Cornell vs. Rice for CS?

Hey all! Hoping to get some advice on my college decisions. I’m currently struggling to choose between Cornell and Rice for computer science. Cornell obviously has a stronger reputation in the industry, but I don’t know how significant that is since I’ve also heard of many Rice graduates doing great things. On the other hand, I think I would enjoy Rice’s college environment a bit more. Here are some of my considerations:

  • I’m a hard worker and fairly independent, but I’m also a bit nervous about Cornell’s reputation for having an extremely intense environment and occasionally toxic culture.
  • Rice’s deep sense of community really appeals to me. How tightly knit does Cornell’s student body tend to be?
  • Looking to land a job in Silicon Valley post-graduation. Does Rice have strong enough connections to these companies? How strong is Rice’s reputation in general compared to that of Cornell?
  • I’ve heard that Rice’s CS course offerings may be a little restrictive due to the small class size. Is this true?
  • I also plan on eventually going to grad school. Which one would be better here?
  • I’m from Minnesota, so not too worried about the weather in Ithaca.

It would be great if I could get some input on these two choices and which one might be better for my situation, especially from alumni from either of these schools. Let me know if you need any more information about me to form an opinion of where I’d be better off at. Thanks so much in advance!

Not much difference between Cornell and Rice CS in ranking, so pick Rice for fit. If you want an ivy on your resume, go to one for grad school.

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Another +1 for Rice, there’s no material difference in CS reputation or postgrad outcome for these. Go where you’ll be happy, which sounds like Rice! Both will give you the ability to go to any grad school you want so long as you get good grades and take advantage of opportunities there.

The only X factor here would be why do you want to go to grad school? If its specifically for research on a specific part of CS, then Cornell could have an edge depending on the area of speciality and there are resources to help with that. That said, I won’t link to them unless that’s the case :slight_smile:


+1 for Rice
(winters in Ithaca do get old)

Hurricanes aren’t too great either.

Tru dat … Summer in Ithaca … Winter in Houston!


The positives you listed fir Rice are all real. It’s reputation is very strong. Duke, Vanderbilt, Rice = the Ivy League of the South.

There’re a lot of Rice fans on CC, understandably. However, Cornell offers some significant advantages for a CS student. Forget about rankings or Ivy League pedigree, as they’re meaningless. Just take a deep dive into what each school offers in its CS program.

A few years ago, my S and I visited both schools when he was searching for colleges. There’s a lot to like about Rice (he did an overnight and stayed in the dorm), but its CS program isn’t in the same league as Cornell’s, frankly. BTW, he didn’t apply to either school so I don’t have a stake in either.



This is REALLY close. For grad school, I’d definitely say Cornell,
but for undergrad it’s a pick-em. May have to go with fit.

There’s no difference in CS at Cornell in CAS or in COE. They’re identical. What’s different is the rest of what you’ll take outside of your major.

Two great schools with Rice being much smaller. If you like Rice’s environment more, go for it. You won’t be disappointed.

Rice parent here. My daughter is a senior this year. One of her suite mates that is a CS major has a job at Google after she graduates. Plenty of Rice CS graduates get jobs in Silicon Valley. Employment | Student Achievement

If you want to go on to grad school, Rice CS graduates get into many fine grad schools as well. Admission to Graduate/Professional School | Student Achievement

Rice has a collaborative rather than a cut throat environment. Rice’s student body is tight knit due to the inclusive residential college system. There are no frats or sororities at Rice. Rice gets high ratings for happiest students. The fit in college is very important. If you are unhappy it doesn’t matter how good the academics are.

Anyone can major in CS at Rice. Students do not have to declare a major until the end of sophomore year. The entry level CS classes tend ot be large. However, there is a natural attrition process, and some students decide to major in something else. The upper level classes get smaller in all the majors. Rice is not a large school, and upper level students take the classes that especially interest them in their major.


Rice! Excellent school, small classes are a huge plus, and internship/career placement services/opportunities are great. Older s is a happy Rice mechE grad and has worked for years in that well-known, big SV company. At one point in a job interview sequence, his last of 9 interviews was with another mechE Rice grad!

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Cornell CS parent here - I know very little about Rice so I’m only coming at this from a Cornell COE perspective.

In response to your bullet points.

