Edinburgh University Informatics vs Colgate University Physics/Computer Science?

Hi,

I am a UK applicant who has been accepted to both Edinburgh University and Colgate University. However, despite committing to Colgate, I am waiting to see if I will be accepted to Edinburgh University upon IB results day on 6th July.

For Edinburgh University (Informatics Degree with integrated Masters)
Pros:

  • Has modules in AI/Machine Learning/(All the good fluff)
  • Bigger student body so more societies and opportunities
  • Informatics course focuses on AI/Cognitive Science/Computer Science
  • In terms of CS, it is top 20 in the world and is well established with the big tech companies
    Cons:
  • Loan would come to be a total of ÂŁ80,000. However, I only pay after earning over ÂŁ27,750. Even then, I only pay 9% of money made over that amount.

Colgate University (Possibility of double major in Physics and CS)
Pros

  • Typical advantages of liberal arts (smaller classes, closer contact with professors etc)
  • Nearly full ride (4 years equate to only $17,000)
  • Research Opportunities in the summer which is unusual for undergraduates.
  • Thought of doing Physics is exciting and I can focus on doing an emphasis in Computational Physics

Cons

  • The level of knowledge of CS would for sure be less than the 5 years at Edinburgh University.
  • It would take 6 years to obtain a masters in Computer Science as opposed to 5 years at Edinburgh University.

I am naturally very indecisive and would be fine at either university. I should say my ambition is to work in Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence. What would you guys recommend? I can “afford” going to both of the institutions thru either loans (Edinburgh) or grants (Colgate).

I would take the free ride at Colgate then add a Master’s degree from Edimburgh or a similarly high ranked program, which would cost you less than the BS/MS through loans.

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Based on the information contained in your thread starting post, Edinburgh (ranked #51 in CS by US News) appears to be the clear choice if you are admitted.

Superior academics, larger university, lots of grad students & graduate programs, plus 5 years for a masters in CS compared to 6 years if you attend Colgate.

Plus, AI / Machine Learning is in high demand & is expected to continue for many years–possibly decades.

Would you say the benefit of more in depth study of Informatics in a shorter time period exceed the prospect of the ÂŁ80,000 loans?

Assuming I achieve a very high GPA with my Computer Science + Physics majors, would it be achievable to go to a Stanford/Princeton/Harvard level graduate program?

Yes.

The study of machine learning on the level you seek may be more mathematical at its base than you have delineated so far. In other words, you will need mathematical concepts and tools in order to write sophisticated ML algorithms. An available “informatics” program may seem tempting, but, in principle, it may be less rigorous than the deep preparation you could pursue at a school like Colgate.

I’m not sure about paid (i.e. unfunded) MS programs. Good grades are far from sufficient to be admitted some of the top ML PhD programs. One program that I know has a 0.06% acceptance rate, making admissions to some of the most competitive undergraduate institutions look like cakewalk.

$100,000 in loans for a BS+MS from Edinburgh v. A free ride at Colgate… not sure how to justify the loans.

To gain admittance to, say, Stanford’s ML program, you would need more than good grades : you would need internships and experiences. However from Colgate you can surely get paid summer internships, research experience with professors, opportunities to go on student exchanges, etc.

Why not consider Edimburgh’s Master in ML though?
Same benefits as the program you’re considering, only MUCH cheaper since you’d only pay for the Master’s (typically “taught postgraduate” programs are 1 year in the UK, some are 2 years, but the cost would be much lower than 5 years at full cost).

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Ok I kinda see your point.

This link shows the modules I would be taking if I were to study Informatics at Edinburgh University.
http://www.drps.ed.ac.uk/17-18/dpt/utinfmt.htm

Likewise, this link comprises of all the modules in Computer Science.

Thanks for the answer. If I do go to Colgate, I do plan on completing summer research/internships and using my OPT/CPT (employment for internationals) to the fullest extent.

Regarding master programs, I do plan on applying to multiple graduate schools in both US and UK schools.

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Courses such as this at Edinburgh align with much of what you will need mathematically: Course Catalogue - Introductory Applied Machine Learning (INFR10069). Based on this, it seems you would do well from either of your choices.

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One last question, what do you think about the Computer science course at Colgate?

Bear in mind I will also be taking courses in math in calculus, linear algebra etc?

The loans can be justified by the fact that Edinburgh saves the OP one year of study along with one year of tuition & related expenses.

$100,000 is probably–I do not know–about one year’s salary & benefits.

Edinburgh seems to be the more reasonable option for OP if OP is certain of this major.

Nevertheless, if OP wants to delay entry into full-time work, then tuition-free Colgate would be a reasonable choice.

I’d estimate that a $50K (35K pounds) starting salary in the UK would be decent and $60K would be exceptional, salaries are just lower there. So I see the issue with the loan being that you will be caught with interest accruing faster than you pay it back (since repayments are income based) and then as your salary rises it will become a substantial burden. Unlikely many people in the UK with low salary prospects, you are less likely to end up in a situation where the loan just gets written off. That would potentially make me lean in favor of Colgate, followed by a masters afterwards.

What is your long term objective? To work and live in the US or just to get a different experience and live in the UK afterwards? To work in industry or academia? I could see the Edinburgh degree as providing a better route to a working visa in the US, though I suppose at Colgate you could end up with an American spouse! But if you want to be in the UK long term, then this would probably be the time to have the experience of living in the US.

