Something that may or may not be a good thing to your son: Stanford is changing most of its undergraduate requirements, starting next year. The 3-quarter freshman sequence "Introduction to the Humanities" (IHUM) is being replaced by a one-quarter, field-specific "Thinking Matters" course in your area of choosing. The GERs are being changed somewhat as well. The goal is to make it easy for students in unit-intensive majors (mostly the sciences and engineering) to explore classes outside their main interest, to study abroad, etc. And as a result, you're mostly able to stay away from classes in areas you don't enjoy (e.g. the humanities if you're more of a STEM person, or math/engineering if you're more of a HASS person). They're also talking about requiring all freshman to take an introductory seminar (where the max size is 15 students and the average is 10).
Fun fact: in 2010, Stanford released data on cross-admits with Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and MIT. There were 359 people who were admitted to both Yale and Stanford. 107 went to Yale, 107 went to Stanford, and the rest went to another school altogether. I can see why you're divided.
You mentioned humanities in the OP - does your son want to take humanities as well? If he wants the intense humanities sequence (like IHUM, which is being replaced), there's something very similar to Yale's Directed Studies: it's called Structured Liberal Education (SLE), a 3-quarter freshman sequence of classes covering classics, philosophy, etc. It's residential - 100+ students in FloMo hall (although I heard they're growing it to 300), and your classes for it (2) are in your dorm. You get rid of your PWR 1 and PWR 2 requirements, as well as humanities and ethics requirements.
If he's interested in AI or computer vision, Stanford is the very best - equal to MIT and CMU. Fei Fei Li does really interesting work on this (and has had a lot of press coverage IIRC):
An early comment in this thread was a concern that going to Yale rather than Stanford for CS would detract from someone's ability to go on to a top department for grad school. I said that I had opted for Yale CS and gone on to a great department, and a subsequent reply mentioned the department "going downhill" sometime later.
I ran this by some people I know in the department, and was reassured that their grads do just fine in that regard, exactly what I expected.
This isn't to say that Yale CS and Stanford CS are equivalent. The comments earlier about the proximity to Silicon Valley and the large number of acclaimed faculty are true. But so are the comments that campus life at the two places have significant differences (I'll still take Yale's residential college system over anything). And there is another factor: the total number of grads in CS at Yale each year is fairly low, comparable to when I was there. This means it is much easier to get to know the other students and for the faculty to get to know the students well. It's true that recommendation letters matter, and that reputation can play a role. But which is a better letter, one from a well-known professor who doesn't know the student really well, or one from a reasonably well known professor who knows the student extremely well? And the faculty at Yale are no slouches ... anything from a professor at Yale in any department will be taken seriously at any university in the world, whether the recipient knows their name or not!
Finally, I'll just reiterate a comment from others in this thread: it's a great decision to have to make, and going to any of these schools will be fantastic. Just don't be scared off from Yale CS based on the earlier generalizations and claims ... that's not fair.
^ it's a subfield of AI (any more specificity and it'd be too easy to tell my identity )
I didn't say that you couldn't do well with a CS degree from Yale. In fact, I said in my first post on this thread: "I do think that one could go far with a CS degree from Yale" (but I think a Stanford CS degree is more likely to take you farther). I also said Yale is "great for CS" and "strong in CS" and defended the Yale CS department (it's much better than most think, etc.).
to Yale rather than Stanford for CS would detract from someone's ability to go on to a top department for grad school
I actually said that CS PhD admissions stresses the quality/prestige of an undergrad's CS department. This is especially true at the top CS schools. Of course some Yale undergrads in CS go on to top CS departments - but if you're looking to maximize your chances of getting into a top CS PhD program, Stanford undergrad CS cannot be beat. It's also incontrovertible that the renown of the prof writing your recommendation is extremely important (it's not that reputation 'can' play a role; it does play a big one). Even with just an "okay" application, you can get into the accept pile if you have a glowing recommendation from a superstar prof.
the total number of grads in CS at Yale each year is fairly low, comparable to when I was there. This means it is much easier to get to know the other students and for the faculty to get to know the students well
It also means you have fewer people to collaborate with and less variety in projects that are being done by students and faculty, and you have less breadth of represented interests. At Stanford collaboration is very important in CS, as most products and companies from Stanford are created by a team of students in CS. Most classes have some kind of collaboration. And as I suggested earlier, anyone who wants to work with a CS prof can and does; you can usually see the undergrads a prof has worked with on his/her website. Although something like 10% of the student body majors in CS (so it's less personal than at Yale), only a subset of them have any desire at all to work with profs. I never heard of anyone who wanted to work with a prof but couldn't.
