What college should I transfer to?
May 16, 2005 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Where should I go to college?

This past year I was a freshman at the George Washington University. I decided I wanted to transfer because, as a fellow transfer student put it, I was "overwhelmed by the emphasis on partying and underwhelmed by the academics." I also grew up on the DC area (Silver Spring), so I felt too close to home.

Long story short, I applied to a few places and recently got some acceptance letters. So now I have to decide...Brown or University of Chicago?

I like Chicago because of its nerdy reputation, and when I visited all the people seemed really interesting and nice. I like the campus, and the city. The only cons as far as I can see it are the Core (=lots of required classes) and the distance from home. It seems like there is a good chance that I could get a single -- it seems like at least half of their housing options are single rooms. I had a single this year and felt like it was a godsend, so this would be a big plus for me.

Brown, on the other hand, has no required classes outside of one's major. I like the campus just as much as Chicago's, although I like Chicago better than Providence as a city. My mom went there, and loved it. However, overall I have heard bad things about housing -- and I don't think there is any chance of getting a single. Also, I don't know anyone there right now (unlike at Chicago), so I don't really have a feel for what the people are like there.

About me: I'm fairly shy, nerdy and geeky. The whole "party scene" (clubbing, drinking, whatever) is not my thing. I'd rather curl up with a good book or go out to eat and watch a movie with a friend. I'm not sure what I want to major in yet, but I am leaning towards Philosophy. At GWU I was involved with the radio station -- but both places have radio stations, so that doesn't really help me.

Does anyone out there in Metafilter have any advice? Any alumni out there? I need to decide by June 1.
posted by puffin to Education (52 answers total)
Required classes outside of your major can be good- it'll help you stretch your mind and you might even actually learn something.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:41 PM on May 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

I didn't go to either but I had friends from high school who went to both and from your description of yourself I'd say Uchicago. Brown is a little hippie-esque and the friends of my high school friend I met don't seem like your crowd. Although you'll be able to find your scene regardless of where you go

coincidently, did you go to Blair?
posted by slapshot57 at 1:41 PM on May 16, 2005

Do you have any inkling as to what you might want to do with your life?
posted by mr_roboto at 1:42 PM on May 16, 2005

I'd personally go for U. Chicago, if only to avoid the granola mentality of Brown. It sounds like your too focused for Brown. I don't know about their Philosophy department, but their History department is tip-top-notch.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:45 PM on May 16, 2005

so the only bad things about chicago are the distance from home and the required classes? sounds like chicago wins, since required classes are kind of neutral (personally i think they are probably a good idea) and being far from home is probably outweighed by the other good things.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:47 PM on May 16, 2005

I wouldn't worry so much about the housing (at least if all you're worried about is getting a single). Communal living sounds worse than it actually is, especially if you're going to a nerdy enough school that your roommate's unlikely to be up partying till all hours. (And this is coming from a HUGELY introverted Ivy Leaguer who never had a to share a room until I got put in a six-person suite my freshman year.)
posted by occhiblu at 1:50 PM on May 16, 2005

I would lean towards Brown due to the lack of required courses--it means if you're in a course, the people who are taking it are taking it because they like the subject, not because they have to and they just want to get everything over with and get the A.

But this depends on whether you learn best with the structure that required courses bring, or with a "this class looks interesting, let's take it" mentality.
posted by schroedinger at 1:53 PM on May 16, 2005

Congrats on your acceptance to both schools. Seriously, education-wise, you can't really go wrong at either of them.

What are the class sizes like? If you are "fairly shy, nerdy, geeky", you might like the school that offers smaller class sizes.

Is the Core at UofC a bunch of required courses outside of your major? If so, this may not be such a bad thing because you will be exposed to lots of different topics that you may be surprised to learn that you like. (My university had a required GenEd program; you had to have at least five credits from each of the nine topics in order to graduate.)

However, based on what you wrote, I get the feeling that you are leaning toward UofC. If a single room is important to you, and you like the people there, then go for it.

