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Columbia Fu vs Cornell Engineering

OnxOnx 40 replies13 postsRegistered User Junior Member
edited September 2010 in Columbia University
So I just got into Columbia off the waitlist. I have already committed at Cornell wanting to study bioengineering and a minor in BME.

I was pretty disappointed to be waitlisted at Columbia, because I loved the school, but now I'm not so sure. So...advice please?

I want to do premed, school size/location doesn't really matter to me.

The main thing is this, have you guys enjoyed your time at Columbia? Does being in New York offer many advantages? Disadvantages? Does Columbia have a premed track and advising system? What is their record for getting people into medical school. Housing? General stuff would be amazing too. Thanks!
edited September 2010
30 replies
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Replies to: Columbia Fu vs Cornell Engineering

  • DenzeraDenzera 3301 replies70 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    1) I loved every minute of being at Columbia, which is one of the reasons I hang around forums talking to people about it. In the rest of my life i've moved on, but there's still a part of me that wants to contribute to my school, and this is how I get that out of my system.

    Columbia was like heaven on earth for me. The biggest difference from growing up was how EVERYONE was smart as hell. I was used to 25-30% of my high school class being top students who were tremendously interesting and dedicated people, but now it was more like 90-95%. It raises the level of expectations you have of everyone, in conversation, or social events, or coordinating something... you make friends with true movers and shakers of tomorrow, and people who have more in common with you than anyone you've met in your life so far. At Columbia there are always a million things going on, and a million more things off-campus. One night you may find yourself at a hookah bar with some friends, and the next night at a concert, and the next night studying your ass off because you've been slacking all weekend. It's an intense place that has no limit to the amount you can get out of it.

    2) New York? Tell you what, rather than rehashing all of this, go to this thread, it should help you out:

    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/showthread.php?t=237231

    3) There are certainly premed tracks, although no explicit major, and I believe there is premed advising. You'll know dozens of people who are premed and there's a support system in place for that (although I don't know the details because I avoided the hell out of that rat race). Many people get into medical school, although I have no idea of the number, or distribution among top schools.

    4) Housing? I'm something of an expert here. What specifically do you want to know? The most relevant tidbit for you right now, though, is that A) columbia undergrads are guaranteed 4 years of on-campus housing unless they leave the system and want to come back, and B) the prices for on-campus housing are basically the same (in the middle of manhattan) as that of dorms in any rural school. i.e., there is no premium to living in new york city, you're just paying $600-700/month like everyone else. The dorms are fairly nice although not palatial... the best feature is that ~60% of people on campus get to live in singles, including many freshman year.

    Read that thread I linked and come back with any specific questions you might have.
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  • WiseOWLWiseOWL 96 replies9 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    From someone who has been through the competitive pre-med process with all its ups and downs, here is Columbia's official take on its pre-med advising. Worth a read (all sections) if you would like to compare the two schools philosophy on pre-med preparation

    http://www.studentaffairs.columbia.edu/preprofessional/health/
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  • monydadmonydad 7798 replies158 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    At least "back in the day" it was the case that most of Cornell's engineering students actually wanted to work as engineers. I've read that only a third of Fu graduates choose to work as engineers, and this was pretty much what I heard back then as well.

    That being the case, if each school is properly catering to its constituents maybe there will be more hard-core engineering courses required at Cornell, and more curricular flexibility at Fu for the majority of its students who don't have this goal. I don't know that this is actually the case, but to me it seems possible.

    I myself had a suitemate at Cornell who was an electrical engineering major and is now a cardiologist, so clearly this is possible. But it seems to me that at Fu this may be more the norm, and hence maybe it is set up more ideally for that.
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  • bipolarbearbipolarbear 76 replies3 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    If you're really interested in becoming an engineer, go to Cornell...

    At Columbia SEAS, I think you'll have it better as a pre-med student, although you'll very, very, likely be drawn away into finance (which isn't a bad thing)
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  • DenzeraDenzera 3301 replies70 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    you don't "get drawn in to" finance. columbia makes it easy to get jobs in finance, easier than many other peer schools... but 80-85% of the school's population doesn't give a darn about finance, not even senior year. Many go straight to med school or law school or a PhD program and never even look back.

    ----

    What separates Columbia is its ability to give you great access to such a huge variety of fields and exposure to a variety of opportunities. If you go to Cornell engineering, you're likely (odds are) going to end up an engineer, or at least be typecast that way, and have an uphill battle in interviews for anything not related to your field of specialization. At Columbia, it's easy to get exposure to a wider variety of things (while fulfilling your engineering requirements, even - not to mention outside the classroom) and A) make easier decisions about what interests you most, after you've seen it all, and B) make a compelling case to the gatekeepers of your chosen field as to why you'd be a great fit.

    In short - and i'm obviously biased here - Columbia students are seen as more versatile.
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  • Columbia2002Columbia2002 4486 replies43 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    you don't "get drawn in to" finance. columbia makes it easy to get jobs in finance, easier than many other peer schools... but 80-85% of the school's population doesn't give a darn about finance, not even senior year. Many go straight to med school or law school or a PhD program and never even look back.

