Hey everyone! I’m down to my last two colleges to decide between and I’ve been going back and forth for the last month on them. I’m hoping some insight from here will help me decide!
Major: Computer Science - I have no plans on switching as of now. RIT put me in my secondary major of Software Engineering, but the two are fairly similar and pretty much end up in the same place in terms of a career.
Career goals: I’m set on working as a software engineer, at least until I’m financially secure enough to try different things. Going into academic/research doesn’t interest very me much right now, and I don’t anticipate on needing a master’s but I’m not throwing out the possibilty.
Penn State University
- In-state. I get in-state tuition which is nice, and it’s relatively close-by, which may be a negligible factor for some but not so much for me. I have the option to come back home for a weekend if I really want to, which is nice to have.
- Familiarity. I’ve grown up knowing what Penn State is and know countless people who’ve gone there. I’d guess probably 20-30 people from the graduating class of my school go to Penn State each year. I feel like I know what I’m getting myself into if I go there, which would be a big anxiety reliever.
- Social life. The campus and university is so large and diverse that I know I’ll find people who I click with, which is coming from someone that’s not super sociable in the first place. At the very least, it’ll be basically statistically impossible to find nobody that I can make friends with.
- Campus. It doesn’t seem like a place I’ll get bored of anytime soon - the feeling through the campus and college town is nice and lively to the point of being exciting but not overwhelming.
- Alumni network. Yes yes, I’ve heard this from basically everyone I’ve talked to about Penn State. Lots of people graduate from there, and Penn Staters love to hire other Penn Staters. Wonderful.
- Reputation. Penn State engineering is a pretty reputed program, and I’m sure the job prospects are good with a PSU CS degree. This goes along nicely with the alumni network point above to make a pretty nice career outlook.
- Frats and parties. I’m not much of a party person, and the party/frat scene there turns me off a bit. They sound appealing sometimes but I’d rather not have to deal with the huge ragers that come with a traditional “college experience.”
- Professors. From what I’ve heard, a majority of the CS professors are either researchers that begrudgingly put up with teaching or just simply bad teachers. Being able to teach yourself is important and all but I’d really rather not have to deal with this obstacle if I don’t have to.
- Curriculum. Going along with my last point, it seems like the Penn State CS curriculum is pretty heavily research and theory based. I prefer a more hands-on approach with a focus on actual programming and all, so if most of my courses past year two are all theory-based then I doubt if I’ll enjoy it very much.
- Class sizes. Univeristy Park is big, and from what I’ve heard, it’s not uncommon for many classes to have upwards of hundreds of students. Doing a 2+2 at a branch campus would be a way to fix this but I don’t think that’s a route I want to go down.
- Price. Shockingly, it’s more expensive than RIT even with in-state tuition. I think I’ll get more financial aid as I go through, but with tuition raises and the ingrained $3,000 raise after year 2, I doubt it’ll be cheaper than RIT in the end. Granted, the difference isn’t huge by any means, but it’s there.
Rochester Insitute of Technology:
- Co-ops. Much like Penn State’s alumni network, the #1 thing that comes up in every conversation involving an RIT application/decision is their co-op program. It sounds very appealing to me - a full year of co-op will theoretically help pay for tuition while also significantly boosting your resume and possibly securing you a job before you even graduate.
- Software Engineering. Not sure if this is totally a pro since it was my secondary major, but RIT has one of the best software engineering programs in the country (as far as I can tell). It seems pretty hands-on as well which is right up my alley.
- Price. Can’t believe I’m putting price as a pro for RIT, but they’ve been pretty generous with my financial aid so far. Factoring in tuition raises and all, and just calculating room and board costs, RIT is ~$7,000 cheaper over 4 years than Penn State, if not more. That’s not a huge difference, but it’s there, and likely to increase with the full year of co-ops.
- Location. I always liked the idea of broadening my horizons and all by traveling out of state for college, and this seems like a perfect opportunity to do so without breaking the bank too much. The Henrietta area seems like nice place not too different from where I’m from as well, which I think would be nice to have by.
- Social scene. I’m putting something like this in both pros and cons, but the smaller/more casual social scene at RIT seems like it’ll suit me better. I’ll also be able to focus more on academics as opposed to the many distractions present at University Park.
- Class sizes. Like I mentioned above, Penn State can have classes with upwards of hundreds of students. At RIT, many people said they didn’t have any classes larger than 50, with the average being around 20ish. This is ideal for me, and I feel like I’ll enjoy classes much more with sizes like these.
- Distance. It’s a bit under 5 hours away as opposed to the 2.5 hours to Penn State, which isn’t huge but I won’t be able to come back very often.
- Culture. I think most of this is purely stereotypical, but it seems like a pretty big “nerd” school. It won’t have the huge party scene that Penn State has, but I get the feeling it’ll be too far to the other side of the social spectrum. Ideally, I would prefer a social scene right in the middle of stereotypical Penn State and stereotypical RIT. I’ll realistically be able to find this at either place if I’m being honest with myself, but it’s still a worry.
- Unfamiliarity. Unlike Penn State, I didn’t know of RIT until a year or two ago, and even after all my research into it feel like I have no idea if I’ll love it or hate it. I feel like it’s a much bigger risk to go to RIT than Penn State, which isn’t always a bad thing I suppose.
- Campus. The campus is okay I guess. I think I’ll grow to like it if I go there, but there’s always the possibility that I’ll grow to hate it. It’s a lot of brick and not a lot of green in a fairly disconnected area if you don’t have a car.
- Degree length. This isn’t so much of a con as it is an inconvenience. SE degrees are a total of 5 years with the 2 semesters of co-op, but I feel like the co-op would provide a nice change of perspective rather than just feeling like an extra year of schooling.
- Gender ratio. I’ve heard this is getting better, but with something like a 2:1 male to female ratio, in addition to the lgbtq+ population at RIT, I expect it to be very hard to find a relationship here - especially when compared to Penn State. I really don’t want this to be a big factor in my decision, but it’s something I’m thinking about.
Right now, I think I’m leaning moreso towards RIT. It sounds better to me on paper, the total cost after factoring in tuition increases and all is less than Penn State, and many of the cons are likely just attributed to stereotypes and misconceptions I’ve picked up. But there’s always that lingering risk factor in the back of my mind that makes me anxious - it feels like much more of a toss-up as to whether I’ll truly love it or not. On the other hand, Penn State feels more comfortable to attend (if that makes sense), but I’d rather not base my decision on how good it “feels” to make my decision. Either way, I’ll most likely be happy no matter where I go, but I’m feeling a lot of pressure from this decision. I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know what you think, thank you!