Stanford or Princeton?

hi! I was fortunate enough to be accepted to my top 2 schools, stanford and princeton and I now face a very difficult decision. I want to study marine environmental science and I know stanford has one of the best environmental programs in the country whereas princeton is pretty unknown in that area, but i like princeton much better as a school (smaller, more cozy, undergrad focus, east coast). the only thing that’s keeping me from accepting princetons offer right now is:

  1. im not sure how much the reputation of a specific department matters in the future i.e. when looking for jobs/applying to grad school? imo, stanfords is much better and is better known (plus theyre closer to the ocean and have a marine lab)
  2. everyone around me is saying stanford hands down
    (but i know that i am the one going to college so #2 doesn’t matter much)

i admit stanford seems like the clear choice but i’m having a very hard time letting go of princeton. its hard for me to believe that id be missing out on much by going there - my studies would probably just be more independent and that is something i like about princeton. again, my main concern is point #1 since princeton is basically unknown in marine environmental. any input is appreciated!

Outside of Silicon Valley :: Princeton graduates are more successful in Wall Street, Politics, Consulting Firms, Medicine, Academic positions (e.g. profesosrs), hedge funds, etc.

Within Silicon Valley/IT industry :: more start-ups by Stanford graduates. But top performers are Princeton graduates. For example, Eric Schmidt Google CEO, Jeff Bezos Amazon CEO (he is now 2nd richest men)

Speaking as a Stanford grad and a huge fan of the school, who never would have fit at Princeton, you should check both schools out thoroughly and go with which one feels like a better fit for you, which sounds like Princeton. College is an intensely personal experience. You will get a top education and elite opportunities at both schools. It’s just a question of where you will be happiest.

Don’t make your decision on how good or famous the marine environmental program is or not. First of all it is a niche program so it is really hard to say which school offers better opportunities after you graduate. And there is a very good chance you will change your major. If you think Princeton makes you happy go there (doesn’t matter what others around you think)

Princeton was one of the schools that my son, a Stanford sophomore, got into two years ago. Like you, he preferred Princeton’s smaller size, cozier atmosphere, and undergraduate focus; he also preferred its architecture/campus. Despite these preferences, Princeton never would have been a “heart” decision for him—his real and very difficult decision was between Stanford and Yale. As a CS student, he went with his “head” and chose Stanford; he hasn’t regretted it or wondered “what if.” But as a parent, I’m not sure that was the best decision, even though the outcome has been fine and Stanford has been terrific. One reason I question the choice is because he came very close to not majoring in CS—and his prospective major was the main reason he chose Stanford. Many, many students end up majoring in something completely different than they expected to when they applied. College, and college courses, will change you, and you may find yourself headed in a completely different academic direction. If you like Princeton “much better as a school,” go with your heart and choose Princeton. Don’t worry so much about the academic merits of particular departments—you’ll get a great education at either school and, with careful planning, be able to go to graduate school in whatever field you ultimately decide on. If you find that your opportunities in marine environmental science aren’t great at Princeton, try to find jobs or internships during the summers to augment your training there. (Incidentally, my son had a classmate who was headed into tech and had to choose between Stanford and Princeton—and several other top schools—and ultimately chose Princeton, because despite Stanford’s reputation in tech, Princeton felt “right.” No regrets and loves it there—and ended up in a different field altogether!)

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@helpme84 While fit is definitely the most important criterion, do not neglect to make sure that the school you choose has good offerings in the area you are interested in. For marine engineering it is Stanford hands down. Also in general Stanford has more offerings and is super strong across the board, so if you end up changing your major you are more likely to have access to a great department.
That said visit both and see for yourself.

@JamesVanc That is not a true statement. Stanford has overall more billionaire alumni than Princeton and in general more successful alumni in most fields. Also regarding silicon valley, you are forgetting Larry Page, Sergey Brin (Google), the founders of Linkedin, HP, Instagram,YouTube, Yahoo, Netflix,Cisco, also Peter Thiel (the list goes on).

Also when it comes to outside of tech, Princeton graduates are not more successful more successful in Wall Street, Politics, Consulting Firms, Medicine, Academic positions (e.g. profesosrs), hedge funds.

Just a few examples: Stanford has 1 graduate win a nobel prize for medicine and other 9 won by Stanford faculty while Princeton has no graduates who have won the medicine nobel and only 2 faculty have. Also Stanford has 17 economics nobel prizes associated with the university vs Princeton 14.
Also Stanford has produced more CEOs than Princeton (and any other school apart from Harvard).

