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Help me PLEASE! Pitt or Columbia?

moeraemoerae 21 replies4 threads New Member
edited May 2006 in University of Pittsburgh
Here's the deal...I got waitlisted at Columbia, and I was pessimistic, thought I wouldn't get it in and forgot about it...Meanwhile, at University of Pittsburgh had awarded me the Chancellor's Scholarship, which basically means I go to college for free for 4 years (or 5 if I want to do dual degree), and they are giving my a one time study abroad money. I'm all ecstatic and have decided that this is it, this is my college; except on May 18 I got the BIG package from Columbia saying I have been accepted. Columbia had been my dream university and I loved it, and it is in NYC and I am sorta interested in some acting and all that...
The problem though is that, Columbia is pretty expensive for my family (not impossible but hard) and I want to do medical as of now (but I am not sure if I will stick with it) and as you all know medical schools are damn expensive...SO should I go to Columbia or Pitt? I am completely torn right now; any input would be helpful!
I have sent Columbia a letter appealing their financial aid package, and hopefully will hear soon...but if someone can give me definitive reasons, I would be eternally grateful!
edited May 2006
14 replies
Post edited by moerae on
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Replies to: Help me PLEASE! Pitt or Columbia?

  • LBPLBP 400 replies13 threads Member
    You really need to visit both schools - and stay overnight in a dorm, if possible. Talk to the students as well as the professors. Although the schools are going into summer sessions, sit in on a class, anyway. You're in a very enviable position to be accepted by two outstanding schools! Whatever decision you make, don't look back - and the very best of luck to you!
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  • rebelliousduckrebelliousduck 146 replies4 threads Junior Member
    If you can swing the finances, Columbia, no question.
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  • mercymommercymom 1220 replies29 threads Senior Member
    Have you visited Pitt? Our D went up to interview for guaranteed med school admission and fell completely in love with the school and the city. So did H, who went with her. She wound up in the same situation as you are in, except with Rice and UChicago. ie, practically free for Pitt vs. little or no fin aid at Rice and Chicago. We appealed the finaid at Rice and they did give more grant money, but by then D was solidly sold on Pitt.

    Here's the thing and it is not insubstantial in our family's mind. D also wants med school and Pitt has an outstanding med school right next door to the university. There are opportunities (at least in bioengineering) to work with profs at the med school, and sometimes the med school profs teach classes to the undergrads (in both bioengineering and sometimes honors classes, which you obviously qualify to take). Remember, med school is outrageously expensive, there are usually no scholarships and no typical grad student aid like teaching assistantships and the like. ie, you are going to have to PAY FULL PRICE FOR MEDICAL SCHOOL. Why pay for college when you don't have to and have a free ride to a really terrific school?

    One last thing our local newspaper had an article on the "most liveable cities" list for 2006 and Pittsburgh is #9. It has been in the top ten for umpteen years in a row. Go check it out and see if you don't actually love it more than NYC, and save your pennies for medical school (Pitt's is very highly ranked).
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  • LBPLBP 400 replies13 threads Member
    mercymom, WOW! You gave Moerae excellent advice, I think.... Best of luck to your d....Are you familiar with the East Asian language dept at Pitt? My d is a hs jr right now, and we're looking at Pitt and U of Delaware. We're OOS. D is currently taking Japanese and will pick up Chinese as well next yr as a sr...
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  • rebelliousduckrebelliousduck 146 replies4 threads Junior Member
    LBP, Pitt's East Asian langs are good, but not in the same league as Columbia, Stanford or Cal. UDel isn't on the radar screen.
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  • mercymommercymom 1220 replies29 threads Senior Member
    Don't know anything about the language dept. at Pitt, but they do have a very extensive study abroad dept. and really encourage foreign study. For the engineering school there is even a special engineering study abroad advisor whose job it is to see that the kids get opportunities that don't conflict too much with all the math and science they have to take so they can graduate on time.

    Pitt's philosophy dept is #2 behind Princeton. That doesn't really relate to foreign laguage but it's pretty interesting don't you think?