Go with your gut.

Good luck.
posted by luneray at 1:56 PM on May 16, 2005

I went to Brown as an undergrad and found that the lack of required courses had the very result that schroedinger describes. It's lovely, and most people still take many, many courses outside their major. There are indeed plenty of hippies at Brown, but when I went there it was more notably the indie rock Ivy. I'm not sure how the milieu has drifted over the past eight years or so, but I do feel sure either place will give you plenty of opportunity to be as nerdy as you please.

Chicago is assuredly cooler than Providence, but I like Providence a lot. The weather is certainly better.
posted by redfoxtail at 1:59 PM on May 16, 2005

"Hippie-esque" and "granola mentality" are stereotypes that don't reflect my experience of Brown's student body; can't you knock the art semio concentrators or roaming packs of Fort Thunder wannabes or something? The vicious hordes of anime fansubbers?

Chicago has a reputation for being a vicious destroyer of social lives, which sounds like what you want. Brown's computer science department is social-life-devouring, but its humanities vary widely (and, like all colleges, much depends on how much you want to put into them). As a sophomore at Brown, I lived in a single in a five-person suite; this might be something worth asking the housing offices at the two schools about, because I'm sure the rules differ for transfer students and housing lotteries.

If you want to work in commercial radio, Brown's (lousy) WBRU, southern New England's home for overplayed MTV alt-rock, is an amazing place to get experience; there's also the student radio station, WBSR, which is much more like a traditional student radio station.

I was a math major at Brown, but I took a great many classes outside my concentration requirements (including one so-so freshman philosophy class and several great history classes taught by Douglas Cope); if you're not sure what you want to study and really want to get a chance to sample classes dim sum-style, Brown has it going on over the Great Books/Core Curriculum focus of Chicago. (Brown also offers pass-fail as an option in all classes, which can be wonderful for people taking things like the aforementioned CS soul-destroying courses but who would still like to take a stab at a liberal education.)

Chicago is one of America's great cities, but I adore Providence passionately; if you're from Silver Spring and think you'll want to be able to visit home frequently, the cheap Southwest BWI/TF Green flights are a godsend.
posted by snarkout at 2:00 PM on May 16, 2005

i vote for chicago as well. the core will most definitely stretch and challenge your mind. plus, chicago offers so much as a city. i know i know, you're there to be a college student and study, but what of free afternoons when you can stroll into the art institute, dip into a jazz club for a martini (no techno ravers in sight!), catch a play, etc. there are the givens of a college education and then there are the intangibles. life is so much more than just the givens. whatever you choose, good luck!
posted by izzytn8 at 2:01 PM on May 16, 2005

U of C Ph.D. here. One of the things to bear in mind about Chicago: it's really a graduate school with the College attached. On the plus side, the U of C takes pride in having all of the faculty teach the undergrads (grad students generally lead discussion sections & grade papers, instead of teaching courses themselves). On the minus side, some undergrads really crumble under the pressure. It's probably the most intensely intellectual environment you'll ever experience. I loved it, but I noticed that quite a few of the undergrads were suffering from awfully high stress levels. (The undergrads used to sell T-Shirts that read, "The University of Chicago: Hell Does Freeze Over.") If you're "shy, nerdy, and geeky," though, you'll probably do fine :)
posted by thomas j wise at 2:07 PM on May 16, 2005

posted by Nelson at 2:08 PM on May 16, 2005

One thing you didn't tell us: what are your academic and career interests? It's very important in deciding on a school to know what you want to get out of the experience.

If you're doing computer science I happen to know quite a bit about that. Go to U of C, because if you do and you take the intro to CS course next fall, I'll be teaching you :).

Seriously, both Brown and U of C seem like fine schools for undergraduate, though I don't have direct experience being an undergraduate at either. I can tell you all about the U of C computer science department if you want to know (email me at my Mefi username with cs.uchicago.edu tacked on if you have specific questions), and I know enough about Brown to know it's got a good department in CS as well (take an intro class with Shriram Krishnamurthi if you go there, he's a great teacher).

