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Why Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Dartmouth, Williams?

RachelemmaRachelemma 23 replies6 threadsRegistered User New Member
I am planning on applying early decision/action to either Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Dartmouth, or Williams and wanted to know what makes each of these schools unique. If you have any insider knowledge as to why I should attend any of these schools I would greatly appreciate it. Please ignore admissions rates and college ranking. I want to know regardless where I will have the best experience and the best education.

I am interested in possibly majoring in Government or Industrial Design(or a similar program within engineering), but want a school with a lot of flexibility for exploration.
I love both city based schools and schools in nature.

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Replies to: Why Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Dartmouth, Williams?

  • OberynOberyn 301 replies0 threadsRegistered User Member
    edited August 2015
    My top choice was Stanford but I applied ED to Williams. I ended up being deferred and waitlisted from Williams and waitlisted at Stanford. I was admitted to Dartmouth via likely letter (and will attending in less than two weeks). I did not apply to Harvard (for reasons I will mention later). I will most likely be majoring in Government.

    I absolutely loved Stanford and really really liked Williams when I did a campus tour (never visited Dartmouth before applying). One of the reasons I loved Stanford was its incredible student body, top notch academics, and location. The Bay Area has an amazing climate and Stanford's close proximity to Silicon Valley means there are tons of opportunities for venture capitalism and intermingling with cool startups. As a Gov major, the political science department at Stanford is world renowned and the Hoover Institution (a conservative think tank) is on campus (I identify as a liberal politically, but the opportunity to work or research at a think tank with Condoleezza Rice would be awesome). Stanford also has very nice study abroad opportunities. What made me weary of Stanford was the academic difficulty and the quarter system. The quarter system means you start late but also end late. Many summer internships start before the spring term ends. Each term is also 10 weeks long so if you fall behind the reading or work, you will lag far behind and your grades will slip. The alumni system at Stanford is great.

    What appealed to me about Williams was its small student body and emphasis on undergraduate teaching. As a liberal arts college (LAC), Williams has a tightly knit student body and you will know your professors personally. Williams is known for its Oxford-style tutorials which are two person classes taught by a single professor. It's extremely academically oriented and forces you to understand the material very well. It also gives you a chance to work with an excellent professor almost one on one in an area of your interest. In addition, Williams has a great relationship with Exeter College at the Oxford. About 25 or so Williams students spend a year abroad in Oxford annually. Since there are only 2200 students, the chance to study abroad at Oxford is greater than the chance at Stanford or Dartmouth. The drawbacks of Williams are that it's extremely isolated, is dominated socially by sports teams, and many students are not as happy as they could be due to the academic rigor. However, the alumni system at Williams is excellent. Unlike Stanford and Dartmouth, Williams uses a semester system.

    Dartmouth is what I would call the love child between Stanford and Williams. It has 4400 undergrads which means it's not too big and not too small. There is an incredibly tightly knit student body at Dartmouth (something you see at LAC's like Williams) as well as excellent research opportunities and resources (like what you would see at Stanford). Dartmouth has also had the best undergraduate teaching for 5 years in a row which makes it pretty much one of the best schools in the nation for undergrads. There are rarely TA's so the vast majority of your classes will be taught by professors who are willing to go the extra mile and help you learn. As a Gov major, Dartmouth has a top 10 international relations program and has the best study abroad program in the Ivy League under its unique academic system called the D-Plan. Under the D-Plan, you stay on campus during the summer between sophomore and junior year and you can study abroad or take an internship during any term in sophomore and junior year. You must stay on campus during all of senior year (Dartmouth also follows the quarter system). Dartmouth also offers an exchange program with Keble College at Oxford but only 12 people go per year so it's much more competitive. Dartmouth is also steeped in age old traditions and the students have the highest quality of life of all college kids in the nation. Dartmouth kids are happy and they also have an incredible alumni system.
    ( http://www.forbes.com/sites/schifrin/2015/07/29/top-50-roi-colleges-2015-grateful-grads-index/ )
    Dartmouth is also much more diverse than Williams. About 50% of the student body is either a minority or an international student. The social scene at Dartmouth is dominated by the Greek Scene. I believe something like 70% of students are affiliated with Greek life. However, the frats and srats are extremely inclusive and people are not pressured into consuming alcohol. If the Greek scene is not something you like, you can always find your own niche since there are 4400 students. Although Dartmouth is isolated, it is accessible to NYC, Boston, and Montreal. There are also a lot of thing to do on campus so it's not boring. My favorite aspect about Dartmouth is the fact that the student body is collaborative rather than competitive. People rarely talk about grades and are willing to help peers in need.

