Pros and Cons for Harvard and Princeton help make decision.

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Pros and Cons for Harvard and Princeton help make decision.
By Thereishope (Thereishope) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 02:02 pm: Edit

I was certain to apply ED to Princeton, until I've heard from many people about the negative atmosphere at Princeton and the ingnorance displayed by its professors and students.

Could the parents give their 2cents on what they think are the pros and cons for each of the two schools in term of education, atmosphere, resources, and quality of students?

I wanted to go to Princeton because i thought that a school that focuses mainly on undergradute studies will ensure that the undergrads get the needed attention. However, my father, a UBC professor, believes that Harvard and MIT are better schools because grad school is where all the top research is done. So i will be exposed to a much more diversed and resourceful learning environment.

I really want to make up my mind on where to apply Early. I will have a better chance of getting into Princeton ED then Harvard EA. But i do not want to commit myself too early and make the wrong choice.

By Mini (Mini) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 02:10 pm: Edit

You need to visit. We all have our prejudices, likes and dislikes, favorite stories, disses, etc., etc. They are drawing on the same pool of students, with the caveat that Princeton has a much higher "entitlement index" (e.g. lower precentage of students receiving need-based aid, higher percentage of students from private schools.) For the most part, they are drawing on the same pool of faculty. So most of it comes down to campus "feel", campus culture, weather, urban vs. suburban, specific opportunities (or lack thereof) in your specific field if you have one.

There isn't a "wrong" choice -- you aren't going to Podunk.

By Nemom (Nemom) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 02:56 pm: Edit

Princeton and Harvard are fairly similiar in many ways. MIT is very different - it's an excellent place if you are certain that you will stick with engineering and tech, can deal with a rather cutthroat environment and have relatively little interest in the liberal arts. It's NOT a supportive place at all, which is perhaps reflected in the high suicide rate.
Harvard does have fine grad schools but that doesn't mean an undergrad will have any connection with what goes on in them.
Princeton I have no direct knowledge of.

By Marite (Marite) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 03:07 pm: Edit

What do you want to study?
Princeton has a smaller graduate school than Harvard, but the faculty is as engaged in research as the Harvard faculty. They belong to the same pool, as do the students.
I agree with Mini that it all boils down to a matter of fit. Do you prefer a suburban school where most activities take place on campus, or an urban one which is open to the larger community but may have a less well-defined identity as a result of this openness?

By Newyorker06 (Newyorker06) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 03:22 pm: Edit

Princeton and Harvard are, for the most part, similar schools. Both have outstanding campuses, students and professors, not to mention reputations. Go to either and you'll be overwhelmed with your intellectual and extracurricular options, as well as the general atmopsphere of the place.

But there are differences. Do you want to be in a more urban or more rural environment? Find mostly college-aged students around you or have a lot of grad students/locals/tourists thrown into the mix? Princeton is somewhat preppier and, I believe, more conservative politically. In general, it's still got something of a "Southern Gentelmen," country-club feel to it, for better or worse.

I was speaking to a recent P grad recently and he admitted that there were few "free spirits" at Princeton. They may not be running around Harvard either, but I think you'll find a bit more diversity (not just in the racial sense of the word) at H.

By Momsdream (Momsdream) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 03:35 pm: Edit

We have yet to visit Harvard. But, my son really disliked what he heard during a Princeton visit and walked out on the tour.

I've heard from teachers at his school (a small, well regarded Quaker school) that their kids typically "don't do well at Princeton" because of the culture. We're talking about very bright kids.....

I agree with others here with regard to culture being a big differentiator.

My son will not be applying to P in the fall.

It is nice to know that the Ivies have such diverse choices and there is a "place" for everyone who has proven their abilities.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 03:38 pm: Edit

What was it that turned your son off momsdream?

By Dadx (Dadx) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 05:37 pm: Edit

Princeton has the advantage that the "northeastern imperative" is higher toward H and Y. People from this part of the country automatically rank in that order, which gives Princeton the advantage of having at least two places to absorb those who are absorbed with rankings (despite the clever efforts of USNews to undermine this by ranking P first.)

Princeton is the richest school in the country, measured by endowment per undergraduate student. How this translates into educational value is up for debate.

Princeton and Harvard are very close in the % of students receiving aid.

"Already nearly half of Harvard's undergraduates receive grants averaging over $24,000 each year, and two-thirds receive some form of financial aid," said William C. Kirby, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences....
.........."About 53 percent of Princeton's Class of 2007 is receiving a need-based grant directly from the University, with an additional 30 percent getting assistance from outside sources."

Princeton has about 240 of its students admitted as engineers. Harvard has fewer.

Harvard is larger by about 25%, I believe. Princeton is adding about 150 students a year beginning in another year, I believe. Boston is different than Princeton as a place to be. NYC is one hour away from Princeton on a bus that stops at the gate on Nassau Street.

