right arrow
Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Join us for a LIVE webinar Friday, April 3 at 3pm ET to hear from admission officers on how COVID-19 is impacting admissions at schools. REGISTER NOW and let us know what questions you have and want answered.
College of Charleston, Cooper, Davidson, and Reed are rumored to release decisions tomorrow (4/1). Share your outcome!
Tulane is rumored to release decisions today (3/31). Share your outcome!
As schools continue to announce their decisions, we put together the Class of 2024 RD Discussions Directory. Connect with fellow applicants NOW!

Assistance on Questbridge Rankings

KelseyMKelseyM 180 replies11 threads Junior Member
Hello,
I am currently interested in applying for the Questbridge scholarship this year and have been doing my best to attempt an in-depth look at each partner to rank them accordingly. I rank them based on the following preferences:
- Conservative presence on campus, preferably not a minority
- Political hostility medium to low (no large protests, screaming, violence, etc.)
- Close to or within a moderate to high urban region
- Specialty in science and research; many research opportunities and connections to renowned resources
- Party life and athletic performance equal in quality or lower than academics; must be strong in academics and can be strong in both, but never the reverse
- Greek life doesn’t ensnare the campus and define it; can be strong, weak, even nonexistent, but not all-encompassing
- Influence post-degree in workforce must be significant

I intend to major in something along the lines of Biochemistry, Cellular & Molecular Biology, or similar majors.
I was looking for assistance on how to rank them, as looking at each college individually is a challenge. Take Amherst for example. When one hears about Amherst in comparison to more renowned schools like UChicago or Vanderbilt (my top two choices currently), they scrunch their faces in confusion and ask you who Amherst is. I've heard of the "small but mighty" influence that LACs have (apparently the smaller the better), particularly in research, but many alumni seem to say that a college like Amherst is not a college for extremely intensive, research heavy science work, which is what I want. Additionally, looking at their course catalog, there aren't many science/biochemistry related courses, especially when you compare it to the humanities. However, on the Wikipedia's list of research universities, Amherst qualifies as a "R1: Doctoral University", which has very high research activity. (Then again, it's listed in conjunction with basic schools such as UTK and TTech, so...) I've been looking at everything I can just to evaluate this one college, including YouTube vlogs from current students, the website and its course catalog, and sometimes its rankings compared to other universities. When I look at all of these things collectively, many different statements collide and I don't know what to believe. There's a lot of you with individual, specialized experience with each partner, so I was looking for some closure here.
Is there any advice on what colleges to even LOOK at based on my preferences listed above? Choices I had initially considered based on what I've generally heard and seen about college attitudes and prides (without any intensive research other than Vanderbilt) are:
-UChicago
-Vanderbilt
-Duke
-Northwestern
-Davidson
-Emory
I'm sure there are other well-suited colleges on there that I've heard of, including Rice, Tufts, and Williams, but I wanted to hear your opinion. What do you think?
Ask any questions as needed and I will answer.
297 replies
· Reply · Share
«13456715

Replies to: Assistance on Questbridge Rankings

  • writingpumpkin03writingpumpkin03 158 replies6 threads Junior Member
    LACs like Amherst and Williams are good for research mainly because you’re not competing with grad students for it.

    About political preferences—nearly all top schools are pretty liberal, and I can’t think of a single college off the top of my head where conservative students aren’t a minority. That being said, you should be fine at most places other than schools like Oberlin.
    · Reply · Share
  • KelseyMKelseyM 180 replies11 threads Junior Member
    Apologies, I should have clarified - schools where conservatives aren't ostracized for their beliefs. I don't really care of the percentage, as long as some do exist. This is primarily why I am uninterested in Ivy Leagues, most Californian colleges, and Oberlin. I want to be at a campus where I am not persecuted, but allowed to hold my opinions and speak them if necessary. Vanderbilt has seemed to demonstrate a political "balance" (as that is their favorite word), and UChicago has publicly rejected politically correct standards, which I admire. Emory and Davidson have Christian roots, anyway, and hold some of that true, from what I've heard.
    · Reply · Share
  • writingpumpkin03writingpumpkin03 158 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Most elite schools, including the Ivies, will have some form of a conservative society that you can join.
    · Reply · Share
  • KelseyMKelseyM 180 replies11 threads Junior Member
    Really? I heard from many people that Brown, Harvard, and Yale are not openly welcoming of conservative opinions and one gets a lot of backlash for having one.
    · Reply · Share
  • Mwfan1921Mwfan1921 3810 replies69 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    However, on the Wikipedia's list of research universities, Amherst qualifies as a "R1: Doctoral University", which has very high research activity.

