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WashU or Rice?

indecisivemessindecisivemess 16 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 17 Junior Member
Alright, so I know this is incredibly last minute (24 hours to go!), but I've boiled my college decision down to two schools: WashU and Rice (sorry Tufts and Berkeley, although if any of you want to try convince me that I should go to those schools I don't mind lol). I'm having serious difficulty picking between them.

To give some background, I want to major in political science, but I also am really interested in film and screenwriting. For a long while, I thought WashU was the right pick for me. I visited earlier this year and was floored by everything it had to offer. However, not one but two college counselors told me that they see absolutely no reason for me to choose WashU over Rice. They said Rice has a better reputation, Rice is cheaper, and that the student body at Rice is at a whole 'nother caliber of intellect than that of WashU. They basically equated Rice to an Ivy League, which surprised me because honestly I didn't know much about Rice even after having been accepted. They said neither Rice nor WashU are known for their liberal arts or political science, but that Rice is the better overall school so that the choice for me should be between Berkeley and Rice and that WashU should be out of the equation unless I truly feel that I belong there. Honestly, at first I did feel like I belonged at WashU but when I went to visit for the second time, I got some weird vibes from it that I can't really explain, which has made me think that I may be a better social fit at Rice despite liking (and perhaps preferring) everything else that WashU has to offer.

I visited Rice, and I liked it a lot but I got intense STEM vibes from the school and I don't know if that detracts from their liberal arts education and whether I'd stick out like a sore thumb (both to employers and fellow students) as a polisci major. Honestly, I didn't get that same impression from WashU - it felt like way more kids were there for liberal arts, and a quick glance at both school's Facebook groups shows that that holds true. I do like the social scene at Rice a lot though - 4,000 kids is a bit small imo, but it still seems like they know how to party (and I do like to party) and are laidback and friendly. The residential college system is awesome too, I wish every school had it. I'm concerned that it may be politically apathetic though - I didn't see any political movements on campus, and the word is that it's a politically moderate school which to me just means they don't give a damn.

Finally, in terms of cost, based on how much my parents are willing to contribute at Rice I'd have to take out ~30k loan in my last year, and at WashU a 70k loan. I'm not sure how big of a difference there is between the two in the long scheme of things.

Would you guys agree with my college counselors that Rice is more prestigious and intellectual than WashU? Do you think that as an out of state student, I might feel a little left out at Rice? General thoughts/opinions? Anything is appreciated. Sorry for the wall of text lol, in case you couldn't tell I'm super indecisive.
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Replies to: WashU or Rice?

  • washugradwashugrad 1023 replies13 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,036 Senior Member
    The rankings are close enough that I don't think you should base your decision on that. You'll get an excellent education at both schools. If you have a strong pull about fit, go with that. If not, the 40K difference in price is a lot of money.
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  • milee30milee30 1959 replies13 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,972 Senior Member
    Much of the difference in perception between the two will be based on regional and personal impressions. I don't believe that for most people in most fields, one would be worth $40k more than the other. You mention having to take out $30k in loans vs. $70k in loans during your Senior year - just want to mention that as a student you will not have access to that much borrowing ability so you will need to make sure your parents are willing to take out those loans or cosign for you.

    The rest of your questions just come down to fit and preference. Interestingly enough, we toured Rice and WashU back to back so were able to compare the two. My feeling - and it's just mine - was that I had the impression your counselors were right and Rice was more intellectual. Again, this was only a tour, talking to students on campus, visiting each for a couple of days and it was surprising to us because on paper the students that attend both look similar stats wise, so there shouldn't be a noticeable difference. But there was. We talked to several dozen different Rice students (including ones we randomly approached on campus) and every one of them was highly intelligent, polite, well spoken and really impressive in an understated way. It was the most enjoyable mix of smart but completely unsnooty people we encountered on any of our college visits. The residential system looked like a blast and there appeared to be no cliques - at lunch and around campus, students of all different races, appearances, genders, etc were blended. This was frankly the most impressive and appealing (to me - DS thought they were too nice) group of college students I saw.

    Unfortunately, the WashU students (fewer than at Rice, maybe only 10-12) we interacted with were the least impressive of any group we met on all our college tours. I'm not going to describe it in detail because it's a one-off anecdote and could very well be we just caught it on a bad day. But yes, based on our back to back visit of the two my personal opinion would be that there is no contest - Rice all the way.

    None of us are the ones that have to spend 4 years there, though. So pick which one fits you and don't worry about it. Both are great places.
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  • Tufts2021Tufts2021 79 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 83 Junior Member
    edited April 2018
    According to Niche, WashU comes in at #17 for political science, followed by Rice at 18 and Tufts at 20.

    I chose Tufts over WashU and Berkeley among other schools last year, so I'll give you my 2 cents.