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My current objective is to either work at a large tech company (likes of Google/Tencent etc) and/or create a tech startup. I am well aware that tech jobs in the US are superior than in the UK. However, Colgate appeals to me as I would be able to double major in Physics and Computer Science, pursue summer research opportunities.

Note I have an F-1 Visa which means I have able to go through Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT). Especially with the OPT, if all else goes well with my grades+extracurricular activities, I might be able to land a competitive tech internship in the US.

However, I am interested in Machine Learning/AI and would like to pursue a masters either in the US/UK. If all else goes well and I am active (high grades+research/internship experience), what would be chances of obtaining another scholarship/grant at a good graduate school?

Funding is much easier to come by for a PhD than a taught masters in the US. So that is something to consider if you go to Colgate. And although it sounds like you are fairly neutral where you end up, the most certain route to US permanent residency (apart from marrying a citizen) is the O-1 (exceptional individual) visa which would potentially be doable with a PhD in machine learning.

Internships with a large tech company would make sense as this would potentially give the option of working back in the UK when your OPT runs out (possibly followed by an L-1 intra-company transfer back to the US later on), though obviously these are very competitive to get and upstate New York is not Silicon Valley.

It sounds like Colgate will be more exciting and open up wider horizons for your future, even though it might result in more of a winding career path downstream. And you are getting almost for free an opportunity that others pay $300K for. When the US’s educational price discrimination works in your favor, its hard to turn down. Though be aware that you will be in the company of many extremely wealthy students.

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@publisher
$100,000 is a US salary though, and would justify Colgate further as the student would quite likely earn 80+K during OPT.(2+ years of OPT are guaranteed to STEM graduates; they must be paid a fair market wage in order to get the OPT granted. This is in addition to CPT, ie., paid summer internships where CS interns easily make more than $5,000 a month, although $10,000 has been cited by competitive firms in high cost of living areas.)
On average, CS graduates in the UK earn about $45,000 a year, which is considered very high; I can imagine a UEdinburgh graduate with a First could get about $50,000 a year (note that the salary considered high enough to justify paying back the loan is £27,750 and about half UK university graduates don’t reach that for a while. Median family income in the UK is about $41,000 whereas it’s $78,000 in the US.)

One year postgraduate taught Master’s degree would cost $40,000 at the international rate (about $20,000 at the “home” rate) and there’s funding specifically for students admitted to the School of Informatics (not all, not guaranteed, but it exists). In order to get into UEdinburgh School of Informatics, a 3.7 college GPA + experience would be expected. Not easy, but far from impossible. (The nominal screening out starts at 3.25 and below but you’d have to have done something truly exceptional to get in with that GPA.)

In the US, the typical path for internationals would be (F1) Bachelor’s degree with internships-> OPT-> funded PHD-> postdoc or H1B position although that path can diverge after OPT if you get an H1B position or get married. Right now, H1B is a lottery that is tricked by some companies so you can’t count on getting it. Perhaps the current administration will want to reform this in order to favor graduates from US colleges rather than candidates recruited abroad.

Basically, attending Colgate allows OP to have a free ride, then a high paying job, then choose to attend a 1-year paying Master’s in the UK or higher cost 2-year Master’s degree or funded PHD in the US. The UK option allows them to graduate in 5 years but with $100,000 in loans.
@enterbot : note that the CS major at Colgate has an agreement with UEdinburgh’s School of Informatics, and you could attend there for a semester for free although you would only be allowed to take 2 of your 4 courses in the School of Informatics, with one Math class required and one “free choice” from Science&Engineering. They also have a direct agreement with Yonsei university in Korea and Trinity Dublin.

I still can’t get over the idea of having to pay back a $100,000 loan when you have a free ride somewhere as academically strong as Colgate.

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Great information @MYOS1634.

What does a CS grad with one full year of work experience earn ?

What do CS grads with a masters degree earn ?

While it is clear that you @MYOS1634 have done substantial research on OP’s situation, my thought is that your findings show that either course of action is justifiable, not that one option is clearly better than the other even from a financial standpoint.

Decision may rest upon OP’s preference regarding university environment = small undergraduate focused versus a large program with many options and many other students, including graduate students, and a larger number of professors from whom to learn.

P.S. OP may not be limited to working in the UK so the salary comparison should be more flexible. OP may work in Canada, the US, Germany, or elsewhere that offers higher starting pay than the UK.

Furthermore, any pay comparison should compare second year wages with a degree from Edinburgh versus first year wages for a degree from Colgate since Edinburgh’s degree program is a year less than Colgate’s.

Also, a more accurate assessment might focus on average starting pay for one with a CS degree from each school–Colgate & Edinburgh–especially important if Edinburgh allows one to specialize during undergraduate study versus a general degree in CS from Colgate.

In short, I view the option to study at Edinburgh as offering more varied options, flexibility, & opportunities than does Colgate due primarily to the difference in size of the CS departments at each school.

Colgate offers an excellent computer science program, especially if considered along with reinforcing math courses.

Regarding your interest in physics, note that a Colgate alumnus won the prestigious Apker, awarded by the American Physical Society:

For additional range at Colgate, you may consider courses from Hamilton’s curriculum, provided you could arrange transportation: