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Combating the Stigma

13

Replies to: Combating the Stigma

  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 2,400 Senior Member
    Phuriku - thanks so much! As an interested alum, I'm always eager to hear the views of students currently at Chicago.
  • LucifugerLucifuger Registered User Posts: 66 Junior Member
    I'd be lying if I said your debate didn't entertain me but I have to say thanks to all who replied. You've been rather helpful.

    There seems to be an interesting struggle between people who are placing the scene at Chicago in perspective by comparing it to other places and thus, pointing out Chicago's shortcomings, and people who vehemently defend Chicago as the promised land. (fun)

    @Caillebotte, you're absolutely right. I did ask the question with an idea of the answer (I believe I mentioned that in my post) and to be honest, was hoping that a lot of it was hype (or...anti-hype in this case), and that Chicago was just like any other college. Obviously this isn't true.

    @Cue7, definitely gotta thank you for your loooooong post about the subject matter. And I believe you understand the direction in which I was heading towards in my initial post. Yes I was asking about social affairs and social matters, because the fact of it is, most of the colleges that applicants of Chicago apply to are on the high end of academics and have a rich intellectual environment. That was pretty much a given at Chicago.

    @JHS, it seems to me that you're attempting to defend Chicago no matter what (which is admirable and speaks volumes about your positive experience there), but as I mentioned above, the intellectual depth and connection between students was never something I was worried about. Although you do concede the point that Chicago's social atmosphere may be a bit dry in terms of non-academic related events.

    @IHateUofC, sounds healthy :D

    Oh and..
    Frankly, I have no respect for you. Yours is a really shallow post, and makes you look like a complete jerk. However, I recognize that our college needs (and, indeed, has) students of all kinds, and that there may be more to your personality than this post suggests. I wish you the best.
    I believe it was a "shallow" post that had to be made. I realize upon posting it may seem as if my number one concern with college is to get ****faced and party and have sex, but that's not true. I thought it was pretty much a given that I value academics and such simply from the fact that I did apply (and was accepted to) Chicago. Although to be honest, I haven't placed maximum effort into my school work at all in this lifetime. I've basically cruised through school, occasionally putting in a rough night to finish work I've procrastinated on, or study for a big test. Otherwise, I'm a lax student with the attitude of one. If I don't fit your criteria for a serious student that you can respect, oh well. Such is life. (This applies to anyone who's reading and judging, cause after all, everybody loves to judge and form fun perceptions/misconceptions.)

    On the other hand, I'm pretty sure this issue is something of major concern for anyone applying and thinking about going to Chicago simply because of all the bad rep and talk there is out there regarding the subject. You may dismiss it as shallow, but the fact of the matter is, it's reality. Regardless, thanks for the response. Cheers.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,952 Senior Member
    I'm not defending Chicago no matter what, I'm merely opining that there isn't any meaningful difference between Chicago and Cornell insofar as (a) how much kids like to drink, and (b) having sex are concerned. And I am pretty darn certain that is the case. The average per-student alcohol consumption at Chicago is probably a little lower, even if you exclude people who don't drink at all. I think that will be true of any urban school (even Penn) vs. any rural school, simply because there are lots more things to do in big cities, but it isn't so smart to be *****faced on the el late at night. But, yeah, people may drink less at Chicago than Penn, too. It isn't anything like night and day, though.

    I like Chicago a lot, because my kids went/go there, and have learned a lot, and had great social lives with parties, and drinks, and (as far as I can tell) plenty of sex. And they think it was valuable, and enjoyed themselves. They don't wish they had gone someplace else supposedly more fun. They do sometimes wish they had gone someplace with a better placement office and alumni jobs network.

    (By the way, one of the funny things about Caillebotte's post is that if you ask Chicago students who has it worse than they do, Cornell probably comes up more than any other place, because people think it's hyper-competitive and people there are horrible to one another. Which I doubt is true at anything like the reputed levels.)

