Princeton vs. Columbia: Engineering

<p>Sadly, I have fallen victim to these threads, but I really am looking for any information to help me make my decision. I will be visiting both schools next week to see which "fits", but I'd like some opinions from CCers as well. Money is not an issue since I've received generous aid from both schools.
My current interest is engineering, either mechanical, computer science, or even operations research. However, I'm not 100% sure that I want to go into engineering at all. I'm almost certain that I'm going to grad school, so maybe MIT or Stanford for that. Current dream jobs are working for Disney or NASA, but of course none of this is set. I'm a female btw, if that means anything.</p>

-undergraduate focus
-teachers connect with students better
-grade deflation policy/rigor: low gpa would be bad for grad school admissions?
-no double major
-kinda isolated? i've lived in the suburbs my whole life</p>

-Egleston Scholar (this is like Rabi Scholar for engineering/ perks, guaranteed research, stipend, etc)
-NYC (don't know if this is good or bad, actually)
-bigger engineering department
-cannot switch out of SEAS
-poor teachers?
-social life on-campus not good</p>

<p>I'm actually leaning towards Princeton for its undergrad focus, but the Egleston Scholar is pulling me to Columbia since apparently only about 10 people receive this opportunity...And does anybody have any information on research opportunities or job prospects for engineering out of these schools? </p>

<p>Any help is greatly appreciated (especially from current students), thanks! :D</p>

<p>Speaking as a Columbia senior, first of all you're in a great position! Congratulations.
Secondly, without a shred of doubt in your mind, choose Princeton. Sign Now.</p>

<p>Objectively speaking, the Egleston scholar will not make any difference in the long run. Princeton's engineering program is leagues beyond Columbia's. It speaks volumes that Columbia's SEAS' most popular "engineering" major is Financial Engineering / IEOR. Essentially a bunch of 'engineers' who want to work on Wall Street.</p>

<p>Secondly, having many friends who've attended Princeton, I can assure you that it's a singular, priceless experience. Remember, you only get to experience college once, and Princeton is arguably <em>the best</em> undergraduate experience you can get. You will make friends and be part of a powerful network that will sustain you much more than the named Scholar Columbia gave you.</p>

<p>Honestly, I could go on and on, but please trust me, unless you really are extremely passionate about Columbiia, go to Princeton.</p>

<p>Speaking as a recent grad, you should try to visit both school and get a sense of where you'll be happier / which student body you'd like to be a part of. After visiting Princeton and having several friends there, I can tell you that I would have been miserable at a school like Princeton, it would have been completely the wrong fit for me. Columbia and seas on the other hand turned out to be a phenomenal fit for me. I developed great friends, grew a lot through college, succeeded academically, socially and career-wise, I never felt that Columbia was inadequate at fulfilling all my needs and desires, whether related to research, teaching, friends, campus life, job placement etc. There were certainly negatives through my experience, like my freshman-sophomore adviser wasn't proactive or very valuable in giving me tailored advice, but I would never trade the Columbia experience for any other college's. The city was a phenomenal resource, I didn't find that it detracted from campus life at all. I had a solid and rounded traditional college experience. I went to dorm parties and campus bars, sports games and snowball fights, random pick up games of soccer / four square / touch football etc. </p>

<p>I'm not an athlete or a frat boy or an academic genius, just your average seas kid. I met some inspiring people and importantly I met the widest array of people who often shared little in common with my background, my academics, my career goals, my political views and even my moral views. To some people this diversity makes life uncomfortable, your roommate might always or never want to communicate problems with you, might have starkly different ideas of what is fun and or what is polite. To me this was uncomfortable at times, but it was an amazing learning experience. When I graduated, new people and new situations were rarely unfamiliar, I was ready to kick a$$ at work, make more friends and be successful. </p>

<p>Columbia threw some difficult and sometimes depressing times at me, it also threw some exhilarating, fun and inspirational times at me. I loved it, because it matured me and made me independent and happy in my own skin. I see myself more prepared for the future than most peers from princeton, or dartmouth or chicago or where ever. </p>

<p>This is a decision that comes down to fit, if you are anything like me, I say go columbia in a heartbeat, princeton just does not compare. But I really have no clue whether you are like me, princeton might be a much better choice for you, the experiences are very different more than one is better than the other. I think you should visit and feel out where you will thrive and learn over the next 4 years.</p>