Beyond that: both campuses are fun, but you knew that; Providence is lame but is not too far away from the very fun Boston, whereas Hyde Park (while a little isolated geographically) is closer to the fun stuff. The undergraduates here complain a lot about the core, but also seem to get a lot out of it.

Another datapoint: flights from Chicago to DC can be had for about $120 if you plan it right. I've known two people with significant others in DC that traveled out there regularly.
posted by jacobm at 2:11 PM on May 16, 2005

As Thomas J Wise says, it's worth considering the graduate/undergraduate balance. I'd definitely advise anyone to get their BA at Brown and PhD at Chicago rather than the other way around, any day of the week. Brown places a strong emphasis on undergraduate education. Because the graduate programs are small, and also because of the dedication of much of the faculty to the ideal of excellent undergraduate instruction, the focus really is on the undergraduates. A very high proportion of classes are taught by professors, including senior faculty, many of whom are engaged in their teaching at a level that is quite rare among renowned researchers.

PS. Have some of you folks confused Brown with, say, Reed?
posted by redfoxtail at 2:12 PM on May 16, 2005

I was going ask something about Thomas J Wise's experience with the history department at Chicago, but then I remembered that her doctorate is not actually in history. (This happens a lot to TJW, I suspect.)

Just to follow up on Redfox's point, the overwhelming majority of classes (at least in the humanities and social sciences) at Brown are taught by the professors; I had one Shakespeare seminar taught by a visiting lecturer and a few writing and lower-level math classes taught by grad students, but other than that, it was all professors. In many cases, even in large lectures, the professors led at least one discussion section as well (Michael Silverman did this for his intro to film class, for instance). In smaller classes they seemed to pride themselves on getting to know the students pretty well.

Beyond that: both campuses are fun, but you knew that; Providence is lame but is not too far away from the very fun Boston, whereas Hyde Park (while a little isolated geographically) is closer to the fun stuff.

Boy, Chicago is (as I said), a world class city ("like Paris with hot dogs", as a friend put it), but Hyde Park itself strikes me as no more happening than Providence and probably less so.
posted by snarkout at 2:23 PM on May 16, 2005

In 1985, I was faced with a very similar choice. It was between the UofC and Dartmouth. I was very social (if a bit uptight) in high school, urban and very much into sports, and a fairly high caliber student. I visited both schools during the winter/spring of my senior year, and opted to go to UofC mostly based on the urban setting of Chicago, and the fact that I had a better time than I had expected at the UofC and a not so great time in East Hanover (the binge drinking I saw there kind of grossed me out).

Socially (keep in mind that this data is now 20 years old and things may have improved somewhat), I found Chicago's social scene to be stifling, stale, dull and unhealthy. Terrible parties, in the dorms, off campus housing and the frats. Owing to the terrible and long winters, the volume of work, the frequency of midterms that the quarters system brings, lended itself to a fair amount of monogamy among the student body. People paired up early and often, and if you hadn't hooked up yourself, you were SOL until the weather took a turn for the better during spring quarter.

Also, if you want to enjoy the city of chicago, you'll want to have access to a car. The alternative to that is a very long bus ride or a very expensive cab ride ($25 +).

Couple this with the sheer amount of work that a 4 course quarter courseload can generate, and you might find yourself spending Friday nights in the library (which is not discouraged).

UofC undergrads are intense to the point of pathological, very competitive and not very good looking. I didn't have anything really resembling a good time there until I moved to the North Side during my senior year. My grades suffered as a result, but at least I left Chicago feeling like I had done more than just slave for four years.

But... the work, by God, the work. That's why you go to the UofC. Despite it all, I wouldn't trade the education I received in Hyde Park for anything. In work, play, grad school and every facet of life, I have never had to apologize for where I went to college, and will never forget the work that I did there, nor the intense, late night bull sessions I had with classmates.

