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Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Columbia?

waterisgudwaterisgud 1 replies1 threads New Member
Hello!

I'm trying to choose between Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. I'm really into film, creative writing, philosophy, English, and theater. I just had a few questions, especially for those who have knowledge of each school's arts culture. You don't need to answer these questions directly if you don't know the answers to them--any info/advice is appreciated!

-I know Yale is known as the 'artsy ivy.' I see this as a pro and a con. It's great that there'll be a larger community of artists, but does this make the arts culture a bit more competitive than the others? (e.g. Are creative workshops harder to get into? Is it harder to establish relationships with professors or gain access to resources?)

-I'm currently leaning towards Princeton, but I worry that the workload won't allow me to pursue my artistic passions. Is the rigor of {Princeton really that much more significant than Yale or Harvard? That's the impression I got from Princeton Preview.

-Which school is the most generous with money? Like, does each school have an office where I could request funding for say, a short film or a play?

-Is it true that Harvard has many more TA's than Princeton and Yale? Is Princeton's undergraduate focus overemphasized?

-Does Princeton really have the best Creative Writing department? This is what seems to be the verdict online.

-I've reserved a seat in both Princeton's Humanities Sequence and Yales Directed Studies course. IS one known to be any better than the other?

-I'm interested in doing Princeton's Bridge Year Program. Are there any similar Gap year opportunities at Yale or Harvard?

Sorry for so many questions! Thank you!
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Replies to: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Columbia?

  • LoveTheBardLoveTheBard 2119 replies20 threads Senior Member
    First of all, congratulations -- what a wonderful problem to have!

    I presume that cost is not factoring into your decision–– Or is it?? Have you visited any or all of the campuses?

    If you are interested in doing an intensive humanities core, Yale's DS is about as good as it gets. That said, Princeton's Hume Sequence is also quite good. Harvard doesn't have the same type of program. You can, of course, always cobble together your own program, but it's not the same as having a well-defined and well-structured program and a cohort with which to do it.

    Princeton's Bridge program is quite unique, but there is, of course, no guaranty that you'll get in, so that should not be the deciding factor. All of the schools will allow you to defer enrollment for a year and take a gap year, but it would not be funded and it would not be organized by the school.

    I would take Harvard off the table (no humanities core, less undergrad focused, not as "artsy"), leaving Princeton and Yale as the two contenders. Assume that you will find financial and faculty support at both, and make your choice based on fit considering such things as location (urban vs. suburban), curricula, unique programs (eating clubs vs. residential colleges), DS vs. Hume Seq, Bridge program, etc.

    Let us know what you choose!
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  • merc81merc81 10940 replies179 threads Senior Member
    Princeton seems to receive the most consistent online mentions from your group with respect to creative writing, but Yale, Harvard and Columbia receive recognition as well:

    https://contently.net/2014/11/06/resources/tools/training/10-best-colleges-creative-writers/

    http://flavorwire.com/409437/the-25-most-literary-colleges-in-america
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  • boudersbouders 2524 replies175 threads Senior Member
    It's unethical to deposit at more than one college.
    -I've reserved a seat in both Princeton's Humanities Sequence and Yales Directed Studies course. IS one known to be any better than the other?
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  • waterisgudwaterisgud 1 replies1 threads New Member
    @bouders We were encouraged to reserve a seat before matriculating (the person reading my application automatically put me into directed studies because I expressed interest in my app)
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  • PtonAlumnusPtonAlumnus 294 replies7 threads Member
    Since students generally attend only one of HYP it is difficult for us to make accurate comparisons. Each person can tell you aspects of each university so that you have more information so that you can make an informed decision.

    Princeton’s Creative Writing Department is outstanding. Small seminars of perhaps 8 to 10 students meet with published authors who will review your writing with you. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and current U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith is the Director of Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing. Graduates of the program include best-selling novelists Jonathan Safran Foer ’99, author of Everything is Illuminated, and Jodi Picoult ’87, who has written two novels that debuted as number one on The New York Times’ bestseller list. Jodi has has published 26 novels in 22 years that have been translated in 34 languages in 35 countries. Eight of her books have been number one on the New York Times bestseller list, including “My Sister’s Keeper,” “Second Glass” and “The Story Teller.” Picoult credited former creative writing Professor Mary Morris with shaping who she is today. Foer credits Professor Oates as “the first person ever to make me think that I should try to write in any serious way.” Professor Oates advised him on his senior thesis which won the Princeton Senior Creative Writing Thesis Prize. He later expanded it into his first novel, Everything is Illuminated, published in 2002 which garnered wide acclaim and great success.

    In recent years Princeton has made a major effort to enhance the support for the performing arts. The Lewis Center is an example of this increased emphasis. You should become familiar with the Program in Theater certificate. https://ua.princeton.edu/academic-units/program-theater Film study is conducted in the Program in Visual Arts Certificate. https://ua.princeton.edu/academic-units/program-visual-arts English majors with your interests can take tracks in Arts and Media, Theater and Performance Studies, and Creative Writing. https://english.princeton.edu/undergraduate/program Funding requests for producing a short play or film would be through a professor in the related programs. I know students have received funding to complete their independent work but do not know the percentage of successful funding requests. I can think of 11 theater groups at Princeton. All universities utilize some TA but my impression is that Princeton uses fewer TA than other universities. The emphasis at Princeton is on undergraduate education.