    But that's fine, because you knew what you thought before you posted. With your attitude, you would have gotten your butt kicked all over creation at Chicago, and you would have wound up whining all the time about it. In fact, your butt is going to get kicked at any college you choose that's even remotely in the same category as Chicago. That's something you know already, too. Good luck!
  • KafkaDreamKafkaDream Registered User Posts: 68 Junior Member
    Cue7- you may be correct about "overall." Thankfully the sport I'm interested in is top ranked at UChic.
    And it's not like you went to the school expecting a Big Ten-esque sports scene. There are many awfully weak academic DIs which are also poor in athletics (several such colleges in my area) but I doubt you would say since they're not good at sports they just study 24/7 and do no partying at all- correct?
  • marcelladmarcellad Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    Cue7: I'd like to jump in on the issue of sports here at the U of C.

    In short, I feel like it's unfair to say that sports at the University of Chicago are pretty mediocre without considering different aspects of the athletic program here. You accurately pointed out that the university has some fantastic teams, and it is true that some of our teams struggle amongst their competitors. But I think there's more to the picture that we've thus far neglected to discuss.

    (In long,) I've played soccer for the last 17 years, 15 of which I played on traveling teams. I've played with some amazing soccer players who got full rides to fantastic DI programs. Our program is vastly different, yes. Could we compete with ND or North Carolina or Michigan State? No. Could some of our players have played at DI schools? Definitely. Many chose to come here instead because a) they liked the school, and b) the athletic programs here don't treat you as an employee. We're athletes at this school not because they are paying us but because we love our sport. We love our sport but our academics always come first. We don't skip a lab to go to practice. I can't tell you how many old teammates of mine are at schools where their sport is their number one priority, over even their family and course work. Now, I've only played two seasons out of my three years here because I chose to study abroad this fall in Rome. I wanted to take an advanced Italian course abroad and I would not have been able to do that in a different quarter. I don't regret it. Soccer is one passion of mine but it doesn't consume my life at college like I know it does for some of my friends at DI schools.

    The University of Chicago doesn't give athletes preferential treatment but neither are we neglected like many would presume. Most varsity teams play abroad once every four years. I went on a ten day trip to Italy with my squad. Other teams have been to Japan, China, Germany, Argentina, Holland, Chile and more that I cannot recall. We play other competitive teams who also attend academically rigorous institutions (Emory, WashU, Case Western, Carnegie Mellon, etc.) and we typically fly when we travel. Our facilities are fantastic, we're treated with respect by the athletic staff, and there's a lot of support between teams. It's been mentioned before that we don't have packed stadiums that other great universities have and that is something that I'd have like to have experienced in college... but then I wouldn't have been able to pursue soccer at the college level.

    If prospective students are looking for packed stadiums and tailgating and DI glory and full-rides and exhausting schedules they should look elsewhere. If not, I encourage them not to discard U of C without examining our athletic program a little closer.

    P.S. Cue7, thank you for all your input on the U of C. I've enjoyed reading your posts.
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 2,400 Senior Member
    Kafkadream - Sure, there are academically weaker schools that also have floundering D1 programs, but the kids still party like there's no tomorrow. What I was pointing out in my observations about sports (or other extra-curriculars) at Chicago is that the REASON why Chicago sports on the DIII level is - on the whole in terms of results - mediocre is because of the mantra of the college. As I said in my previous post, Chicago - by its structure and history - compels its students to be students FIRST and foremost. At the schools you mention that are weak academically and weak athletically, a LOT of students still attend the college to, well, have a really good time. Academics are a part of their lives, but especially at weaker schools, I don't think the academic tradition is as emphatic. So you'll still get thousands of kids who like to get drunk and watch their bad basketball team at George Mason or Northeastern or wherever. Again, whenever I participated in or watched sports at Chicago, my main thought is "here are some smart kids who happen to like doing X."

    Marcellad: You bring up some outstanding points. I completely agree with you, but I feel your assertions need to be qualified a bit. At Chicago, sports are a wonderful and enriching activity FOR THE athletes, but I just wouldn't call certain teams or traditions a hallmark or signature of the institution. I remember that most of my athlete peers at Chicago had close ties to their team, they all practiced hard, and they all enjoyed their time together. It was a great experience for them. These sports, however, at the end of day, don't really impact the institution as much, so there's really not much accountability on the athletics front. So if Chicago is #65 or #20 or #85 in the Sears Cup rankings, no one really cares. On the other hand, at other schools, sports stand as a more of a signature of the institution. If Williams all of a sudden dropped to #65 in the Sears Cup rankings, or if Princeton's crew and squash teams plummeted towards mediocrity in terms of poor results, you can bet heads would roll at those institutions.

