I was recently accepted to Cornell ED, but in the past few days I've been thinking 'what if?' excruciatingly often. At the beginning of the college app process my two top choice schools were always Cornell and Princeton from the get go. And visiting both schools in the spring of my junior year reaffirmed this. The trouble I had was that my first choice flip-flopped quite often - I'd like Princeton better one day, and then Cornell the next. Ultimately when it was time to send apps in, I had chosen Cornell for several reasons. I mean first off, I found both schools to be incredibly gorgeous, almost to the point of being surreal. However, I chose Cornell as my first choice because the bigger campus made the university seem much more vibrant and entertaining. Secondly, Princeton doesn't allow double majors and I'm planning on double-majoring in math and music. Third, Cornell's policy of non-sectarian and co-educational education from the school's beginning always struck a chord with me. It makes me more proud of the school than Princeton, which has had a history of white-elitism and sexism. And fourth, I figured that although both schools have rigorous admission standards (they are Ivy League schools after all), Cornell is undeniably slightly easier to get into. I thought it'd be in my interest to have a slightly higher chance of a low-stress second semester senior year (with an acceptance in hand).
I was fortunate enough to receive an acceptance letter in December, but now I think I might be having cold feet. I certainly do love Cornell, but I think my love for Princeton hasn't faded as much as I would have liked. There are definitely things at Princeton that just aren't available at Cornell - the fact that they have almost 10x more the amount of endowment money per student, advantages of a tight-knit liberal arts school, etc. In addition, although this seems somewhat superficial, the Princeton degree does carry a little more prestige. I know in my heart that it shouldn't matter because Cornell's education is just as good as Princeton's education (arguably even better due to a larger breadth of available studies). However, prestige does undoubtedly carry some weight to it further down the line. Additionally, although mathematics is taught really well at both schools, it's hard to ignore the fact that Princeton's math department is one of the best in the world, if not the best. Even though this applies more to graduate school rankings, the rankings still somewhat reflect the quality of the undergraduate education (the rankings may change because of Wiles' recent departure, but I digress).
Don't get me wrong, I have never been a fan of the US News Rankings' criteria because of its lack of consideration for the somewhat alternative admissions standards that Cornell has. My main concern certainly isn't the prestige. I am simply just confused as to whether I would have been better off at Cornell or at Princeton. And now there is somewhat of a sinking feeling in my stomach, as it will be impossible for me to know because Cornell's ED is binding and Princeton doesn't take transfers. I apologize for the incredibly long post, but I was just wondering how I can forget about Princeton/appreciate Cornell even more, or if the wonderful people at CC could convince me why Cornell is better anyway. Thank you
If you felt that way you should not have EDed, simple as that. It seems like you applied to Cornell simply because it's significantly easier to get into via ED.
"the fact that they have almost 10x more the amount of endowment money per student" - the undergrads really.. don't get to use that money
"advantages of a tight-knit liberal arts school" - if you want a liberal arts education, CAS is pretty small esp. in terms of class sizes in the humanities - comparable to size of princeton - it's just that it's simply many different schools combined on one campus. I'm going to argue that Cornell has a lot more in terms of breadth, and its strength across many departments is definitely something to be reckoned with. Since academic diversity is what liberal arts is about, if liberal arts is what you are going for, cornell would be pretty ideal for that. A&S has a hefty "dictionary" for a course roster by itself.
"it's hard to ignore the fact that Princeton's math department is one of the best in the world"
our math dept. is pretty darn comparable.
"the Princeton degree does carry a little more prestige"
among those who can name the 8 ivy league schools specifically, maybe yes (Harvard, Yale, and Columbia are actually much better known). However, when you apply for that position, they are really not going to nitpick if you have stellar grades. The school name has more than enough "prestige" - what matters from then on is how you perform in college & how you spent your time here. You really won't be short of connections here either if you are looking into business. If you want to have connections all over the globe and get to know an extremely diverse bunch of intelligent and motivated peers across every field, you are in the right place.
You have been accepted at one of the best schools in the world. And ED, so your college acceptance worries are over. And you love the place! Congratulations! Most seniors would envy your position.
If we constantly worry about "what ifs," we will become paralyzed and never make a decision. There is always a chance that whatever choice we make, maybe a different one could have been better.....or worse.
