Help make college decision

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My son has been fortunate enough to get accepted into quite some colleges and it has lead to interesting challenge of shortlisting one of them. At this point, he plans to do Computer Science followed by MBA or Law. But things may change.

He got into the following amongst other such as UChicago and John Hopkins that he is not considering.
1. UC Berkeley - in state tuition about $13K/yr
2. USC - University of Southern california - Full ride with honor research program that pays about $3K/yr. It would have been a easy decision to not consider USC if they were not offering full ride.
3. Caltech - Tuition about $40K/yr.

My wife and I think that where one goes for undergrad is important as this is the brand that carries for life. Moreover some employers (Mckinsey, Facebook, etc) only go to top tier schools for recruitment and are therefore leaning towards Caltech.

What do you think? Looking for pros and cons so that we can make an informed decision.

Thanks

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USC, no brainer in my opinion

KLineD (Apr. 06, 2013 @ 2:55p) |

Some more thoughts:

Major/Future: I would not assume you're going to do CS as a major. First, unless you went to a unique... (more)

dblevitan (Apr. 06, 2013 @ 4:48p) |

USC does not require you to do research to keep the scholarship. You just have to keep a minimum 3.0 GPA. Shouldn't be... (more)

SCtrojan (Apr. 06, 2013 @ 6:19p) |

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Is money no object? Need more information. What funds are available? Will you have to take out loans?

We have savings to pay for college. No loans.

If you're considering CalTech at $40K/year, I would certainly put U of C and Hopkins back on the table (unless they were eliminated for non-financial reasons). Agree with the above poster, need more info here. If money is a concern, I think either USC or Berkeley would be excellent options -- I would not put Caltech as worth $25-40K more per year over those two.

UChicago and JH were eliminated because Berkeley, Caltech and USC Comp Sc programs are lot stronger.

Even though it is not a big reason, if possible it would be nice to keep him in CA.

njain said:   UChicago and JH were eliminated because Berkeley, Caltech and USC Comp Sc programs are lot stronger.

Even though it is not a big reason, if possible it would be nice to keep him in CA.


Seems reasonable. I don't know enough about comp sci programs to really weigh in here, but I would be surprised if CalTech is really worth it -- especially if further graduate education is on the table. For law school, no one cares where you went to undergrad, only that you did well while you were there. MBA is a bit different because you need the fancy consulting gig that you got as a result of having gone to a good school to typically get admitted (certainly there are exceptions). If I were your kid and I really thought I wanted to go to the Law/MBA route, I'd probably pick right in the middle and go with Berkeley and have my parents spend the difference they were otherwise going to spend on CalTech on graduate school. Sure would be fun to have no loans after Biz/Law school.

But your kid is obviously bright and should be congratulated (as should you), whatever decision he makes.

Has he visited the schools? And the UC schools often take more than 4 years to earn the credits needed to graduate.

full ride

margered said:   Has he visited the schools? And the UC schools often take more than 4 years to earn the credits needed to graduate.

I agree that with UC there is an opportunity loss as well. If he graduates in 5 years instead of 4.

I'd vote for Berkeley. Their CS program is very good. I assume you've seen its Ranked tied #1

What is the actual career plan for starting in Comp.Sci then going to MBA/Law? I mean what kind of work? Does he want to be a SW engineer, lawyer or manager or what?

How do you think spending an extra $100-$160k tuition at CalTech would pay off?

jerosen said:   I'd vote for Berkeley. Their CS program is very good. I assume you've seen its Ranked tied #1

What is the actual career plan for starting in Comp.Sci then going to MBA/Law? I mean what kind of work? Does he want to be a SW engineer, lawyer or manager or what?

How do you think spending an extra $100-$160k tuition at CalTech would pay off?


FWIW -- Those rankings were for grad schools.

Caltech!