    At Chicago, as you said and I've said, you are a student-athlete with an emphasis on the STUDENT part of that phrase. This is because the sports teams don't really serve as a hallmark of the institution. These teams provide the interested participants with a wonderful opportunity to be a true scholar-athlete, but I don't think administrators really care much if the volleyball team is struggling or if the baseball team struggles. At other schools, the stakes are just higher. The Michigan football players are basically full-time athletes, as are the Princeton rowers or Duke basketball players, because these sports concretely augment the identity of their respective institutions.

    With all this in mind, the nature of sport at Chicago vs. other places is different. At Chicago, you usually have a discrete group of supporters and athletes more or less playing for the good of the team. At other schools, you're playing for the greater community, the good name of the school, for sometimes hundreds of thousands of alumni - so it becomes more of a spectacle. In this vein, I don't think sports really permeates the overall student experience at Chicago. Even when I was at Penn, I went to some of the big ivy games - when Penn plays Princeton in basketball, or an ivy championship soccer game, and the stakes and quality is just a lot higher, and, accordingly, a more pleasing spectacle to watch and get involved in for an afternoon. People care about the result, alums come back to watch, it's just a different experience. I'm sure for the athletes, there are a lot of drawbacks to this. Most of the athletes know they are at Penn or Princeton to play ball, not because of their academic abilities. At Chicago, most of the athletes coulda gotten into Chicago without as much sports experience.

    So, in sum, there are certainly benefits and drawbacks to both approaches. I think the situation at Duke or Stanford leads to a more robust sense of school spirit and student involvement in sports on a macro level, but in a lot of ways, does not serve a particular athlete well in his/her attempts to be a balanced student-athlete. On the other end of the spectrum, the Chicago approach serves the athlete well, but sports don't really impact the overall scene at Chicago in even remotely the same way.

    So, for the prospective student-athlete, yes, by all means, consider Chicago carefully. For the student considering the student life offerings at Chicago, however, (as the OP was doing), please note that the Chicago academics-heavy approach lends to a generally more subdued scene. Again, in my two years at Penn, I had countless more "WOW" moments when I went to or participated in extra-curricular events. The student performances were generally better, the athletic competitions were more intense, and the school is known for a range of offerings outside of academics - from innovative a capella groups to watching future olympians compete at the Penn Relays to whatever else. When comparing these schools, then, I would say Chicago's honed and focused approach to academics leads to a more enriching academic experience, whereas Penn's environment features a more robust and entrenched (and traditional) social scene.

    Again, this all depends on what a certain applicant may want. For me, I didn't necessarily want the rah-rah lets get drunk together on the quad feeling, and I didn't particularly care that we don't have future professional athletes walking around Hyde Park. At times, I do wonder how life would have been if I participated in that, but I know myself - I don't drink heavily at all, and the experience would probably grow stale very quickly for me. I much much prefer the more subdued atmosphere at Chicago, where I could do whatever I wanted, and there was no one particular emphasis on social life at U of C. On the other hand, one can certainly make a case that for most 18 yr olds, a college life filled with pulse-pounding parties and world-class concerts and the like makes for a better experience. To each his own - prospective students just need to know what they're getting with Chicago. Penn, Duke, Emory, Wash U, Northwestern, etc etc. all have near-interchangeable experiences, but Chicago really is still quite distinct from most of its peers.
  • LucifugerLucifuger Registered User Posts: 66 Junior Member
    JHS wrote:
    But that's fine, because you knew what you thought before you posted. With your attitude, you would have gotten your butt kicked all over creation at Chicago, and you would have wound up whining all the time about it. In fact, your butt is going to get kicked at any college you choose that's even remotely in the same category as Chicago. That's something you know already, too. Good luck!

    I'd be lying if I said this last part of your post didn't catch me off guard and confuse me...

