I never thought in a million years that I would have to make this choice, but I do... I'm very grateful, but it's stressful/terrifying. Help me out, lovely people of the Smith board? You've all been great through this entire process and I would love some opinions (obviously you're going to be biased, but still). Thanks so much!!
Last edited by ohreally877; 03-30-2012 at 05:46 PM.
Hahah, let the bias run free. Smith vs. Yale, what a great choice to have to make! I would first of all say, if possible, visit whichever campus you haven't visited yet.
Pros of Smith in my opinion: There's no graduate students to compete with for professor's attention and research/mentoring opportunities. The housing and residence life is probably better, and Northampton is a nicer town than New Haven. You have the Praxis program, great study abroad opportunities, strong academics, and again, you're at an under-graduate focused institution. You're not going to be one of 11,000 students at Smith, so the personal attention, the access to resources, all of that will be better. Plus Smith has the great, supportive community that I really do think is a unique benefit of a women's college (though others may argue that).
Pros of Yale: It's Yale. One of the top universities in the United States. You can't beat it for prestige, though you could always still go to Yale for grad school and still get that flavor. Otherwise, I actually know very little about Yale. I was Ivy League qualified when I applied for colleges, but Smith had my heart the whole time so I didn't even really look at the Ivies that closely. I hope to attend an Ivy League gradute school though, as many of my fellow Smith alums have done/are doing.
I mean no disrespect for the other institution, but if you are looking for a good education, Yale will fill the bill; if you are looking for a better education, I honestly, sincerely don't believe they're comparable - Smith is better. Better mentoring, stronger advising, better (and greater commitment to) undergraduate resources. Better town (and access to other Five College resources), less male-oriented drinking, athletics, and social life, which will leak over to the educational side of things. And (if Yale is at all similar to Princeton where my d. is now a head preceptor), better teaching.
Count the number of female Fulbrights at Yale in the past decade. Count the number of research Fulbrights in the past decade. Oh, and you're a STRIDE/Zollman, right? Try to find ANY paid research assistantships outside the sciences (I said that because I don;t know the sciences well) at the New Haven institution for first or second-year students.
Study abroad? Yale doesn't particularly encourage it. Smith, meanwhile, has a commitment going back the better part of a hundred years.
Flat out, I think the education you'd receive at Smith is better. Not equal - better. But I understand the pull of the other institution.
ohreally877-- My daughter made the choice prior to applying. While we did not
visit Yale we visited the usual suspects-- Harvard, Princeton, Northwestern etc big
national research powers, AAU members, big names. We live in Florida, so the University
of Florida (AAU) and Florida State University were obvious thoughts. Daughter really,
really wants the academic portion of her college experience to be on her with regard
to the professors. At a top flight liberal arts college this is a certainty-- Smith fills
this bill. While certain major private research first universities give lip service to the
undergraduate orientation, as a professor myself, I can assure you that the graduate
students get the faculty time. Heck, if you pack enough lecture halls with undergraduates
you can even pay for a full summer of research time for faculty. You have a wonderful
choice to make -- think about it logically and then follow your heart. Don't look back!!
ps-- D applied to UFlorida, Smith, Holyoke, Bryn Mawr and Wellesley-- accepted all.
My daughter applied EA to Yale and was turned down. In her second semester at Smith, she said Yale could come calling and she would tell them "No, thanks."
Yale will provide you with a very good education and an outstanding label. But I think that at Smith you can stand out of the crowd and really shine while getting an education that might very well be better.
Finally, when we were visiting Yale, we were taken to lunch by someone who worked at Yale. She asked us what other schools were seriously in contention and when we got to "Smith" she said, "oh, that's a hard one."
@Bossf51 I, too, live minutes from Yale, and I think there are some exaggerations in your post. I have walked the streets of New Haven (the part where most of Yale resides) alone many a time and have never felt unsafe. I also highly doubt that the majority of classes have 100+ students in them, especially the non-intro courses.
I think #6 on your list definitely holds true, though. Research opportunities would be absolutely 0 at Yale for the fields I'm looking at going into. I'm worried, though, that the STRIDE program might not live up to my expectations; the letter I received about it mentioned that some students do filing work for their mentors, which I don't really think is... worth it. I'm planning on contacting the head of the STRIDE program and asking for clarification about that.
@mini, your daughter turned down several selective institutions for Smith, right? Would you mind elaborating on why she decided to do so? I'd love to hear about her experience with this process.
Location: BC '73, Parent of: USCGA '09; Seton Hall '11; Smith '15
Well we can agree to disagree on the safety of Yale and its environs. I base my thoughts on my observations, personal experience and the news media.
As far as class size is concerned, check out any of the Yale online courses and you will see they are held in large lecture halls with anywhere between 75-100 students. I stand by that assertion but you may of course feel differently.
My d. was mostly focused on LACs (this was after a visit to H. where she was told, point blank, by the head of undergraduate music, that she couldn't work with, take courses, or even meet with a music professor and composer there with whom she had already, at age 16, worked with in Oregon). She visited Amherst and found that very few women ever said anything in the two classes she sat in on, that the language departments were lacking, and that many Amherst students took their language classes at Smith, and the music department was tiny. And then she witnessed a Friday night madness.
She was recruited, applied, accepted, and courted at Williams - I've written about that already. There were other liberal arts colleges she thought highly of (Bard being on the top of her list, given their commitment to the arts, and unusual curriculum.)
I have heard that the work in the STRIDE programs varies, so I can only speak to my d's experience (it was extraordinary, and wrote her ticket to graduate school.) Smith's study abroad programs (she knew she was going to be doing European) was a big deal.