    Disagree here to an extent re: the "drawn in" point. The fact that the opportunity to do something else exists makes people conscious of it and draws at least some people into it. People who go into finance from SEAS didn't all plan it from the start; they sometimes intend to have careers in math/science/engineering but see/hear about how the grass is purportedly greener and explore something different.
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  • BboyTwizzyBboyTwizzy 198 replies10 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Im not gonna lie. You may think im biased but I promise you I'm only mimicking what was said. In all the past threads pitting Fu against Cornell, people have said Cornell engineering is better. I do however, think that any other part of SEAS would beat Cornell. I personally would rather live in the city than upstate. But do you, man; congrats and good luck.
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  • monydadmonydad 7798 replies158 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Re: #6: IF you DO want to be an engineer, exposure to a wide breadth of opportunities WITHIN the field of engineering can be quite important.

    I would not have been exposed to the specific sub-specialty I eventually chose if I'd attended many schools; many didn't offer courses in this specific area.

    If you DON'T want to be an engineer, exit strategies are nice to have. But if you know this from the outset, my own bias is why squandor your valuable undergrad education learning technical aracana that you won't use? Get yourself a proper liberal arts education. In the long run, reading well, writing well, and speaking well are much more valuable skills to many than really knowing Fluid Mechanics et al, when you don't intend to ever put this arcana to use.

    Mostly what I've seen outside of engineering, in business (yes, finance) is , down the road, people with these technical skills working for people with those communications skills. And in less fulfilling jobs, to boot
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  • Columbia2002Columbia2002 4486 replies43 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    If you DON'T want to be an engineer, exit strategies are nice to have. But if you know this from the outset, my own bias is why squandor your valuable undergrad education learning technical aracana that you won't use? Get yourself a proper liberal arts education. In the long run, reading well, writing well, and speaking well are much more valuable skills to many than really knowing Fluid Mechanics et al, when you don't intend to ever put this arcana to use.

    I kind of disagree with this, but I see where you're coming from. Think about an engineering education as more than "learning technical aracana" -- it's not just learning some big scary equations for fluid mechanics. Taking advanced engineering courses is also about exercising your mind and sharpening your analytical / problem solving / logic skills. In the same way that you may not remember many of the details from a history class you took in college but somehow "grew" as a person by taking that class, I think similar things could be said about engineering coursework. So I would encourage you to think about engineering curriculum coursework. And as many have said before, SEAS is sort of the best of both worlds in terms of getting a well-rounded education and will give you more of a "proper liberal arts education" than at most other engineering schools.
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  • OnxOnx 40 replies13 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks for all the input guys. Could someone point me in the direction of a list of majors? All I could find was a list of "departments of instruction".
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  • s snacks snack 987 replies63 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Can't find it online, but I have a printed list:
    -Applied Math
    -Applied Physics
    -Biomedical:
    -Cell & Tissue Engineering
    -Biomechanical
    -Biomedical Imaging
    -Chemical Engineering
    -Civil Engineering
    -Computer Engineering
    -Computer Science
    -Earth & Environmental Engineering
    -Electrical Engineering
    -Engineering Management Systems
    -Engineering Mechanics
    -Financial Engineering
    -Industrial Engineering
    -Materials Science
    -Mechanical Engineering
    -Operations Research
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  • monydadmonydad 7798 replies158 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    A good liberal arts education will necessarily include quantitative coursework to sharpen your analytical / problem solving / logic skills.

    However, significantly fewer courses of this nature are needed to fully accomplish this objective than are typically required in an engineering school curriculum. If you aren't going to use the arcana, the "extra" analytical courses are just overflow, more of the same, and detract from the communications- oriented and general-interest courses that I've perceived through my own career to be more valuable down the road, long term.

    Some of the most nimble analytical minds I've encountered in finance were liberal arts majors. For most business purposes, no math above first-year calculus (or algebra, really) is required. What is needed is an analytical acuity which can be nurtured to the appropriate level in a liberal arts education, without "shorting" the actually more important stuff. I've seen proof of this quite clearly.

    Regarding SEAS and "proper liberal arts education", I've heard this "party line" here before but I wonder whether in fact the amount of open electives is really any different overall there than at Cornell's College of Engineering; anybody have the data?
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  • OnxOnx 40 replies13 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Let's say I realize that engineering isn't for me, would it be possible for me to transfer schools?
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  • BboyTwizzyBboyTwizzy 198 replies10 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    If you mean from SEAS to CC, apparently it's possible to do so. I've read it in these forums a little while back. Ask Denzera or C02.
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  • Columbia2002Columbia2002 4486 replies43 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    In response to monydad / post #13: You make some good points, but I'm not sure that I agree that the quantitative coursework taken in a typical broad libarts curriculum sharpens one's analytical / problem solving / logic skills in a manner that's anywhere near what a technical curriculum would do. So I'm skeptical of the overflow / more of the same point you make, and will grant you that the "detract from other stuff" is the much more important concern. Besides, taking the 10th philosophy course in your philosophy major is arguably also overflow, more of the same, etc.
    Regarding SEAS and "proper liberal arts education", I've heard this "party line" here before but I wonder whether in fact the amount of open electives is really any different overall there than at Cornell's College of Engineering; anybody have the data?

