"Choosing" Brown over MIT

Alright, I’m in a strange predicament here, and I was wondering what CC thought. Long story short, I was accepted to Brown this year as an ED applicant. I was also accepted EA to MIT. Obviously, I’ve already committed to Brown under ED guidelines. I suppose my issue is that I never actually expected to be accepted to both schools, so now I’m in a bit of a panic over whether or not I really made the right choices in the college applications process. I suppose my question is: would I have been “better off” at MIT?

Brown was my first choice (over MIT, specifically) for a lot of reasons:

  1. I visited MIT, Harvard, Columbia, UPenn, JHU and Brown. I wasn’t overly impressed with the campus atmosphere anywhere except Brown. The students seemed happy to be there and I LOVE the look/feel of Providence (people tell me I’m crazy for preferring it to Cambridge, but to me it always felt a little too corporate).
  2. I like the idea of both the intensive undergraduate focus at Brown as well as the huge range of student interests. I’m planning to be a biophysics major that takes primarily STEM courses, but I love the idea of having friends who are passionate English majors, History majors, etc.
  3. I like the open curriculum. The idea of being in a humanities course with a bunch of engineers suffering through it really bothers me.
  4. I plan to apply to MIT for grad school. The vast majority of my MIT application focused on my interest in their graduate programs. I felt it was a good idea to go somewhere else for undergrad so that I had a wide range of experiences/environments. I’ve also heard the biology department at MIT slightly prefers outside applicants.
  5. I find the prominent undergrad culture at MIT annoying. The hacks, releasing decisions on 12/13/14 at 15:16 PM and similar gimmicks, etc. make me cringe.
  6. I know myself well enough to know that I do 1000% better under internal pressure than external pressure, which is why I think I’ll thrive at Brown. I’ve heard the student body isn’t particularly competitive. I’ve also heard plenty of stories about the stress culture at MIT being caustic, and I’m a very high-anxiety student already.
  7. I benefit a lot from good teaching. MIT can have as many Nobel laureates teaching as it wants-- I don’t see how that translates into good instruction. The one friend I have at MIT told me he retained almost nothing from his intro to chemistry class because halfway through the semester they brought a Nobel scholar in that taught at far too high a level (organometalics in a pre-orgo class) for any of it to be meaningful.

My issue, though:

  1. I’ve been running into a lot of people who flat-out call me stupid for losing a chance to go to MIT. I live in the Midwest-- most people haven’t even heard of Brown. As stupid as that is, it’s getting to me.
  2. I’m worried about the research opportunities and curriculum being stronger. Is there really that much of a difference between MIT and taking comparable classes at Brown, or does it just come down to the fact that Brown students don’t HAVE to take the intensive core that all MIT undergrads are subjected to, and therefore Brown gets labeled as “easier” because it has the potential to be? I’ve run into a lot of threads on CC that seem to just HATE Brown.
  3. Is graduating as a biophysics major from Brown going to look as impressive to grad schools as graduating from MIT would? Are the networking opportunities/connections comparable?

Would LOVE some feedback from knowledgeable persons. Obviously, I’ll be spending at LEAST a year at Brown (and don’t particularly like the idea of transferring, so I’d really need a good reason to put myself through that process) but I’d still like some input. I obviously have a lot of reasons for choosing Brown, and I feel like a lot of the anxiety I’m feeling is probably normal of any college applicant. I’ll never know what the path I didn’t take would look like, but hearing some outside input sure would ease my mind for the next few months.

You’ve already made your decision in my opinion. You’d never be happy at MIT because you are choosing it for the wrong reasons. Plus, morally, unless they offer you more aid, it’s wrong. Ethics aside, my eldest attends MIT and I can’t say she loves it. It wasn’t her first choice- her first choice was Brown also. She applied ED and was deferred and eventually rejected. She was admitted to MIT EA. She loves the reaction she gets when she tells people she goes there. She has made terrific friends, loves Boston, and supports all the MIT sports teams. She has had wonderful classes and courses where she couldn’t understand the instructor. Most importantly though, her peers are supportive. They are not competitive-rather they work collaboratively. She has also had access to incredible internships and already job offers.
btw- you are correct. Cambridge around MIT feels corporate; Cambridge around Harvard feels similar to the area around Brown.

I have not heard this anywhere, do you recall where you heard it?:

I have only heard what @bsalum says:

If you do well at Brown, you will be in excellent shape for Grad School admissions. I do not think you can compare the education, since it is much more than the contents of a series of books- it is collaborative and interactive. However, how can you go wrong going with Brown? (Or MIT?)

I think you made a great decision for you! The opinions you will garner will probably be similar to whether you asked if you should buy a MacBook pro or a Dell laptop. Which is better?

I want to mention for future readers, though, that MIT puts a premium on undergraduate education, with part of the tenure process requiring an assessment of undergraduate teaching, and the professors are very accessible. Also, MIT has a very easy-to-use cross registration program with Harvard, Wellesley (for both genders), Brandeis, and the Massachusetts College of Art & Design and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (I believe Brown has cross-registration with RISD, as well). In addition, the humanities programs at MIT are very strong in their own right.