    I'd love for you to explain what you mean by getting my "butt kicked" at Chicago or any college relatively in the same category. You may hate me for my methods and the relative ease which I live and go through school but it seems presumptuous to me for you to assume I wouldn't be able to handle going to any of these colleges. As I mentioned in my previous post, I may not have mentioned it or emphasized it but obviously academics plays/played a big role in my college decisions and thus I think it's reasonable to assume they do in my life as well. The difference is simply a matter of effort expended and "love" for school which apparently some students have. I expend as little effort as possible for maximum results and you will probably never catch me in the library if I don't have to be. Sorry to disappoint you but the reality is, my habits and methods have been rather successful for me. If you think my lack of effort or my attitude makes me undeserving of such success...well, I really don't have any advice for you. Maybe buy yourself a lotto ticket and see if you have more luck having your wishes come to fruition there.

    However, I do believe we're getting off track from the main topic which really more of had to do with the social experience at Chicago rather than this expos
  • unaloveunalove Registered User Posts: 3,725 Senior Member
    I think anything I could say has already been said in some form, but let me say a few things.

    First, the most difficult challenge for me at Chicago socially was not the lack of social activities or parties or somesuch, but rather, it was getting myself to do them. I'm an odd person in that I engage myself in very social extracurriculars that require a good understanding of social nuance and some extroversion (namely, theater), but I am painfully introverted outside of it. My first year I was being invited to do social things left and right with both my house and University Theater, and I almost unilaterally elected to stay in my room, watch movies, and eat Ramen Noodles. It kinda stank. I loved the week and would dread Friday and Saturday nights.

    (During my first year, my one good friend noticed my social janus-ness, and said something to the effect of, "Gaw, unalove, just go to a party and pretend you're on stage ALL THE TIME while you're there.")

    I would say that by halfway through my second year I developed a network of people whom I felt very comfortable with outside of structured activities. This network has expanded considerably, but still remains smallish. Without revealing too much about myself, suffice it to say that my network includes a lot of University Theater people, a lot of members of a club sport, a lot of social activists, and a lot of Scavvies. And I do attend parties from time to time-- of both the wild sweaty dancing and the talking philosophy over wine varieities. This is a wild improvement from what I had in high school, which was five close friends and rarely hanging out in a group, because three of them distinctly disliked each other.

    What I've found disappointing about Chicago socially is not the number of, attendance at, or decentralization of parties. Rather, I've found some of my own limitations disappointing, and I recognize that no school could fundamentally change who I was as a first-year college student. If I could do it all over again, I'd be much more gung ho about spending time in the lounge, reaching out to people, inviting myself along, even. However, I do credit Chicago with helping build me up socially and giving me more social confidence by putting me within proximity of others who are like me.

    If you, OP, are already coming in with a certain level of social panache, you may be pleased to hear that you are in the majority and I am in the minority, even at the University of Chicago. What I think you'll gain from Chicago is a relatively satisfying social life on the boozerly front combined with a superb all around experience. I can say that relatively confidently because nearly everybody I know here has been overall very, very, happy with their experience. And even when you're staring fifth week of winter quarter in the eye from the belly of the A-Level. the thought of going anywhere else leaves you cold.
  • unaloveunalove Registered User Posts: 3,725 Senior Member
    OP: JHS doesn't need the lotto ticket, just fyi ;-)

    However, JHS has a point-- many, many, many students get into great colleges because high school was EASY for them. That's kind of the point. Just realize that once you get to college, you're going to meet a TON of people who are just like you, except smarter.

    I do not criticize you for your study habits-- in fact, if anything, I think they'll help you adjust to college easily. You'll learn how to skim when you have to and you'll learn how to write papers without agonizing over them. That's good.

    However, the attitude isn't going to make you friends in college, exactly. Just do your thing, go about your business, get trashed as often as you can and ace the test without telling everybody who's doing the same thing about it.
  • LucifugerLucifuger Registered User Posts: 66 Junior Member
    Thanks for the tip unalove but I just thought I'd clear up, the reason I decided to mention details about my school life was to give everyone an idea of the type of person they were talking to, and why all the talk about the intellectual richness of the school wasn't what I was concerned with when making this thread. Obviously, my performance in school isn't something I go about flaunting in real life and I'm pretty sure I'm quite amicable. Thanks for the reply though. :)
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,952 Senior Member
    Lucifuger: All I meant -- and I think you understood it perfectly well -- was that whether you go to Chicago, Penn, Duke, Harvard, Northwestern, wherever, there is very little chance that you will have the same level of success you had in high school without (a) caring, and putting a bunch of yourself into it, and (b) putting in a lot more work. You may still want to put in the minimum effort for maximum results -- efficiency is a highly regarded concept everywhere, including Chicago -- but the whole calculation changes at a world-class university.