If money is truly no object, as you allude to, also a concept foreign to an self-respecting FWFer, I vote Caltech. While I don't necessarily believe that he will get a better education, since there are an infinite number of factors at play (most important of those being his own self-motivation), the brand and prestige is not matched by the other options.

njain said:   My wife and I think that where one goes for undergrad is important as this is the brand that carries for life. Moreover some employers (Mckinsey, Facebook, etc) only go to top tier schools for recruitment and are therefore leaning towards Caltech.

You make no sense here. If he's looking for a job out of school, then yes it matters. But you said he's going to grad school or law school, so no employer will give a crap what he did for undergrad.

more importantly, what does your kid want?

I'm 25 attended a state school similar to UC - Berkley and studied finance. If your son knows who he thinks he wants to work for, I would work backwards from that. The top places in business (Mckinsey, Goldman Sachs, BCG, JP Morgan, etc.) recruited at my school, but you needed to be the best as they generally only took 1 or 2 people per graduating class since we weren't a target school for them. You can generally get some good information from career services for the respective schools about who recruits there and maybe even how many they placed. You can still land jobs coming from non-feeder schools, but it is definitely harder.

If he doesn't know/care where he wants to work, I would go where he can excel/stand out. Biz schools and law schools care about GPA's quite a bit so at some point achieving a higher GPA outweighs the brand of school. I think this is especially true about law school where everyone at the top schools has 3.9's and above. This was something I didn't take into account enough. I thought my 3.2 GPA and the brand of my school would outweigh a 4.0 at an easier school for biz school and now that I am researching schools/application process that doesn't seem to always be the case so something to consider as well.

All in all, I don't think he can go wrong at any of those schools and will probably enjoy his time at all 3. I agree with margered that he should visit and stay overnight if possible to get a feel for the social atmosphere and which fits him best.

undergrad is actually not very important. you tend to get the same experience no matter where you go to undergrad. where you go to grad school is more important, as you tend to work more closely with profs, it is more recent on your resume, and this is where your most important work to date occurs.

i'd choose the undergrad that pays 3k/yr.

I can't remember the last time someone cared about my undergrad work. My grad work, yes, but not undergrad.

University of Spoiled Children and spend the savings in tuition on a new 3 series so he can fit in.

sunspotzsz said:   Caltech!Definately!, not only a better Sci school than the others, but also you pay very little your own $ there (secret they won't let outsiders know).

If he plans to work in the computer industry, then Berkeley, without a doubt. The reason is its proximity to Silicon Valley. He can do internships at startups and also make tons of industry contacts while in the area. That's a huge plus.

So, unless he's sure about doing MBA/JD, send him to Cal.

College professor here, so I may not have a "real world" take on these things. But, to me, this is a no-brainer in terms of the decision. He should go to USC.

For the last few years I taught at a top-50 research university that is very similar to USC in a variety of ways. Our best students were those who were accepted into Harvard, Penn, and Yale, but decided to go to our school because they got a full ride, accepted into our honors program, etc. Those students stood out. We have outstanding professors--just as good (in terms of undergraduate teaching) as all of the top-10 schools (especially when you consider who the undergraduates actually have access to). What he should want is access to the top professors and resources. USC gets you that. He should also wants to be able to stand out as an undergraduate, so professors will be willing to work with him on research projects and write letters of recommendation that say things like: "X was one of the top undergraduates I have encountered in my 25 years of teaching," instead of: "X was a very good student and one of the better members of his graduating class."

What also seems to have gone unmentioned is that his interest now is either to get an MBA or law school after college. He sounds like a typical 18-year old. He doesn't know what he wants to do: computer science, business, or law. Again, unless money is not an issue, pursuing either an MBA or a JD is very expensive, and he'll thank you down the road if he is not burdened with law school or business school loans. But even if money is not an issue, I'd still pick USC over the others. It's still 200k. If he's looking to do graduate work in something, either computer science, business, or law, the name on his undergraduate degree won't really matter too much. What will matter is how much he learned, what connections he makes, the professors he's able to work closely with, etc.

Agree that undergrad degree doesn't really mean much.....especially since there are plans for grad school and either one of those schools (and many others) would get you into any grad school.

