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Columbia (GS) or Reed College? Help me choose!

AspiringacademicAspiringacademic 112 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 115 Junior Member
Hello! I posted something similar to this sometime ago, but I'm looking for more feedback, especially because I've crossed one school (Swarthmore) off my list. Here's the short story: I'm a student who spent two years at Reed and then took a medical leave, which let me apply to Columbia GS as a non-traditional student. Next semester I'll either be returning to Reed or attending Columbia GS. My ultimate goal is to attain a PhD in philosophy at a top program and teach it at either a nationally ranked LAC or Research University.

I prefer Columbia to Reed because it is closer to home, has more name-brand "prestige", and offers a greater variety of courses.. I worry about it because I've heard that it has worse graduate school placement than Reed in philosophy and doesn't have the sheer intellectual intensity of Reed. I also am concerned that I won't be able to establish close contact with professors, do significant undergraduate research, or take enough philosophy courses over two years since I'll be bogged down in the "Core". At Reed, I'll be able to take plenty of philosophy courses since I've fulfilled the distribution requirements, and I'll have a lot of opportunities for undergraduate research and contact with professors since the classes are so small.

I'm really torn between the two: a lot of people want me to go to Columbia since it has that name-brand appeal, but at the same time I'm not sure that Columbia will actually be more efficacious at getting me to my ultimate goals. And though I like the fact that Columbia's philosophy department is so big and vibrant, I'm worried that I'll be crowded out by the graduate students there. Reed has a really strong record of sending people to top PhD programs in philosophy, and I'm not sure that I should pass that up. Any advice?
edited July 10
11 replies
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Replies to: Columbia (GS) or Reed College? Help me choose!

  • AspiringacademicAspiringacademic 112 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 115 Junior Member
    Bump!
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  • whidbeyite2002whidbeyite2002 191 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 192 Junior Member
    edited July 10
    @Aspiringacademic, it sounds as though you would prefer Reed. Columbia has name recognition, but with your major and aspirations, any future PhD program in philosophy will know all about Reed.

    That said, I am concerned about your previous health issues. Is there a possibility of recurrence? Does being closer to home put your mind at ease should your health decline again?

    Columbia and Reed are both fantastic choices. My daughter had a really hard time turning down Reed for Columbia.

    Wishing you the absolute best!
    edited July 10
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  • AspiringacademicAspiringacademic 112 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 115 Junior Member
    @whidbeyite2002
    Thank you very much for the advice. I do feel like, deep down, I prefer Reed. But I know that being at Columbia might be better for my mental health since its closer to home, and I do feel tugged toward Columbia due to the name-brand prestige. I'm just not sure what decision to make, honestly. I feel like any choice I make I would end up regretting, even though that's definitely not the way to look at this sort of thing!
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  • jorakidjorakid 4 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5 New Member
    If this helps in your decision-making, the school of General Studies has less prestige, for those who know what it means and don't just look at "Columbia". I think it is an easier sell if you have really have an untraditional background (i.e., Veteran), and are going there later in life. When I see it in a young person, I just think they tried to get into Columbia through a back door, but aren't of the same academic caliber. I know that's not fair, but that's my bias. I would be more inclined to finish up at Reed. All of that to say, I would not let the prestige thing weigh very much in your decision. Your health, the classes you want to take, location and personal reasons should be factoring in much more.
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  • merc81merc81 10017 replies148 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,165 Senior Member
    If I recall from your other comments, you come from a highly educated family. What are their thoughts?
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  • AspiringacademicAspiringacademic 112 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 115 Junior Member
    My family wants me to go to Columbia. And to be honest, I'd be perfectly happy going to Columbia even if it meant I had to trudge through a lot of distribution requirements and such. I'm just concerned Columbia won't be as good a launching pad for a career in academic philosophy at Reed. If I knew that it was, I would go there in a heartbeat.
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  • AspiringacademicAspiringacademic 112 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 115 Junior Member
    edited July 11
    Bump. Could really use some more advice/input.
    edited July 11
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 29395 replies170 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 29,565 Senior Member
    edited July 11
    Have you specifically asked the department at Columbia about placement into PhD programs?

    Have you sat down with an advisor at Columbia to work out a plan of studies that will get you out of there in two years?

    If you haven't done those two things yet, do them ASAP.
    edited July 11
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  • AspiringacademicAspiringacademic 112 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 115 Junior Member
    Thanks for the questions. I have emailed a number of professors and I plan on asking them about placement into PhD Programs. I'm supposed to be set up with an advisor soon, so I plan on meeting with them shortly.
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  • merc81merc81 10017 replies148 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,165 Senior Member
    edited July 12
    You really can't top Reed for your career interests, and I'd think within academia in general there'd be significant prestige associated with a Reed diploma, so it's possible that Reed might represent the more prestigious of your choices as well.

    Nonetheless, if you'd be inclined to choose Columbia GS in a heartbeat under reasonably promising expectations, then I think Columbia's overall education and reputation could set you on course to where you would like to go also.
    edited July 12
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  • AspiringacademicAspiringacademic 112 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 115 Junior Member
    Thanks Merc81. I've done some additional research and found that, overall, Columbia and Reed's graduate placement is about the same. Reed sends more people to top 10 programs, but it also sends more people to programs that aren't very good at all, so its profile is a bit more "uneven" than Columbia's (it looks like almost nobody from Columbia ends up at a doctoral program outside the top 20). So Columbia is the "safer" option, and Reed the more risky one.

    Right now, I think I am therefore leaning toward Columbia. But let me know if anyone else has input.
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