But which is a better letter, one from a well-known professor who doesn't know the student really well, or one from a reasonably well known professor who knows the student extremely well? ... anything from a professor at Yale in any department will be taken seriously at any university in the world, whether the recipient knows their name or not!
I don't think it's so much because of the professor that this recommendation/application would be taken seriously; it's because it's Yale. And of course you can downplay the renown of the CS faculty at Stanford and play up the renown of CS faculty at Yale. In this case, the former would be from not just a "well-known professor," but one of the most highly cited CS researchers in the world. Here's a listing of the research impact (by H-index) of CS universities/companies, from what's probably the most comprehensive database of CS publications:
Yale is #45 with an H-index of 173. If you restrict it to the last 10 years, Yale drops to #84. For the last 5 years, Yale drops a little more to #91. For AI Yale is #67 and within the last 10 years #288.
When it comes to CS, it already isn't a fair fight, given Stanford's role in SV, etc. When it comes to AI, it's even more unfair, given that Stanford has the oldest AI lab in the world (MIT's lab traces its roots to a few months earlier than Stanford's, although technically the lab was just Project MAC for the first 15 or so years). Almost every person who received the Turing Award for work in AI is affiliated with Stanford somehow, mostly as professors. Attempting to compare Stanford and Yale in this respect is difficult because they're so different.
Last edited by phantasmagoric; 03-03-2012 at 08:14 PM.
How about undergrad school at one, grad school at the other? Worst/best thing about Stanford is its in CA. Depends how you look at it. Where does the kid want to live/work after finishing school? East/West or in the middle? AND- it doesn't matter which school is ranked higher- which school will the kid do better at, have access to top-notch profs? Being that Stanford is near Silicon Valley- even adjunct faculty are bound to be good. You don't need a graduate thesis to decide...
How about undergrad school at one, grad school at the other?
Admission to Stanford's graduate program in CS is much more difficult than undergraduate admission. It is probably the world's most prestigious program in the world's most dominant industry. Even a stellar graduate from another strong CS program cannot expect admission. I would suggest not premising future plans on anticipated admission. If the concern about the CS experience is primary, taking the opportunity now would be best.
However I would also agree that putting all the weight on the CS program would be a mistake. Direct experience of both environments would be the best basis for a decision.
The previous two posts go back to the heart of my question in my OP. My son would like to end up in SV, and not necessarily want to spend both his undergrad and graduate years at the same institution. (I know schools like MIT don't really want their own undergrads in their graduate program). So the thought process has been Yale might be the best choice for undergrad (for all the reasons already stated in earlier posts) and Stanford for grad school. Of course, getting in when the time comes is hardly a given. But I guess we didn't know it was even more difficult to get into their graduate program than their undergrad. Hmm...
I would say Stanford, MIT, and CMU are about equal in AI.
Even a stellar graduate from another strong CS program cannot expect admission.
This is true, but it's also the case that those from stronger CS programs are more often successful in grad admissions to top CS programs.
robotmom1414, MIT actually likes its undergrads in its grad programs (they make up a large portion of the MIT grad student population), though others like Stanford are the opposite. I also didn't want to spend undergrad+grad at the same place. If he went to Stanford, he could still end up going there for grad if he so wanted (I know of a few who have), but he'd most likely get into a top program like MIT EECS. If I were in his place, I'd take Stanford for CS now, because the opportunity might not come again.
edit: if he goes to Stanford, he can do what many CS undergrads do and just coterm in CS - getting a MS while finishing their BS. In that way, a lot of Stanford undergrads get a grad degree from Stanford. It also gives you time to take more advanced grad-level classes, which helps immensely in PhD admissions.
^ When we were at MIT last spring for an info session, the admission officer who spoke said that they strongly discourage MIT undergrads from applying to their graduate programs and take very few as they believe a student gets much more out of attending different schools. Some depts. like Chem-E have a stated policy of not accepting any of their own undergrads.
From the MIT Chem-E website:
Does the Department admit its own S.B. students to the graduate program?
We consider our own undergraduates for the M.S.CEP program, but for no other degrees. This policy is difficult for us, because we must turn away some excellent students. However, we feel very strongly that our students benefit by going to another school for an advanced degree. We make the M.S.CEP exception because the Practice School has no equivalent at other schools.
I didn't really want to get into much about MIT because that's another whole thread, but he did apply there, too, and will hear next week on 3/14. Once his top choice, it now seems to be third behind Stanford and Yale where I think he feels he'd enjoy himself more and have a more balanced undergrad experience. He's also waiting on CMU and Cornell. (CMU offers basically no fin.aid so we've essentially written them off already given his other options).