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Amherst vs. Bowdoin vs. Brown vs. Carleton vs. Pomona

Moxy813Moxy813 Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
I am torn between these schools, and I would like to apply ED to one of them.
I would love to know what your guy's opinion on the schools above are, and possibly on Dartmouth too, as my parents want me to go there. I am looking for a laid-back atmosphere, but with really strong academics. I am pretty balanced academically, although I lean towards STEM and will most likely double major in biology and chemistry. There has to be balance at the school I am going to. Trust me, I love learning, but I don't want to have to give up on my extracurriculars. Also needs to be very liberal, as I lean heavily to the left and am queer. Really I am looking for any advice. I don't know the stereotypes of the schools, although I have visited all of them. Any help is appreciated.

Replies to: Amherst vs. Bowdoin vs. Brown vs. Carleton vs. Pomona

  • preppedparentpreppedparent Registered User Posts: 2,259 Senior Member
    Torn--as you should be. These are all great schools! To gain admission to any one of them is a feat. Pomona is liberal and rich in STEM. laid back? not so much, but yes--lots of Extra Curriculars. Pomona is very diverse. I met the head of Queer Office at Pomona who was wonderful. Can't go wrong applying ED I or II to Pomona, but you gotta be competitive and show your love for the school, likely just like the rest would also expect. Amherst to me has geodiversity, but lots of athletes and scholars, don't know about other types of diversity. Bowdoin strikes me as more conservative. Brown has lots of diversity and is liberal. Can never go wrong with Brown, but you have to have something truly unique about your app and compelling that shows you can't get your needs met by any other school to get in, IMHO.
  • CuriousInCincyCuriousInCincy Registered User Posts: 90 Junior Member
    Sounds like Brown or Bowdoin to me. Amherst is anything but laid back. Dartmouth is notoriously conservative. Carleton and Pomona somewhere in between. IMHO.
  • glittervineglittervine Registered User Posts: 214 Junior Member
    I go to Amherst, and while there are a lot of athletes, overall there is a lot of racial and economic diversity compared to other elite schools. It's very left-leaning and we have very strong academics I don't think it's all that laid-back though - people work HARD, both on their academics and on their extracurriculars.
  • rosered55rosered55 Registered User Posts: 2,706 Senior Member
    I know a bit more about Amherst, Pomona, and Carleton because my daughter was accepted by all three. She picked Carleton, to a considerable extent because of the laidback, liberal feel and strong academics.
  • warblersrulewarblersrule Super Moderator Posts: 9,432 Super Moderator
    edited September 13
    Dartmouth is notoriously conservative.
    Nonsense. Dartmouth leans left like all of the Ivies. It is perhaps not as left as Oberlin or Hampshire, but it is very far from conservative. In a recent poll, less than 1/4 of the student body identified as Republican.

    Moxy813 wrote:
    Also needs to be very liberal, as I lean heavily to the left and am queer.
    I usually encourage LGB students to look for larger LACs or those in consortiums so they'll have a sufficiently large dating pool. Brown and Pomona (with the Claremont consortium) are probably your best options here.

    Amherst has the 5 Colleges, but they are not as interconnected as the Claremont colleges. Carleton and Bowdoin are small colleges in small towns.
  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 6,928 Senior Member
    Carleton. Practically perfect in every way.
  • nostalgicwisdomnostalgicwisdom Registered User Posts: 1,219 Senior Member
    I think Pomona and Carleton are the best out of these in biology and chemistry. Both schools rank among the top of LACs for science PhDs, students winning science awards like Goldwater and NSF-graduate fellowships, etc. Amherst is getting a spiffy science building next year though which is reputed to be the best LAC STEM facility in the world. Pomona and Bowdoin were named Beckman Institutional Programs this year which is given to 10 schools with excellence in the STEM fields. But you can't go wrong with any of the five. It all comes down to culture and fit, and they're very different, yet they'll get you to wherever you need to. The laid-back vibe especially fits Pomona, Brown, and Carleton, so I'd look to one of the three.
  • warblersrulewarblersrule Super Moderator Posts: 9,432 Super Moderator
    edited September 13
    Both schools rank among the top of LACs for science PhDs
    More specifically, here's the number of biology PhDs produced in the last 15 years:

    284 Carleton (#3 among LACs)
    180 Pomona (#14 among LACs)
    177 Bowdoin (#15 among LACs)
    166 Amherst (#18 among LACs)

    And the number of chemistry PhDs produced in the last 15 years:

    112 Carleton (#1 among LACs)
    54 Bowdoin (#14 among LACs)
    34 Pomona (#52 among LACs)
    23 Amherst (#83 among LACs)