I would do it all over again exactly the same way, if I had the chance to do it all over again. I can't tell you about Brown (I think Providence is an excellent college town), but thought you could at least benefit from one person's experience as a maroon.
posted by psmealey at 2:23 PM on May 16, 2005

Boy, Chicago is (as I said), a world class city ("like Paris with hot dogs", as a friend put it), but Hyde Park itself strikes me as no more happening than Providence and probably less so.

True, but you're not as stuck in Hyde Park when you go to U of C as you are stuck in Providence when you go to Brown. These days there are several buses that will take you to downtown in about half an hour, and if you've got a car it's really no problem (I live on the north side of Chicago and drive in to Hyde Park every day, for instance).
posted by jacobm at 2:29 PM on May 16, 2005

Both are Brown and U of C are great schools, but the curriculum differences are NOT trivial. U of C undergrads tend to fantasize about going to Brown when the Core gets them down. If you go to Brown you can (and will) choose to take an array of courses. At Chicago you will be forced to take an array, sometimes to the detriment of your schedule, your interests and your sanity. My vote goes with Brown, but I think you already know that you really need to figure this out for yourself.
posted by bonheur at 2:37 PM on May 16, 2005

Brown, becuase of the comment upthread about UC being a grad school with a college attached, and becuase for a person who is geeky and shy, Brown will provide easier opportunities to be not so. Every school will provide those opportunities if you look for them, but it'll be easier at Brown. (I didn't go to either, but had high school and later grad school friends who went to both.)
posted by dpx.mfx at 2:42 PM on May 16, 2005

My wife and I are both UofC graduates. Neither of us regret going there but we didn't enjoy ourselves, that's for certain. Undergrads (at least in the pre-med program) can be competitive to the point of sabotaging each other's lab materials (June received a stern warning against it). The Reg (library) is one of the social hubs of the school, which is kind of sad. Access to Chicago proper would seem like a big plus, but I don't think I got into the city more than once a month due to the grinding workload. The only thing I really enjoyed about the school was participating in the (now shut down) crisis hotline (Niteline). That was terrific. Nothing like talking to suicidal students to put your problems in perspective. Er. And that's where I met my wife.

As for the housing, there are plenty of off campus apartments within the same walking distance as the dorms.

Again, I don't regret going, it's a terrific education, but I'll never think back on them as the best years of my life. Good luck.
posted by roue at 3:00 PM on May 16, 2005

UC being a grad school with a college attached

People have said that forever, and admittedly it's true, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. UofC faculty (and other than for Chemistry 100 and Econ 300, all of my instructors were full professors in 4 years), do place graduate level demands on the college students in terms of the both the quantity and quality of work. There's no doubt about it, it is a grind, and when I heard that my friends at Harvard, God bless them, were getting two weeks for reading period (we got two days), I was green with envy. But... crescat scientia vita excolatur

A mature, focused, disciplined person can have a great experience as well as a great time at the UofC (I wasn't always any of those things at one time, but as a transfer student coming from a disappointing experience, you might be all of them). What stays with me is that once I left there, nothing I have done in life since - work, grad school, etc. - has seemed all that difficult.
posted by psmealey at 3:01 PM on May 16, 2005

How do you feel about *cold* weather? My sweetie spent a year at U of Chicago. After freeze-drying his laundry, he transferred to Stanford, which he loved.

(Incidentally, U of Chicago was his second undergrad school, so he transferred twice; your decision isn't necessarily carved in stone.)
posted by ambrosia at 3:02 PM on May 16, 2005

I went to the School Without Walls (High School) surrounded by the GW campus for a few years, and had friends that interned at the radio station. I know what you mean about the rampant idiocy there, we would get kicked out of the coomputer labs because new students had to _practice_ setting up their email accounts.

Go to Brown.
posted by blasdelf at 3:14 PM on May 16, 2005

I was a math/philosophy major at Brown, and I absolutely loved every moment I was there. So, despite not knowing a whole lot about U of C, I vote for Brown.

