Turning down an Ivy League

Hi everyone, I’m about to turn down an admission offer at Columbia University school of General Studies for admission at the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor LSA to study computer science undergrad.

The costs come out to be nearly identical including cost of living disparity due to better financial aid offers at Columbia University. Despite this, I was loving the positivity and warmth I received from the professors I talked to about my research interests at Michigan meanwhile didn’t feel the same acceptance from those at Columbia. It felt like they were more involved with their graduate students than their undergrads. I also loved the big Michigan pride and large campus size that were lacking at Columbia.

Though I’m really happy with my decision, there’s a voice in the back of my head saying I’m making a big mistake by turning down the Ivy league in favor of studying at a public state school vis-a-vis reputation and doors it may be open in terms of jobs and graduate programs.

Should I reconsider? Am I making a mistake?

Nope. Go where your heart & brain tell you.

Go wherever you are happiest, both will give you similar job prospects.

Columbia!!! will open a lifetime of doors…unless you really don’t want to go…I would re-think before you commit.

Michigan is a phenomenal research institution – and Ann Arbor is a great college town. Enjoy!

Ann Arbor… NYC… Ann Arbor… NYC…
While other aspects, like prestige, job prospects, might be (almost) the same, especially in the Midwest, I cannot imagine a starker contrast between locations. I would suggest you solve “the Center of the Universe” vs. “a slightly claustrophobic campus town in the Midwest” puzzle, and then you will be happy with your choice.
I wouldn’t pay much attention to the first impression of professors’ “positivity and warmth,” unless you surveyed a representative sample of people you are going to deal with - and I doubt you’ve had a chance to do that.

agree with @ArtsyKidDad Don’t go by warm and fuzzy by speaking to a professor or two.

Unlike the poster above, I know that the school you go to doesn’t open doors your entire career. Does it help for your first job, maybe, depending on what you want to do. After you get your second job, your education drops to the bottom of your resume. If you want to work in finance, some firms may recruit at Columbia and only at Michigan in Ross. In IT, there likely are not any major firms that do not recruit at both schools. Ann Arbor is a much better place to be a college student than NYC.

So…you turned down one Ivy League school for another–except that this Ivy knows how to play football.

A Columbia degree is not automatically, magically “better” than a Michigan degree. Go to Michigan. Have a great time there. Live happily ever after.

Are you passionate about Columbia’s core curriculum ? Also a difference in General Studies vs Computer Science. You mention you like the school spirit, larger size and undergrad experience at UMich - what do you love about Columbia besides it is an Ivy league school?

You received an acceptance to two amazing institutions and very different in so many ways. Take the names out of the equation and where do you see yourself. Which ever one you end up attending, you will also know that you were accepted to two great schools and are a very qualified candidate.

One of my son’s classmates did the same thing this year. Picked a state school over an Ivy. Free ride and guaranteed admission to med school.

Both amazing schools. Go where your heart tells you and don’t look back.

Note that it appears the OP would be interested in studying computer science at Columbia’s School of General Studies, a division within the university.

SGS differs from Columbia College in this aspect in that SGS requires a modified, presumably less extensive, core curriculum.

@user_678320: Consider this example of a collegiate “greatest regret,” then draw your own conclusions: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/10/15/charlie-baker-takes-proust-questionnaire/p2B2GsYFIUnYnVLsZCiX3I/story.html.

So it appears you are a non-traditional student if you were accepted to the Columbia’s School of General Studies rather than the Columbia School of Engineering.

Note that the “prestige benefit” of attending Columbia is largely tied to the traditional undergraduate colleges such as Columbia College or Columbia School of Engineering. Likewise, the recruiting opportunities might be much better for those two colleges compared to the School of General Studies. You should look closely into that.

On the other hand, computer science at Michigan is among the nation’s best, whether you get it from CS-LSA or CS-Engineering. Your career prospects from there are going to be very strong.

Job-wise, a resume from someone with a CS degree from Michigan will be just as good as someone with a CS degree from Columbia. For CS, where you go to school isn’t as big of a deal as it is for other academic fields. The only thing I would be concerned about is size of classes. I’m assuming the entry-level CS classes at Michigan will be a lot bigger than those at Columbia. That matters to some students.

If you felt comfortable at Michigan and uncomfortable at Columbia, go to Michigan.

While I had a great time at Columbia more than a decade ago, I would like to give you an honest feedback.

For many eng. programs especially the CS one, Michigan probably is the choice of wisdom in terms of faculty research and reputation, high performance computing resources, progressive curriculum, student competitiveness and maybe job prospects, even though I have never set foot in wolverine territory. You should also be checking their respective CS sites (i…e, faculty profile and research, computing facility and resources, etc) for details with a highly analytical mind and follow a logical thinking process to analyze the whole situation. Having said that, CU may have allocated more resources into CS program in recent years.

There are four different CS programs offered at Columbia GS:

BA in Computer Science;
BA in Computer Science and Mathematics;
BA in Data Science (formerly known as Computer Science and Statistics);
BA in Information Science.

Which is yours, BA in CS? If you later decide not to give up the ivy prestige, make sure to take Prof. Karatzas’ class (math & stat). He’s probably the best professor I had and the only class I never cut at Columbia. :smile:

But if you’re looking for management consulting/IB type of jobs, Columbia may be the better choice. Side note: If you want to be a quant at top hedge fund firms on Wall Street such as D.E. Shaw or Renaissance Technologies, CU may have a proximity advantage (over Michigan) to land you an interview. However, these companies very often look for candidates with Ph.D in Math/CS/Physics/Statistics degree from best programs in the US/World.

In terms of college life and campus vibe, I personally think UM has the edge over CU. For your info, I had my UG at UC Berkeley (L&S) and I think Cal and UM have many things in common.

Finally, the safety issue with surrounding neighborhoods especially at night could be another important factor to consider…


Good luck!

Misplaced the link:


And guess what, campus safety assessment at UMich does not look too good either, according to the link I found below:

“Based on our analysis of the government information, University of Michigan Ann Arbor is a very dangerous place to be in. American School Search gives this school grade “F” on safety. From our perception of the data, there are some problems with forcible sex offenses, illegal drugs, nonforcible sex offenses, and aggravated assaults.”


My conclusion is that things can go wrong to anybody at anywhere at wrong timing.

For CS, Michigan. Bonus that you like it better. Go Blue!