    The advice to visit both campuses extensively is really good too. This is where the student will be living for four (five?) years and it should ideally "feel like home" from day one. If you are really lucky you get hit by that "home" feeling on the visit. That is what happened to D, who told her dad that going to Pitt felt like going home instead of going away.

    One thing that struck both of them is how friendly the students were. Numerous times throughout the day random Pitt students (who were just around and not the tour guide or the tour guide's friends) would say hi and tell D to come to Pitt and how much they loved it. Even when D and H went off campus for ice cream, a student in line behind them guessed they were visiting campus, and started talking up the school. The student was from Georgia and told D how easy it was to make friends at Pitt and get involved and how much fun Pittsburgh was. At the other two schools (I went on those visits with them), the general student body and random people on campus left us alone and were not so friendly (they weren't unfriendly, they just left us alone).

    There was certainly much that was impressive with Rice and Chicago, and the thought of going to class with 12 people and a Nobel prof at Chicago makes one lust for learning to be sure, but the COA for next year was $48,000 !!! 48 grand vs. free for undergrad was not a real hard decision for us as a family, especially when D actually loved Pitt and was not just "making do".

    Now we do know two families with sons at Chicago who are going into a lot of debt to pay for it, but one is an economics major and the other is math, both of which Chicago is a known powerhouse for. If these boys go to grad school in these areas they will (1) get in anywhere they want and (2) probably get paid to go to grad school. Medical school is different and if you know that up front the decision process is also different.

    Ultimately the student should go with their gut on where they will be happiest and feel most at home, but within reason financially. For anyone interested in science and medicine, Pitt has awesome facilities.
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  • mercymommercymom 1220 replies29 threads Senior Member
    One last thing. Actually, two things.

    As for finances, just how far off the mark is Columbia for your family? For example, if the parents car dies TOMMOROW can they afford a new car if you go to Columbia? Can they get a new car, a good used car, or whatever they can find for a couple thousand used and it gets rotten gas mileage and gas now costs $3/gal. Could they put a new roof on the house if they absolutely had to (here a roof for us has estimates between $5,000 and $10,000)? Will the entire family have to eat PB&J and no vacations for four years, or will it just mean not eating out that often and not as many movies and trips to the mall, just being more careful about what you spend and what on.

    Two, Columbia and Pitt are both city schools, urban schools. Similar in that regard. Pitt however, has big conference sports and all that implies. Do you like that or do you not care? One thing D told her Chicago interviewer was that she could see herself happy at a highly intellectual place, but she also kind of wanted to do the whole football Saturday night thing. Which would you prefer?

    Finally (ok, a third thing) a friend of mine's D went to Cornell for undergrad and grad, and has a PHD in Psychology. She works for a hospital doing therapy for cancer patients. She is married with two kids and has two paychecks of $800 each. One check goes to student loans, the other goes to daycare. They live off the husband's salary. Good or bad? They think it's great 'cause it was for Cornell and the whole family went to Cornell. It would drive me crazy.

    This is going to be a personal decision for you and only you know the answer. Best of luck and go with your gut. Do what will make you the happiest overall.
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  • venom428venom428 35 replies5 threads Junior Member
    I'm curious, would you be willing to share your stats? Jw what it takes to win such a big scholarship.
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  • rebelliousduckrebelliousduck 146 replies4 threads Junior Member
    "....the whole football Saturday night thing???"

    Obviously someone hasn't been to a Pitt football game recently. On average, Heinz Field is 1/3 empty. When they play the mighty Citadel this year, the empty seats wearing will outnumber the fans. The only time it gets cazy is when they play WVU......and that game is on a Thursday night this year.

    That being said, the Pitt football scene is much better than Columbia's.
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  • moeraemoerae 21 replies4 threads New Member
    Wow mecrymom you are amazing...Your points are very solid, and you are right I did like Pitt before, but I liked Columbia better. I have decided to go to Pitt after all because I will get a lot of individual attention, my family would be able to take the occasional vacation :) and I can do study abroad a lot more. I don't care about the football thing, actually hate it...and I decided if I really didn't like Pitt all that much I could always transfer. This was one of the hardest decisions I had to make...