@Penn95 I personally know of many more people in wall street/consulting from princeton than stanford. None of the names brought up are really relevant to my story and money doesn’t matter to me whatsoever - I’m sure I’ll see an equal level of success as a graduate of either school but thanks

Overall Stanford is the stronger school across the board… and if you do change your major… which often happens Stanford will be equally strong… and yes this includes all the humanities and all the “soft” majors.

My advice is to visit the schools and talk with the students. Have you in fact visited Stanford and the Hopkins Marine Station?

You’re making the decision not on whether a school is better… but on where you feel you have the best opportunity to thrive. Go where you are most comfortable. It seems from your comments you feel more at home at Princeton.

@helpme84 I was only answering your question for the first part, the second part i was simply replying to another post that was claiming that Princeton grads are more successful than Stanford grads. I was not saying that you will have unequal opportunities in one school or the other.

As for wall street, of course, it has to do with location. but if you look at the technology and biotech/life sciences divisions of major investment banks and private equity firms, as well as top VCs, most of which are located in silicon valley, there are more Stanford grads. not many Stanford grads want to leave silicon valley for Wall street.

As i said above fit is the most important consideration at this level. but i also just pointed out that Stanford has more offerings and is stronger across the board. that is just another consideration to take into account.

If you are sure you want to major in a specific area, I would go to Stanford. Otherwise, go where you think will be happier.

Attend the admitted days, one of the primary ways to figure out if you fit in with the crowd, not just the school and major. Many find something they like better as a major, at least at Stanford.

there is no question Stanford is the stronger school across the board…and if you decide to change your major Stanford is going to be a plus. however I do agree go check out the schools and talk to the students.

“Also regarding silicon valley, you are forgetting Larry Page, Sergey Brin (Google), the founders of Linkedin, HP, Instagram,YouTube, Yahoo, Netflix,Cisco, also Peter Thiel (the list goes on).”

None of them are as rich as Jeff Bezos Amazon CEO founder. So your list confirms that none of Stanford graduates are richer than Princeton Alumni Jeff Bezos. In addition, the highest ranking Google employee is Eric Schmidt (Princeton undergrad)

Jeff Bezos has done a great job at Amazon but your argument is an N of 1 or 2.

the reality is that Stanford is tops for startups and tech fyi

Top 50 Universities for VC-Backed Entrepreneurs

  1. Stanford
  2. Berkeley
  3. MIT

the OP could care less about this and it is not going to make a bit of difference in their decision.

The OP is interested in environmental science, so why are folks bringing up irrelevant arguments based on Silicon Valley start-ups???

I’m not sure where you get the idea that Princeton isn’t well-known in environmental studies… they have the Princeton Environmental Institute… they also have the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, which is joint program between Princeton and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration… there is also the possibility of pursuing environmental policy through the Woodrow Wilson School. Marine science is also strongly represented in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. Princeton also has joint programs with the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS).

If you prefer Princeton, you don’t have to worry about the availability of opportunities in marine science.

The true reality is that The Richest People in Tech are (according to Forbes)

  1. Bill Gates (Harvard Undergrad)
  2. Jeff Bezos (Princeton Undergrad)
  3. Mark Zuckerberg (Harvard Undergrad)

Berkeley, Stanford, MIT produced more start-ups. But why the richest/ most successful people in Tech are Harvard/Princeton Graduates ? Why the best Stanford grad is doing worse than the best Princeton grad in tech industry ?

I am really curious.

^This is completely irrelevant to the question posed by the OP.

@harvardandberkeley I always thought BIOS and the atmospheric/oceanic programs are geared towards grad students? I will look into it. And thank you for trying to keep the discussion on track!

BIOS also has programs for undergrads…

@jamesvanc Not only is your line of questioning irrelevant to the OPs post, it’s also irrelevant in general. One off data points don’t give you any information whatsoever. Vladimir Putin is probably the richest person in the world with some estimates as high as $200b. Does that tell us that Russia is the best place to be to earn money? Same goes for Mexico where Carlos Slim was the richest person in the world for many years.

I think if you were to look at how many tech millionaires and billionaires each school produced in the past decade, the number would be heavily skewed toward Stanford, but again, OP is not interested in this type of conjecture.