    Amherst College is not an R1 research institution, it's Carnegie Classification is baccalaureate college, arts and science focus. Perhaps you confused it with U Mass-Amherst?

    There are a few ways you can get at research opportunities for undergrads. Some college websites will have better details on this than others. If a school has grad/PhD students, they will get better research opportunities than the undergrads. But, that doesn't mean the undergrads don't have good opportunities, sometimes even better than those of a baccalaureate college.

    Look at departmental websites to see how many professors there are and the research focus of each, sometimes they will state how many students work in their labs. You can directly contact professors who are doing research that you are interested in....of course, read their publications first.
    Looking at course catalogs, as you have, is also very helpful in understanding the depth and breadth of courses offered.

    You will have to decide how important the research piece is relative to your other criteria. The schools you list in the OP are very different. There aren't any QB partner schools where you would be 'persecuted' for your political beliefs. With that said, Davidson and Washington and Lee are probably the most conservative. But many are tolerant of, and encourage, discussion with varying viewpoints....U Chicago as you note, but many others.
    edited June 2019
    · Reply · Share
  • merc81merc81 11174 replies184 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    By objective standards, Amherst College would be an excellent choice if you have an interest in undergraduate research: https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/undergrad-research-programs. Subjectively, I'd regard it as among the strongest schools in the country for the study of anything related to biology. Among your core group of listed schools, UC, Emory and Duke are three that would easily suit you academically as well.
    edited June 2019
    · Reply · Share
  • AlmostThere2018AlmostThere2018 1546 replies58 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    Claremont McKenna and Pepperdine are great schools that a I think many conservative students gravitate toward. Not sure if they are Questbridge schools, however.
    edited June 2019
    · Reply · Share
  • merc81merc81 11174 replies184 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    I've heard of the "small but mighty" influence that LACs have (apparently the smaller the better), particularly in research, but many alumni seem to say that a college like Amherst is not a college for extremely intensive, research heavy science work . . .

    Whose alumni, those of Amherst, or those of other schools, who may not be familiar with Amherst's attributes?

    When one hears about Amherst in comparison to more renowned schools like UChicago or Vanderbilt . . .

    You may be interested in some historical context for this perception. At one time, Amherst placed (statistically) one tier higher than UC and four tiers higher than Vanderbilt:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=ykQEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA100&lpg=PA100&dq=life+magazine+1960+college+admission+tufts+bowdoin&source=bl&ots=5BKi5WV8SQ&sig=GFl_LycVnJV8AGIXLX2P9kW97I0&hl=en&sa=X&ei=sO1TT4uPK-jm0QG8ifC3DQ#v=onepage&q&f=false
    edited June 2019
    · Reply · Share
  • warblersrulewarblersrule 10112 replies176 threads Super Moderator
    edited June 2019
    Claremont McKenna and Pepperdine are great schools that a I think many conservative students gravitate toward.
    Conservative students are a distinct minority at CMC, as they are at most of the top liberal arts colleges (with the possible exceptions of W&L, Sewanee, and Trinity). In 2015, the political affiliations of CMC freshmen were as follows:

    45% Liberal
    35% Moderate
    15% Conservative
    4% Far left
    1% Far right

    The political leanings of CMC freshmen and seniors are virtually identical to those of peer schools ("Private/Nonsectarian 4 Year Colleges - Very High Selectivity"). In fact, CMC has a higher than average percentage of seniors identifying as liberal.

    Source:
    https://www.cmc.edu/sites/default/files/student-imperative/Diversity-Data-for-2015-16.pdf (pages 8-9)
    KelseyM wrote:
    -Duke
    Duke is a very different place from the Duke of 20-30 years ago; like the city of Durham, it leans decidedly left. Conservative students are vocal but few (to cite a statistic, only 6.4% of Duke students said they were voting for Trump in 2016). That said, Duke is not the worst place to be a conservative student, and many students are politically apathetic.

