Harvard or Caltech?

<p>So you're accepted into both. Which do you choose, and why?</p>

<p>Caltech.</p>

<p>It's in Southern California, right next to JPL, smaller school population, 10 minutes away from my house.</p>

<p>I'm 40 minutes away, but I'd consider that a con. I want an excuse to stay away from my family... Then again, Caltech is totally worth it.
A lot of notable Harvard alumni are involved in politics, while the notable Caltech alumni end up as top contributors in their own fields. I guess Harvard provides more options as to what one can become, but someone wouldn't go to Caltech if they didn't have a passion for math & the sciences.</p>

<p>harvard. cannot stand Californian weather any longer! ahhhhh</p>

<p>^dawn, i seriously hope that was sarcastic.</p>

<p>^ Perhaps he's upset by the week of rain that just hit.</p>

<p>please choose harvard. for the love of god.</p>

<p>Hmmm. This time I am serious. I know a guy who's got admitted into both Harvard and Caltech. He chose Caltech. Now he dislikes Caltech so much that he is about to transfer to Harvard again. It depends on the person.</p>

<p>@dawncoming, I see that you are not very happy with your grades :
<a href="http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-life/1004568-studying-lot-but-not-getting-good-grades.html#post11238028%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-life/1004568-studying-lot-but-not-getting-good-grades.html#post11238028&lt;/a>
and generally not happy with college life
<a href="http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-life/1004309-am-i-wasting-my-life.html#post11238024%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-life/1004309-am-i-wasting-my-life.html#post11238024&lt;/a>
<a href="http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-life/1004308-making-friends-college-easy.html#post11238017%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-life/1004308-making-friends-college-easy.html#post11238017&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Could it (not being happy in college life) be specific to the college you are attending or maybe not? Do you have other reasons why you advise prospective students against attending your college?</p>

<p>Do you enjoy being in a really small campus, working one on one with your professor (some classes might be just you and the professor as you get to be a junior) then Caltech is your choice. If you like larger groups of people, more holistic approach to science, go to Harvard.</p>

<p>It so totally depends on what you want. Caltech is unique, and fills a niche that no other college in the country fills. Harvard has more breadth, Caltech has more focus and depth in math, physics, and engineering. Harvard is more urban, quite a lot larger, and has fraternities, football, and cheerleaders. Caltech is very suburban, close knit, and completely eschews the football/cheerleading scene. If you want to go to school for fraternities, sports, and parties, then Caltech is not the school for you.</p>

<p>One thing that I still remember after visiting Caltech was this tour guide (a junior) was giving us an example of how much of serious thinking is done at Caltech. A freshman answered a question on an exam on how to go after the virus causing HIV. The answer was so unique that the professor and the freshman applied to NIH for a grant using that idea and got the grant.</p>

<p>@col2cal:
eh, I was not happy about grades because I hate chemistry and biology as hell. But chemistry and biology are both core courses here. You gotta take all of them. This is the one thing hateful about Caltech. You have to learn all sorts of sciences, even if you've set your heart on math, physics or double E a long time ago. I really don't understand why a physicist has to learn biology, and why an electric engineer has to cram for organic chemistry. </p>

<p>I am not advising prospective students against attending Caltech. Caltech is a wonderful place and people are quite friendly. It's just that the place is far too scientific. If you have not decided to devote all your life to science, that is, if science is not one of the only things you care for, then Caltech might be an inappropriate choice. My hobbies include feminist studies, Anglo-Saxon literature, Asian military history and many others besides science. Here I don't find opportunities to explore more in those areas. Humanity courses are pitifully few compared with courses offered in other schools like MIT, Stanford. I'll give a more "striking" example. The first month since I came to Caltech, I suddenly wanted to read T.E.Lawrence's works. But Caltech libraries had NO books by T.E. Lawrence except a translation of Odyssey(now they have added one copy of a biography of T.E.Lawrence)! and that was a really bad edition by the way. So you see. Caltech has limited resources in non-scientific fields. Everyday I study science and science and science. I feel that my horizon has been narrowed. I see nothing but science and science. In addition, because of family reasons, I might take a political career instead of a scientific one. Yet Caltech does not even have a debating union. </p>

<p>But generally Caltech has, probably, the best academic atmosphere among all universities around the nation. There're no fraternities, no alcohol problems, no safety problems. Everywhere (especially in libraries) I see hard-working students trying to work even harder. You can't find such a bunch of people in any other universities(with the exception of MIT?). Also I think you will find learning easier in such an atmosphere and under the guidance of talented professors. In high school I struggled with physics. I had to read physics textbooks chapter by chapter and try to find the gist. At Caltech physics became as clear as crystal. It's fun and stimulating. and some frontier studies are so new that they have not been included in any educational books. For instance, I never heard of Submillimeter wave astrophysics before coming to Caltech. It is a brand new field.</p>

<p>So once again, the choice depends on the person. I sometimes feel grateful that I can attend Caltech; sometimes feel disgusted with anything related to Caltech. :=S</p>

<p>"working one on one with your professor (some classes might be just you and the professor as you get to be a junior)"</p>

<p>^ -- out of curiosity, is this actually true for many techers here? I'm a third-term junior now, and I think the smallest class size I've had was 8 students (a geology class). The only time I signed up for a class that was smaller, the professor cancelled the course. My smallest in-major (CS) class (disregarding minor, <9 unit classes like CS11) was probably something like 15 or so people.</p>

<p>The student-faculty ratio still buys you more time with professors outside of class, probably (think research opportunities, things like that), but in my case, it hasn't really helped with getting extremely small classes (actually, the sequence I took for my project class in the CS major had ~20 students in its smallest part, and ~50-60 students in the largest part). My experience is mostly through CS classes only, though, so I'm wondering if small class sizes are more common in other departments here?</p>

<p>This is what the chemistry major giving us the tour told us. He was a junior and he was in some class where the professor just assigned him work and met him to evaluate the completed work or ask him about anything that he wanted to over from the assigned work. He was talking about some classes with 3-5 students in his junior year.</p>

<p>I've TAed a few classes with fewer than 10 students, though a number of them have been with only grad students enrolled. Currently I'm TAing a class with seven students (all undergrads) though.</p>

<p>I'm still a sophomore, and while science and math are definitely my forte, I still like political science.</p>

<p>I've had in major classes of 4 people.</p>

<p>Caltech is a fairly unique place. Go there and you'll definitely live that uniqueness for four years. If you've researched/visited the school and it doesn't jump out at you as THE ONLY place you want to spend the next four years of your limited lifespan, I'd say go to Harvard. All the more so if you grew up near CalTech. Get away from home and see what another part of the country is like.</p>

<p>Wait, we're having all this debate for a kid who's two years away from having to make a college decision? Focus on more important things, mrfairladyz; you can cross this bridge when you come to it...</p>