Columbia vs Vanderbilt vs Dartmouth (WL)

Hey, class of ‘25 here, conducting a lot of research on schools and planning to tour within a week. Looking for any possible insight that could help out in the decision-making process (within a vacuum not considering tuition).

I’m considering two main schools, Columbia and Vanderbilt, accepted RD at both and was waitlisted at Dartmouth.

As I’m considering where to lay roots down at (or consider accepting D waitlist) I’m really hopeful for some insight on student life, particularly campus orgs, internships, fellowships, etc. I’m highly outgoing, the type to make friends anywhere, and I’m not terribly concerned with feeling lonely but want to know your thoughts.

Networking is somewhat important to me too, but I recognize most schools of these calibers will be very similar in strength.

Going for political science with intention of Ivy law school/JD program after undergrad. Thanks in advance for help!

  1. [quote=“metallica1988, post:1, topic:3517715”]
    within a vacuum not considering tuition

Does that mean “my family can afford to pay both college & law school out of pocket with no debt”? if so great- skip to #2. If debt is involved, tuition matters- a lot! - fo both PoliSci & Law.

  1. [quote=“metallica1988, post:1, topic:3517715”]
    I’m considering where to lay roots down

For 4 years? for 4 + 3 (law school)? for life? Very few people who go to Dartmouth put down roots in Hanover.

  1. [quote=“metallica1988, post:1, topic:3517715”]
    particularly campus orgs, internships, fellowships, etc.

All of those schools will have more opportunities for all of those than you will ever have a chance to take advantage of. More to the point, those are not useful metrics in making a decision. Happily it seems you will be able to get to visit all 3, which will be the most useful way to see if the campus culture suits you. Many students assume that Columbia is #1 for internships (it’s in NYC!) and don’t realize that 1) off-campus internships during term are not common and 2) internships during college tend to be available both nationally and globally ,and spreading your wings and going elsewhere for the summer can be both more fun and better experientially.

Also, aside from campus culture, you need to consider the Columbia Core, which shapes your college experience rather more than the number or type of college organizations available.

  1. [quote=“metallica1988, post:1, topic:3517715”]
    Networking is somewhat important to me too, but I recognize most schools of these calibers will be very similar in strength.

i mostly agree- except that I would use “opportunity” rather than “strength”. Networking can be luck (eg, your 1st year roommate’s mom is Congresswoman Y, who will happily help you get an internship on the Hill), but in practice it is mostly what you do with the opportunities in front of you. So, you realize that person A you meet at a campus talk on subject Z has an association with organization B in place Y, and you follow it through to find that person C in place X knows person D’s from your home town’s first boss (etc). In other words, you put yourself out there, you meet and pay attention to a range of people who may not appear at first glance to have anything in common with you (or be obvious advantage to you), you connect with them on LinkedIn (and if they connect with you looking for contacts you help as generously as you hope people will help you), and you build your network.

  1. [quote=“metallica1988, post:1, topic:3517715”]
    Going for political science with intention of Ivy law school/JD program after undergrad.

Do you actually like PoliSci, or is it what you see as a path (eg, PS → T14 law school → Big Law)? Or, you like PS better than English or History and think those are the main ‘pre-law’ majors? When you are trying on these colleges for size, consider what else you might do during college besides planning your law career and socializing/networking. Law schools what your major is. Also, be prepared for the likelihood that you will work for 1-3 years after college and before law school. HLS “actively” preferences work experience between college & law school, and the % of students with 2+ years of work experience has gone up year on year. I have seen the CVs of this year’s crop of HLS students with 0-1 year of ‘official’ work experience- and they are students who have been extraordinary achievers right the way through, with amazing back stories. Assume you won’t be one of them.


Vanderbilt if you like Greek social life & major sports program.

Columbia if you like NYC.

1 Like

Wow. Incredibly helpful!

  1. Yes, I am very lucky that my parents have been saving since I was born and investing so I’m in a truly blessed place where, at least for undergrad, it is not a concern.

  2. I should have been more clear, “lay roots down” was just my turn of phrase for where I’ll spend the next four years, not more. For example, if I go to Columbia, I wouldn’t be just locked into CLS, or Vanderbilt, etc. (at least at this point in time).

  3. That is a great way to frame it. Yes, I will be very lucky to visit all three, which is good because all of my online research seems to suggest there are different parts to each “culture” that appeal to me. Social/spirit of Vanderbilt, competitiveness (I flock to competition, especially academic) of Columbia, and the culture of professors “teaching first” at Dartmouth (as was verbalized by my interviewer). But I also really value the idea of stepping outside a “comfort zone”. I’m from a smaller community and want to broaden my horizons a lot - I think touring will really put each school in perspective relative to that. (also, the Core is a big plus for me. It fits right up my alley.)

  4. I’ve never heard it said as opportunity, but I agree entirely with that. Luckily, I have grown up in a culture where connections/relationships are incredibly important/political, so I’m confident in my ability to build a network at any of the three. The insignificant marginal difference would moreso just be the luck like you mentioned.

  5. PS is a very enjoyable major/curriculum plan for me. It’s always funny when a lot of people use it as a “filler” degree for lack of a better term, because it’s always been a fascination of mine. And the added bonus is the perceived path. The work experience is new for me… especially with HLS. That is powerful.

Thank you for taking the time to respond. You really gave me a better perspective!

I wouldn’t choose any of them, personally. Law has the highest debt to salary ratio of just about any other profession. The average experienced attorney makes a little more than an electrical engineer. If you want to do law, go somewhere less expensive and save that money for law school. Your lawyer self will thank you later for being financially prudent.

Also, have an open mind with your major. The great thing about law school is that you can major in literally anything you want for your undergraduate. You might as well go for something marketable, because if you decide against law school, you’re not going to get far with a political science degree. Trust me, it’s not fun being in that predicament. Law schools love business, accounting, and even engineering degrees, because there are specific fields in law where that knowledge is valuable.

  • Can I mention just how much I admire your CC call sign!!!
  • You may end up deciding NOT going to Law School - focus on undergrad these are fantastic schools if you can afford them.
1 Like

I appreciate the respect. I spent about 100 words of my Columbia app talking about AJFA as one of the most influential pieces of culture in my HS career :joy:

I probably should’ve put a better disclaimer in the original post that I’m also considering psych and behavioral econ for undergrad. Also I’m not perfectly married to law, it is just something I love to do and am good at.

Appreciate the response!

1 Like

Okay :+1:

Should’ve put a disclaimer in OP, PS is “most likely” degree plan. Also considering psychology or something relating to behavioral economics.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

Assuming you can afford them all.
If you love skiing - go to Dartmouth.
Otherwise - Columbia - take all NYC has to offer.

That’s a very good point. I’m on the flight home after touring the three, and it’s definitely between Columbia and Vanderbilt at this point for me. A) I’m not a skier and B) it wasn’t enticing enough to justify getting on WL.

For me personally, there’s enough question that it’ll be a tough decision. But NYC is definitely a plus.

Update… After touring schools and meeting up with current students at the universities, I fell in love with Columbia, but I just happened to fall in love with Vanderbilt a bit more. It was a tough choice but I think it is the right one for me. Now it’s housing time, degree shopping, networking, etc. Thank you all for your help and input!

You’re on your way to become the Master!! (of Puppets)

1 Like