Of HYP, it is my belief that P is more conservative than the other two, and more southern oriented as well. It is also my belief that this is not saying much about it.

I'm not sure what to say about the ignorant students and professors. I'm sure admissions and the President are working to rectify that.

Don't apply ED if you're the slightest bit uncertain. It doesn't make that much difference, and its not worth it.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 08:01 pm: Edit

Education, atmosphere, resources, and quality of students: you are naming aspects that I think are pretty similar in both schools. Harvard is more diverse (though Princeton is engaged in a huge effort to become more diverse) and in a fun urban setting; Princeton is smaller, safer, and the students are very enthusiastic about their close-knit community. At both schools you will have a great experience if you are outgoing and willing/able to make things happen for yourself. What is/are your EDs and possible major?

By Thereishope (Thereishope) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 08:35 pm: Edit


"Don't apply ED if you're the slightest bit uncertain. It doesn't make that much difference, and its not worth it. "

I had always thought that applying ED gives the applicant a significant edge in terms of chances b/c Princeton admitted 1/3 ED apps last year. Why would you think its a small difference?

By Thereishope (Thereishope) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 08:49 pm: Edit

I am planning on doing a double major in physics / engineering and business / economics.

One reason why i like Princeton more than Harvard is the fact that it has small class sizes so that the profs are more approachable and accessible to the students. However, i am concerned with the air of arrogance that I have heard about.

Another things about Princeton is that the adcoms dont considered 9th grade, which is in my favor in terms of admissions.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 09:32 pm: Edit

So you would do ORFE at Princeton? Students seem to do very well out of that program.

What "air of arrogance" are you referring to? Certainly this is an accusation leveled at both schools. Personally, I have met students at both places who are excited about what they are doing, and (here I can only speak for Princeton) eager to connect with other students. You get involved in your classes and your ECs, and you find your niche. I wouldn't go by the stereotypes. You can go through Princeton taking just about all small classes if you so choose, though many students like to balance big and small.

Agreed that it's not wise to apply ED if you are not sure you would want to go there; however, if you visit and like one of these schools very much, applying early is certainly a good idea.

As others have said, you need to visit. You also need to look very specifically at the activities that interest you on campus. My d liked both schools and ultimately decided to apply ED to P in large measure because its offerings in one of her major areas of interest were stronger than at H.

By Thereishope (Thereishope) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 09:42 pm: Edit

Sorry, what do you mean by ORFE?

I don't think there will be time for me to visit campus this summer. But from what i have heard about Princeton, the campus is gorgeous even though some of the frosh students seem to be arrogant and preppy. I think i can live with that.
I wouldn't mind going to either one of the schools. And isn't it true that princeton ED gives applicants are much bigger adv than EA at Harvard? I am a bit concerned with the fact that many URM, legacies, and atheletes will fill up a large number of ED admits.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 09:50 pm: Edit

Yes, I would think ED gives more of an edge than EA. However, one can drive oneself nuts worrying about all the various factors. Do try to visit and then apply where you feel enthusiastic!

By Mehere (Mehere) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 09:53 pm: Edit

Can you actually double major at Princeton once you are admitted?

By Dadx (Dadx) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 10:01 pm: Edit

I think the ED #s are "misleading" because you don't get to see who is admitted in the ED pool. Athletes comprise some reasonable part of it, and they were probably getting in anyway. Clearly outstanding legacies (1500+, top 5% of class) who have no discernible flaws will also get in. Neither of these is separately reported, so its anyones guess as to what the component is. It might be more accurate to say that under the ED program, many of those who would be admitted anyway tend to apply early. Think about it........the last thing a school like Princeton wants to do is to admit someone simply because he committed to come. Now, if they thought they could lock him in and he otherwise might go to Stanford or Y or H, and he was clearly highly desireable, then of course you admit that student. But the calculus of the admissions decision has to be to attempt to discern which of the best students you would likely lose later on. (Contrary to popular mythology, this means that legacies are perhaps less likely to be admitted early, since the school knows they'll probably attend anyway.)

There seems to be a little disagreement between Janet Rapelye the new admissions dean, and Shirley Tilghman about the wisdom of staying with ED v EA anyway, which might solve your problem for you.

Double majoring isn't encouraged at Princeton, where it is, I believe, regarded as a bit of an academic "stunt" (my conjecture and terminology). The requirement of the senior thesis makes it somewhat intractable.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 11:04 pm: Edit

There are certain institutionalized double majors, such as political economy. And a student can do a certificate (minor) in a second subject. Students do work these combinations into their theses. Do a search on the Princeton site on "senior thesis" and you will find a series of articles on some very resourceful seniors who incorporated varied interests into their theses.

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