I was just admitted to CMU SCS and Caltech where I’d major in CS. I am pretty solidly sure that I want to study computer science.
After looking into both choices, I have found that CMU probably offers a better academic experience for me, insofar as it will have opportunities to take classes in certain areas of CS that Caltech might not have, for example natural language processing. The people I’ve talked to from CMU have also told me that CMU offers a really strong industry focus, while Caltech seems to be more oriented towards grad school and research, although the Caltech CS students I’ve talked to told me that most CS students end up in industry anyways. I should point out that I am not really that interested in working at a big tech company or in academia, and would rather work on a smaller company out of college and maybe get into entrepreneurship later on.
On the other side of the coin, I think that Caltech would offer a better college experience for me. Obviously this is only a guess, since I haven’t actually been able to visit either campus, but CMU strikes me as somewhat of a bland, grinder’s paradise, while Caltech seems to have more intellectual spirit and interesting people. I’m from Chicago, but I would much rather live in Pasadena than Pittsburgh, both in terms of weather and location.
I guess my question to all of you is, for those that are more experienced, will Caltech’s lack of notoriety in CS relative to CMU set me back in the industry? Do the academic differences between the two programs really matter for undergrads? Is CMU really as hellish as some people have told me? I’m still leaning CMU right now but that opinion is based solely on the fact that I have no idea how the differences in curriculum and reputation between the schools could affect my career in the long run.