Perception wise (I have a PhD, but not from a school on your list, and I work in a very large software company and have interviewed many CS grads), UC Berkeley is the best school on your list for CS (at grad level or undergrad level). If your son is interested, several of their CS classes (every lecture) are even on YouTube if he wants to get a sense for the teaching style of certain professors, etc..particularly the foundation-level classes. I've seen some of these videotaped lectures used by professors at other universities.

youtube channel

Caltech is with MIT; slightly better than UCB but not by a lot. Caltech labs are better equipped depending on goals.

If just for a BS in CS, UCB will give plenty of opportunities. Cost of living is higher at UCB tho.

calvin888 said:   sunspotzsz said:   Caltech!Definately!, not only a better Sci school than the others, but also you pay very little your own $ there (secret they won't let outsiders know).

If you cannot post on the forum than can you please PM with what you meant by "secret they won't let outsiders know"?

Thanks

UCB has the best CS program out of the schools that are listed. That doesn't mean that it is the best option for your son - he may or may not be well suited for a huge public school like UCB which can affect how successful he will be.

Does he want to attend a school with 37,000 students, one with 2,000, or something in between ?

kantscholar said:   College professor here, so I may not have a "real world" take on these things. But, to me, this is a no-brainer in terms of the decision. He should go to USC.

For the last few years I taught at a top-50 research university that is very similar to USC in a variety of ways. Our best students were those who were accepted into Harvard, Penn, and Yale, but decided to go to our school because they got a full ride, accepted into our honors program, etc. Those students stood out. We have outstanding professors--just as good (in terms of undergraduate teaching) as all of the top-10 schools (especially when you consider who the undergraduates actually have access to). What he should want is access to the top professors and resources. USC gets you that. He should also wants to be able to stand out as an undergraduate, so professors will be willing to work with him on research projects and write letters of recommendation that say things like: "X was one of the top undergraduates I have encountered in my 25 years of teaching," instead of: "X was a very good student and one of the better members of his graduating class."

What also seems to have gone unmentioned is that his interest now is either to get an MBA or law school after college. He sounds like a typical 18-year old. He doesn't know what he wants to do: computer science, business, or law. Again, unless money is not an issue, pursuing either an MBA or a JD is very expensive, and he'll thank you down the road if he is not burdened with law school or business school loans. But even if money is not an issue, I'd still pick USC over the others. You're look at 200k. If he's looking to do graduate work in something, either computer science, business, or law, the name on his undergraduate degree won't really matter too much. What will matter is how much he learned, what connections he makes, the professors he's able to work closely with, etc.


Thanks kantscholar for your insightful response. What do you think about following thoughts?

1. Did you find that top employers such as Mckinsey, Facebook, etc come to your school for recruitment? e.g. I was looking at average placement for USC vs Caltech and there is difference of about $25K/yr. Not sure how correct the data is. Back in India, I have seen employers differentiating between freshers based on school. I hear same things in US.
2. Few years down the line, we may not even remember that we saved $160K but the brand will stay for life. e.g. When I am planning to hire and someone has Harvard, Yale in their resume then I see them different compared to someone from USC. At that point, I would not check whether they got full ride at USC or whether they went to USC over Harvard.
3. I see that schools are made of peers. If one goes to USC there may be 1-2% of the kids like him but if he goes to Caltech or UCB there will be 50% kids like him. Hopefully he will work hard and learn from his peers along the way.

Thanks again for your help in thinking it through.

xoneinax said:   Does he want to attend a school with 37,000 students or one with 2,000, or something in between ?

He is very flexible and that is not a big issue either way.

Thanks

He did visit USC last month and plans to visit Caltech soon. He found USC environment more laid back. He was expecting more competitive. USC is however working very hard towards changing their image of University for Spoiled Children. They have made huge investments into their Comp Sc program. However the rigour of Caltech is something that seems to be very attractive. We hear that 75% of the kids do research. JPL is big and so is their focus on theoritical problem solving.

Berkeley seems to be right in the middle.

