Grinnell vs U of Arizona vs U of Zurich for CS undergraduate degree

Hello All! Now in front of me is hard dilemma what advice to give my son. He did great job and now can select where he will study CS. Main problem with choise and for me and for him is that we never were in USA. We don’t know your life, your values, your priorities, what is really important in USA and what is just “better to have”. So very easy he can make mistake with choice due to missing some things absolutely obvious for any American.

I understand that Grinnell and U of Arizona are very different, one is small private college and another is big public university. That’s why it so difficult for me to compare them. I can’t even find rankings where they are together. I know that Grinnell has reputation of top one and reputation of UA is closer to mid-range. Generaly I already know about them many things that can be find in google. But to read in google about something is one thing, to live inside is other thing.

After applying grant from Grinnell and scholarship from UA price of Grinnell will be for me 10000$ per year higher. I can pay those money but that is essencial amount for me. Does it really have sence to pay 40000$ more for study of CS in Grinnell instead of UA? If yes why?

U of Zurich is high-ranked and almost free, just symbolic 1000-2000$ per year. Though life in Swiss is absolutely not cheap. One more advantage is that students of UZH can take classes in ETH, one of best technical universities in the world, and ETH is next building at the street.

I understand that here very few people can have idea about UZH. As well at any Swiss forum will be very hard to find anybody why know in details about Grinnell and U of Arizona. That making this cross-comparison difficult thing. But I still have hope to get answers. Thank you in advance!

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  1. Zurich & ETH

  2. University of Arizona

  3. Grinnell College

Better to leave study in the US for graduate school.


@Publisher: No LAC experience in grad school.

I personally think the choice should be between Zurich and Grinnell.

If you’re going to choose a big public, choose the better cheaper one with better students (Zurich over U of A).

The question then becomes whether the LAC experience (at one of the richest top LACs, though granted, in rural Iowa) is worth it. He would get more opportunities to work with and do research with faculty at Grinnell and have more resources per capita. Probably have a tighter bond with the student body there as well. At Zurich, there would be more self-study, more self-motivation needed, etc.

Also, is the CS curriculum at Zurich more theoretical or project-based (like CS in the US generally is)?

I think it matters what his plan is after undergrad is as well. If it is working (or getting a master’s and then working), Zurich may make more sense if he is self-motivated. If it is to get a PhD, he can more easily get good recommendations from profs at Grinnell if he is a good student. There’s a reason why LACs tend to dominate per capita PhD entry rankings (other reason is that they offer few pre-professional majors). And American CS PhD programs would be fully-funded. If he goes the Zurich route, he’d almost certainly have to get a master’s before attempting to apply to a PhD program.

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@PurpleTitan : I do not understand your message to me in the context of this thread.

Also, do not understand your discussion with respect to PhD.

My grad school reference–although not stated–had specialty masters programs in mind such as data analysis.

@Publisher: Grinnell is a LAC. You told the OP to come to the US for grad school, but no grad school offers the LAC experience.

I understand that Grinnell is an LAC, but still fail to see the relevance. Not really important. Thank you for your explanation.

OP: Neither school–Grinnell or the Univ. of Arizona–is worth sacrifing a free undergraduate degree in CS.

If you want to study in the US, consider a one year masters degree program with a STEM designation in data science or another high demand field which is of interest.

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Thank you for your opinion but we are from different realities. For you it very easy to get education in one country, then get job in other country and so on. For people from my country to get work visa extremely difficult. We are not welcome anywhere.
When it will come to the job my son will have only one realistic ability to get it - in the same country where he got education. Because main determinant will be his citizenship, not his grades, GPAs, ect.
So jumping between Swiss and USA to appear end of day and not here and not there not good choice. People who will decide about his right to get work permit will look how mush years he legally was in country, not at the ranking of his universities. If he will select Swiss now I will encourage him to continue in Swiss, if USA - then USA up to the victory.

Based on further information shared by OP, it may be wise to consider studying in Canada.

OP: Which country ? I ask because it may be difficult to obtain a student visa for the US.

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@Alezzz, jumping between countries between schooling and work would be difficult, yes. Not so when it comes to graduate programs. Grad programs take undergrads from all over the world.

You may want to look in to Germany too. Tuition-free and I believe you may work there after graduation at least for a little bit

I apologize, but that your response I didn’t got. My son haven’t no options no desire to study in Canada. He didn’t applied to any Canadian university

@Publisher, you’re essentially saying that you would choose any tuition-free college over any top LAC that costs more for CS. So Eastern IL tuition-free over Grinnell if it costs more even if the family can afford Grinnell. I certainly understand that point of view but it don’t personally recommend it under all circumstances.

He studying in Germany now. Learning German language. But in comparison Swiss vs Germany for me Swiss winning without any doubt

@PurpleTitan : Please don’t try to attribute words to me that are not mine.

I am simply offering my opinion that a free undergraduate degree from Zurich & ETH is better than paying more than $10,000 per year for Grinnell when OP has shared that that would not be easy.


We are from Belarus. US student visa I believe he will get, especially keeping in mind that his school was in Dubai. But when it will come to work permit it will be other story

How can you be certain that your son or any non-US citizen will receive a student visa for the US ? You cannot make such an assumption in the current political climate in the US. Canada should be a much better option–both short-term & long-term than the US.

Since Canada is not among the current options, Switzerland or Germany are your son’s best options.

I want to clarify. $10,000 per year not drama for me. I can pay. But in my country people working full month for 200-300$. My mother retirement is 150$ per month. So definitely I’ll better give those $10,000 to my mother then to university. I need to get some essential reason to do vice versa

The same way I can’t be confident that he will receive a student visa for Swiss, or Canada, or any other country. For us that is life reality.
But in any case we need to live, we need to go forward.

@Publisher, these are your exact words:
“Neither school–Grinnell or the Univ. of Arizona–is worth sacrifing a free undergraduate degree in CS.”

How is that different from saying that you think EIU CS for free would be preferable to Grinnell? Is EIU not a school?

The OP didn’t state whether Zurich was a near-full-ride or near-tuition-free but I almost never hear of European unis paying for R&B&living expenses.

No, definitely all live expences in Swiss will be at my cost, and life in Swiss is absolutely not cheap. Close to free only tuition

I can’t certainly compare life expenses in US and Swiss because in US it will be campus, in Zurich he must rent himself. I guess in Swiss it will be same or bigger amount, but I don’t think it will be dramatically different.
If compare only tuition Grinnell vs U of Arizona vs U of Zurich it will be 12000$ vs 2000$ vs 2000$