It's true that you can't get a single your first year, and that's done on purpose. I didn't like the idea at first, but it really does jump start your social life. Also, they are very good at pairing people up based on the questionnaires you fill out. I'd say that of the people I knew there, about about 90% got along well with their roommates. After the first year, you can get a single.

As for location, Chicago is probably a more exciting place to be, but Providence is a really neat town. There's some cultural even or other going on pretty much every day. Plus, it's easy to get to Boston, and once in a while, it's even doable to do a day trip to NYC. Though, honestly, between academics and other on-campus activities, I found that I rarely had the need or time to worry about the cultural life of the city.

The lack of core requirements is probably the best thing about Brown. I completed two majors and still took about 10 electives (in psychology, classics, music, art history, physics, cs, economics). I think that your intellectual curiosity must be sorely lacking if you need a core curriculum to widen your horizons. Also, right now I'm a teaching assistant at UC Berkeley, where I often get to teach classes that are forced one people by the university. It's really unpleasant dealing with students who have absolutely no desire to be there and who have no interest in the subject.

Finally, there are some really good professors in the Brown philosophy department. Though, it's is not equally strong in all fields of philosophy. Still, the metaphysics/epistemology people are awesome (that was my area of interest).
posted by epimorph at 3:26 PM on May 16, 2005

Actually, I just remembered, you're a transfer student. So, scratch out the second paragraph of my post above.
posted by epimorph at 3:30 PM on May 16, 2005

I can't overemphasize how great it was to go to college in a "big city" (in my case, NYC). No matter how introverted you are, you'll benefit much more from all the cultural offerings available to you in the city than from what's going on in a college town. Plus you'll get to interact with grownups, not just people whose life revolves around the college experience. And core classes are good for you. All of this is stuff you'll never get to experience again - take advantage of the opportunity while you're young.

Chicago is an awesome city IMO. Too bad it's so *@#$% freezing there.
posted by matildaben at 3:41 PM on May 16, 2005

I went to U of C for graduate school and have very mixed feelings about the place. I loved Chicago, but the problem is that U of C is in the micro-city of Hyde Park, where almost everything closes VERY early. It can be a crushingly insular place.

Buses and trains take forever to get you even up to the Loop, so be prepared for that.

I also taught a course for undergraduates as a graduate student. I was never the official professor on the schedule, but I was the de facto instructor. So it's not always true that you get what's advertised... .

Oh, and the geekiness of the undergraduates is wildly exaggerated. There are all sorts at U of C, just as there are in most places. Your experience will largely be determined by you.

Honestly, I'd go to Brown and think about U of C for graduate school.
posted by yellowcandy at 4:27 PM on May 16, 2005

Best answer: A recent (2004) Chicago grad here.

First off, a few myths to destroy--

No, Chicago is not "a graduate school with the College attached," at least not in the sense that matters. It is true that you can make what you will of the place-- if you don't want to be bothered by your professors, don't want to do much advanced work in anything, and want to basically flounce around, you can (despite the place's reputation you can scrape by without doing much). But on the other hand, Professors in just about every field welcome precocious undergrads, welcome advanced research, welcome students who want to take graduate classes, and so on. I started working for a professor and federal judge in the law school my second year, took several graduate courses outside of my (math) major in law, political science &c.

And no, it's not necessary to have a car. It takes 20 dollars after tip to take a cab from Hyde Park to river north, although why you'd want to waste the money is beyond me-- from the east side of campus there's a bus that will go to the loop in 25 minutes; from the west side of campus there's a bus that will take you to the red line in 10 minutes, and from the red line, Chicago is your oyster. Hyde Park itself is a little sleepy, (although it has the best academic bookstore in the country as well as a very good used bookstore, and a few other sundries) but having Chicago attached makes a huge difference.