    I chose to apply ED to Williams since there is a 40% acceptance rate ED versus a 10% acceptance rate REA at Stanford. It didn't matter either way, since I was waitlisted to both institutions. I did not accept my spot on the Williams waitlist since I would have chosen Dartmouth over Williams anyway. I accepted my spot on Stanford's but nobody was admitted off of it this year (RIP dreams haha). I did not apply to Harvard since it was overrated in my opinion (also my best friend was admitted SCEA so my chances were slim to none). Harvard students are extremely competitive and you have to apply just to join clubs and groups. A lot of people are unhappy and the environment is pretty stressful. If I wanted to be stressed out, it might as well have been in sunny California. Otherwise I'd rather be happy at Dartmouth. If I were admitted to Stanford, it would be really hard to choose where to attend. I would say Dartmouth only because of the more personalized attention to my education. I can also become an exchange student at Stanford through Dartmouth so I would get the best of both institutions. And there's always grad schools. Anyways, I hope this helps.
    edited August 2015
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  • happy1happy1 22858 replies2248 threadsVerified Member Senior Member
    The schools all have different vibes and the best school for one person is not necessarily the best choice for another person. None of us know you so it is impossible to tell if you would thrive in a city or a more rural area, at a large university or a LAC etc. If possible, I'd visit the schools, read up with some guide books (ex. Fiske, Princeton Review, Insider Guide) to determine which is the best fit for you. If you are uncertain (or if you will want to compare financial aid offers) I would not apply .
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  • EphmanEphman 456 replies4 threadsRegistered User Member
    I think much of what Oberyn said about Williams is true, but I'd offer a few corrections. First, Dartmouth is not really more diverse than Williams -- Williams' overall diversity has been trending up in recent years, and in the class of 2019, over 50 percent of the student body consists of international students or American students of color (the rate for the entire student body is more like 45 percent or so, but that will soon be over 50). Williams is also a bit more economically diverse than Dartmouth (although, frankly, all of these schools are overwhelmingly composed of students from the upper middle class or above on the economic spectrum), with one of the highest percentages of Pell Grant recipients and first-generation students among elite schools. Second, it's unfair to say Williams is dominated socially by sports teams -- the majority of the student body are not a member of any sports team (I was not, myself, and had a vibrant social experience), and unlike at D1 schools like the others on your list, the athletes on the sports teams are typically not defined by their sport -- most of them are engaged in other activities on campus as well, not just athletics. Williams is certainly a sporty place, with a lot of athletic or outdoorsy students, but I got the same vibe from Dartmouth (as well as virtually every NESCAC school, the exceptions being Wesleyan and Conn College).

    What I love most about Williams is that the students are just as smart as they are at the Ivies or Stanford, but (with some exceptions of course) lack a bit of the arrogance and sense of entitlement you'll find at more universally well-known universities. This is also I'm sure an overgeneralization, but I was really turned off by the students I met at a few of the Ivies (in particular Princeton and Harvard, less-so at Dartmouth; I've had little exposure to Stanford). I do think Dartmouth and Williams have many similarities; I didn't apply to Dartmouth however because of the dominance of the frat scene, which was something I had zero interest in. It also felt like a more conservative (along several dimensions, not just political) place to me than Williams. Williams' social life was in no way exclusive or hierarchical, and really everyone seemed to know each other and get along fairly well instead of being segregated into narrowly-defined groups, which I think is one of the best things about the school. People have their groups of close friends of course, but you can also float freely through many different social environments. On the downside, by the time you graduate, it feels like you know (at least by reputation) nearly everyone in your graduating class, so to some that can feel a bit cloistered. But it also builds a tremendous sense of community.

    Finally, I'll give you a short list of some of the more idiosyncratic things that I feel make Williams truly unique among its peers, beyond just stellar academics and a beautiful setting; you can read up on any of these on your own. Some of these are more important than others in campus life, but in combination they give some sense of the unique vibe / feel that distinguishes Williams among its liberal arts peers:

    The JA and entry system
    Mountain Day
    Winter Study
    The purple cow mascot
    Semester's-end Trivia
    The WCMA walls program and the popularity of Art History, generally
    Chapin Rare Books library
    The bordering-on-obsessive interest in the school among many of its alumni
    The Amherst rivalry (few more long-standing or fun or natural college rivalries in the country)

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  • EphmanEphman 456 replies4 threadsRegistered User Member
    One more point: I imagine that this is obvious, but if you are likely to want to major in industrial design / engineering, Williams obviously can't accommodate those interests, which might take it off the table entirely.
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  • boolaHIboolaHI 1942 replies14 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You have Yale in your initial title, but offer no observations?
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  • RachelemmaRachelemma 23 replies6 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Ephman and Oberyn THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME AND HELP!!!! I cannot begin to tell you how helpful your responses were in helping me narrow down what school to apply to. Thank you!
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Have you visited any of them? It is not advisable to apply ED to a school you have not visited, no matter what the ranking is or how it looks on paper.
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