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help deciding between MIT, Stanford, Caltech, and Princeton

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Guest guest

I applied to these four schools for aeronautics astronautics or aerospace engineering and am having a really hard time deciding between them.

At Princeton, there is one professor that I am interested in working with but there is a rumor that he is going to leave. Plus, Princeton is the closest school to my home - it would be nice being close to home.

However, I feel like the other schools have more options in my field. I am a little concerned about going all the way to California but if I love the school I will do it. I am going to visit MIT, Caltech and Stanford in the next couple of weeks so hopefully getting a to talk to the faculty and getting a feel for the atmosphere of the school will help me make my decision.

All the schools offered me fellowships for the first year so I feel that I will have some freedom to choose who I want to work with.

Does anyone have any advice?

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Sounds like you have a lot of good choices. Talk to profs, students, etc to get a feel for where you would be most comfortable (both physical and economic comfort) and where you could be most intellectually encouraged when you visit. The only other advice I have is decide quickly. Rule out one if you can, then the next and then decide between the last two. But, don't wait until April 15th to reject three because people are probably waiting to hear from these higher echelon programs.

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Guest liquidmethane

Nobody here is going to be able to help you make your decision. It's an extremely personal choice, and as you said, there are a lot of individual factors that play into it. Since you're visiting all the schools, I think you'll have an easier time making up your mind than you think. Just keep an open mind, and go with your gut in the end.

BTW, is this for a master's or Ph.D? Either way, you've got some amazing choices; there's a lot of people who would give anything to be in your shoes. If it helps, I went to Stanford (undergrad and M.S.) and absolutely loved every minute of it. So keep an open mind about California, because the idea might grow on you. Before I moved there for school, I had some pretty silly misconceptions about that state, and Stanford ended up being an ideal fit for me. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's the ideal university. :) ...MIT is OK, I guess...

Good luck making your decision, and let us all know what you decide!

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There are many factors that affect your choice. So I think you should decide by divide in categories: overall ranking, specific field ranking (aerospace engineering), weather and communities(cold, hot, big city or suburban, girls are hot - if you like), the money they will give you ... blah blah It's a kind of ranking of those universities in your mind.

For example:

In overall ranking: MIT is the best, so you gave it 4 points, Stanford (3 points), Caltech (2) and Princeton (1) - I don't know about ranking, this is just an example :)

In your field: Stanford is the best, so 4 points ... blah blah (again I don't know about ranking)

Then you will have the total scores of each university and decide according to that scores.

My friend, who had to choose between Stanford, MIT, Harvard and UCB and is going to accept MIT's offer, started this and I believe it's pretty good when you have to choose among quite equal universities.

P/S: Be sure that you are honest :)) If the results doesn't match your favorites, then start again and multiple the categories you like :D or just choose what you felt in love with. :)

Have fun

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Guest chych

Rankings shouldn't be taken so seriously, they really aren't set in stone (and once you're at the MIT/Stanford/etc level, they're basically equivalent in quality). I would go to the place where you feel most comfortable with the advisor you would work with, as advisors themselves are 50% your PhD and thus extremely important (I myself am declining MIT and Stanford for a lower ranked school due to an advisor, in engineering). Though if this is just for terminal MS, rankings may be slightly more important, maybe?

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Guest liquidmethane

I agree wholeheartedly with Chych (previous post). Maybe if you're coming from outside the U.S. and/or don't have the opportunity to visit each school, then "rankings" might come into play. But as Chych said, at the level the OP is talking about, these rankings mean nothing. If you CAN visit, you're much better off choosing the school that fits you best, which (for a Ph.D. at least) means finding an advisor or research group you want to work with. Even for a terminal M.S., I think this is important, since you'll get more out of it (including future recommendations) if it's a good fit (academically, socially, etc.)

If you still don't have a good "gut feeling" after visiting schools, then make a spreadsheet with different attributes that are important to you, and rate each school in those categories. You'll probably find yourself trying to fix the results to come out a certain way... and then you have your answer! ;)

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Guest guest

Hi!

I had a similar choice two years ago; I was admitted to the program at MIT, Stanford, Caltech and UMich in aeronautics. I chose for Caltech and I never regretted it.

My most important advice is to follow your heart; in what kind of environment will you flourish best? Some people like the larger school and the inherent competition between fellow students for a PhD-place. For Stanford, I heard that people are fighting to get one of the PhD-places, only a small percent succeed after their Master to continue. If you feel you won't have trouble with that, you will be happy at one of the larger places with many professors matching your interest. I felt better in a smaller, cooperative environment and therefore I decided on Caltech. Everybody who is admitted is given the chance to continue with their PhD. In my year, only one person (out of 11) dropped out after the Master, in the year before, nobody dropped out and they all continued with their PhD. The smaller classes are really nice as well; personal contact with professors and fellow students is very important.

Good luck on your choice!

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