Morally wrong? I’m not sure I understand-- I’m not trying to break any agreements, etc. It’s mid-January. I’ve already rescinded all applications/decisions from everywhere and committed to Brown. And, I’m ecstatic to have the privilege to go there.

Honestly, I already regret starting the thread. I’ll admit it was more of a vent/rant than anything else. I was in a pretty bad spot at the time and, like most teenagers, am generally concerned about the uncertainty of the future. There are always so many “what if’s.” Thank you all for responding, though.

One of the many disadvantages of ED, drat that ED. And combined with the EA you have forbidden knowledge of the road not taken. Ha. I think you listed some very well articulated reasons you choose Brown, and those things are real. I know what you mean about Brown not having the name recognition that MIT and a few other schools do (we are West Coast) among the man-on-the-street, people were either puzzled or delighted for my dd when she chose Brown over Berkeley. But you absolutely will have qualifications for all the top grad schools and you will have plenty of access to research to achieve that goal. The Brain Sciences Institute is headed by a nobel physicist Leon Cooper who now works in brain science and (or used to) teaches a freshman seminar. I think you will find a setting of collaboration but that doesn’t mean the students aren’t driven. I think the students are truly internally driven. However it is up to you to make a grueling schedule for yourself if you like, although a quick glance at that major looks intense.

My daughter did research right away at Brown, she even worked with a physics group summer after freshman year and got to go to the Fermi Lab for their presentation and a tour as the professor works p/t there. You could look into doing summer research at MIT so you can more directly compare, but I don’t know how easy it is to do that soon. I’m sure you will figure it out. Get involved with your DUG right away. And there there is Ryan Roark '05 who transferred to Harvard and came right back and ended up a Marshall Scholar at Cambridge.

Wait, how can you apply ED and then EA somewhere else?

Frankly, from your own discussion, you don’t seem too suited to MIT. All you like about it is the name recognition. Do your Brown, and if it still bothers you, go grab a Master’s degree at MIT.

@ndemazita, you will learn all this in a year and a half, when your time comes. A brief overview:

ED is a promise to attend if accepted.
EA is a promise the university will hold a place for you, if you decide to go.

So if ED said no, and EA said yes. OP could accept the EA, or wait for RD results. ED is exclusive, EA is not. So you can apply EA, knowing you will have to take the ED if offered. You could not apply to 2 ED schools.

My suggestion: stop telling people you got into MIT. No one needs to know that. Stop telling people, and you’ll stop getting their stupid reactions.


I don’t know the answer to this from personal experience. I’d call the biology/physics departments and ask this question. Ask to talk to some professors. See what they have to say. My gut says that there are probably more opportunities at MIT – but that there are also more students competing for these opportunities. So it could be a wash.

MIT EA (and Chicago) are not Single Choice or Restrictive. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford, for example, are. If you apply ED to Brown, you may not also apply ED or SCEA/REA anywhere else. If you apply EA to MIT they ask you to respect the rules of any other schools you apply to.

We are from the Midwest. Notre Dame, U.Chicago, U.Michigan and Wash U. are the schools most students aspire to so I understand what you’re saying about name recognition with your high school peer group. The people that matter though know about Brown. As noted above, if you have applied ED and been admitted to Brown that’s where your going absent some shocking financial aid situation which probably should have been known in advance. When you apply ED you are trading off flexibility in exchange for improving your admissions chances. Since 99% of students would be delighted with being admitted to Brown, I’d simply celebrate if I were you and thank MIT for considering your application. In life we make choices that have consequences and certainly college admissions is one of those times where we have to make choices.

Not really. You’re really trading off flexibility in exchange for being done with the college admissions rat race 4 months earlier.

I think you made your decision the minute you applied to Brown and then again when you wrote 7 point poem on why you thought Brown was better than MIT. MIT is a fantastic school- but then again so is Brown. so basically, quality is not an issue here. and honestly, I know people from community colleges who have gone to fantastic grad programs. I doubt Brown will put you at a disadvantage there.
I feel like you’re letting the people who live around you influence your decision too much. I know someone who turned down Georgia Tech for Boston University. Just go with your heart. Its your life ultimately- not the lives of the people in the Midwest.so what if they don’t know Brown? that doesn’t erase the fact that its an IVY LEAGUE

I understand that your decision is binding. Nonetheless, if I were choosing between the two for undergrad, I would choose Brown, hands down. I am from the east coast, had friends attend Brown; I chose to do the reverse of you many years ago – I went to undergrad and grad school in the midwest. I had some friends initially turn their noses up. Others realized how fantastic the resources and experiences on offer were. So too will you discover the wealth of resources and opportunities. Try to think for yourself, and not let regional opinions dissuade you. In some areas, Brown is quite revered indeed.

I believe you should find – despite the very different atmospheres – that your peers at Brown will be, by and large, exceptional. As will be the coursework. And for post-grad, a Brown degree will open doors. It also boasts a deep, talented alumni network that will not leave you hanging.

MIT could be great for grad school. I agree that some of the “quirks” and emphasis at MIT for undergrad may feel more constricting. I wouldn’t look back. This is my subjective opinion. Best of luck-

Given your reasons for choosing Brown, it sounds like a “fit” for you. Congratulations on your acceptance!