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princeton or mit for philosophy (and similar majors)

XIIIXIII User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 5 New Member
i just posted this under princeton...

so my two dream schools are mit and princeton; however, i would prefer to apply to only one. i'm almost certain i will end up majoring in philosophy, but classics (latin) is a close second (or a double major with ancient and medieval studies for mit), and i intend to be pre med unless i'm weeded out. i'm leaning towards princeton right now, but only because i happen to know that the philosophy department is highly regarded. i'm also interested in italian/dante. but i guess i could cross register at harvard for language courses if i went to mit? can anyone here at CC please help me make a decision (especially people who have similar aspirations/are doing similar things at mit or princeton)? the only thing i know right now is that i want to to be in a place where science majors understand the importance of the humanities and humanities majors understand the importance of the sciences. i'm not being much help explaining what i need to know, but any comments about your personal experiences or those of people you know would be greatly appreciated! thank you!
Post edited by XIII on

Replies to: princeton or mit for philosophy (and similar majors)

  • lordofnarflordofnarf Registered User Posts: 96 Junior Member
    Why do you only want to apply to one?

    Especially at top colleges like MIT and Princeton, even if you are the perfect student, you have somewhat low chances. Both institutions get many, many more applications from highly qualified students than they can fit, so even he best get turned away with surprising frequency.

    I'd say apply to both, and probably several others as well.

    If your reason for not applying is monetary, fee waivers are easily avaiable with help from your school counselor.
  • XIIIXIII User Awaiting Email Confirmation Posts: 5 New Member
    actually the reason i'm only applying to one is because my parents are insisting (making) me apply to a ton of schools in my home state. so i really don't have the time to focus on 2 applications for top schools. i'm ok with being rejected though. i also want to put one out of mind before i apply because there's a good chance i'll be rejected at both. but if i'm accepted at the one i apply to then it will be where i want to go and won't be a wasted effort. i don't normally think like this but i'm trying to be realistic : ) sorry if i'm confusing you.

    what i mean i guess is that i loved these schools before i knew how difficult they were to get into, so for me this is just paring down my list of colleges to apply to (like when i decided between UVA and William and Mary) even though it's a huge reach for anyone.

    by the way, thanks for replying!
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,010 Senior Member
    MIT and Princeton are both great colleges, but for the life of me I can't imagine why those two schools, and no others, should be the co-dream colleges of a philosophy-and-classics-loving pre-med. Apart from some areas of overlapping strength (not including classics or, really, philosophy), they are about as different as two East Coast elite universities can be, and there are many, many similar institutions that are more like either than the other, or that blend their qualities.

    As between the two, and ignoring likelihood of acceptance, I would think Princeton would be the clear choice. Its small but very well-respected classics program will be far superior to MIT's LAC-like offerings (unless you cross-register at Harvard). I think MIT comes closer on the philosophy front (especially if you are interested in ethics, philosophy or science, or philosophy of language), but it's never going to be as rich a philosophy environment as Princeton. And MIT is notoriously challenging for pre-meds -- the consensus seems to be that you really have to love science to be a pre-med at MIT, and that doesn't seem to be you.

    Being a pre-med humanities major at MIT would be like having two strikes against you before you do anything. You are not going to have a lot of peers. That won't be true at Princeton, where there is probably a whole classics/pre-med clique. While I am certain that the average MIT student appreciates the humanities plenty (especially relative to other scientists or engineers), I am equally certain that science-humanitites mutual respect at Princeton is broader and deeper. People with interests like yours would tend to congregate at Princeton much more than at MIT. Also, if you are looking at UVa and William and Mary, Princeton is a lot more like that than MIT is.

    But . . . it's craaaazy to make Princeton your only reach choice. How about this strategy? Apply to MIT EA. If you are accepted, great. If not, not. Either way, you can then consider applying to Princeton. If you have applied to a bunch of in-state schools, your applications should have been in months before December, so you ought to be able to find the 2-4 hours it will take to submit that marginal application to Princeton. And while you are at it, throw in a couple of Brown, Penn, Cornell, Dartmouth, Chicago (you could apply to Chicago EA along with MIT), any of which would really work for you, too, and provide a somewhat better chance of success than Princeton/MIT.
  • CalAlumCalAlum Registered User Posts: 1,367 Senior Member
    ^^ Agree. You could apply EA to both MIT and U of Chicago. But before you consider applying to MIT, you should get on the website and look over the coursework in philosophy. Like everything at MIT, there's a strong science/engineering theme running through everything, and it may or may not be to your liking.
  • MikalyeMikalye Registered User Posts: 1,337 Senior Member
    Agree as well.
    MIT has very few Philosophy majors. On the plus side, that makes you very important to the philosophy department, and gives you a lot of academic contact and departmental support. On the minus side, you have a much smaller community to interact with.
  • shwongshwong Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    I could see why MIT would be an appropriate choice for a would-be philosophy major; it's not quite as surprising as JHS thinks. According to the philosophy gourmet, it's tied sixth with Harvard. Princeton is at third.

