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U Chicago EA or Cornell ED?

Grape1Grape1 Registered User Posts: 221 Junior Member
edited July 2010 in University of Chicago
With this year's application season about to begin, I'm faced with a dilemma. As you may have inferred from the thread title, I don't know whether to apply to U Chicago EA or Cornell ED. The problem is the due to family circumstances I am not really able to travel, so I have only been able to visit Cornell. On one hand, I am sure I would like to go there, but on the other hand I don't know what other schools are like and U Chicago seems awesome. There is also, of course, the matter of getting in. Last year Cornell had an ED acceptance rate of 37% and an RD acceptance rate of 17%. They plainly say on their website the ED applicants are at an advantage. For a school that large and a difference that drastic, I have to believe them. This factor is especailly important because both schools are mid-to-low reachs for me (30%-50% chance or so I think).

My GPA is 3.75 (or 93%) unweighed. We do not have official weighed GPA but it would be 4.36. My school does not take honors/AP classes into account when determining class rank so my rank is much lower than it should be but still top 10%. My SAT score is 2290 and my SAT II scores are nearly perfect (4 tests, none below 790). EC's, recs, and writing ability are all what you would expect for someone applying to these schools. I am also first gen but I believe that's a minor factor.

Which option would be better? Discuss please :) I am cross-posting this on the U Chicago forum, the Cornell forum, and the College Admissions forum. I hope this is allowed.
Post edited by Grape1 on

Replies to: U Chicago EA or Cornell ED?

  • phurikuphuriku Registered User Posts: 2,779 Senior Member
    Forget Cornell ED. You have the ability to get into Cornell RD with your stats, and there's no reason to restrict your choices.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,992 Senior Member
    Why choose? You can do both, you know. If you are accepted to Cornell ED, you will be committed to Cornell, even if Chicago also accepts you. But you don't have to choose all-or-nothing between the two early applications. (It IS important, however, since you will be committed to Cornell if they accept you, that (a) you feel excited about going to Cornell and (b) you are confident that you will be able to afford Cornell based on the lowest reasonable estimate of financial aid you may get.)

    That said, Cornell and Chicago, for two world-class elite universities, are just about as different as they could be. Cornell dominates (physically and spiritually) a great college town in an isolated, rural area. Chicago is in a huge city, but barely dominates its neighborhood (it does, though), and gets confused with other colleges practically as soon as you leave the campus. Cornell's undergraduate population is 2-3 times as large as Chicago's, while its graduate programs in Ithaca are smaller. Cornell has people studying things like engineering, architecture, hotel management, labor relations, business, and oenology. Chicago is all non-professional all the time. Chicago has a Core Curriculum, Cornell has very modest distribution requirements that vary by school. Cornell has frats that mean something, Chicago doesn't. Cornell is on a huge hill, and is cut through with impressive gorges. Chicago is as flat as a pancake in every direction. Cornell has better sports teams, and more people watching them. Chicago has a medical school and a major hospital on its campus. Cornell has a medical school and several major hospitals in New York City, a couple hundred miles away.

    Both of them have lakes right nearby. Chicago's is bigger, Cornell's maybe a bit more user-friendly. Both of them have cold winters.

    Anyway, the point is that Chicago and Cornell represent different ideas of how to package an elitist education. Not many people are going to like them both the same, or close to it. I have a cousin from rural Minnesota who got his BS at Chicago and his PhD at Cornell. He respected Chicago, but never loved it; he loved Cornell and Ithaca from the first day he set foot there, and it was hard to get him to leave. My daughter thought Cornell was objectively the most beautiful campus she had seen, and she had absolutely no interest in going to college there. She loved Chicago.

    I disagree with phuriku, by the way. I think both Cornell and Chicago would be meaningful (though not crazy) reaches for you. At Cornell it might matter which school you were applying to, but if you planned to apply to anything other than A&S (or maybe the pre-med program in the Ag School) then I would question why you were looking at Chicago.
  • estrat1estrat1 Registered User Posts: 365 Member
    If every school on your list accepted you RD, would you choose to go to Cornell with no regrets?
  • Grape1Grape1 Registered User Posts: 221 Junior Member
    I'm replying mainly in response to JHS because that was a great and helpful post.

    First of all, I am applying to Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences. As you correctly assumed, none of the other colleges relate to what is offered at Chicago. My main interest is political science, but I am interested in philosophy and/or economics as well. Neither school is particular well known with these fields (with the exception of economics at Chicago) but a major is only 1/3 of your education and I am looking for a good overall package. Both schools seem extremely well rounded academically. I am extremely interested in a career in academia, so Chicago's reputation for this is very appealing.