Now, the geekiness of the undergraduates is indeed exaggerated-- I went there thinking that everybody would be interested in staying up until 3 A.M. arguing about the existence of synthetic a priori propositions, and I was disappointed. But that said, the number of appealing, geeky, bookish, supremely smart people there is still higher than any other school I've spent extended time at. There is a self-selection effect, so at Chicago you get a mix of people: Some who were brilliant and knew that this was the best school for them, some who didn't work very hard in high school but wanted a school that would challenge them, and some (a lot) who applied to Harvard, didn't get in, and picked Chicago as a backup. People in the last category were almost uniformly miserable, but the first two mostly loved it.

All of which is to say that Chicago is a bit of a risky place-- there are not a whole lot of other schools that will make you work that hard for that little credit-- but the best test is a visit, which you had, and liked. If that's so, then there's really no reason not to go. Chicago may not quite live up to its own hype, but it comes closer than any place else does.
posted by willbaude at 4:47 PM on May 16, 2005

I wrote a long ass post that basically said 'I agree with snarkout, not with those people who wrote about hippies' but Safari crashed and took my post to the increasingly entropic deeps. This should tell you two things:
  • Brown students are blowhards that will write a long ass post that basically says, "I agree with snarkout"
  • Brown students (even the CS majors) have no computer hacking skills. Why would I edit such a long post in Safari aka 'Sir Crashalot'?
Also Brown is totally sweet and thats where you should go (except on the art semio tip that snarkout was talking about; MC66 is the most infuriating class in the world, also I took a class with one of Brown's supposedly awesome philosophy professors, and it was one of the worst and most infuriating classes I took at Brown, but...maybe I just hate philosophy.
posted by jeb at 5:11 PM on May 16, 2005

Brown '99 here. Check your e-mail. (And go to Brown).
posted by Saucy Intruder at 5:51 PM on May 16, 2005

Hi. I'm U of C, graduating this spring. It's definitely the best place for me, but you have to make it work and find your niche. As said above, not everyone here is as excited by learning as the stereotype - you can find people who are amazingly brilliant in about a million ways, but you can also find people who don't much care and are bitter about the workload. If you steer clear of them and make an effort to find the awesome people, you will be happy.

Other things to know:

Faculty: on the whole, outstanding - so many of them go out of their way to be accessable.

Core: I liked it. If you shop around for good core classes they can be really worthwhile, not just requirements to get out of the way. Plus you might be let out of some of the core as a transfer student - ask the admissions office.
And it hasn't prevented me from majoring in Math, almost-majoring in physics, writing a senior BA paper in gender studies, taking all english classes this quarter, and preparing for an education masters program.

Neighborhood: Hyde Park is not as developed/yuppified as many North Side neighborhoods, and many people who live here never venture into the surrounding Southside environs, making this place an odd bubble of intellectuals mixing, sometimes uneasily with middle-class black people. Lots of bookstores, not as many bars. If you make an effort to explore the south side, you'll probably like it - there's a lot of interesting culture like great soul food restaurants and jazz clubs. But even if you stick close to home, the neighborhood is livable and its proximity ot the lake makes it awesome in nice weather. The rest of the city has a lot to offer as well, it's just twenty minutes or more away by transit.

Competition: only for pre-meds and econ majors. Philosophy, like most other majors, is a nice friendly environment with a lot of discussion oriented classes and people helping each other with homework and studying.

Housing: Go for that single. Live as close to campus as you can (like in Burton-Judson or Snell-Hitchcock if possible), because it will make it easier for you to be involved with activities and see friends all over the place. I lived in Shoreland (which has little in the way of singles) and it felt a bit isolated, even though it's in the best part of the neighborhood IMO. Once the temp goes below zero, you will want to be near campus.

Library: I love the Reg. Honestly I do. It is in fact the social hub of campus, but as long as you temper your time there with other activities it will not eat your soul. Seven floors of open stacks. Just think of it.