Had you applied to Princeton ED and been accepted, you would probably be worrying about whether you should have applied to Cornell. You loved both.
Be confident in your decision. Usually your initial decision is the best.
You're probably going to come up against this at other times in your life. You make a decision and then consider the what ifs? What if you had taken the other job, chosen to go out with the other person, chosen the other career? You thought about it and came up with some good reasons for applying to Cornell ED -- and now the only consideration on that front should be whether your future at Cornell goes well. Spending too much time on what ifs isn't going to get you anywhere. Hope you have a great experience at Cornell.
Well, it's too late to do any practical action now that you were already accepted and withdrawed all other applications. I agree with Colene, it sounds like you applied to Cornell for the wrong reasons. In your case, a better action would have seemed to apply to Princeton restricted early action and cornell regular decision.
But, as I said, there is nothing you can do now except to focus on cornell and why you love the school
Three of my son's high school classmates attend Princeton. Based on what I've heard from parents, I can't say I see an enormous difference in the quality of the education. Cornell also has an outstanding math department, with some very well known mathematicians - some that even teach freshman courses. In college, you will reap what you sow, regardless of the institution's name recognition or prestige. If you are still sold on Princeton in a few years, it would be a great graduate school destination. (BTW, one con for Princeton is their strange academic schedule, with first semester finals after Christmas break. Not much fun to be home studying or thinking about studying over Christmas, while your friends are all relaxed and having fun ...)
Thank you for the kind and reassuring words. I didn't want to make it seem like I was upset because of an ostensible prestige disparity. I was just mentioning soft factors that could have possibly tipped the favor for either school, and since I loved both schools so much, I had to consider minute things. Also, I hope it didn't come off that I applied to Cornell just because it was easier to get in! It was just something I had considered.
I am really appalled that you are asking about ED when you, your parents, and your guidance counselor made a binding decision a long time ago. From the World of Growing Up, I hope you learn that a commitment is just that: no refunds, no return on the merchandise. Quit whining and count your blessings. Thousands of kids would love your troubles.
As I said before, if you are looking for a job position in the future that only looks at prestige, then telling them you're from Cornell would be good enough. What you really get from and what you really want from the ivies, though, are the connections. For the jobs that you can't get via connections, they will look at your academic performance and what you did with your time - going to a top label school can only do that much if you just spend your time here getting wasted, not learning a thing, and graduating with a bare minimum gpa. You really can't live off of prestige - your work does not end after getting into college. Also, realize that if you manage to get a 4.0 here, they would not reject you if you are considered against a 4.0 Princeton grad unless the employer is a princeton grad - in which case then it's a matter of connections.
One thing you'll find at Cornell is that it's a great mix of big university with many options (as you note) and small colleges with personal relationships between classmates and professors in most fields. If you're into the tight knit liberal arts experience, you can cocoon yourself in the College of Arts and Sciences and essentially ignore everything else. If you want to broaden your horizons at some point, the other colleges are there for you.
I sympathize with the concern over prestige, but it sounds like your heart leans toward Cornell and your mind (and social influence) leans toward Princeton. Undergrads aren't getting 10x the resources at Princeton and, for what it's worth, you may well get a far superior education at Cornell simply because of the breadth of options, variety of worldivews and experiences represented in the student body, and just the general energy that you're not going to get at a more traditional liberal arts school. I, for example, find Harvard's campus and more limited offerings to be rather restrictive and uninspiring compared to the largess and breadth of Cornell. I'd say that to get the most of out of Cornell, don't box yourself in (being math / music major is a good start). Experience as many different types of people, activities, and disciplines as you can.
In the end, you'll be judged far more on what you do than what school you went to. Five years after graduating, no one will care where you went and you'll be working with (or maybe for) very smart people from schools you'd never consider attending based on prestige. So, go to the school that feels right for your personal growth, not your prestige. Based on what you wrote, that actually sounds like Cornell.
Looking at an old chance thread of yours, I don't think you would have had a good shot at being accepted to Princeton anyway (sorry if I'm sounding harsh). Therefore, you should be happy you're in at Cornell now and you don't have to worry about anything as opposed to having to wait until April 1 to find out the same result of eventually going to Cornell and not going to Yale.