Columbia vs Penn

Hello everyone!

I’m glad to say I’ve been accepted into two great schools: Columbia college and Penn CAS However I have no idea how I’m going to pick which school to attend. Columbia is slightly superior in terms of finances, professional(internships, networks, etc), and academics(though this seems negligible). Location-wise, I haven’t experienced much of both but I feel New York has a lot more potential over my four years than philly. However, during my campus overnight visits, I really enjoyed Penn a lot more, and felt just a better vibe on campus. Although this may have just been due to my host being sweet and the weather being amazing. In contrast, my host at Columbia was alright, but he was kinda dweebish and didn’t offer the window into student life I wanted. And the weather was bad haha. The thing holding me back from Columbia is the social scene. Like Penn is known as the social Ivy and was party school of the year once haha and I definitely felt that vibe on campus. Columbia on the other hand seems hit or miss. I think the main problem is that I don’t really know what Columbia social life exactly is. So if any one could fill me in or offer their insight on my dilemma that would be amazing.

Some additional info
I plan on majoring in either History and/or economics.
I plan on rooming at either Carman at Columbia or the Quad(probably ware) at Penn.

Thank you CC!

Go to Penn! What you’ll find at Columbia is that the institution is way over-rated and suffering from academic snobbery and mediocre teaching. It’s filled with people who entered through a back door like GS, Barnard or some worthless masters degree program.

Outsiders think that Columbia is the more prestigious. However, Penn is a more academically solid institution.

One factor OP overlooked is that Columbia’s student body is older than Penn’s. The social scene at Columbia is at the graduate level. IMO, OP is dead wrong about Columbia being “superior” professionally and academically. Columbia is more theoretical and impractical. However, I went undergrad at Penn and grad at Columbia.

That doesn’t sound like my kid’s experience at all, who is very social and has an active social life at Columbia. Also the teaching has been superb.

Philly is a decent city but there’s nothing like NYC. Then again, that’s a matter of taste.

One thing that Penn does not have is the Core Curriculum. Is that appealing to you? Students who like it really like that they have a shared basis in fundamental texts, which they can talk about and which professors know everyone has read.

I’m a Columbia grad now teaching at Wharton. From what I’ve seen of Penn’s social scene, its rep as “party school of the Ivies” is unmerited. At the last Spring Fling (the annual blowout), I saw the frat bros outside their houses on the lawn DRINKING SODA POP. Any other evidence of social life I’ve been able to observe, as an old fogey, has been likewise shockingly lame. However, I hear Columbia too has a “no fun allowed” policy these days. Still, it’s in NYC. There’s a whole world of fun and adventure off campus. Philly is Philly.

rhg3rd doesn’t have a clue of what he’s talking about. He appears to be a stooge for U of P, and is full of misinformation about Columbia (and, based on his postings, many other schools). Here’s the real scoop from a someone who actually attended and recently graduated from, Columbia. Simply put, Columbia offers an incredible education. It’s second to none, and I truly and earnestly mean that. Indeed, it was more enriching than I ever imagined when I applied. The Core Curriculum was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn. No college – Ivy or elsewhere (and certainly not Penn) – offers the well rounded foundation that Columbia provides. Some schools might make that claim, but the fact is that Columbia is in a different league. I have befriended many folks who have attended (and are attending) top schools. No other school (including Penn) comes close. The Core is just the beginning. The opportunities at Columbia are endless. I dual majored in economics and math. The education that I received was solid And the profs, in almost all classes, were superb. With respect to the social scene, it was phenomenal. The people I met were incredibly supportive, friendly and fun-loving. During my 4 years at Columbia, we alternated from socializing on the campus (which is a jewel in the City) to taking advantage of the City’s neighborhoods, museums, parks, etc. I was never ever tired of the envions. The students come from all of the world and enrich the college with diverse perspectives and animated experiences. The academics are serious, but, that’s why I selected Columbia over Yale, Brown and Penn. I looked for the challenge. But you should know that the academics are not cut-throat. In each and every course I took, I cross-learned with my classmates. It was an incredibly collaborative experience. Without exception, when I needed and asked for support, I received support (and often too much support). It’s true that Penn is probably more of a party school than Columbia so if you’re looking to party much of the time, maybe Columbia isn’t the best fit. If, however, you are looking for intellectual growth, an inviting social structure, a dynamic environment and internship opportunities, Penn can’t hold a candle to Columbia in my opinion. My advice to you is take your time. Do your due diligence. Ask questions. And, most importantly, visit each campus again, if possible. You will be making an important decision.

Hi there- congrats on being accepted to two outstanding universities! I was also fortunate enough to be in your position not too long ago so hopefully my experience can be of some help to you.