    Tufts has the Fletcher School, which is for international relations. Because of this, Tufts has a strong alumni network in the political realm. Tufts is definitely the most liberal artsy school out of the lot, and the students here definitely fit the liberal arts bill.

    It's also important to consider location... St. Louis vs. Houston vs. Boston vs. San Francisco. Best opportunities for internships would be in the latter two cities.

    If I were you, I'd go Rice over WashU, especially because of the difference in money. Rice does have a very STEM/nerdy vibe to it, which is why I didn't end up applying, but it's an amazing school nonetheless. If Tufts is the same cost as or cheaper than Rice, I would heavily consider it as an option.

    In terms of quality of education/domestic prestige/etc., I'd group all these schools together; I would say that in terms of prestige outside the US, it would go: Berkeley>Tufts>Rice>WashU, for what it's worth. Tufts is definitely a "hot school" and is on the rise, which is a big reason I chose it over other ostensibly comparable schools.

    Politically, Tufts and Berkeley lead the pack. Rice and WashU are both more apathetic toward politics from what I've seen/heard.

    Socially, Berkeley obviously has the most going on, and I'd say that Rice has the least going on (WashU and Tufts being pretty similar). Greek life is more central to WashU's social scene than Tufts' social scene. I also got the feeling that WashU was a more competitive atmosphere than Tufts.

    In short, you can't make a wrong decision. I'd choose a school based on cost and perceived fit.
    edited April 2018
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  • prezbuckyprezbucky 4317 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 4,328 Senior Member
    edited April 2018
    Rice and WashU are academic peers -- even overall. I think you should choose based on fit and cost.

    Generally I'd give WashU a slight edge in the Humanities and SS and Rice an edge in STEM overall. The main academic differences are probably that WashU has a business program and Rice doesn't, and their Engineering offerings might not line up exactly.

    Both are renowned for housing -- WashU killing it with their food offerings and nice digs, and Rice with their residential colleges. These are absolutely very close peers, like H and P or Duke and Northwestern.
    edited April 2018
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  • AroundHereAroundHere 3579 replies22 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,601 Senior Member
    Academically, WashU and Rice are peers. Financially, Rice saves you 40K, which is nothing to sneeze at. That's a pretty strong incentive to make Rice work out.
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  • Faulkner1897Faulkner1897 504 replies7 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 511 Member
    edited April 2018
    I am a big fan of both schools. I am an alum of Rice, and visited Wash U several times over the past few years. Both were top choices of my daughter, who ended up applying to Rice ED and was accepted.

    Here is some info on Rice, if you want to assess whether it is a fit:
    - research university with a distinctive commitment to undergraduate education; about 50% STEM, 50% humanities/social sciences
    - just under 4000 undergraduates
    - happily nerdy student body (extremely accepting, kids comfortable in their own skin)
    - very community focused, and many systems in place that support students and tight knit community - residential college system in particular
    - diversity is part of the Rice experience and mission; Rice seeks students who come from many different backgrounds and students who are comfortable with people from all different backgrounds
    - collaborative, supportive environment
    - A philosophy that "we are all in this together"; Rice is known for its "culture of care". This is so important to Rice because Rice wants its students to continue care strongly about other people as they go into the world
    - Rice students and graduates are committed to making the world a better place

    Rice’s Baker Institute is world class think tank for public policy.
    edited April 2018
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  • aquaptaquapt 1944 replies37 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,981 Senior Member
    Why did you rule out Tufts? Is it a lot more expensive? Because, for your interests, I would choose Tufts over the others. And that's speaking as a parent who paid $$ for Rice and doesn't regret it.

    Rice is indeed STEM-dominated. Poli Sci is strong too, as are many other social science and humanities departments, but many, many of your friends will be in STEM and pre-med. There is not much in the area of film, and what there is will be hard to combine with your Poli Sci major. Rice has many very strong departments but not an interdisciplinary bent. Things are pretty firmly in their silos. Yes, it's a very strong school academically and the student quality of life is great. But your description of your interests just doesn't scream "Rice!" to me.

    Tufts is a more interdisciplinary place, and they have a whole production-oriented track in their Film & Media Studies department. http://as.tufts.edu/fms/programs/filmProductionSequence Also a minor. Their Poli Sci is great. Your classes in the first year or two would be smaller than your lower-division classes at Rice. It just seems like a win all around, to me.

