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Princeton vs. Stanford - Computer Science


jj2270

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Hi All,

 

I'm lucky enough to have been faced with a really tough decision. I applied for a masters in computer science from both schools, and both accepted me. Here are some of the properties I'm struggling with (both good and bad):

 

Princeton 

-- offers full funding and a generous stipend 

-- an undergraduate emphasis, I feel like I won't have a great social life here (which is really important to me)

-- reeeeally low acceptance rate, I definitely feel fortunate to have been accepted

-- close to home

 

Stanford  

-- may give some money, but it seems unlikely

-- a number one school for CS!

-- great weather, lots of graduate programs, I feel like I'd have a great social life here

-- far from home

 

I'm feeling pretty conflicted. I'm able to visit Princeton, but won't be able to make it to Stanford before the April 15th deadline. And experiences or input would be greatly appreciated!

 

- j

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funding makes princeton a really easy decision, to me. The bay area (stanford) is really really expensive.

 

Social life? I assume a master's would be about a year, which isn't really that long even if princeton's social life is garbage (which i doubt it is). plus, it's not that far from NYC

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Don't count on being funded at Stanford. I'd only take that offer if the fit was much better than at Princeton. Stanford's also a really great place if you're interested in joining a start-up.

 

Being close to home at Princeton might help with the social life issues, but I don't know the details of your situation. I'm also not convinced its as bad as everyone says it is, but I bet it'd be harder to make friends at Princeton than at Stanford just because of the population difference. Doesn't mean it's impossible.

 

Not that I'm saying you should base your decision on this, but I found this really cool video about the Princeton CS dept. that made me want to be a part of it:

 

Does the research at one school seem more appealing than the other, or are they pretty much equal?

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@ak - A masters degree takes two years at both universities.

 

@ tarman - Thanks for the video! That really does make it sound so cool. Also you're totally right. While making my choice, I'm trying to just assume that it's coming out of pocket.

 

I do partly live in the city now, so it would be nice to not be too far.

 

The big CS thing that I'm into is definitely machine learning and AI. Princeton definitely does have some people doing really cool work in this space, but I think Stanford is better known for it. Also, not sure if this is true, but Stanford CS feels more applied to me, while Princeton seems a bit more on the theoretical end. I have a lot of math experience, but I think if I had to choose I'd prefer something more application driven. There are definitely great advisers at both schools. 

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I think a fully funded Princeton offer is hard to pass up... Stanford's ML is second to none but a lot of their top faculty are in stat departments (Hastie, Friedman etc.)

Edited by DMX
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Is the difference worth the thousands you will pay from your pocket (keep in mind the living expenses in California are high)? think of it ... 

Edited by khaled
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The big CS thing that I'm into is definitely machine learning and AI. Princeton definitely does have some people doing really cool work in this space, but I think Stanford is better known for it. Also, not sure if this is true, but Stanford CS feels more applied to me, while Princeton seems a bit more on the theoretical end. I have a lot of math experience, but I think if I had to choose I'd prefer something more application driven. There are definitely great advisers at both schools.

Both of these statements are true. Most people at Princeton prefer theory in the CS and ECE departments. I think this is true for most departments there in science and engineering.

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I guess the question is, what are you goals? What do you want to get out of the program? What are planning on doing afterwards? Personally I would choose Stanford, not because it's better, but because it aligns much more with my goals, something that money can't buy.

Another question is, how much of an issue is money for you? Personally I would never sacrifice my experience or goals for something like money. There are always ways to make money, especially as a CS Stanford student, if you need it badly enough. I did 4 years undergrad as an international student with no financial aid or support, but somehow I managed to graduate debt free. Sure, at Princeton you can lean back and not worry about money, while at Stanford you may have to get out of your comfort zone, become proactive, and start making money to pay for yourself. But is this a good or a bad thing?

Edited by pogopuschel
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So admittedly, the money is a definite concern. I would have to do it entirely on loan.

 

After graduation, I'd really like to get a job doing big-data type stuff. I'd definitely kill for a job at a company like Google, but I've recently been pretty interested in quantitative trading firms as well. Ideally, I'd work and live in NYC.

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So admittedly, the money is a definite concern. I would have to do it entirely on loan.

 

After graduation, I'd really like to get a job doing big-data type stuff. I'd definitely kill for a job at a company like Google, but I've recently been pretty interested in quantitative trading firms as well. Ideally, I'd work and live in NYC.

 

If you're looking to do finance, Princeton is the best place in the world for that. I've heard so many stories of students going on to work at Wall Street after graduation. The math/econ dept. also do a considerable amount of work in finance.

 

However, being at Stanford would give you more opportunities to work with Google, Facebook, etc. working on those big data problems. I'm not sure how the big data research at Stanford compares to Princeton, but I'm guessing it's stronger.

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So admittedly, the money is a definite concern. I would have to do it entirely on loan.

After graduation, I'd really like to get a job doing big-data type stuff. I'd definitely kill for a job at a company like Google, but I've recently been pretty interested in quantitative trading firms as well. Ideally, I'd work and live in NYC.

I see. That's kind of a though decision then. Here's what I know, not sure if it helps you. I previously worked in the big data field (and did some research), and I also got into Stanford's MS program, which was my fist choice.

- Stanford is definitely stronger in the Big Data (and Machine learning, which is closely related) field than Princeton. It is also more applied, as mentioned before. Looking at Princeton's course catalog, I only see 2 courses that are applicable to the field (and both seem rather theory-heavy).

- Stanford won't help you to get a job in NYC, Princeton probably will. Stanford would help you to get a job w/ Google or FB in the valley though.

- I don't know about your background, but usually you can make decent money with internships and side projects while being a Stanford student. That's how I made a lot of my money during undergrad. And with the average salary of a Stanford MS being more than $100k (I'm sure it's more in the big data field, since it's hot right now), paying off loans may not be huge problem.

Edited by pogopuschel
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