I can only speak as a lawyer, but nobody cares where you went to undergrad. Law school, yes, undergrad, no.

dippy943 said:   I can only speak as a lawyer, but nobody cares where you went to undergrad. Law school, yes, undergrad, no.

Will his chances to get into Harvard Law become better, worse or remain the same if attends USC compared to Caltech and Berkeley? Given that everything else is constant.

Thanks

njain said:   dippy943 said:   I can only speak as a lawyer, but nobody cares where you went to undergrad. Law school, yes, undergrad, no.

Will his chances to get into Harvard Law become better, worse or remain the same if attends USC compared to Caltech and Berkeley? Given that everything else is constant.

Thanks
You said it yourself, USC is more laid back. He will have an easier time maintaining a high GPA there.

Go with University of Spoiled Children....but he might party too hard whereas Cal-Tech would be much less.

I've served on several hiring committees for companies and universities, and so my opinion here is a little different from others.
I have to disagree with you that the name or "brand" is enough. In fact, MANY institutions and companies will REJECT people who appear to be riding on some fancy school name for success. I've been in hiring meetings where the deans of programs or CEOs of companies look at a stack of resumes or CVS and read off the big names (Duke, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.) and immediately throw those document against the wall and say "No way, where are the real candidates who actually know what they're doing?"

Now, I'm not saying that these schools don't produce worthwhile candidates. But the deeper message here is that your son needs to think carefully about what he will DO with the education he receives. Just going to a place with a good name is not enough. He needs to have as many opportunities as possible for actual application of the skills he'll be reading about in his textbooks. He needs access to work-study, research assistant opportunities, internships, and other hands-on experience within the department and campus. If he only goes to a huge school with a "good name" he will likely be a number. If he were to go to a school that fostered direct teacher-student interaction, he'd stand a better chance of standing out significantly and developing a deeper set of skills.

The best school for your son will be the one where he has the most access to REAL work. That is, he should choose the school that A) provides the most opportunities for hands-on research, work, and application of knowledge. Many of the Ivy League schools do not offer students very much in the way of practical experience or interdisciplinary learning, simply because there are too many students and not enough faculty to do the one-on-one thing well. Your son would also do well to choose a school that produces work he admires. When I was choosing schools (MIT, Johns Hopkins, and several other "good names" were on my list of acceptances) I cared less about the name and more about WHO I would be working with and whether I knew and respected their work.

Your son should visit all of the schools he is seriously considering, and he should arrange to meet with faculty and other students in his field. If they don't have the time or interest to meet with him as a prospective student, that's a decent indicator of how much attention he might receive as a student there.

Good luck!

Brand-name does matter.
Just look at all the posts about USC. Definitely don't send him there.

Khee said:   I've served on several hiring committees for companies and universities, and so my opinion here is a little different from others.
I have to disagree with you that the name or "brand" is enough. In fact, MANY institutions and companies will REJECT people who appear to be riding on some fancy school name for success. I've been in hiring meetings where the deans of programs or CEOs of companies look at a stack of resumes or CVS and read off the big names (Duke, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc.) and immediately throw those document against the wall and say "No way, where are the real candidates who actually know what they're doing?"

Now, I'm not saying that these schools don't produce worthwhile candidates. But the deeper message here is that your son needs to think carefully about what he will DO with the education he receives. Just going to a place with a good name is not enough. He needs to have as many opportunities as possible for actual application of the skills he'll be reading about in his textbooks. He needs access to work-study, research assistant opportunities, internships, and other hands-on experience within the department and campus. If he only goes to a huge school with a "good name" he will likely be a number. If he were to go to a school that fostered direct teacher-student interaction, he'd stand a better chance of standing out significantly and developing a deeper set of skills.

The best school for your son will be the one where he has the most access to REAL work. That is, he should choose the school that A) provides the most opportunities for hands-on research, work, and application of knowledge. Many of the Ivy League schools do not offer students very much in the way of practical experience or interdisciplinary learning, simply because there are too many students and not enough faculty to do the one-on-one thing well. Your son would also do well to choose a school that produces work he admires. When I was choosing schools (MIT, Johns Hopkins, and several other "good names" were on my list of acceptances) I cared less about the name and more about WHO I would be working with and whether I knew and respected their work.