    I've often been critical of the lack of attention paid to undergrads in Duke's biology program. I really can't recommend Duke highly enough for some of the less popular subfields (e.g. marine biology and botany), but undergrads in biochemistry and molecular biology have to be really proactive about seeking out faculty interaction and research opportunities. I wouldn't underestimate the biology departments at highly selective liberal arts colleges like Amherst.
    edited June 2019
    Post edited by warblersrule on
    · Reply · Share
  • writingpumpkin03writingpumpkin03 158 replies6 threads Junior Member
    This may sound like hyperbole, but I can't think of a single elite college where a social conservative (not a fiscal one) can be a part of the mainstream. Ok, there's Washington & Lee, but that's about it. That being said, if you can find a club or society centered around your political beliefs, then you should be ok.
    Vandy, UChicago, and Emory are liberal campuses--that's just in the nature of colleges, which lean liberal overall. Remember that the Chicago Statement works both ways: it encourages conservative students to speak up, but it also encourages liberal students to protest freely (which you said you didn't want). And a school's religious roots don't really matter anymore unless a school is still explicitly religious.
    · Reply · Share
  • writingpumpkin03writingpumpkin03 158 replies6 threads Junior Member
    Definitely take a look at Williams, and visit if possible to see if you would be able to enjoy yourself there.
    · Reply · Share
  • KelseyMKelseyM 180 replies11 threads Junior Member
    edited June 2019
    Thank you all for the comments, it's hugely appreciated. I've heard many good things about LACs, and places such as Washington & Lee, Davidson, Williams, Amherst, and Northwestern really caught my eye. The only thing about Amherst is that it seems to be isolated from cities, which is something I don't really care for, as I am urban chic. If I can't get a better or fairly equal education with research opportunities elsewhere, though, I will definitely keep it in my higher rankings.
    When I was looking at Amherst stuff (yes, I mistook it for UMass Amherst on Wikipedia, sorry), I viewed a thread on here simply titled "Amherst Biology?" in the Amherst College section. In it was a response that said this:
    "Here's what I have to say about Amherst in general: if you want a very strong, well-rounded college experience, with open curriculum, great lecturers, student body, the whole caboodle, and you decide to major in bio here at Amherst, you'll have a great time. Put bluntly, like all of the other depts her, the Amherst bio dept is strong in its own right. But if you want the hard-core science and research, the graduate level courses, a curriculum devoted to Bio, then maybe Amherst is not for you. I mean, I'm planning on taking some grad-level biophysics course my senior year at UMass, but it's definitely no substitute for a high-powered UC school, chock-full of its National Academy of Sciences members and ridiculously awesome facilities."
    Attention noted to the 3rd sentence. What does the person mean by that if Amherst is highly renowned for it? Also, what does it mean if Amherst isn't an R1 Doctorate? How come it's renowned for research but doesn't have that qualification? (this could be for other LACs as well)
    What would the disadvantages be for me if I applied somewhere that isn't an LAC and got in (i.e. Vanderbilt, UChicago, etc.)
    I understand the political domination of liberals on most campuses. While I would really love to know why that is historically speaking, as long as it doesn't spark political TENSION or violence, I will be fine. I'm fairly uneducated on a lot of conservative policies that aren't morally rooted, anyway. I just don't want to be the victim of unfair treatment by professors who apparently give lower grades to conservatives, especially in essays it seems (but that could all be exaggeration by conservative media, I'm not sure, but it still has me concerned about some colleges I wouldn't mind looking at). I've just heard a lot of discriminatory practices in some high level colleges, which has dissuaded me. You all have heard these things too, haven't you? I'd be more in line to trust you guys, since you aren't making these comments on a political basis like conservative talk show hosts are. I just want to expres my ideas freely and publicly (i.e. say I start a YouTube vlog or something, make Twitter posts, etc.) without the fear of getting rescinded. I know how to compose myself in responses and I do not let emotions handle me. I don't make threats, call names, say offensive things, etc. But I do have hard-wired beliefs that, if I feel are not understood enough or represented, especially concerning other campus members, I will argue for.
    I would love to visit all campuses, but my family doesn't have the money to travel out of state unless it's North Carolina or Georgia probably, as we borderline those states basically. This is why I'm doing a lot of online research. I wish there was a supplement for it, as a lot of people say "You won't truly know whether or not you want to go until you actually visit the campus." I really want to visit the colleges I talk about, but we could barely afford going to Nashville, and that's in state!
    edited June 2019
    · Reply · Share
  • merc81merc81 11174 replies184 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    You wrote a thoughtful post, @KelseyM. It might be simplest to begin with academics. In the example of Amherst College, it can't be classified as an "R1 Doctorate" institution because, by history and design, it orients its academic programs exclusively toward undergraduate education, and therefore does not offer doctoral (PhD) degrees. As for the (interesting) quotation you provided, I'm, as with you, still in the process of trying to decipher what seem to be its contradictions.