(We had a funny experience on a tour at Yale - it feels so long ago, so I hope my memory is fair. Every 60 seconds, the tour guide - who was from northern New Jersey - kept showing us the blue-light alarm boxes to call campus security, and stressed how safe the inner parts of the campus were, and well-patrolled. It was either me or my d. - I really don't remember - asked, well, what if you wanted to go out and know your neighbors, instead of barricading oneself against them. The tour guide looked astonished - and I expect no one had ever asked her that question before, but I remember some African-American parents on the tour thanking us for the question.
Safety is in the eye of the beholder. I grew up in NYC when it was much less safe than it is today, so the world to me is a safe place. My d. grew up in Olympia, Washington, and we never locked our door. So the world to her is likely a safe place, perhaps naively. However, she now lives in West Philadelphia. Go figure.
A great choice, but such differences. Yale is certainly ahead of Smith in reputation...it graduates Presidents vs. their far smarter wives! And while both open doors with a valued alumnae, certainly Yale will open additional doors. Both will give you a great education, yet you probably have to work harder to ensure it a large school like Yale...vs Smith, where classes of 15 make for a more accessible interaction. A friend of mine when to Vassar with small classes, then went to NYU for grad school and was shocked to be a number in classes of 300 where the prof rarely knows you... a big difference.
Also, this is four years of you life. I am happy my D picked Smith for a number of reasons, but also because it is a nice transition to being on her own in a friendly small city. She'll probably be in large cities for a good portion of her life, why miss out on the small "college town" experience. Were your choice, say Williams, Vassar, Amherst vs. Smith, I think the choice would be harder since those environments are similar, and for four years, to me that counts for a lot.
As stated above (S&P is always cogent), NoHo is WAY better than New Haven. I know someone associated with Yale, and well, security has been a pretty big issue. Visit the buildings and you'll see the pass card system is VERY robust..it has to be. Visit the park in the city and you'll see behavior I'd prefer not to be around when in your formative college years. I saw quite a few of the little packets on the ground of the park used for hard drugs. You are in a city with all its issues. While still great traditions, impressive architecture and wonderful restaurants, I'm not sure if its the quintessential college experience.
NoHo? Well, there will be street people, there will drug use around, but I know it is far safer, far more relaxed, far more of the college life that I always hoped my D would have.
Lastly, Boys. Are you loosing diversity or are you being coddled without competing with men? I believe you'll have all your life for that. What I think is MORE important is the great camaraderie I see my D found at Smith with a bunch of sisters all looking to take their place in the world. How often is EVERYONE at every leadership position at every school function/group a woman?
Lastly, regardless of gender, who'd ya rather be George Senior, Dubya, or the evolved one, Mrs. Busch. And lets not even begin to talk about the Reagans (although I'm glad Smith dropped the Astrology major!)
Great decision. Visit and your gut will probably tell you.
Frankly, I know very little about Yale, really. But what I didn't share, which you might find helpful, is the trajectory of what my d's experience at Smith was like, and perhaps you will see then why I say what I do. I also want to note that my d. is a bit of an introvert (not shy, but self-contained), and so it wasn't like she was campaigning heavily for the opportunities that came her.
Accepted as a Zollman/STRIDE. Visited at Open Campus days, and had her STRIDE project fall into her lap. Met with her advisor (and soon to be mentor).
Gets to campus. Meets the Five-College prof she is working with, and gets involved in meetings of the Five-College opera company (which is going to perform the work - meetings are at Amherst.) Starts taking Italian. Joins a Five-College baroque music group which meets on Smith campus, a medieval/Renaissance all-female chorus (Mt. Holyoke-Smith), and plays in the orchestra. Becomes active in the local Friends Meeting.
In December, goes with me to South India, to the area where the tsunami hit, and works with local organization (that she knows very well) on tsunami relief efforts. Writes a daily blog, which is translated (without our knowledge) into Italian and published in Italian newspapers - reporters start arriving so she gets to showing them around. Starts using her Italian...in South India!
Gets back to Smith. For the following summer, Smith awards her a special travel grant to go back to India to write about the organization with which she works; also to Cambodia and Thailand, where they are training Buddhist monks in trauma healing.
Returns to Smith and makes a presentation about the experience. The opera that she worked on (first opera ever written by a woman) is performed on three consecutive days to sold-out audiences. Also writes some music for the composers' colloquium. That summer, uses her Praxis to help rebuild an abandoned opera house in Centralia, Washington.
Goes to Florence, Italy, at Smith JYA program. Becomes fluent. Plays in a local Italian orchestra. Visits the Vienna Opera. At the end of the program, is awarded a fellowship to extend her stay by six weeks to work on a project having something to do with medieval church music manuscripts in Umbria.
Comes back to Smith. Is made a Kahn Fellow (replaces paid work-study). Works on representations of the underworld in opera (a part of which, in much more depth, is now her dissertation topic) as part of year-long interdisciplinary seminar with multiple faculty. Applies to and gets accepted to grad school. Wins Smith composing prize; and high honors - double major in music (composition)/Italian studies.
In the middle of all of this both my wife and I were very seriously ill (as in life-threatening). Each time, Smith upped her financial assistance within 30 days of hearing of our need.
After graduation, goes to Sicily with Smith College orchestra. Oh, and you speak of filing? My d was such a bad filer, that she literally lost her graduate fellowship award letter. Finally remembered where it was when in a Sicilian chapel dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua (patron saint of lost things.)
Now maybe Yale could match this experience. Let Yalies speak to that. All I know for sure is that when I look at my d's undergraduate experience, I stand back in awe.
Let me speak to the athletics having played Division #1 athletics in the B1G (that's
Big 10 Conference for you NEer's). Smith and Ivy athletics are on a par! In other
words, kid you would be missing nothing athletically by choosing to attend Smith.
Ignore me, but kidding aside, Ivy athletics are a joke-- legends in their own minds.