  1. Columbia is not superior to Penn in terms of internships, networks, job placement, grad school placement, etc. You can see the internship and career outcomes for the last few classes here, organized by school or aggregated for the university's undergard population as a whole as well: ( While Columbia doesn't separate its statistics by undergrad school (engineering salaries probably inflate the liberal arts grads salaries), in terms of starting salaries, types of jobs, and places students go for graduate school, both universities are comparable with Penn having some better outcomes some years and Columbia having some better outcomes during others. But for the most part, they're pretty much equal.
  2. I don't think the academics at Columbia are "better" than Penn's. They're probably pretty equal, again. If you are basing that assumption off of US news and World Report rankings, you should know that when I first looked at the rankings in 2006, Penn was ranked #4 and Columbia was ranked #9. Today they have traded places but not because of any genuine changes in the quality of their programs. Penn has outstanding faculty in all of its disciplines and the quality of the education is equal to that of its peers across the ivy league. Where Penn academics really shine is in the emphasis on cross disciplinary study and the ways in which all of Penn's schools support and benefit from the strong liberal arts center of the university. Penn's One University policy not only allows you to take classes in Penn's other four undergrad schools and most of its graduate schools (which are all right on campus); it encourages you to do so. It is incredibly easy to sign up for a course in any other part of the university, do research with any professor across the school, and take classes with peers who are doing exactly what you are from different parts of campus. This allows for an incomparable sharing of ideas and an intellectual vibrancy that is unmatched by universities that do not offer the same breadth of educational opportunities or do not encourage their students to pursue them in the same way. For example, among many other things, I was a double major in history and english with a strong interest in government. Consequently I took many classes in the History and English departments that focused on American government, politics, political theory, etc. and I supplemented those courses with classes from the Business and Public Policy department in Wharton, some public policy research at the Fels Institute of Government, and a few classes on the history of American law from Penn Law. I then wrote my thesis about an original draft of the Pennsylvania Bill of Rights which happened to have Ben Franklin's original annotations and just happened to be in Penn's Rare Books an Manuscripts library at the time. Pretty incredible opportunities made possible by Penn's powerhouse academic departments and its outstanding resources that are leveraged for the benefit of every student on campus regardless of discipline.
  3. Location: This is where the two universities really differ. Philly is incredible and has everything you could want from a city but it isn't so big that it pulls Penn's campus away from the center of your experience as a college student. Penn has over 250 acres of campus in west philly (just a short walk from center city), yet you can walk around and never even know you're in an urban environment. Locust Walk could easily be in the middle of rural New Hampshire but you still have access to all of the internship, volunteer, and social opportunities afforded to you by one of America's greatest treasures (Philadelphia). I don't know what the above commenter was saying when (s)he said the party scene at Penn was lame. (S)He's not an undergrad and it doesn't sound like (s)he spent much time partying with undergrads because otherwise (s)he would know that the 30% of campus that is involved in greek life throws incredible parties that are free and open to all undergrads right on campus. The fraternities and sororities (in addition to other types of clubs) also have parties called "downtowns" where they rent out clubs and offer open bars to attendees. It's incredible and the perfect balance of work and play. And of course Philly is a BYO (bring your own alcohol) city so you can bring your own bottle of wine or case of beer to restaurants around the city and have a relaxed dinner with friends or a sloppy BYO with the debate team at a random chinese restaurant depending on your mood. Penn traditions like Hey Day, Spring Fling (the largest east coast college music festival), and the Penn-Princeton Game all provide opportunities for a good time with friends. Students work incredibly hard at Penn and then they all choose to blow of steam in their own ways. Some might watch a movie out on the grass of the quad while others will binge drink in a frat basement. Some are participating in clubs and music ensembles while others are volunteering in underserved and disadvantaged communities. The opportunities are endless but Philly's perfect size makes it possible to choose to be engaged with the city and the campus life without either being forced upon you. Penn also has a great sense of community; it's probably less litigious and combative than Columbia's notoriously radical student population (see: Columbia's current day protests and the tradition dating back to 1968).
  4. A note on prestige. I currently work at a fancy organization in NYC and my closest coworkers are two Columbia grads. At work everyone knows that we all went to Ivies and everyone is equally impressed. Don't choose a school because the guy bagging your groceries will recognize the name on the sweatshirt (hint: he doesn't care. He's the same guy that confuses Penn with Penn State and thinks Columbia is Colombia, the country). Go to a school because you love it and can see yourself thriving there for four years.
  5. Finally, watch this: ( ) I was looking for some info to share with you, found this, and fell in love all over again. Good luck with your decision. You truly can't go wrong with either institution.


@brovakiin first of all congratulations. Columbia is no way better academically than Penn. The schools are pretty much on the same level. Penn is higher ranked in economics, and columbia is higher ranked in history. Penn is better for certain types of engineering and columbia for others. Penn has a better med school and business school, columbia has a better law school. The schools are pretty even. As for internships Penn is actually second to none. Penn is prob the most targeted school by firms and its employment outcomes are second to none.
Also especially as an Econ major, because of the presence of Wharton you will have many more top ibanking, consulting, hedge fund opportunities. if you look at Penn’s career services website you will see than econ majors do just as well as business majors at Penn -employers really want them cause they know they have strong quant skills. Generally the amazing employment opportunities are pretty much open to all Penn students. Penn has a very strong reputation for its combination of lib arts with pre-professionalism.
Moreover penn doesn’t have a core curriculum which gives you great flexibility to pursue e class you want. Also penn undergraduate research is really encouraged and popular and also you can even take grad classes.
Also Penn’s social life is great. Obviously people here are driven and hardworking and they dint party all the time, but given how hardworking and accomplished they are, they are surprisingly sociable and fun.This is one of the things i really love about Penn. Also I like Philly isn’t as big and overwhelming as new york but still big enough so that you wont get bored and will have stuff to explore. I feel new york is too much for a young college kid but this is also a matter of taste. Penn also has more of a campus and a college atmosphere, and a more cohesive and collegiate environment and social life to it whereas columbia is just swallowed by new york.
Lastly, it seems like the majority of cross admits choose Penn over columbia.

In terms of prestige and academics, I don’t think you could say either school is better. Both of these are world-class universities.

I go to Columbia, and the social scene is there if you like going to bars and stuff. The social scene def won’t come to you, though. As for that, the academics are exactly as rigorous and challenging as you could hope for. Lots of internships too in nyc, though I’m sure Penn has no less.