    As you've begun to already, you can continue to compare biology course descriptions across universities and LACs. The below samples one from each category of school on the same general topic. If you can tell from the descriptions which is which, I'd wonder how, actually:

    This general microbiology course will focus on the genetics, cell biology, and physiology of microorganisms. The goal of this course is to give the students a broad overview of microbial physiology in the context of disease and environmental applications. The course will primarily consist of lectures with problem sets; we will also incorporate current and classical literature.

    And

    Research project based introduction to molecular methods for assessing the diversity and activity of microorganisms in natural and engineered environments. A workshop format class with emphasis on quantitative measurement of environmental variables in microbial habitats (environmental chemistry), diversity of microbial metabolic strategies, and DNA based characterization of bacterial and archaeal communities.
    edited June 2019
    · Reply · Share
  • KelseyMKelseyM 180 replies11 threads Junior Member
    Thanks, Merc. You know, now that you say something, I don't really think about graduate studies. If I wanted to go even further with research studies, would I get some sort of graduate study with a place like Vanderbilt? If so, how would that work since it's only 4 years? Do I get sent onto another school not associated with them or any university for that matter (or is it?)?
    As far as your quotes go, it's really hard to tell the difference. If I had to take a guess, I would think that the first one is from a university, while the other one is from an LAC. I could be wrong, my initial thought was that research would take place in an LAC course description, as they emphasize research. Of course, like you said, it could be a contradiction that throws us all off guard when assessing research potentials of specific colleges.
    · Reply · Share
  • merc81merc81 11174 replies184 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    If I wanted to go even further with research studies, would I get some sort of graduate study with a place like Vanderbilt?

    With any college you choose, your experiences will center around the undergraduate programs of that institution. Research opportunities from within that institution can be found through research-based courses or through on-campus faculty-mentored summer research positions. Some of the more well funded colleges support independent proposals for summer research as well. Toward the latter stages of your undergraduate experience, you may work on a graduate school level, but you will fully remain an undergraduate student.

    With respect to the course descriptions, I'm happy to say you guessed correctly. Though your uncertainty itself was part of the point of course. That we could probably choose two different courses from the same two schools that would reverse the representations indicates the high degree of curricular overlap on the undergraduate level between universities and LACs.
    edited June 2019
    · Reply · Share
  • KelseyMKelseyM 180 replies11 threads Junior Member
    Oh, I see. That's nice to know. If that's the case, how about writingpumpkin's comment that an LAC research project would be more immersive and tangible since "I wouldn't be competing with grads for it"? Are there grad schools there or something that offer the experiences?
    I'm actually more interested in the LAC course description; however, things could happen in a university course that aren't stated in the description, too. If there's a high degree of curricular overlap, is there any substantial difference if I select one over the other? What about if you compare LAC with LAC (i.e. Washington & Lee and Northwestern) or university with university (UChicago and Vanderbilt)? What would be the difference in academics then, if any?
    · Reply · Share
  • merc81merc81 11174 replies184 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    Are there grad schools [at Williams] or something that offer the experiences?
    That's kind of the thing, there are no graduate departments or grad students associated with the biology department at Williams. Your professors -- absent the intervening layer of grad students -- would serve as your research mentors, and would directly help you further the concepts you'd encounter in their classrooms. With respect to access to top facilities, the below source indicates how this may be greatest at a well-resourced LAC: "undergraduates have the opportunity to work closely with instruments available only to graduate students at many schools."

