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Difficulty deciding on a college

eagle71eagle71 13 replies4 threads Junior Member
I am now at a T10 LAC. I applied to transfer and have offers from UChicago, Columbia, NYU, Penn, Brown, and Boston College. I'm in a sort of decision freeze and have been unable to decide if I should transfer or not. Reason for leaving is mainly improved department for my major. Reason to stay is the community at my LAC, good people, and times. Do I factor intangible prestige in at all? How do I compare incomparables: community vs academics?
edited May 29
11 replies
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Replies to: Difficulty deciding on a college

  • eagle71eagle71 13 replies4 threads Junior Member
    bump
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  • gumbogalgumbogal 48 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Unless the difference in the department is dramatic, my two cents are that in the post-pandemic world you are better off staying in the community you already have.

    If we assume that both your existing school and the potential new school both are on campus in the fall (big assumption) it may be harder to meet people and start from scratch in a world of social distancing. That familiarity you feel when you get back to your old campus will be quite meaningful.

    Of course you went through the trouble of transferring for a reason so only you can really answer for yourself why you thought it was important and whether that reason is still strong enough.
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  • warblersrulewarblersrule 10235 replies176 threads Super Moderator
    I think it depends a great deal on the differences in department quality and (especially) whether you're considering MA/PhD studies in the future.

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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6551 replies1 threads Senior Member
    I can tell that you are having trouble deciding.

    You said in your other thread that you were leaning towards either Chicago or Columbia if I am remembering this correctly. Between a "top 10 LAC", versus Chicago, versus Columbia, then just forget about "prestige". They are all superb and they are all very highly respected.

    In terms of the quality of the department, I am wondering if you need to get other opinions. Can you tell us what major you are in?

    Also, is this a major for which graduate school is likely (or medical or law school)?

    One daughter has a friend who went to Chicago. He was one of the strongest students in a strong suburban high school. He did very well and said that it was a lot of work. Someone I know well went to Columbia. It is of course way bigger than any LAC, although with Columbia the graduate schools at least in total are where most of the students are. It is very good for what she studied. Both are of course right in the middle of very large cities.

    What is the deadline for you to decide?
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  • eagle71eagle71 13 replies4 threads Junior Member
    @DadTwoGirls Yeah-- absolutely I am. I am presently working on a combination of chemistry and philosophy, but also have interests in English literature and I work with computer programming in my free time, somewhat of a hobby

    On graduate school, there's a chance that I would decide to enter the medical field. There is a similar chance that I would decide to acquire higher degrees in either neuroscience, philosophy, or experimental psychology-- although not certain here as that's a decision a bit down the road.

    I appreciate the anecdotes, those are helpful.

    I was granted a slight extension by Columbia (due to evaluating some personal circumstances created by coronavirus, determined that these won't affect school choice, so now free to decide anyway), so I have till early next week. Chicago is next Friday.
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  • eagle71eagle71 13 replies4 threads Junior Member
    @warblersrule There's a chance that I'd consider an MA/PhD. I address this this in response directly above.
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  • warblersrulewarblersrule 10235 replies176 threads Super Moderator
    Given your interests, I'd strongly consider staying put. Most of the top LACs should have adequately strong programs in chemistry and English. Philosophy is more hit-or-miss, but the offerings should be good enough at most places.
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  • eagle71eagle71 13 replies4 threads Junior Member
    @warblersrule That's fairly a spot on assessment of departments. The chemistry and English are solid, philosophy less so. Would I still be competitive for graduate schools in say philosophy even if the department lacks coming from a T10 LAC?
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  • Bill MarshBill Marsh 505 replies5 threads Member
    gumbogal wrote: »
    Unless the difference in the department is dramatic, my two cents are that in the post-pandemic world you are better off staying in the community you already have.

    If we assume that both your existing school and the potential new school both are on campus in the fall (big assumption) it may be harder to meet people and start from scratch in a world of social distancing. That familiarity you feel when you get back to your old campus will be quite meaningful.

    Of course you went through the trouble of transferring for a reason so only you can really answer for yourself why you thought it was important and whether that reason is still strong enough.

    Excellent points. Let me just add that the LAC is likely in a small town (?) and all of the proposed transfer schools are in cities, which means that all present a greater risk of getting sick and all present a greater likelihood of being disrupted by a second surge. Something to think about.
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  • MWolfMWolf 2609 replies14 threads Senior Member
    eagle71 wrote: »
    @warblersrule That's fairly a spot on assessment of departments. The chemistry and English are solid, philosophy less so. Would I still be competitive for graduate schools in say philosophy even if the department lacks coming from a T10 LAC?

    Students from top LACs are competitive for PhD programs at any grad school in the USA. Of the 50 colleges with the highest percent of students who go on to do a PhD, 36 are LACs, and these include 7 LACs of the top 10, and 16 LACs in the top 25.

    The faculty and grad students (who decide whether to accept you to the grad program) are all very familiar with LACs, and have an enormous amount of respect for students of LACs.

    The "prestige" of a top LAC is equal to that of Columbia or UChicago, if that is the reason you want to move.

    Columbia and Chicago are amazing places, BTW, and if either calls to you because of something intrinsic in them, by all means transfer. However, they do not provide a better education, nor more prestige. A different education, for sure, but not a better one, and the "prestige" of a top LAC is just as high as that of either, especially in places that matter, like jobs or grad school.
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6551 replies1 threads Senior Member
    "Students from top LACs are competitive for PhD programs at any grad school in the USA."

    Well said.

    Getting good research or internship experience is valuable for graduate school admissions. Personally I got this after I got my bachelor's degree and before applying to graduate schools. However, some students are getting this while they are undergraduate students. I think that the top 10 LACs are going to have at least as much and possibly more opportunities than the top ranked larger schools. One advantage is that top LACs in many cases do not have graduate students to compete for the research opportunities. The other issue is that having been at the school for a year or two will allow a student to get to know their professors, particularly at a smaller school, which should over time help open up opportunities. To me this is a downside of transferring.

    Between Chicago, Columbia, and a "top 10 LAC", there really is no bad choice. There is no "okay" choice. These are all great choices. Personally my inclination would probably be to stay at the top LAC and continue to look for research opportunities.

    The other thing that comes to mind is that the difference between a large city versus the small towns where most top LACs are (or suburb if we are talking about Wellesley College) would be a big difference also.
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