    I have been to Cornell and it is very nice, though not amazing. I understand that both schools are very different. Coming from neither a city or a rural area I can't quite say which I'd prefer. It's starting to seem like I should go with Chicago EA and avoid locking myself in to one choice to early. Unfortunately, this would be forgoing the advantage that Cornell grants to ED applicants. Seeing as both schools are reaches (but not far reaches) a slight advantage could end up being a major factor.

    I understand the idea of trying both but as much as I like Cornell, I would be dreadfully frustrated if I got in to both and didn't have the option of choosing. I suppose that sentiment alone answers the question I'm facing.

    It may seem like the immense differences between the two schools ought to make it easier to decide, but it's quite the opposite.

    If it matters, 5 people from my school got in to Cornell last year (they all had higher GPA's and lower SAT's than me to varying amounts) but no one has even applied to Chicago before.
  • overachiever1992overachiever1992 Registered User Posts: 221 Junior Member
    I know it's difficult to see this when facing the admissions process and worrying about not getting in anywhere, but the slight advantage given to ED applicants is definitely not worth sacrificing your control over where to go. Unless you're deadset on Cornell, and I mean, 100%, ready-to-go, room plastered with Cornell memorabilia, don't apply ED.

    It's hard to think big picture when you haven't gotten in to anywhere and it's easy to focus too much on getting in no matter what it takes. But take it from me; if I hadn't wised up last year and gotten some perspective, I would be much less happy about where I'm going to school.

    I was in a similar position to yours last year, only even worse, because I actually liked Chicago just a little bit more than my potential ED school, but I was so concerned about not getting in to either and focused on the ED advantage that I almost applied ED to a school that wasn't my absolute first choice.

    After getting in to the UofC EA, I then got into all but one of my schools (and the one I didn't was on the bottom half of my list). I'm not saying you'll have similar success, or that Cornell and the UoC are not reaches, because they are for nearly everyone, but just don't let the current admissions hysteria scare you into applying ED.

    I remember wishing that the UofC offered ED so I could show it how much I loved it, but I realized later that you can do this just fine in your essays and the rest of your application. In fact, now I'm really starting to hate the whole idea of ED because besides the bias ED shows to wealthy applicants, I think that it results in too many high school students making bad decisions and going to the wrong school. While it certainly isn't the end of the world to go to University X rather than University Y, it still sucks for people who too readily opt for Early Decision. My friend got into UPenn ED, but really had his heart set on MIT, which he certainly had a shot at. For the rest of the year, people would congratulate him on getting into Penn and telling him to stop thinking about MIT, but you could tell that it's definitely a big regret. I have no doubt that he'll have a great experience at Penn, but he'll always have lingering thoughts about MIT in his head...

    In short, don't apply to Cornell ED.
  • monydadmonydad Registered User Posts: 7,744 Senior Member
    Good post JHS, not much to add, but:

    1) I did get out on the lake in Chicago, took sailing lessons. However it was far up on the North side, and likely was not priced for a student budget (something you might look out for generally BTW, I know this was a big issue for D2 in NYC)

    2) Actually there are contract college students who would also fit at UC. Some of these colleges are sufficiently unique that most of the alternative choices for their applicants are Arts & sciences colleges. While many matriculants are there due to their unique specialized curriculum which focuses most particularly on their interests, there are others for whom this is a compromise to a degree, but they need the in-state tuition discount. From my freshman dorm I know three Ag school grads who went on to Biology PhDs, and an ILR grad who got a social sciences doctorate at UC. They are all professors now. This is not at all rare.

    3) More generally, though as you say there are many evident significant differences, nevertheless I suspect there are a decent number of individuals who consider both U Chicago and Cornell CAS. I myself lived in both Ithaca and Chicago, and though they were obviously very different I enjoyed them both. Though frankly I don't know if I would have enjoyed Chicago as much as I did if I were not working there, as a young professional, and hence making money; much of what I liked, cost $$ unfortunately.

    4) True, Cornell med school is in NYC, from what I've read students do internships there in the summer. But there is also an unaffiliated regional hospital located in Ithaca where students can do some stuff. FWIW. I did some "observation" thing myself there, almost fainted at sight of blood, end of my own pre-med pursuits. There are also posts about how much difference this makes, at undergrad; boatloads of Cornell students go to med school every year, they do research on campus which is obviously satisfactory to this end. interested parties should look into this further.
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