights. As far as a collegiate environment goes, it is a pretty good mirror. You have 3 all-night supermarkets within walking distances, some 10 bars, some 40 restaurants, places open really late. You have fraternities and frat parties. You have hundreds of student groups, and tons of free food (cufreefood.com was my lifesaver), speakers on campus, a really great art gallery (have you guys been to either Buell or the Wallach Gallery). A lot of research opportunities, your professors live in the neighborhood. It is astonishing how much you have at your ready disposal on campus. And how 'traditional' you can make your life at Columbia seem. There are some kids I hung out with that painted their face every basketball game, and every game a good 400-1000 students show up at the games. Sure Columbia is no Duke, but for those of you desiring or expecting some shelter from the city and wanting a full-immersion life, it is possible.

    Columbia, and we never give her credit for it as we often decry all the problems, has made great strides to create this relatively traditional feel to a campus (sure we can nitpick, but it is remarkable just how possible it is at Columbia as compared to NYU to have the cake and eat it too).

    But what sets Columbia apart from traditional places, is that it is just as much about the community as it is about the individual. I hinted before that there are a lot of opportunities out there - and I mean A LOT. I guess an example is warranted. One day I left my dorm around noon with my friends to grab some food across the brooklyn bridge, we went to Grimaldis, then went to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory with a great view of the city, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and grabbed some Chinese dumplings at a small hole in the wall on Mott Street. As the night crept in, we posted up at this small cafe in Soho until the night got long, headed out to meet some friends at SOBs where they had a bhangra tutorial dancing night, ventured across to the East Village for hookah, and ended the night with a long subway train home that as we crept across College Walk at 6:30 in the morning, the sun was out and no one was around. I mean there is nothing that can match that diversity in terms of experience. And though certainly we spent more than I usually do on such an epic night, it still fills me with memories.

    This is the perhaps 'independent' quality of Columbia, the fact that students do not completely and exclusively buy into the university as the sole harbinger of fun. You will find a group of friends and can end up going anywhere, do about anything, and come back with a story to share. Your conception of what is fun radically changes because it is no longer based on quotidian, but on the very real things that are available to you - "i know someone at this art gallery, i know someone who works at this small wine and cheese shop, i want to try this place i read about in nymag." The so called independence is more so in relation to a shared interest in exploration, in refusing the limitations of the neighborhood and seeking out something. But rarely do you do it alone, and rarely do you do something without having the urge to share the story with someone, or to recreate it with a new gaggle of friends.

    The fact that you can live in this duality, is in my mind, what makes Columbia special. That you are not beholden to either identity (a campus girl or a city boy), but rather can balance between the two extremes and find a mixture that works well for you."

    Admissiongeek's post came from the first page of this thread describing her perspectives on Columbia:

    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/columbia-university/836242-down-wire-hard-sell-columbia.html
  • NinjaPlzNinjaPlz Posts: 48Registered User New Member
    ^^^^^^^Haha, says something about Penn students, doesn't it? (I'm a Columbia ED hopeful :D)
  • HKToUSHKToUS Posts: 135Registered User Junior Member
    I don't think Columbia is more prestigious than UPenn for specific colleges other than the nursing school, which has a relatively high selectivity. But that isn't the point of this thread.

    You should prioritize different aspects that you look for in a university and think about how much weight you would give each of them. Then see which university better caters to your priorities in a university.
  • objobsobjobs Posts: 192- Junior Member
    Personally, I'd prefer Columbia over Penn. But not because of the Orwellian double-speak as copied and pasted in post #4. Let's try to make some sense of this gibberish, shall we?

    I think it is best to explain Columbia as a series of dualities. On the one hand you have a completely self-contained campus life, on the other you have the city.


    Substitute "Penn" (or pretty much any urban university) for "Columbia" and nobody would know the difference.

    Columbia, and we never give her credit for it as we often decry all the problems, has made great strides to create this relatively traditional feel to a campus (sure we can nitpick, but it is remarkable just how possible it is at Columbia as compared to NYU to have the cake and eat it too).


    Except for its Ivy League status and a nominal campus, how is Columbia any more "traditional" than NYU?

    But what sets Columbia apart from traditional places, is that it is just as much about the community as it is about the individual.