    In high school, all you need to do is learn what they teach you (which tends not to be so much) and do well enough to be among the best. The ceiling is very low. In college, there really is no ceiling -- no level of achievement that is clearly "good enough". If you do more work, you'll learn more, accomplish more, and it never maxes out. On the downside, since you won't have a bunch of people who are way less talented than you supporting the curve and damping down expectations, you will generally find that merely keeping your head above water -- being not great, but average, OK -- requires a lot more effort than you are used to. And it's hard to do that without putting yourself on the line a little, something it seems you are not used to.

    Believe me, I know what it's like to be a good student to whom everything comes easily. I was. And I know what it's like to love parties and getting laid, and to have contempt for people who felt that being a good student precluded that. I was that, too. There's nothing wrong with it (except for the contempt part, that's a little immature, but you grow out of it). Still, any top college, whether it's Chicago or elsewhere, is going to kick the butt of someone like that until he gets to the point where he is frightened by his own ignorance and cares enough to work hard, or he gets comfortable with his own mediocrity.
  • elianaeliana Registered User Posts: 242 Junior Member
    OP -- as an EA admit, I have the same concerns about coming to Chicago. I consider myself "intellectual" in that I love to learn and think and discuss academics, but I also love to go out with my friends and be loud and silly and, on occasion, drink or smoke. I would be miserable if my college experience consisted of mainly studying and very little socializing.

    After I got in, I contacted a girl who graduated from my school and is a member of the class of 2013. She is very smart but also very social, and she told me that she absolutely loves it. She says that it is a lot of fun and that there is a definitely a big social scene, despite the school's reputation. She, too, was worried about the supposed lack of a social scene when she was making her decision, but she assured me that those concerns did not prove to be realistic in the least.

    In addition, my school college counselor told me that in her 20+ years of advising students, she has found that every type of student that she has sent to two colleges, the University of Chicago and Wesleyan, has been absolutely delighted there. :)

    What other places are you looking at? The reason I applied to Chicago EA is because I liked it a lot when I visited, people from my school tend to get in and love it, and it is a bit less selective than the other colleges I'm applying to, so I figured that it would be nice to have a college acceptance by December so I can relax until April. To be honest, though, U of C is not my favorite. If I get into Penn, for example, I am likely to choose it because the social life sounds more appealing and because unlike U of C, it is right in an urban area. I like U of C's location in Chicago, but the neighborhood immediately surrounding it is a bit sleepy for my taste. I'm still a bit unsure whether Penn's Greek-heavy social scene will be to my liking -- I am definitely social, but I'm still quite the nerd. Other favorites include Brown and Harvard, but I am not even considering colleges with single digit acceptance rates to be real possibilities. I expect rejections from Harvard, Brown, Yale, and Stanford.
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 2,400 Senior Member
    eliana - I apologize if this information is already redundant to you, but a while back I posted on the differences between Chicago and Penn. Most seemed to think it was a pretty objective and helpful comparison. Since I don't know how to link to my exact post, here's a paste of the post:

    Please note the assertions I'm about to make are broad generalizations (and of course there will be exceptions and outliers found at either school). That being said, here are my observations:

    I think Chicago and Penn are very different academic environments. To start, Chicago has only around 1300 per class, and Penn has around 2500 a class. When I was at Chicago, it was even smaller (maybe around 900 a class) so it was a really intimate learning environment. I think the College at U of C is still pretty tight-knit and intimate, and Penn, just given its sheer size (both on the undergrad and grad level), probably wouldn't be characterized as an "intimate" environment. Of course, this can cut both ways, Penn just has a wider range of schools that Chicago just doesn't have (an undergrad business school, a communications schools, engineering, etc.).