<p>^great post. I am also having to decide between Columbia and a few other schools. What types of people would you say fit in well at Columbia?</p>

<p>i will just say the egleston scholars is a big deal, they will fly you in and really show you the life. dean f-m is really keen on getting the best of the best to come to columbia, and is unafraid and not bashful at making personal appeals. you will be taken care of well.</p>

<p>a few things to note...</p>

-cannot switch out of SEAS *** it is true, but columbia has flexible take on engineering
-poor teachers? *** changes from dept to dept, but overall my seas friends were happy with their experiences.
-grad>undergrad *** this is a misnomer, the ugrads are at the center of the university, it is not precisely the same as princeton, but i think this rumor needs to be repelled. sure you wont get the same experience as princeton, but most profs will treat you as their primary reason for being there.
-social life on-campus not good *** once again a manner of preference. i loved the campus life, it was geeky-chic, full of people unafraid to be as unhip as you possibly could be, but the osmosis of the city meant that you would be caught up in activities that your friends could only dream about. i loved the social life on campus, in fact it was one of my favorite parts of going to columbia was all the things i did on the weekends and all the groups of friends i made.</p>

<p>in the end i think it is most important to know you can't go wrong. i think some of your cons against columbia are fair, but they are by my estimation not necessarily strong critiques. its like finding a small dot on an apple, it doesn't make the inside taste any less delicious.</p>

<p>and with egleston and that money, any notion of being at a competitive disadvantage goes out the window. in fact you're probably going to be better situated from a career standpoint going to columbia than princeton. so ultimately it comes down to how much does having a traditional bucolic campus experience mean to you. if it means a lot, then follow your heart and princeton will be awesome. </p>

<p>if you want a bit more adventure, a bit less predictability, and yet a lot more potential for fun (i believe the two are very highly correlated). columbia wins hands down.</p>


<p>i think the number one thing you need for columbia is a penchant for adventure. that attitude will get you through bad days, and it will help you find all the goodies that columbia and new york have to offer. it means being independent to a degree (not needing to rely on someone to hold your hand), but i think more than that it requires knowing how to find people inside or outside of the school that will make your experience better. and the great thing about being in a city of 8million people, there are a lot of folks to help you there.</p>

<p>i mean the one quality that i think is most obvious about columbia is just countless number of things to do. and it takes someone who is not afraid to dabble around, sift through various things, and meet new people to really get out there and do everything.</p>

<p>i should say though that i knew TONS of people that were not adventurous and loved columbia. i know folks that wanted a traditional college feel and found a way to make it happen on columbia's campus. i thought for some time that there was someone that would do well at columbia better than others, and every time i meet someone that cloistered him/herself in the library and came out loving the school, i scratch my head. but that is what is great about columbia, you don't have to think the same way as your peers to have a great time. </p>

<p>so the bigger lesson here is that even though i'd argue that being adventurous is important, ultimately you have to make your own decision. and it may have nothing to do with any of the issues we talk about on this board. and just because you are not a prototypical columbia or princeton student, does not mean you can't have a good time at either. the most important thing you need to have in college is a willingness to enjoy the experience.</p>

<p>once you start comparing columbia to princeton, or princeton to columbia after you attend, you're just asking to feel unsatisfied.</p>

<p>blankusername here's a part of my post from another thread, just my opinion:</p>

Columbia is for many stripes of people, but not for everyone. If you want a school that holds your hand more, if you are not a decently independent person, I'd say Columbia is not for you. It suits ambitious, intellectual, outgoing, risk taking, mature and passionate students. You don't have to have all these qualities, but I'd say you should have some if you want to be happy at Columbia.


<p>Purely based on prestige and strength, attend Princeton. It has an overall better reputation, and it generally has stronger Engineering fields. However, my brother is taking part in a 5-year dual program (Industrial Engineering & Economics) at Columbia, which wasn't offered at Princeton. Also, Columbia gives grade inflation, whereas Princeton is notorious for grade deflation. But this is what I heard, not what I know. So if anyone could confirm/refute this statement, it would be much appreciated.</p>

<p>PS: He was rejected from Princeton/MIT, accepted into Caltech/Cornell.</p>

<p>(As I have done on other threads pertaining to possible future Egleston Scholars, I will give you the most honest opinion possible from an extremely biased Egleston Scholar at Columbia)</p>

<p>The Egleston Scholars program will put you at a significant competitive advantage to not only other SEAS students, but to engineering undergraduates at all the top schools in the country. And I mean significantly. Let me cite a few very specific examples.</p>

<p>The CIA heavily recruits engineers at Ivy League schools for its internship programs, and presents to many first years. However, the Egleston scholars were invited to a lunch with the CIA reps (only four of us went), and were personally introduced to all of them. By the end of the meeting, the internship recruitment representative was practically begging me to apply, and told me I should inform the Egleston internship/research coordinator when I applied so she could pull my application and "expedite the process".</p>

<p>Boeing also recruits from tons of engineering schools. However, one instance sticks out in my mind. The Eglestons were invited for lunch with the Engineering Board of Visitors; lo and behold, the Boeing CEO was in attendance. We had the opportunity to have extensive conversations with the Boeing CEO as first years. C'mon, your kidding yourself if you say that isn't amazingly awesome.</p>

<p>Finally, as admissionsgeek mentioned, the Egleston program is Dean Feni's love child. His staff envisioned the program, developed the program, and implemented the program. He will know your face by the end of the semester. He may even know our name. As firstyears. I like to quote this story: The other day, another Egleston and I were walking in our student activities/services building (Lerner Hall) and a graying Indian man randomly said hi to us as we obliviously trundled past. As I passed the man, I looked back and noticed that the Dean of Engineering had just said hi, and I hadn't responded. I managed a rushed "Hello, how are you?", while the other Egleston didn't ever look up from his phone. Having this sort of relationship with the Dean of Engineering is a very, very good thing.</p>


<p>Ultimately, you will probably make the right decision for you either way. I was deciding between Columbia, Northwestern, and University of Illinois for engineering. While this seems like a no-brainer, I am from Illinois and the in-state tuition is loads cheaper, and the U of I is a top five engineering school (aka great at producing career engineers). Northwestern is no slouch in engineering either. After visiting Columbia for the Egleston "Experience" Weekend, there was no longer any doubt in my mind--I wanted more than just a solid engineering education. My decision has been 100% justified thus far. </p>

<p>I think even with your list of pros and cons for Columbia and Princeton, the two are about even. The Egleston program, in my opinion, pushes Columbia way over the top. Otherwise, I would probably advise you to choose Princeton--this is a painful admission for me to make. By the way, if you are part of the group who visits NYC on the Egleston weekend, I promise I can show you that Columbia's nightlife is whatever you make of it :) Happy matriculating!</p>

a graying Indian man


<p>I don't think he's Indian...</p>

However, I'm not 100% sure that I want to go into engineering at all.


<p>If by this you mean that you're not 100% sure you want to study engineering as an undergrad, definitely go for Princeton because you might be stuck in engineering at Columbia. However, if you're 100% sure that you want to study engineering as an undergrad, the choice becomes less clear cut.</p>

<p>^^ haha, good call...dominican is more like it. shame on me!</p>

<p>shrugging, the op says that he/she wants to work in engineering a few years after college, but not long term. even so, the OP has a unique opportunity with the egleston project that i'd say is something worth seriously considering.</p>

<p>tyman- you can call him a West Indian, i suppose, the name isn't PC anymore, but then again few things are. thanks for repping the Egleston project, would be great to hear what you end up doing this summer.</p>



<p>Be that as it may (even though she says "I'm not 100% sure that I want to go into engineering at all...of course none of this is set"), I want to reiterate how important it is to NOT come to SEAS if you have even the SLIGHTEST shred of uncertainty about MAJORING in engineering. Columbia SEAS attracts/admits people who have a greater bent toward the humanities than the typical engineer, and if you get here and take a history/philosophy/literature class your first semester and decide you like that better than engineering...oops...</p>

<p>oops what? you finish your engineering degree, graduate with something actually viable in the marketplace and use the humanities bent to make yourself more attractive as well.</p>

