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UNC or Cornell for Computer Science?

HighSGrad2020HighSGrad2020 0 replies1 threads New Member
After enrolling at UNC Chapel Hill, I found out that I was accepted off the waitlist of the Cornell College of Engineering. I plan on studying Computer Science, so I'm facing a dilemma on whether I should take Cornell's offer. Here is an overview of my situation:

- I am an NC resident, so UNC would be close to home for me

- UNC: I'm a covenant scholar, which means that all my tuition, housing and meals are all covered. I've been offered $3000 for work-study. So net cost is virtually $0.
- Cornell: After applying federal pell grant and Cornell grant (and $2,600 for work study), total out-of-pocket cost would be approx. $3,500 - $4,000 per yr.

US News Rankings:
- UNC: #29 National Colleges, #25 Computer Science
- Cornell: #17 National Colleges, #6 Computer Science

Median pay of Computer Science grads (payscale.com):
- UNC: Early career pay - $76,700, Mid career pay - $136,200
- Cornell: Early career pay - $92,400, Mid career pay - $153,700

My general perception
- UNC: more convenient, I like the weather, quite respectable ("public ivy"), nice campus, a relatively "laid-back" academic spirit (which I like)
- Cornell: less convenient (more travel), not a fan of the weather, more prestigious ("ivy league"), more beautiful campus, tense environment, more challenging and rewarding

As you can see, Cornell is obviously superior to UNC academically, especially considering my major. I have no doubt that UNC is able to challenge me academically, but I'm worried I might miss out on some opportunities I could only find at Cornell.

As of now, I'm leaning more towards UNC because it's closer to home (about 2.5 hrs. drive) and NY is currently struggling with Covid-19, although Tompkin's county (where Ithaca is located) is doing quite well. Cost shouldn't be an issue at either.

Which college would you recommend I go to?
12 replies
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Replies to: UNC or Cornell for Computer Science?

  • boudersbouders 2734 replies190 threads Senior Member
    I doubt there are any opportunities that would be closed to you as a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill.

    The median pay amounts probably represent differences in where the graduates live. I would expect quite a few of Cornell's students to end up in NYC where the pay AND the cost of living are much higher than in North Carolina.

    Are you guaranteed the CS major in either or both schools?
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  • merc81merc81 11912 replies203 threads Senior Member
    US News Rankings

    Since the program-specific rankings you posted appear to represent those for these schools' graduate departments, I recommend you disregard them as a factor in your decision.
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  • Zinnia203Zinnia203 65 replies1 threads Junior Member
    edited June 25
    Can you talk to CS students at either school, to see how easy it is to get into CS classes? Very overenrolled major at a lot of schools.
    edited June 25
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  • bevifibevifi 2 replies0 threads New Member
    UNC Wilmington has a tremendous CS program. Talk with Dr. Curry Quinn.
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 28091 replies210 threads Senior Member
    Chapel Hill for free is a no-brainer. Comp Sci is in such demand that even students from NC State can find jobs. (sarcasm from my Niece who was an honors graduate from UNC, while her brothers 'could only get into State'. -- hahaha)
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  • WildestDreamWildestDream 455 replies4 threads Member
    Don't put too much weight into the median pay statistics since UNC is a state school that attracts students who want to stay in NC and the Southeast (vs. Cornell which feeds into NYC which has higher salaries but also significantly higher cost of living).
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  • MWolfMWolf 2802 replies14 threads Senior Member
    UNC is a better choice than Cornell + $14,000-$16,000 debt. While you would likely be able to pay back this amount of money, if your family is low income, you may have other expenses for a few years after graduating.

    Most importantly, you really sound like you prefer UNC, and that it is a better fit.

    So congratulations on two amazing acceptances, and I recommend that you attend UNC without looking back.
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  • BunnyBlueBunnyBlue 869 replies10 threads Member
    You might want to go to the csrankings website and compare the number of computer science professors at each campus for the subcategories of computer science you think you might be interested in. You can also view their publications. The best situation is for a student to be mentored by a computer science professor. Sometimes you can get such an opportunity by going to a less competitive program in which you are more likely to stand out and be noticed.
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 6682 replies2 threads Senior Member
    I think that both are very good choices. This is however assuming that none of the aid from Cornell is in the form of debt.

    "The median pay amounts probably represent differences in where the graduates live."

    I think that this is exactly correct. New York City is a VERY expensive place to rent and to live. North Carolina is much less expensive. This is partly, but not completely, offset by differences in salaries. The lower paid person living in NC is probably still better off.

    I do not think that there is a bad choice here. I do not think that there is an only "okay" choice here. $15,000 in debt with a degree in CS from Cornell does not scare me all that badly. However, a degree in CS from UNC with no debt sounds even better to me.

    You say that you are leaning towards UNC. I think that this is a really good choice.
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  • boudersbouders 2734 replies190 threads Senior Member
    One time, I used an online cost of living comparison tool to calculate the cost of living between the nice Massachusetts town where we lived and NYC. The costs of living came out very similar, which surprised me. I noticed that the cost of purchasing a home was almost exactly the same. The calculations didn't take into account that the average home in NYC was a 1 bedroom, 600-800 sq ft apartment and the average home in small town MA was 4 bedrooms, 3000 sq ft with acreage.

    It's the same comparing salaries out of Cornell and out of UNC. You're comparing apples to oranges. Mid-career pay of $153000 in NYC will get you a semi-decent 1 bedroom rental apartment. With the early career pay in NYC, you'd have to share an apartment. With the early career pay in Raleigh, NC, you could afford to buy a 3 bedroom single family home.
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  • monydadmonydad 8016 replies160 threads Senior Member
    My guess is Cornell is more widely recruited nationally. but not local Southeast. It also has a far smaller proportion of students that are from the Southeast.

    If your ultimate goal is to stay , work and socialize in the region containing UNC , and benefit from a local in-region "network" such as it is, these are not advantages for you.

    If you want to get out, Cornell is better.

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  • PengsPhilsPengsPhils Forum Champion Northeastern, Forum Champion Math/Computer Science 4233 replies34 threads Forum Champion
    edited July 8
    A reminder to everyone in this thread that the salaries are averages. Some grads from UNC are still going to go to high COL (cost of living) areas and some Cornell grads are going to lower cost of living areas. There's no way to actually get to the bottom of net quality of life compared to pay. At the end of the day, the only conclusion is that Cornell likely sends more people to areas with higher costs of living.

    The more notable thing is simply that Cornell does have a good CS rep that will be marginally more known compared to UNC. Is that worth the cost difference? Probably not. But there is a difference here beyond where grads live postgrad which you can see in department depth, research, funding, etc. Still, very minor differences for an undergrad.

    One note, as someone who works in tech in NYC - while cost of living is higher, the more relevant factor is the ratio/percentage of COL compared to post-tax earnings. Saving 30% of earnings in say Raleigh vs 30% of earning in NYC can mean you actually have 25% more savings per year or more. And in tech, that can mean tens of thousands of dollars difference.

    The lifestyles of both living and retiring based on those environments are very different too, so it tends to boil down more to your personal preferences than a value equation. As a city lover, there's no number you could pay me to live in Raleigh even though I have nothing against it as a place. Swap it out for a similar city in size, the situation remains the same. In the inverse, if you want a 3 bedroom home or want to avoid roommates without paying 3K in rent, you're not going to enjoy NYC/SF and should absolutely work where you'll be happier. And neither school will prevent a student from picking either COL/lifestyle.

    Basically, as said here, no bad choices. I'd be picking based more on if there were preferences for Cornell outside of CS strength + how those stack up against cost.
    edited July 8
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