    For one, what distinguishes SEAS from most engineering schools is that you're forced to take 1/2 of the Core. At most engineering schools, you can get away with being totally one-dimensional (i.e., taking football player classes / the history of math for your non-technical requirements).

    As for raw numbers, the nontechnical credits required for SEAS are significantly greater than what ABET (the engineering accreditation folk) mandates. I can't speak for Cornell, but I think I ended up taking about 30-35 non-technical credits.
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  • DenzeraDenzera 3301 replies70 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Yeah. I mean, my nontechs included
    - History of the City of NY, taught by a living legend, Ken Jackson. I still have the tshirt.
    - Freedom of Speech and Press, a 1st amendment class taught by the president of the university, Lee Bollinger (who's something of an expert on the matter)
    - Lit Hum, Music Hum, and Logic & Rhetoric (now University Writing), elements of the CC core. Lit Hum is the Fiction half of the Great Books curriculum.
    - Video Game Design & Development, taught by a guy who was like the president of Atari or something.

    If I'd had another semester to screw around and take what I wanted without consequence, I would've done some sociology, some more history perhaps with Eric Foner, maybe some architecture, maybe some more Econ with the various kickass professors they have here (that Economics of Sports seminar taught by Sunil Gulati, who happens to be president of Major League Soccer, has students lining up at 2am on a thursday night to sign up for the class).

    You can tell me you can get as good an engineering education at Cornell or CMU or MIT or a whole host of other schools. You may be right. But in how many places is an engineer with a diverse array of non-engineering interests going to be able to satisfy such a range of intellectual curiosity, and still meet his major requirements? Not many, I'd wager.
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  • nancy0223nancy0223 71 replies6 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Speaking as an accepted transfer to SEAS from Cornell Engineering, I was actually told by one of the SEAS advisors, who also happens to be a professor there, that SEAS is more geared towards grad school. I know this may sound repetitive, but Cornell does seem more engineering oriented than SEAS according to what I've learned from students and professors at both SEAS and Cornell.
    I was in kinda a similar situation as you're in right now, deciding b/w SEAS and Cornell. And I actually ended up staying w/ Cornell. My decision fell on my old school b/c I realized how much I've enjoyed doing pure engineering and taking on challenges at the last minute (aside from some transfer credit issues I was having w/ SEAS).
    So that's my two cents. Just a reminder, no matter whichever one you decide on in the end, make sure you know what you want to get out of the school.
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  • monydadmonydad 7798 replies158 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    "But in how many places is an engineer with a diverse array of non-engineering interests going to be able to satisfy such a range of intellectual curiosity, and still meet his major requirements? Not many, I'd wager."

    IF the number of free electives is comparable, I'd say one can accomplish this BETTER at Cornell. Cornell has seven undergraduate colleges, not just Arts & sciences; the breadth of offerings available to an engineering student seeking other challenges has got to be greater. Beyond the full range of arts & sciences offerings, you can take: courses like natural resources in the Ag school; Human Development courses in Hum Ec; Wine Tasting in the Hotel School. And these other courses were all considered great, worthwhile courses in my day.
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  • DenzeraDenzera 3301 replies70 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    ok, you go ahead and hang your hat on Wine Tasting (which i could take at barnard if i wanted) and Agriculture courses. i'll stick to a Great Books curriculum that has been refined for 90 years, or an econ class taught by a nobel prizewinner who's I can go in and talk with at office hours. It's not quantity, it's quality.
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  • monydadmonydad 7798 replies158 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    1) As you are aware, Cornell offers the full range of liberal arts offerings. The offerings of the other colleges are just icing on the cake, but they certainly contribute to what is available.

    When you posted,

    "But in how many places is an engineer with a diverse array of non-engineering interests going to be able to satisfy such a range of intellectual curiosity, and still meet his major requirements?"

    That certainly pertains to quantity. My post was in response to this question you posed. Cornell, for one, is such a place. In all likelihood one can study a broader array of subjects, in greater depth, at Cornell than at Columbia.

    So now that your prior quantity assertion has been obliterated, now all of a sudden the tune is changing to "it's not quantity after all, not's quality".

    However:

    2) Only cool-aid drinkers think a Great Books curriculum is necessarily "better" than conventional liberal arts offerings. Columbia's curriculum is an extreme outlier in this regard, not the norm. Lots of people actually affirmatively don't want to take these courses. My kids didn't. In any event it is a matter of opinion, not a fact. I agree that people with this opinion should choose Columbia, other things being equal. But many people don't want such a curriculum. Otherwise more than about 4 schools in this entire country would offer it.

    3) Realistically any blanket assertions regarding superior "quality" of actual individual classes, is pretty much hot air. As Professor-dependant as this can be. Particularly without actual experience at both schools.

    The two Nobel Prize winners I personally took classes from did not sufficiently inspire me to get my own Nobel Prize, so maybe that's a failure. Great for them, though.
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