    In fact, curiously, a good deal of Princeton philosophy faculty did their PhDs at MIT philo. Adam Elga, Delia Fara, Elizabeth Harman, Sara McGrath.
  • eisensteinprimeeisensteinprime Registered User Posts: 89 Junior Member
    Being a graduate student in philosophy at MIT is much different from being an undergraduate. I suspect that the education is very strong for both, but I'm not sure I would necessarily recommend MIT as an undergraduate philosophy school because the student culture is so biased toward science and engineering.
  • k4r3n2k4r3n2 Registered User Posts: 937 Member
    The nice thing about MIT's philosophy department is that, as a major, you'll get to take a lot of grad classes, especially since most of the undergrad courses are intro courses for non-minors. This means that you will definitely get to take advantage of the strong graduate program. Even though your friends probably won't be philosophy majors, you'll still get a good education.

    But, honestly? If I were pre-med and wanted to major in the humanities, I definitely wouldn't go to MIT, or any other engineering school, for that matter. Even though we have a really strong philosophy program, the science classes are going to be *really* tough, and for me, it would be more trouble than it's worth. Fortunately, I am an engineering major, so I love MIT :)
  • molliebatmitmolliebatmit Registered User Posts: 12,374
    Being a graduate student in philosophy at MIT is much different from being an undergraduate.
    Is it? In a small department, I would think the experiences would be somewhat equivalent academically.
  • eisensteinprimeeisensteinprime Registered User Posts: 89 Junior Member
    . . . which is exactly what I was saying. Academically, they are both great and there probably isn't much difference. But graduate students spend most of their time with the people they work with, who will all be in philosophy; undergraduates in philosophy will spend most of their time in a living group which will inevitably be dominated by science and engineering students.
  • PurpleMistPurpleMist Registered User Posts: 136 Junior Member
    I would go for Princeton.
  • collegealum314collegealum314 Registered User Posts: 6,768 Senior Member
    Once you write essays for one top school (especially with the common app,) it should be pretty easy to apply to several. I suggest you apply to a lot.

    Philosophy at MIT is a good department with quality faculty, but there are not as many undergraduate classes to choose from as there would be at an ivy. And I think it's a mistake to depend on Harvard cross-registration for a lot of major classes. But it's your life, so if you are smitten with MIT, go for it.
  • carpe noctumcarpe noctum Registered User Posts: 17 New Member
    It is crazy to limit your applications to one top school if you really want to get into one and it is a realistic goal. Each school is looking for different things in students. At my son's school kids that were accepted to Princeton were denied to MIT and kids accpeted to MIT were denied Princeton. Looking back I completely agree on where they were accepted as being the right fit.
  • sakkysakky - Posts: 14,759 Senior Member
    Is it? In a small department, I would think the experiences would be somewhat equivalent academically.
    . . . which is exactly what I was saying. Academically, they are both great and there probably isn't much difference. But graduate students spend most of their time with the people they work with, who will all be in philosophy; undergraduates in philosophy will spend most of their time in a living group which will inevitably be dominated by science and engineering students.

    I have to go with eisensteinprime on this one. While I agree that the academic experiences of an undergrad and grad student would be the same in a small department, the truth is that the the bulk of what comprises undergraduate education is non-academic in nature, but rather occurs through socialization with other students.

    As a case in point, I learned relatively little about thermodynamics from the coursework itself. I learned how to calculate a constellation of formulas and terms through the coursework, but I never learned what they actually meant or why I was doing it. The true education regarding thermodynamics was received after-hours, when the other students and I would philosophize about what concepts such as entropy and free energy really meant and what their implications were for life, the universe, and everything. But if nobody around you understands these concepts, or - even worse - doesn't care, then your overall education will suffer.
  • molliebatmitmolliebatmit Registered User Posts: 12,374
    Still, I don't think that automatically puts MIT out of the running for a person who's interested in a philosophy major. After all, MIT does have humanities single-majors -- people who love the undergraduate culture at MIT, but who happen to want to major in history, or writing, or philosophy.

    I think those sorts of people need to know what they're getting into by choosing MIT, but I don't think MIT is automatically a bad place for these people culturally.
This discussion has been closed.