I am interested in majoring in aerospace engineering but I don't know whether to attend MIT or Princeton.
MIT would seem like the obvious choice because it is ranked #1 in the field and has an excellent overall reputation.
However I feel that Princeton might be the better choice for the following reasons:
1. MIT is a tech school instead of a university and produces "techies" as opposed to well-rounded graduates of universities. And my whole life goal has been to be a well-rounded graduate. I don't just want to be an engineer and nothing else. I want to be well-rounded. When we went to Princeton, the head of the department of mechanical and aero engineering was giving honest assessments of other engineering schools (believe me he was honest and acknowledged when other schools had excellent programs) and said "MIT graduates work for Princeton graduates" and basically what he meant was that Princeton graudates get higher ranks than MIT graduates because they are more well-rounded and have a reputation for being more wholey educated than MIT graduates who are just "techies."
2.Im not sure if university as opposed to a tech school will better prepare me to go to graduate school (because I want to get a masters in Physics) because graduate schools want to see and are geared towards well-rounded individuals who excel in several fields.
3. I've also heard that MIT puts more emphasis on their graduates while Princeton places more emphasis on their undergrads.
I do not know if any of this is true but it seems like it could be valid. I have debated whether or not it would be better to attend Princeton for undergrad and apply to MIT's graduate program later.
Basically, I am open to either school, I just want to attend the school that will provide me with the best prospects in the future (in terms of receiving internships during school and a job after).
I chose Princeton over MIT for Computer Science. Obviously a slightly different field, but still; I haven't regretted it. I chose Princeton primarily for my undergrad experience. Like you said, a well-rounded student body can be a really enjoyable thing. I like talking to students who are interested in a broad, broad range of fields. I like taking humanities classes that are actually top-notch as opposed to afterthoughts in a tech school. I like the diversity of interests on this campus. There's also size to consider; I didn't want to share my major with something like 30% of the campus.
MIT is a great school. So is Princeton. To imply that one is far superior over another is perhaps disingenuous. I really believe that both schools will provide you with great career opportunities, though I'm not incredibly familiar with aero here. I would recommend that you consider the social aspect, since you seem to have not mentioned it a lot in your post. I think that the two environments are very different; MIT seemed a little more techie/nerdy/pressure-cooker than Princeton, at least from my brief impression. And if the career prospects are both great, then you should probably think more about "secondary" aspects, since if you're going to spend 4 years at one of these places, you want to be happy!
I was an engineer at Princeton (not MAE) and since I now live in Boston, I have a number of friends who are/were at MIT. I'm biased, but the sense I get is that the sort of people who really thrive as MIT undergrads are the sort that know pretty much from the outset that they want to be at a culture like MIT's. MIT is an awesome place (and I do really believe this), but an awesome place for a specific subset of people, and my sense is that if you're not sure if you're one of those people, you're probably not.
I'd also agree that it's probably easier to be better rounded at Princeton. MIT's got a number of great non-STEM departments, but I think the difference is just that you'll have a critical mass of non-STEM peers at Princeton.
I don't know much about physics grad school specifically, and while I think Princeton does a great job of making undergrad-friendly policy, it's difficult to quantify the difference here vs. MIT. What I will say is that I think one of the best things about Princeton is the fact that it's got something like an 80/20 grad/undergrad split means that research that, in a lot of other places, would be grad student work (leaving undergrads with monkey work) is done by undergrads, giving you really great exposure. This is a really rare thing in this world: most places tend to be either research-focused w/ tons of grad students or student-focused (e.g. LACs) with little cutting edge research. This makes a big difference when you're applying for grad school or jobs after.
This isn't fair to MIT, of course, since I'm sure UROP probably does work hard to make sure undergrads have access to some of the great research at MIT. You should get a second opinion from someone on that side of the fence.
I attended Princeton undergrad and MIT as a grad student. Both universities are top ranked for MAE. Do not make a decision on Princeton or MIT solely based on opinions on the respective MAE departments. Consider the total undergraduate experience at both universities.
MIT is serious science. Everyone wants to be a scientist or an engineer. MIT offers an outstanding education in math, science and engineering; the best in many fields. MIT is great if you want to concentrate on math, science or engineering. MIT's size in engineering may offer more student internship opportunities. Princeton's general education may provide greater flexibility for future career options. The differences may be minor. Princeton is better for students whose interests go beyond STEM. MIT does not make as much effort to graduate students who are well rounded academically. MIT enables students to pursue their specialized interests. MIT is very good for students that are committed to their major. Princeton encourages students to switch majors. Princeton wants students to take courses “out of their comfort zone.”
Princeton offers an outstanding education in math, science and engineering, AND the liberal arts, AND the fine arts. If you want to major in MAE and to take economics, attend campus plays, go to a football games, study a foreign language, become a creative writer, study literature or philosophy then Princeton is the choice. Your roommates at Princeton will be foreign language majors, future attorneys, science majors, economic majors, future politicians, future college professors in the liberal arts, etc.
Grad school admissions are based on letters of recommendation and your potential for research. Both universities will prepare you for grad school.
MIT is big city. Princeton is located in a small town. MIT's buildings look like office buildings or an industrial park. Princeton looks like Hogworts.
Princeton has 5,113 undergraduates and 2,479 grad students. MIT has 4,232 undergraduates and 6,152 grad students. Princeton is more focused on undergraduate education. MIT is 55% male, 45% female. Princeton is 51% male, 49% female.
The MAE education available at both universities is outstanding. However, the student life at the two universities is very different. Consider the educational environment that you want for the next four years. What activities do you like to relax, want do you want to do to have fun? Do you want roommates that share your love for MAE/physics or do you want roommates that will help you become a well rounded person?
The reason why I picked MIT over Princeton was because of the #1 engineering programs (also b/c I prefer Boston over NJ). They're both "well-rounded" schools although MIT is quite a bit more focused on technology.
However it's your decision. You should go for the school that fits you best, even if it may or may not be the top in the world in aerospace.
My son also picked MIT over Princeton. (I feel a little sad about this as I think Princeton is the finest u/g university in the country and it was an amazing privilege to be admitted) He'll be studying math at MIT and just felt MIT was a better fit.
Both schools are wonderful; I think you can't go wrong with either, OP. Hopefully, you've already chosen and are excited about your choice. :-)
I can't give my personal experience, but I have a cousin who went to Princeton for undergrad, majoring in mechanical engineering, and MIT for graduate school. Now he owns his own company in SF and is doing quite well. (The company is called Kateeva if you want to read about it)