Your son should visit all of the schools he is seriously considering, and he should arrange to meet with faculty and other students in his field. If they don't have the time or interest to meet with him as a prospective student, that's a decent indicator of how much attention he might receive as a student there.

Good luck!


Going with this advice. Caltech is a clear winner. Ample of research opportunities, 1:3 faculty student ratio, small school with personal attention and rigour. Second would be USC given their honor research program and smaller class size. Hopefully when he visits Caltech later this month, it will bring more clarity.

Thanks for your guidance.

Does McKinsey even recruit at Caltech? My read is that if he wants to go into some high-octane PhD-in-science-research-field, this is a no-brainer and send him to Caltech, where the rate of students pursuing grad degrees is either highest or second highest in the nation (note, that statistic might be apochryphal but I heard it somewhere along the way). Otherwise Berkeley.

a bunch of good choices here - congratulate your kid on his achievements and let him make his choice now.

njain said:   dippy943 said:   I can only speak as a lawyer, but nobody cares where you went to undergrad. Law school, yes, undergrad, no.

Will his chances to get into Harvard Law become better, worse or remain the same if attends USC compared to Caltech and Berkeley? Given that everything else is constant.

Thanks


You might want to take off the rose-colored glasses. Why don't you plan for the 99.99% chance he DOESN'T go to Harvard law? There is no way on God's green earth that Cal Tech is worth $25k/yr more than Berkeley.

USC
Good school, full ride
Make the savings roll over for when Grad School comes up

Skipping 94 Messages...
dblevitan said:   Some more thoughts:

Major/Future: I would not assume you're going to do CS as a major. First, unless you went to a unique high school, you probably don't know exactly what CS is and what CS courses are like. When I went to undergrad, everyone (including me) assumed I would do CS. Instead, I ended up deciding I much preferred physics. Everyone assumed I'd become a software engineer after undergrad, but I ended up doing a PhD. This is not to say you won't stay in the sciences - you probably will - but there are a lot of sciences out there.

Research: Doing research as an undergrad is a great experience. But there are a lot of downsides, depending on what USC has offered you.

First, I don't think it's difficult to find a professor to work with even without such a program. If you take the scholarship, they will definitely help you find someone, but undergrads are cheap, and there's often money that can be found somewhere if a professor wants you. You just need to be friendly with professors and not be afraid to knock on their doors.

Second, recognition-wise, it's probably better to go off campus. Why? Because your school has already thought you were smart enough to be allowed to study there, and, as I said, getting a research position at your own school is not difficult. But, if you can get into one of the programs outside of your school (look at REUs), then that means someone else thinks you're smart, plus you get a lot more networking possibilities. In fact, the best of both worlds, is probably to do research at your school during the school year, and research somewhere else during summer (unless you're actually writing a paper, in which case just stay with that).

Lastly, if you're required to do research all 4 years, then this may be a bad thing. Research is not for everyone, and if you want to be successful at it, you need a very good mentor with whom you can work very well (this is not always easy to find). You may decide, very quickly, that internships are much more interesting, and they're in no way less prestigious if done at the right companies (and a lot more lucrative) if you're not planning to do a PhD afterwards. If you're required to do research at USC to maintain the scholarship, then this may cost you many opportunities.

Summary: Personally, I would go to Cal. Cal gives you the most flexibility for the future, and they have top notch departments in almost every field. USC is ok, but it's not of the same caliber as Cal or Caltech. The one advantage of Caltech is that you will be in a very exclusive group, and you will be prepared very well for getting a PhD. But, as others have pointed out, Cal has much better industry connections.


USC does not require you to do research to keep the scholarship. You just have to keep a minimum 3.0 GPA. Shouldn't be hard if you qualified for the scholarship, but I did know one guy that lost the scholarship and had to pay the normal cost of tuition to finish school.



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