    In terms of the larger ethos of the two schools, I think Chicago's generally more ivory-tower, academically-geared at the undergrad level, whereas Penn, given its roots perhaps, can generally be seen as a more practical undergrad environment. Of course, you can find exceptions at both schools, but generally, Penn overall has a more pre-professional, practical feel, whereas at Chicago, there are a lot of students who want to spend considerable time to academia (i.e. get a PhD).

    Penn still possesses a pretty strong "work hard, party hard" culture, whereas Chicago still focuses more on the "life of the mind" culture (where academics are generally at the forefront of a student's mind, whereas Penn students can often be juggling various obligations and academic pursuits). This isn't to say Chicago students lack balance or that Penn students are detached from their academic pursuits, its just the slants of the two schools are different.

    A good example of this arises at the various alum events I attend for both schools. At the Chicago events, alums invariably strike up conversations by talking about their majors, professors they had in the past, and various classes they took. After that, the alums sometimes mentions various social aspects of the school (frat parties they attended, sports teams they played on, etc.), but academics are usually the first part of the discussion. At Penn events, the conversation almost always goes in the other direction - alums talk about their social experiences, frats joined, clubs participated in, and sometimes discuss academics after if there was some overlap in their coursework. I got the sense that certain big undergrad traditions (hey day, feb club, etc.) tend to bond Penn students in a way that you don't really get at Chicago. Chicago has a bit more of an individualistic social culture, where students just sorta do whatever they're into, and there's no connecting social fabric or traditions in the way that ALL penn juniors participate in Hey Day.

    Again, this example illustrates how the academic environment becomes a common thread for Chicago students/alums, whereas Penn, given its size, doesn't have the same connecting thread. I think Penn is just a more disparate environment, with students taking courses and pursuing a really wide range of endeavors. At Chicago, the Core Curriculum does indeed connect students, and the smaller size makes for a different feel on campus.

    In terms of other observations, I found the Penn undergrads to be a bit more materialistic (I don't mean this in a derogatory sense - they just seemed to have more of a sense of fashion and upkeep overall), and savvier in terms of using their education to meet a certain goal. The Penn kids tended to be a bit more outwardly wealthy, probably because the schools cater to different type of family. A larger percentage of Chicago students tend to be the sons and daughters of professors and teachers and public policy wonks, while Penn very much seems to serve the offspring of business men, lawyers, doctors, hedge fund managers, etc. I think the specter of Wharton kind of looms here over Penn - it gives the school a bit more of a career-oriented feel, both in the familial backgrounds of its students and these students' ambitions. Penn also had a very distinctly east coast feel - and this probably altered the flavor of the school a bit. There were more prep school types walking around, and more students who already had their hearts set on some sort of job in NYC. Chicago does have more of a midwestern flavor - there are just more born-and-bred midwesterners from iowa or indiana walking around in Hyde Park.

    More Chicago students seemed to be of the head-in-the-clouds type, and there tended to be more of a hipster community when I attended Chicago than anything I ever saw at Penn (from what I know, students don't exactly form Marx/Plato reading clubs at Penn with the same regularity that these groups sprout up at U of C).

    Location is another big difference. Penn is much closer to the heart of downtown Philly, but Philly as a city tends to have a "grittier" feel than the more skyscraper-filled, somewhat awe-inspiring classic big midwestern city of Chicago. West Philly also tends to have more commercial offerings than Hyde Park (think lots of fast food restaurants, a Gap, an Ann Taylor, bars, etc.), whereas Hyde Park has more of a "scholarly" residential feel, with lots of used bookstores and coffee shops all over the place.

    One other note, I think Chicago does provide a more distinct sort of environment. I don't say this as a way to deride Penn, but what I mean is this: there are very, very few other schools that couple such a relatively small college with such a wide array of absolutely world-class academic departments. Penn has lots of great departments as well, but it also has double the number of students, so it changes the feel of the place. Out of the top schools, I've heard Chicago and Yale are somewhat similar in terms of vibe, as are Chicago and Swarthmore (if you shrink Chicago down to a LAC size), but that's about it as far as comparisons go. Penn, on the other hand, I think shares a lot of similarities with Duke and Northwestern and Emory and Georgetown and Wash U etc etc. It's just more of a typical college experience, and one that you could probably have at another half-dozen very good schools. It always strikes me as funny when I hear Northwestern grads talk or Penn grads talk - the experiences are so analogous.