<p>or you transfer and major in history. </p>

<p>though i will say there is no good reason to major in history/philosophy/literature unless you really really want to become an academic. otherwise it is actually better to learn not to fall in love with one discipline, but treat each class/major as a possible skill set. and though i love the historical toolkit: a) most kids who major in history don't actually 'get' history, b) being good at historical inquiry makes you incapable of seeing the world simplistically and not as a set of contingencies, it makes you more socially awkward. in a sense: you're not more employable for being a history major.</p>

<p>that is what kind of 'kills' me when i talk to seas folks that talk about this issue. a) 90% of SEAS kids i know that wanted to transfer did so because they wanted to major in economics, and i'm sorry that they want to major in econ, but you can minor in econ in SEAS, you can minor in entrepreneurship, you can start companies for christ sake as undergrads. transferring to major in economics is a weak reason to transfer. </p>

<p>b) all my friends from SEAS that transferred and actually wanted to be in the humanities ALL were able to transfer.</p>

<p>c) most of the seas kids have (or will have) far better job prospects in this world than i will. frankly the most my history degree has taught me is that the history of hustling is worth imitating. on a daily basis my goal is to try to make someone believe i'm actually cooler than i really am. my engineering friends, on the other hand, are actually cool.</p>

<p>Alright i deleted the uh, "comment" I originally wrote.</p>

<p>But to the Original Poster... take my word for it.</p>

<p>Go to Princeton, and you will <em>never</em> wonder "what if". If you choose Columbia, I will bet you every penny of my income next year that you will increasingly wonder if you made the wrong decision.</p>

<p>Go to Princeton, and have the best four years of your life. Out of every 10 Columbians who tell you that given the free choice that they'd pick Columbia over Princeton, 8 are lying to you.</p>

<p>Look - undergraduate should be primarily about the college experience. It is four years you are not getting back. You have the rest of your life to experience and prepare for the "real world". So go to Princeton, celebrate your transition from adolescence to adulthood, make lifelong friends, and become part of one of the most exclusive, tight-nit and valuable networks in the world.</p>

<p>Also - if you can do well at Columbia, you will do equally well at Princeton. Named scholars (i.e. John Jay, Rabi, Egleston) are all attempts to get HYP cross-admits to come to Columbia. Two of my best friends from high-school were Rabi Scholars, both cross-admitted to Columbia / Princeton. One chose Columbia, the other chose Princeton. One had the best four years of his life, one beats himself up everyday for choosing Columbia. The Princeton guy is headed to Berkeley for his PhD. The Columbia Rabi scholar is headed to a second tier consulting firm. </p>

<p>Enjoy the eating clubs ;)</p>

<p>It really comes down to NYC or New Jersey, both school's are obviously prestigious. Columbia is the way to go in my opinion, but I think you should visit and see which one you like better as a personal fit.</p>

<p>for the Columbia people:</p>

<p>I had no idea that it was that tough to switch from Fu Engineering to Columbia College. Have the students and alumni ever gotten together to complain to the administration about this?</p>

<p>Part of the advantages of the smaller (4,000-8,000 students) undergraduate schools should be the ability to switch majors and schools within the undergraduate school, compared to the rigid formats of the large State Schools or when competing with the major engineering schools such as the MIT's/Caltech/Harvey Mudd's of the world that have thin layers of Arts and Humanities majors..</p>

<p>This is something I've always been interested to hear more about. Why is there even a barrier to switching between CC and SEAS? Why don't they just admit everyone into the same pool to begin with? I have a rather cynical view on what the answers to those questions may be, but I'd like to hear from admissionsgeek as he/she seems more in the know about these things.</p>

<p>Japanoko, it is not impossible to internally transfer between schools but a student has to have a compelling reason and be in fine academic standing, just like they need for admission to Columbia. Internal transfers do happen and there are both College students switching to Engineering and vice versa. I just think Columbia is honest and upfront to not mislead students.</p>

<p>truazn: what about my hs classmate who went to princeton who is now jobless and living at home? Anecdotes are bad indicators of things. Or the kid from in my graduate program that hated Princeton and wanted to go somewhere else? Or that kid in my graduation year that transferred to Columbia from Princeton?</p>

<p>Don't talk about things in absolutes when you don't know. Columbia is fantastic for many people. And awful for you. I would pay money to have you transfer from Columbia. Bitterness is a bad color on you.</p>