    For comparison, the PhD production numbers are 631 and 304 for Brown and Dartmouth for biology and 45 and 62 for Brown and Dartmouth for chemistry.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 62,990 Senior Member
    One thing that Dartmouth is known for is heavy participation in fraternities and sororities. In contrast, participation in fraternities and sororities at Amherst, Bowdoin, and Carleton appears to be disallowed for students, appears minimal at Pomona, and appears lowish at Brown. If fraternities and sororities are a significant positive or negative for you, then consider whether colleges at the extremes of the scale on that aspect are more suitable for you.
  • preppedparentpreppedparent Registered User Posts: 2,259 Senior Member
    Laid back vibe and Pomona? I don't think so.
  • CorinthianCorinthian Registered User Posts: 1,412 Senior Member
    @preppedparent it depends on what is meant by "laid back vibe." If the OP is looking for a school that's less rigorous then no, absolutely Pomona is not "laid back." But Pomona is "laid back" in the sense that students don't talk obsessively about their grades or engage in a sort of "misery poker" atmosphere that some schools are known for. And Pomona students dress California casual. You'll see a lot more Birkenstocks, shorts and T-shirts than you will preppy attire. So in that sense it's laid back. It's unclear to me what OP means by the term.
  • prezbuckyprezbucky Registered User Posts: 3,509 Senior Member
    edited September 13
    Laid-back vibe:

    1. Brown

    2. Bowdoin, Amherst
    4. Pomona
    5. Carleton

    *I'm not too sure how Bowdoin, Amherst and Pomoma compare. But reputationally the most laid-back school is Brown, and the most intense academic vibe is at Carleton. Multiple posters have commented on how hard Carleton is and how much work they are given.

    Here are some things about Dartmouth, as I understand the school:
    - Very rural/beautiful/woodsy
    - Very undergrad-focused for a university (like Brown)
    - D-Plan calendar
    - Big Greek scene/party scene

    If Penn is the Social Ivy, Dartmouth is right behind them probably. I'm not sure how laid-back the academic vibe is, but they have fun when they're not studying.

    These are all great schools. Choose based on location/environment, academic, and social fit. And... cost. Run NPC for all of them to make sure they're affordable.
  • Moxy813Moxy813 Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    Thank you guys so much for your responses.
    I don't mind working hard. I just don't want a pressure-cooker environment. And I want to be surrounded by a generally happy student body. I don't exactly know how to explain it. I know I am a smart individual, and learning is absolutely my favorite thing to do, I just hate it when a stressful nature compromises the experience.
    Also, I have a feeling I am going to have to do an overnight at each college to really understand the vibe. But, because I am an New Englander, my parents don't want me to buy plane tickets to both Pomona and Carleton. So, I at least have to knock one of those two off the list.
    I really like the Claremont consortium, but my impression is the students at Carleton are less competitive with one another than at Pomona. I also want a college with a strong sense of community.
    Also, I don't know if it makes a difference, but I would love to be able to wear leggings and a hoodie to class and not get judged for being so casual. Worried about Bowdoin and that. Only toured during the summer for all of these schools though so it was really hard to form strong opinions.
  • 57special57special Registered User Posts: 293 Junior Member
    edited September 13
    Disagree with poster above who considers Carleton the least laid back of all the schools named. It probably has the most simple, open, straightforward social atmosphere. Egalitarian, and not very cliquey. It has a rep as a "nerd" school, but I saw a lot of good looking, diverse(hey, it's Minnesota, they're doing the best they can) people when I was there. St. Olaf is in the same small town, so between the two of them you have about 5000 students.

    BTW, if you are going to Carleton you should also see Macalester ...it's only 10 min. away from the ariport in MPLS. Nice urban neighbourhood, and checks a lot of the boxes you have mentioned.

  • nostalgicwisdomnostalgicwisdom Registered User Posts: 1,219 Senior Member
    edited September 14
    Based on all you've said, Carleton seems to be your best fit culturally. I say this as a recent Pomona alumnus.

    Carleton is distinguished for undergraduate teaching and has been #1 by US News on that metric for the last few years. If you look at professor averages at RateMyProfessors, Carleton teachers are rated a bit higher (4.16/5- I haven't seen better for any school) than those at Amherst (4.06), Pomona (3.96), Brown (3.88), and Bowdoin (3.8).

    Carleton, as warblersrule pointed out, is a top producer of both chemistry and biology PhDs. Both among LACs and nationally, period. Just since 2000, Carleton has yielded 127 graduate NSF fellows and 14 Goldwater Scholars. These are measures supporting that Carleton can produce distinguished students in the field and that academically it is as good as it gets.

    I agree that Carleton has a special nature. It's definitely not the least-laid back. It's not as preppy as Amherst, Bowdoin, or Brown. It is academically rigorous, yes, but it's not a pressure cooker. The students are caring/collaborative and the community feels especially tight-knit, even relative to other LACs. As much as I love Pomona, I have to acknowledge that I have been more wowed by the sort of conversations and interconnections my Carleton friends seem to have (on social media) than just about any other college out there. If you felt that Carleton gave a less competitive impression than Pomona, that is pretty telling.

    "I want to be surrounded by a generally happy student body. Learning is absolutely my favorite thing to do. I also want a college with a strong sense of community." This reveals it all. This is literally Carleton's unique culture among the top liberal art colleges. Go visit Carleton and if you fall in love/it is affordable for you, go for early decision.
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