  1. At Cornell you definitely need to be a hard worker, but Cornell is very collaborative, especially in CS. My D is a soph and this semester she’s in a course that instead of the pressure of exams they have projects that get harder through the semester. The first few they had to work alone. The next few they could work with one partner and had to sign up online by a date saying who the partner is. Then as the semester moves on they can work on projects with 4 people. I think they’re still at the 2 person point now. I remember her first CS class there was some sort of reception held for kids to connect and meet and exchange numbers also for partners. That was also helpful. You also quickly learn who is good to work with and who isn’t. Her classes however for CS have all been rather large so I view that as a negative. I’m not sure she’s had any less than 100 at this point.
  2. Cornell has a lot of clubs and within the clubs there is a strong sense of community. It is also a fairly liberal (not all) campus so if your views don’t align with that, then you may not feel comfortable, but you will still find your group. They have a huge club fair in the fall that when in person is very overwhelming. I think parents said the virtual one was as well too. There are project teams that you need to apply for which kids love and there are clubs to fit every interest you have. Some are competitive to join others are not.
  3. Cornell graduates get jobs anywhere they want, however, since many are from NY they tend to stay in NY but don’t let that fool you. The name goes with you and everyone knows how strong their CS program is. While Rice is nationally known for Engineering, I wouldn’t say for CS it has the same name brand. If it were UT-Austin, then no issue tons of jobs in SV since many of those companies are now in SV. But regardless, if you want to go to SV you can. I haven’t however, been overly impressed with the career advising there. Not like other schools.
  4. A Masters in CS is not necessary so unless you plan to get your PhD, I would reconsider spending 80k for a masters in CS. If it’s in another field that’s a different story. Depending on your financials in 4 years I would worry about it then and where you get in.
  5. Definitely don’t have to worry about the weather in Ithaca if you’re from Minnesota. We’re from Chicago and did get my D a heavier coat but I spent a lot of time in Minnesota and you’ll be ready. Expect it to be real hot at Rice in the Fall and Spring onward. But nice (maybe too much sometimes) a/c.

My daughter is in a sorority, in a few clubs, doing an internship in Israel this summer, had an internship with an SV company last year and loves Cornell. They’ve done as good a job with Covid as possible, they’re mandating the Vaccine and already 27% of the on campus and staff are vaccinated which is impressive since not everyone has reported in yet and only just now everyone in NY can get it. On that I have been really impressed with how they have kept my kid safe. Other things like registration haven’t thrilled me and there’s not a ton of leeway the first year with variety in courses (other than FWS) but after that you get some choice and can mix things up, which is nice. Having AP credits banked also help in case you need to drop a class or want to minor or whatever. My daughter right now is deciding whether to change her major to ORIE w/ the minor in CS and is already minoring in Dyson Business (she’s interested in Fintech/Financial Engineering) or keeping the CS major and double majoring with ORIE. She also recently got a 2 day internship at Discover Financial over the summer, which because it’s virtual she will be able to do in Israel during her other internship (already has permission) and the end game is they use that to hire their interns for the following summer which would be great. That I am pretty sure she found out about through Cornell. There are always lots of things like that but I feel the assistance is lacking and her sister who’s at a school with a phenomenal career planning program has helped her with a lot of it.

Good luck with whatever you choose, you really can’t go wrong.


There is ALWAYS a lot of snow in Ithaca every year. Winters in Ithaca can be very rough. There are occasional hurricanes that hit Houston. Not equating the two types of storms, but anyone attending school in upstate NY will need to count on cold weather and snow.

To me, it’s just different, every location can have their own share of issues. CA has earthquakes, fires, etc.

But Houston often gets tropical storms, hurricanes and flooding. And yes, Cornell is VERY cold. My D lives in Ann Arbor, you just adjust to the climate, if you’re an otherwise healthy individual. Or you don’t attend.

IMO, weather and stairs (Lehigh) shouldn’t be a bother. Again, that’s me.

Rice has excellent engineers, and ergo, a very good drainage system.


Either school would be lucky to have you. Let us know what you decide.


“there’s no material difference in CS reputation”

This is a strong assertion to make , is this based on any evidence? Even if Rice as a better CS program, which I doubt, the perception is that Cornell has a better CS and engineering programs, like top-10, if not top-5 for some majors.

“Looking to land a job in Silicon Valley post-graduation. Does Rice have strong enough connections to these companies? How strong is Rice’s reputation in general compared to that of Cornell?”

I’m in SV and Cornell has an excellent reputation here as mentioned above, based on both CS and engineering.

“There’re a lot of Rice fans on CC”

More like devotees if they give this kind of misguide advice, imo.

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Hey let me ask you this.

My daughter is changing her major from CS at Cornell to ORIE/CS major and Dyson Business minor or just ORIE major and CS/Dyson minor. People (like my parents) ask me what ORIE is. How the heck do I explain that to people? Any suggestions?

Rice isn’t represented in this 2017 survey of Silicon Valley hiring, with Cornell #15.

Yes I’m aware of the flaw(s) of survey, big public schools, but Rice isn’t in the Top 25.