    Good Luck in your decision. You can obtain a great education at all three universities. I hope that you choose to be a Tiger!
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  • jzducoljzducol 778 replies14 threads Member
    I don't know much about film programs at these schools. All I know is that Harvard College has produced arguably the most stars (many of them at a young age) in film industry, from actors Matt Damon, Natalie Portman, etc, to directors like Damien Chazelle etc. I imagine in a business where getting an early break is important, Harvard College's deep and long connection to film/media industry can be a great resource.
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  • PublisherPublisher 9532 replies119 threads Senior Member
    For film, script writing, theatre, I would suggest a school not on your list = USC (University of Southern California). Has a very, selective program in writing for television & movies.

    Among your current options, there is no wrong choice.

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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 9345 replies352 threads Senior Member
    @bouders, It's only unethical to have 2 deposits in after May 1st. As long as OP declines the others by May 1st he's fine.
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  • CU123CU123 3676 replies73 threads Senior Member
    ...which begs the question why would you ever put two deposits down? The spots are already reserved for the applicant once admitted.

    It’s always interesting to me for someone who has the resume/background to get into these schools with multiple admits, yet seems to know next to nothing about them.
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  • tdy123tdy123 1036 replies18 threads Senior Member
    @jzducol "All I know is that Harvard College has produced arguably the most stars (many of them at a young age) in film industry, from actors Matt Damon, Natalie Portman," Matt Damon's first movie role was at 18, a few months after starting Harvard. Natalie Portman's first movie role was at 13, well before she graduated High School, let alone enrolled in Harvard. Using those two as examples of Harvard's excellence in training actors is about as accurate as crediting Yale for Jodie Foster's acting debut at age six....
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  • Penn95Penn95 2283 replies79 threads Senior Member
    edited April 2019
    @waterisgud I think it is a bit of an overkill to try to parse differences amongst the three schools (HYP), especially for a field where there dont seem to be a lot of differences. ( its not like you will be studying engineering for example where princeton is clearly superior to Yale and Harvard, or econ where Harvard, Princeton are clearly superior to Yale).

    I honestly think you should go with where you felt most at home given that there are no differences in quality. your chances of doing well are much higher at the place you fit in best. All that said, if you are a more artistically inclined person i would lean towards Harvard or Yale. Yale is probably the artiest but Harvard has a very long tradition in the performing arts. Princeton is more rigorous less so inclined towards the arts.
    edited April 2019
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  • jzducoljzducol 778 replies14 threads Member
    @tdy123 There are a lot kids who had acting careers at places like HYP. Like most of these kids, neither Damon nor Portman were stars when they entered Harvard; they only became household names years after they left college. Of course, Jodie Foster already achieved teenage stardom way before college.
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  • privatebankerprivatebanker 5836 replies86 threads Senior Member
    Brooke Shields at Princeton as well.
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  • boudersbouders 2524 replies175 threads Senior Member
    Portman filmed The Phantom Menace when she was in high school. Her acceptance to Harvard was a result of that role, rather than the other way around.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 40465 replies7514 threads Super Moderator
    .which begs the question why would you ever put two deposits down? The spots are already reserved for the applicant once admitted.
    To be clear, the OP did not say that s/he put 2 deposits down.S/he said she reserved a seat in the Princeton Humanities sequence and whatever the Yale terminology is for applying to DS. I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong, an accepted student can do that with having yet deposited.
    All I know is that Harvard College has produced arguably the most stars (many of them at a young age) in film industry, from actors Matt Damon, Natalie Portman, etc, to directors like Damien Chazelle etc.
    As one who is very supportive of Harvard, I have to point out that today there are a slew of colleges stronger in film than Harvard (or YP for that matter), and that the department was considerably weaker when Damon, Portman, et.al. attended. Damon has said that it was a class taught by Anthony Kubiak, who has since left, that inspired Good Will Hunting. But whatever success these had in later life, it was not solely from studying film at Harvard.
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  • merc81merc81 10940 replies179 threads Senior Member
    edited April 2019
    skieurope wrote:
    To be clear, the OP did not say that s/he put 2 deposits down. S/he said she reserved a seat in the Princeton Humanities sequence and whatever the Yale terminology is for applying to DS.
    Yes! The OP appears to have used language that pertains specifically to the appropriate protocol for these schools.

    @waterisgud: After having read your post several times, I'd say that Yale and Princeton might be the two schools that would most suit you personally. You could choose Yale because it aligns well with your general orientation toward creative arts; you choose Princeton for its top-notch creative writing program and relative undergraduate emphasis. I truly hope you continue to consider all four of your choices carefully, however.
    edited April 2019
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  • PtonAlumnusPtonAlumnus 294 replies7 threads Member
    @waterisgud I think that a perspective student can gain a knowledge of a university by understanding the path taken by recent graduates. You are interested in English - Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi was a Comparative Literature concentrator. She received funding from Princeton to make a film for her senior thesis. Here is her story.

    Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi ‘00 won the 2019 Academy Award for Best documentary, Free Solo. She holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University. She says she has felt inspired by her literature seminars with Michael Wood and Robert Fagles, who taught her, “It’s about how you tell a story: when you reveal moments, and how you construct and reveal an emotional truth that both engages your mind and your heart.” She studied storytelling across mediums — poems, literature, film, and journalism. Vasarhelyi started her film career while a student at Princeton, working in Hong Kong for the late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings as his personal assistant. She then worked at World News Tonight the summer of 1998. She made wonderful relationships and mentorships at ABC that helped guide her career. She says that “growing up biracial and speaking four languages — French, Chinese, Portuguese, and English — gave me a different lens. I was always very acutely aware of coming from a different perspective.”

    The first film she made began as her senior-thesis project. In 1999, she was an editor at one of the Princeton newspapers when American diplomat Richard Holbrooke came to speak at Princeton, which coincided with the first day of bombings in Kosovo. Vasarhelyi said that “I was very interested in the Bosnian War going on at the time and [had] questions [about the] genocide. And, poor guy, he [wasn't allowed to] answer our questions. It frustrated this other student and myself, so we decided that we would go to Kosovo and find out what happened, which was a very idealistic and naive stance. But I had these connections at ABC and they said, "If you make it there, we will give you a job [as a stringer] in Macedonia. And if not, you can definitely crash on the couches in our camera room if you really need a place to stay in Kosovo."

    The summer following her junior year, she received funding from Princeton to travel with fellow student and filmmaker Hugo Barkeley ’99 to Kosovo. “I lied to my parents and went to a war zone,” she said. “I met people who were exactly like me but born in different circumstances and were living through a war. It became my ‘free solo’ to tell their story.” The film was about post-war Kosovo and the lives of the young people she met and interviewed. She followed seven college-age friends in Kosovo aching not just to live but to thrive in spite of the Bosnian conflict. “The only thing that separated us was circumstance, right? I had all these privileges. They never had those opportunities in a war that was supposed to be over.” Her Princeton thesis was titled “Reconstructing Kosovo,” but the film she ultimately premiered in Tribeca was called “A Normal Life.” A Normal Life, won an award the Best Documentary award at the Tribeca Film Festival. “It was a very special experience — it really launched my career,” she said. “But you don’t have to make your first film in college. I think people should take advantage of their liberal arts education. Princeton is a very special place. You have the rest of your life to make your films.” Several weeks after she won the Academy Award she meet with Princeton students over dinner and discussed her film.
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  • PtonAlumnusPtonAlumnus 294 replies7 threads Member
    The amount of time student spend on “artsy” projects varies widely. Sean Hartofilis ‘03 says film making was his dominant activity. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan has stated that she spent more time working as the editor of the campus newspaper than she spent on her classes. Many Triangle Theater students spend long hours on their musical.

    Ethan Coen ‘79 was a philosophy concentrator. Joel and Ethan Coen’s new Netflix release, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, is “an exemplary political film” set in the Wild West, according to a New Yorker review. Ethan earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy in 1979. His senior thesis was a 41-page essay, "Two Views of Wittgenstein's Later Philosophy". USC and other universities have more formal courses in film making. Whether that is necessary depends on the individual. Ethan Coen said that “I definitely got a good education. How it prepared me for what I’m doing, I have no idea. But that’s the liberal-arts thing! I felt well served by the institution. It prepared me for ... something.” Together the Coen brothers have produced perhaps two dozen movies and plays.

    Sean Hartofilis ’03 wrote Covadonga, edited it, acted in it, and composed original songs. Covadonga is Hartofilis’ second full-length film; his first, Beach Pillows, won the Van Gogh World Cinema Screenwriting award at the 2013 Amsterdam Film Festival. Hartofilis is an All-American and national champion lacrosse player turned filmmaker. At Princeton, he took Introductory Film and Video Practice with Su Friedrich, and Advanced Film & Video Practice with Keith Sanborn. “In those classes I wrote original material, shot what I wrote, performed in it, and edited it, and I spent more time doing that work than in all my other classes combined,” Hartofilis says. “I learned a lot then that I’ve used since.”

    Director Josephine Decker ’03’s film Madeline’s Madeline — an IndieWire Critics Pick at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year — was one of five Best Feature nominees at the IFP Gotham Awards Nov. 26, 2018. Director Craig Leon ’85 explores the debate over spraying pesticides in Miami Beach to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus in Sprayed. Actors Molly Ephraim ’08 and Tommy Dewey ’01 were part of the cast of Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, a story based on Sen. Gary Hart’s ill-fated 1988 presidential campaign.
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  • ItisatruthItisatruth 342 replies22 threads Member
    My kid was very very happy in DS last year.
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  • ccballerccballer 13 replies0 threads New Member
    I would visit all, but strongly suggest Yale. While all of the schools will probably take you anywhere, Yale (and probably Columbia) have produced many more influential actors, filmmakers, etc. While Yale leads in most fields, it just so happens to be the world's preeminent university in the arts.
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