    As for the stats venom428, I think what got me the scholarship was the interview more than anything..the Dean of the Honors College was very impressed, and kept telling me I reminded him of one of his students who is now the president of the study body at Harvard...pretty high praise I thought! And he felt what landed me the interview was my essay (you have to write 2 essys, get 2 recs etc) because he mentioned that in my interview. The interview was about 1.5 hours

    If you would like my stats anyway..

    GPA (weighted) - 103.48 (they don't do the 5 scale thing at our school)
    Rank - 3 of 549
    SAT - 2240 - 710-math, 740 - Reading, 790- Writing
    SAT II - 780 - Math IIC, 770 - Chem, 740 - Biology
    Lots of ECs - acting, Model UN, Mock Trial, literary magazine, NHS, NAHS, NFLHS, Art, etc. etc.

    I really don't know what else to say stats wise, but really I never thought I would win it because one of my friends, the sal, didn't even get interviewed!

    But yeah...after the Dean talked so high about me I couldn't really tell him I won't be coming there; plus I think I will be happier being the big fish in little pond...and the program I'm doing, bioengineering, Pitt and Columbia are ranked pretty much the same...
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  • venom428venom428 35 replies5 threads Junior Member
    I was just curious because I had similar stats minus the Sat 1 score and didn't even get invited to try for the chancellors scholarship or get any money for that matter. :(.
    Rank 2/566 2 year JV soccer, 2 year varsity soccer, travel soccer club team, 1 year track, chess club, scholastic scrimmage, president of national honor society, math tutoring lab, Stage crew, biology olympics, 790 biology sat 2. Sat 1 700 math 630 verbal 630 writing (So I am thinking that is why but I was just curious to see even what it took to get a chance at the award let alone a interview.)
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  • moeraemoerae 21 replies4 threads New Member
    well when did you apply? they clearly state that you need to apply before jan 15 to be considered...I'm sure that's it! you are pretty damn smart...I'm sure we'll get to hang out at pitt!
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  • venom428venom428 35 replies5 threads Junior Member
    Yup I'll see there. I can't wait to do the honors activities where we meet everyone, it looks like it will be interesting. Unfortunetely about the January date thing, I was accepted in late November so that wasnt it, but no matter. I don't really mind cause I love the atmosphere of Pitt and from what I've seen its definately a good fit for me. I can't see myself going anywhere else. Also, congrats on your award thats a pretty hefty accomplishment.
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  • kinkosmomkinkosmom 134 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Moera: I wrote you a very very long post--including message to Venom as well and then I inadvertently hit a button on my keyboard and the whole thing disapperared. So frustrating but the bottom line to venom is that my d. got the chancellors but it involved my following up a lot and finding out why and if she got Honors, and then Honors money, and then the Chancellor's invitation (that was actually embedded in a letter telling about lots of scholarships and not some kind of very official invitation so I am wondering Venom if you overlooked it). Then it was ages until we heard back and I kept calling and then we had to rush there within a couple of days for the interview. So there was a bit of the haphazard about it. I would urge you Venom to know that you excellent stats were not the problem but just a series of serendipitous hits and misses. Also, I do think they were looking for specific majors and areas of extracurricular interest and perhaps geographical location--all of which might change from year to year. So, future applicants call Honors and ask a lot of questions about the process and make sure you are on top of all the various letters etc but it might have easily slipped past us.

    Re Columbia. I know a good number of kids who recently graduated and while they loved the city and the quality of their education, they all said similar negative things: the kids do not have a lot of community spirit and cammaraderie, they are often already connected with people and things in the city, there is some superiority amongst them and all the students felt pretty unnoticed by their profs, not so much because the school is so big (it is a nice size) but because all the kids are pretty similar and pretty smart and come from similar backgrounds and so kids who felt special in high school are just like everyon else at Columbia. So, you probably decided well.
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