    WashU is a great school too. And they have a similar film program, just possibly not as extensive a screenwriting sequence? I could be wrong - just looking at the major page: https://fms.artsci.wustl.edu/major

    Either way, if the film and screenwriting piece is something you care about, that inspires you, why give that up to go to Rice? Either Tufts or WashU would probably let you combine your interests to do film projects that incorporate your political interests, if that's what you would find exciting. My gut feeling is that Tufts would be a more dynamic place to do this than WashU - it's extremely very flexible for exploring diverse interests, changing majors, etc.. (Maybe WashU is too - I'm really not sure.) I just don't get why you would give up an element that could make your whole education more inspiring to you, just because you're being told Rice is a bigger name. It's bigger in certain things and in certain areas, but not for what you want to do. Both Tufts and WashU have stellar reputations. Go where you can do what you love, with the most input, support, mentoring, and inspiration possible.

    I really like Rice but I don't see the "fit" here - JMHO :)
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  • mdphd92mdphd92 180 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 180 Junior Member
    edited May 2018
    At Rice, the film courses are offered in the Visual and Dramatic Arts department:

    https://ga.rice.edu/programs-study/departments-programs/humanities/visual-dramatic-arts/#coursestext

    but they don't seem to have much in screenwriting, perhaps one course in the English department:

    https://english.rice.edu/course/21052

    On the other hand, Tufts does have a Screenwriting I, II, and III sequence, as well as a faculty member with experience in screenwriting

    http://dramadance.tufts.edu/people/kouguell.htm

    WashU appears to have a two-semester sequence in screenwriting: Intro to Screenwriting and Advanced Screenwriting, as well as this faculty member with experience in screenwriting:

    https://fms.artsci.wustl.edu/people/richard-chapman

    As for political science, if you are interested in the International Relations aspect, Tufts is regarded very highly, as in this survey from Foreign Policy:

    http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/20/top-fifty-schools-international-relations-foreign-policy/

    which is probably due to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, as someone has mentioned previously. I don't know much about the other aspects of Political Science, although the US News ranking of graduate programs in Political Science seems to show that WashU is relatively strong. WashU has also hosted one of the presidential debates in past election cycles (1992, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2016).

    I agree that with the above poster that Rice might not be the best fit, and that you might take a closer look at Tufts, especially if the screenwriting part is very important to you or you are interested in International Relations.
    edited May 2018
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  • indecisivemessindecisivemess 16 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 17 Junior Member
    Ahhhh last night I went to sleep with the plan of committing to Rice, but now you guys all got me reconsidering that (+ my Dad is now calling and telling me that maybe Berkeley is the right call).

    Anyways, thanks for all the thoughtful responses, I really really appreciate it. Tufts would be about the same cost as WashU, so a little more than 70k in loans my senior year (vs 30k at Rice and 0 at Berkeley). To be honest, I didn't do as much research on Tufts as I clearly should have, and that was a big mistake. I did visit before, and didn't get the greatest impression, but I was only there for a few hours and the only kid I met with was in STEM. Screenwriting and film has always been a passion of mine, not gonna lie, but I don't necessarily plan on pursuing it past college. I didn't realize that Rice didn't have an interdisciplinary bend to it though, most of the kids I spoke to seemed to be double majoring and said that doing so was feasible. I'm a bit confused as to why Rice's screenwriting elective is solely under their English department though - is the administration flexible? Could I possibly get those credits to apply to a film major/minor instead?

    I think the hard thing for me is I feel like I'd be happy at most of these schools - that's why it's so hard to turn any down! I wish my waitlisted schools could get back to me now so this would be so much easier lol
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  • aquaptaquapt 1944 replies37 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,981 Senior Member
    edited May 2018
    Tough decision. I don't mean to talk Rice down - my daughter had a great experience there. But she also thought she would do lots of arts stuff, and that part didn't end up happening. Tufts really presents poorly at info sessions and tours. My younger daughter never applied because, "meh." I've heard so many people say the same on the "what school didn't you like when you visited" threads. And yet... my friend's son who is a freshman is having a phenomenal experience. It all looks so much better from the inside than on the "why are we talking about taxidermy?" tour. There is a creative energy there that I don't see at Rice. Rice has its own energy, a very positive one, but more in the "work hard, play hard" vein than a "creative incubator" vibe, if that makes sense?

    Honestly, there's a reason that Rice has the screenwriting under English and the film under art... these are really meant to be one-off electives, not an integrated cluster or path.

    I hear you that you don't expect the film stuff to be your career per se. Sure, you may find completely different passions over the next few years. But there's no harm in making your current passion a part of your education, and seeing where it leads. These are all peer schools - don't split hairs over which is objectively "better" - go to whichever one best aligns with what you, as an individual, are looking for.