    No, this doesn't set Columbia apart from any other traditional (or non-traditional) places. What schools aren't about both the "community" and the "individual?"

    I hinted before that there are a lot of opportunities out there - and I mean A LOT.


    All of Columbia's peer institutions have "A LOT" of opportunities out there. So what's the big deal?

    I guess an example is warranted. One day I left my dorm around noon with my friends to grab some food across the brooklyn bridge, we went to Grimaldis, then went to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory with a great view of the city, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and grabbed some Chinese dumplings at a small hole in the wall on Mott Street. As the night crept in, we posted up at this small cafe in Soho until the night got long, headed out to meet some friends at SOBs where they had a bhangra tutorial dancing night, ventured across to the East Village for hookah, and ended the night with a long subway train home that as we crept across College Walk at 6:30 in the morning, the sun was out and no one was around. I mean there is nothing that can match that diversity in terms of experience.


    Oh no? Philadelphia (or Boston or Chicago or LA) does not have pizza, ice cream and dumplings? Sure, they don't have the Brooklyn bridge or Mott Street or Soho or East Village, but they have their own unique landmarks and neighborhoods. It's kind of arrogant and provincial to say that "there is nothing that can match that diversity in terms of experience."

    This is the perhaps 'independent' quality of Columbia, the fact that students do not completely and exclusively buy into the university as the sole harbinger of fun.


    Where do college students "buy into the university as the sole harbinger of fun?"

    You will find a group of friends and can end up going anywhere, do about anything, and come back with a story to share.


    How is this Columbia-specific? Or even college-specific.

    Your conception of what is fun radically changes because it is no longer based on quotidian, but on the very real things that are available to you


    I'm assuming that most high school graduates change their conceptions of "fun" when they go off to college. Again, this is not unique to Columbia.

    The so called independence is more so in relation to a shared interest in exploration, in refusing the limitations of the neighborhood and seeking out something. But rarely do you do it alone, and rarely do you do something without having the urge to share the story with someone, or to recreate it with a new gaggle of friends.


    Like I said, you don't have to go to only Columbia to find a "new gaggle of friends."

    The fact that you can live in this duality, is in my mind, what makes Columbia special.


    Yeah, this is all in your mind because basically nothing you've said is "special" to Columbia. At least nothing you can't find in any generic cheesy college brochure. The only "duality" is your tired and cliched double-speak.
  • amnc11amnc11 Posts: 51Registered User Junior Member
    @objobs -- I copied over Admissionsgeek's post in order to refute some of the negative comments that thestevebro received on her other thread, such as:
    Finally, Columbia is known to be a generally depressing, rigid place. That said, I'm sure some people benefit from the intense degree of structure.

    While admissiongeek's post may lack the specificity you hoped for, I think it conveys well that Columbia is not the "generally depressing, rigid place" described in the above quote.

    Rather than decry another poster's "gibberish" and "tired and cliched double-speak," please answer the OP's question to the best of your ability.

    On all too many occasions, I have seen you question innocuous posts explaining why current students like Columbia, but I have scarcely seen you contribute your alleged reasons.

    You might argue that it is important that the OP see why a certain post should be taken with a grain of salt, but there is no reason to belittle another poster with sarcasm (i.e. "Yeah, this is all in your mind because...").
  • Runners2Runners2 Posts: 308Registered User Junior Member
    To the OP - obviously these are 2 great schools. The differences between them probably come down to personal preferences or choices of what you want to study.

    If I were you, I'd talk to the coaches at each school about the possibility of receiving a likely letter from admissions which indicates that you will be accepted, assuming that nothing in your record changes dramatically. Having a coach say this: "Each coach has told me that I would be able to get into their school if I apply early decision" is nice, but not a guarantee of admission. Every year we hear about athletes who think they are "in" a school based on conversations with coaches who end up disappointed. The likely letter is what you need to make sure that both of these are real options where you can count on being accepted. Good luck!
  • lapraslapras Posts: 325Registered User Junior Member
    Except for its Ivy League status and a nominal campus, how is Columbia any more "traditional" than NYU?

    It has a campus, not a block of buildings. Some people value that more than others.
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