    Of course, a large segment of the Penn undergrad community would be perfectly happy at Chicago and vice versa, but the schools do generally have very different vibes. What I've described, of course, are broad generalizations, but they're just my observations after spending time at these two institutions. Finally, I've tried to be as objective as possible here, but you should know that I have tremendous allegiance to Chicago - I'm still very grateful for the education I received there, and the school really built up my analytical and writing abilities. Nevertheless, take from this what you will.

    (End Re-Post)

    There have been some threads about this in the past too - just search for "UPenn or UChicago?" or the like. I hope my post was helpful. Please keep in mind, in terms of my subjective view, I'm strongly biased toward Chicago, and I don't think Penn is at the same level as Chicago. To be blunt, I still believe Chicago offers the very best liberal arts education in the country. There are a couple other schools that give Chicago a run for its money on this front (Yale comes to mind most readily, maybe Columbia), but I would not put Penn in the discussion for those that want the very best lib arts education. Don't get me wrong, Penn is a GREAT school, but I just have a lot of loyalty to Chicago. Of course, everyone's a little biased for their college :-).
  • elianaeliana Registered User Posts: 242 Junior Member
    Thank you for your informative post! I understand these general differences between Chicago and UPenn, but the problem is that I am really unsure which suits me the best. I want to get a PhD and I can see myself working in academia, but there is so much more to life that I want to explore. I want to see arts performances, I want to meet all kinds of different people, and I want time to have fun.

    I would not go so far as to say that the experiences at UPenn, Northwestern, WashU, etc are all interchangeable. One of the things that most appeal to me about Penn is that it is located in the heart of a big city. I live pretty close to WashU, which definitely does not have that benefit. It is not in St. Louis city proper, and even if it was, St. Louis is not that exciting of a city.

    In your opinion, why does Chicago offer the best undergraduate education? Is it the core? And what about Yale and Columbia make them come close?
  • Cue7Cue7 Registered User Posts: 2,400 Senior Member
    Eliana - toward the end of my post I was just throwing in schools that have generally analogous experiences. You're right - Wash U in terms of location may be different than Penn, just as Duke and Penn have different locations. I've met grads from all of these schools though, and just the way they talk about their respective institutions is very very similar. Kids from Emory or Penn or Northwestern might talk about various city events more, but you'd be surprised by how similar these college experiences can be. Penn kids may have access to better museums and arts and the like, but you'd perhaps also be surprised by how insular the college experience can be.

    Just briefly, the key distinguishing factors that separate a Chicago education from the education found elsewhere are: 1.) The caliber of the academic departments coupled with such a (relatively) small college and 2.) the near-unparalleled focus on creating and emphasizing the importance of scholarly pursuits.

    On these fronts, Chicago probably has one of the strongest assortments of classic liberal arts departments (History, Economics, Art History, Physics, Chemistry, Theoretical Mathematics etc etc.) with such a small College. This leads to a really intimate learning environment, where you know professors very well and your peers too. Moreover, unlike Penn, where more value is placed on the "practical use" of an education, Chicago really does value learning for the sake of ideas, and in compelling all of its graduates to be discerning, critical thinkers. I get the sense that at Penn, as with other top schools, you are kind of joining a "club" and the education can be secondary at times. In other words, you can float by. At Chicago, it's almost guaranteed that you will FEEL the impact of the education, and this type of training will stay with you the rest of your life.

    I have to go for now, but I don't really know how else to explain it. I found a Chicago education to be one of the most liberating and formative experiences of my life. You're just exposed to so many ideas by the core and the demanding professors, and there's an ethos that preaches a love of inquiry above all else at Chicago. The same energy isn't really found at many other places. I'd say maybe Yale and Columbia compare because they are both smaller, and because the grads from those two schools seemed to share some of the sentiments I had at Chicago. For better or worse at Penn, the majority of the student body is using their degree and education to meet a practical goal (be it medical school or a wall street job or whatever). Chicago is just different in this regard.
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