    If there's a high degree of curricular overlap, is there any substantial difference if I select one over the other?
    Because of aspects that extend more deeply than comparative curricula, yes, but only if you develop a decisive preference for one over the other. If you might be neutral on some key distinguishing characteristics, then the differences may matter less.

    What about if you compare LAC with LAC . . . or university with university . . .?
    Again I'd say the differences can matter quite a bit. In a subjective approach, I'd recommend you view some slideshows or video tours of the science buildings at schools of potential interest.

    Btw, note that Northwestern is a university (not an LAC).

    https://www.hamilton.edu/academics/departments/Resources?dept=Biochemistry/Molecular Biology
    edited June 2019
    · Reply · Share
  • KelseyMKelseyM 180 replies11 threads Junior Member
    edited June 2019
    Woops! Sorry about calling Northwestern an LAC. I've been busy and my mind is scrambling.
    "That's kind of the thing, there are no graduate departments or grad students associated with the biology department at Williams."
    I've been noticing this with research of Bowdoin and how it's patterned in other LACs. So people completing undergraduate studies at these colleges CAN go on to grad schools associated with universities, such as Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Vanderbilt, UChicago, etc... That's very interesting. There's no financial aid that goes into pursuing graduate degrees, though, is there? I would imagine if there is, it would be a lot less.
    Knowing this, I would think to maximize my educational experience, I would be better off attending an LAC for undergraduate studies and a grad school at a university for graduate studies? Or is that a misconception? I would also think that wouldn't be cost-efficient, but I don't know how grad schooling works....
    My main goal is to contribute, create, and publish "cutting-edge" research through a biochemistry major. To get the best results, many people say then "LAC is the way to go". Is this true, or can I survive with a university? I just worry about the environment LACs are situated in. They seem to be in small towns, isolated from big cities by a fair degree. (This could just be me panicking over the similarities of the environments of the first two colleges on QuestBridge's list - Amherst and Bowdoin, the only ones I've researched, which are both in rural regions, which I do not care for. Having life on campus is one thing, but having life outside of it is another. Both of these schools thrive on outdoorsy activities. I do like mountainous regions, but I favor the city over this. Being in or very close to a large city with plenty to do is something I thrive on, and my productivity is at its best in a city. I don't want to sacrifice education quality for this meager preference, though....) I'm neutral on campus party life, but I need that chance for exploration outside of it. I feel as if I would go insane in a small town. To give you a perspective sample, Nashville is an absolute favorite. I love how it bustles.
    Do you think though, that this sacrifice is necessary to pursue some really good research opportunities?
    Right now I'm working on discerning differences between each biochemistry major at each university. It's very difficult with these first two...
    edited June 2019
    · Reply · Share
  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6430 replies10 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    Location matters. If you want a city, Bowdoin is not for you. Amherst isn't really although there are so many colleges in the area that it almost makes a city in terms of population. Look at Swarthmore, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr. Super easy access to Philadelphia. But yes, a lot of LACs offer great research opportunities to their students. You might want to look at Tufts. Technically, not a LAC, but not so many grad students outside the med, dental, and vet schools. I don't recall if all participate in Questbridge but I think they do.

    As for grad school, some degrees are largely supported by fellowships, others you pay for. (MD, MBA, JD are more likely ones you'll pay for.) But it doesn't matter where you come from in terms of where you get that degree.
    edited June 2019
    · Reply · Share
  • merc81merc81 11174 replies184 threads Senior Member
    edited June 2019
    With respect to your location preferences, you will have plenty of QuestBridge partner schools to explore:

    https://www.newsweek.com/25-most-desirable-urban-schools-71889

    https://www.newsweek.com/25-most-desirable-suburban-schools-71867

    Though it's true that relatively few LACs are located in or near cities, a few that are such as Swarthmore and Haverford would be top-level for biology.
    edited June 2019
    · Reply · Share
Sign In or Register to comment.

Recent Activity