    And please don't pay OOS $$ for Berkeley. Way, WAY too much competition for resources in undergrad. Your other options are a far better value.
    edited May 2018
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  • Sunny66Sunny66 271 replies14 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 285 Junior Member
    edited May 2018
    All the schools are excellent, but Rice sounds like a great fit unless you want to pursue screenwriting. WashU is not worth $70,000 in debt when Rice is $40,000 cheaper. I’d pick Rice if $ the same actually. But if I read your last post correctly, Berkeley is $30,000 less than Rice. To me, it’s Rice or Berkeley depending on finances or how important screenwriting is.
    edited May 2018
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  • Faulkner1897Faulkner1897 504 replies7 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 511 Member
    It’s interesting, because I definitely think there is a creative vibe at Rice, and I do not consider it to be silo like at all. There are certainly many incredibly talented creative types on campus with Rice’s outstanding Shepherd School and Architecture school, and these kids are in every residential college since the colleges are microcosms of the university. The generous AP policy and very simple distribution requirements makes double majoring very easy. For STEM kids, there is the OEDK (engineering design kitchen), which is an amazing maker space. There is a brand new arts building - The Moody Center for the Arts (MCA) - a “state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the advancement of transdisciplinary collaboration between the arts, sciences, and humanities”. Rice’s size lends itself well to interdisciplinary endeavors, and the focus on interdisciplinary efforts is a part of Rice’s strategic plan.

    Basically, I think you can take input from people on an anonymous forum, but don’t discount your own research and impressions.

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  • indecisivemessindecisivemess 16 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 17 Junior Member
    edited May 2018
    Haha it's tough when I'm simultaneously a work hard play hard type AND pretty creative.

    I'm actually in-state for Cal, so it's very affordable. I'm just worried about finding the ability to stand out, make friends, and "test the waters" and explore different academic and social interests in such a large (and underfunded) environment.

    Tufts didn't do a great job of presenting itself, and I think that colored my perception of the school (perhaps unfairly) considering that on paper it seems like a great fit for me. I guess I have 8ish hours to do some intense research on the school lol. Is it worth the 40k extra from Rice? Is it a better fit for me than the similarly priced WashU? I guess that's something only I can decide lol. Why can't my gut just have a clear inclination to one school?

    Screenwriting is not my number #1 passion for sure, BUT I really do enjoy it as a vessel to explore my creative side. If the Rice environment is unfriendly to creativity, that is a big concern for me, but that's not necessarily the vibe I got from the school.
    edited May 2018
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  • aquaptaquapt 1944 replies37 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,981 Senior Member
    Oh, absolutely there are terrific creative types in music and architecture at Rice. Those programs are just very separate from the others. The kids are in the mix, definitely! But for example, music opportunities for non-majors are nowhere near as rich as at some other schools. I know so many kids who went to Rice intending to join ensembles, and found that there was theoretically one option for them but it always conflicted with their other classes.

    And yep, the design kitchen is awesome, for engineers.

    I think Rice is trying to improve its interdisciplinary approaches; it's just not to the point where it's as good as it sounds. My daughter did an interdisciplinary major (CogSci) and regretted it, because it felt like an "orphan" program with no really committed mentors associated with it. She found her mentors in the Sociology department, where she minored, and would major in Soci if she had it to do over. There are a lot of really good programs, but it seems like you have to really "put down stakes" in a given program to get the most out of it.

    It does sound like Rice is a better financial deal in this case. And obviously nobody is going to stop you from pursuing your passions there! I'd just look closely at the established creative minor/double-major options at the other schools and consider whether having that path laid out for you, vs. probably having to do more to chart your own path at Rice, is attractive enough to draw you there. Your core academic education, generally and in your major, will be excellent at any of your schools, so it comes down to the "extras," the vibe, the region where you might want to end up working when you graduate... all that stuff. There's no wrong choice, just tradeoffs.
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  • aquaptaquapt 1944 replies37 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,981 Senior Member
    edited May 2018
    (Just reading your post now)

    I definitely wouldn't go so far as to say that Rice is *unfriendly* to creativity. Not at all. Just don't expect it to offer you a film-centric creative path like WashU and Tufts have. It's a totally individual question, how important that is to you!

    The "where do you want to work" question is real. My Rice kid is working in Houston now, because she had opportunities there that arose from networking from her summer internships, and had no such foot-in-the-door back in CA, where she would have preferred to return. This may be less of an issue for you if you're a) going to go directly to grad school anyway or b) going to do something government-driven (i.e. end up in DC or Sacramento). (Side-note, Boston is the seat of government for MA, and MA is very cutting-edge politically in many ways - a great place to learn. Can't say the same for St. Louis. And Houston isn't convenient to Austin, where the political action is in TX. Berkeley is semi-convenient to Sacramento if you have transportation... though if I were an aspiring UC poli sci undergrad I think I'd choose Davis where you can do Sacto internships with ease in addition to a term in DC.)

    Berkeley in-state is a different equation. IMHO the value once you get into upper division classes is great, but for the first two years the competition-for-resources issue is huge.
    edited May 2018
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