Vanderbilt vs UChicago

I am not sure if hypotheticals are allowed on college confidential, but I am going to do this anyway. If you had the choice, would you choose Vanderbilt, or would you choose UChicago. This is assuming the costs are the same.

If you can handle it, UChicago, no doubt. Not even close. But that’s a big IF. UChicago is not for everyone. (And as others have pointed out, this assumes UChicago has your major; Chicago has no engineering except molecular).

What major are you looking at? What type of career?

Which environment, vibe, curriculum do you prefer? You must have some preferences, no?

Like I wrote in my first post, this is just a hypothetical. I understand that college confidential has some pretty strict rules when it comes to the content being posted on here, so let me know if this is not okay. I was just looking for some general opinions.

You still need more information to make an informed decision. For example, I was an electrical engineering major. Vanderbilt offers this major. Chicago does not. That makes it an easy decision for me. However, persons who are not interested in electrical engineering may come to a very different conclusion.

I think I may have led some people in the wrong direction with this thread. If you think Vanderbilt is stronger because of the fact that they have an electrical engineering major, then share that.

Everyone will have their different goals and preferences, and how they prioritize these factors. Assuming everything else equal, my decision would look like this: Vanderbilt=a happy place, UChicago=not as happy a place. For some people, that would be reversed.

I think Vanderbilt is stronger in electrical engineering and a better choice for persons interested in electrical engineering like myself, but that does not mean it is a stronger college in general or a better choice for most students. Instead the best choice is going to vary from person to person, depending on what criteria is important to them in a college. Available majors and strength in planned field of study is certainly part of this, but is far from the only part.


What MIT is to STEM, Chicago is to the liberal arts (and yes this is much more so than Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and even Stanford). You will be miserable there if you are not prepared for the rigor and if you do not enjoy learning for the sake of learning. There are happy people at Chicago, as there are at MIT. But neither school is the right school for everyone; no school really is. But this is especially true with Chicago and MIT. They are very special places that require very special students.


I would qualify that as there are special students at many schools - they require a certain type of student.


Yes. By “special” I mean students who are particularly well suited for Chicago (and MIT). Of course, there are students at every top college who could succeed at Chicago and MIT. It is just that at Chicago and MIT, your classmates are all like that. And this is not saying one type of student is better than another. Many might view the typical (or more fairly, stereotypical) Chicago or MIT student as a bit “out there.” But I would bet the farm that every person who is successful at Chicago or MIT would be similarly successful at HYPS. I am not sure the reverse is true (and this is even more so for other great schools like Vandy). At Chicago and MIT, there are no legacies, no big sport recruiting programs, and no grade inflation (and no I do not go to Chicago or MIT; but know many who do as well as many at HYPS).

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Moving thread to the hypothetical forum

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We have two at UChicago who specifically chose to apply ED because to be admitted would make each very happy. As the children of two alums, they had a good understanding of and attraction to the school’s identity as a place of deep inquiry and thoughtful scholarship. Also, they both loved the idea of the Core and weren’t worried so much about knowing exactly what they wanted to do or what to major in. That’s pretty typical of the students admitted there, by the way. So far, both are very happy with their choice. Neither applied to Vanderbilt due to lack of familiarity with the school, but they knew others who did and it has a wonderful reputation, of course. By the way, the chancellor there is the former provost at UChicago and I suspect he wouldn’t have been a great fit at just any old top school. There are probably close similarities between the two places in terms of mission and sense of purpose.

We have a friend whose kid looked hard at both UChicago and Vandy and chose UChicago ultimately. They were pretty familiar with the place as well. This student received merit offers from both schools which means they were one of the top admits. They are now doing just fine, but did struggle a bit the first year due to a pace and level of rigor that they weren’t quite used to. I think, too, they felt that their peers came in better prepared academically for those courses. So, being pretty familiar with the school and even being a good fit doesn’t mean you’ll have an easy time there. It will take at least a quarter or two to adjust - sometimes longer.

Unlike some peers, UChicago has a relatively consistent mission for all its academic divisions, including the College. They take the academic mission of a university very seriously and they look for students who are a good fit with that academic mission, whether they be undergrads or grad students. I truly believe that the number capable of handling the workload far exceeds the number admitted to the College. However, not all are looking for that type of academic experience. They may not really want a liberal arts education, or they may wish to have more time for extracurriculars. Knowing what you want from your time in college and figuring out the mission and purpose of each school of interest to see if it’s consistent with your own goals will help you more, IMO, than knowing your major or career goals at this point. All will overlap one another in most majors and most will be able to help you launch your career. But each is distinct in terms of the type of student they wish to admit.