And finally, if you have more questions, e-mail me. I used to work for admissions before I got too cynical so I know al kinds of factoids.
posted by mai at 6:21 PM on May 16, 2005

as a brown graduate who a) is currently drunk and posting from the regenstein and b) has barely read any of the responses I am likely the most/least qualified person to answer this question.

if you are self-described as "shy, nerdy and geeky" and would potentially like to improve this state of affairs, please do not come to the UofC, where self-described shy, nerdy and geeky students are given all manner of opportunities to remain that way for eternity. if you go to brown, there is a marginal chance that you will get high, get naked, transcend reality, implement a unix-like operating system with virtual memory, etc., and perhaps exit as someone who ,e.g. , will no longer ask for personal advice on web sites. there is an extremely small subsection of undergraduates here who exist independently of the hard-drinking, socially ignorant, tasteless zeitgeist; students who are creative wholly apart from the university-sanctioned creativity weekends (aka "scavhunt"). the chances you will meet them approaches zero. your mom went to brown; you have a 50% chance (independent of grades) of acceptance. fin
posted by sdfgdsfghd at 7:34 PM on May 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

sdfgdsfghd joined mefi just to post the above.
posted by mai at 7:42 PM on May 16, 2005

don't believe poster jeb. mcm 66 was fine and he is a hacker.

i never had a problem with housing at brown. you have to live on campus until your senior year (at least that's how it was when i went there). having a roommate may be a good thing, so meet some people initially. i really don't know the chances of getting a single, but quite a few non freshman dorms have a shared common room with a couple of bedrooms with doors that branch off.

there are two radio stations at brown as well, like snarkout mentioned. so you can take your pick as they are pretty different. BSR has a bunch of opportunities to get involved if you have the time.

i don't remember a ton of hippies at brown, but if you pick a school based on whether or not there are hippies you have bigger problems.

providence is a great city. plenty of things to do, but not overwhelming. lots of movies, bands, art, food, giant tetris installations, etc.

on the other hand, chicago has the cubs.
posted by ry at 7:44 PM on May 16, 2005

mai: what better evidence that there is nothing to do in hyde park ?!
posted by sdfgdsfghd at 7:45 PM on May 16, 2005

Response by poster: Wow! Thank you to everyone, I wasn't expecting so many responses. This has given me a lot to think over. At this point, I am still not sure what to do - the workload, stress and weak social scene at Chicago are all things I have thought about, but maybe not enough. Also, about getting out of Hyde Park - my friend there has a car, and I am no stranger to riding the bus. So I don't think that would be a problem.

Anyway, as many of you had guessed I was leaning towards UChicago. At this point I am thinking about at least visiting Brown again, maybe this weekend. The last time I was there was in 9th grade for my mom's reunion.

I went to the School Without Walls (High School) surrounded by the GW campus for a few years, and had friends that interned at the radio station. I know what you mean about the rampant idiocy there, we would get kicked out of the coomputer labs because new students had to _practice_ setting up their email accounts.
So true... :/ One of my friends at GWU was a SWW grad, I don't think she liked GWU that much either but she had a full scholarship so I don't blame her for staying.

coincidently, did you go to Blair?
Nope! I live right on the border between Silver Spring and Chevy Chase, so thanks to bussing, I went to B-CC. But I had friends at Blair.

your mom went to brown; you have a 50% chance (independent of grades) of acceptance.
Well, I am not sure if that is true because I got rejected when I applied last year. But I have already gotten into both schools this time around, so that is not an issue.
posted by puffin at 9:46 PM on May 16, 2005

Honestly, go with your gut. The vast majority of people faced with a decision like yours who go in with a positive perspective end up leaving with the same. The differences between the two schools certainly aren't trivial, but assuming you don't transfer again, you'll have nothing to compare the experience to besides the one you already dislike. It's college after all, and the best years of your blah blah blah...
posted by drpynchon at 1:02 AM on May 17, 2005

To be clear: The social scene at Chicago is "weak" if your idea of a good time is a frat party, a varsity sports game, or a princeton eating club. If, on the other hand, you'd like to meet a bunch of smart, socially awkward, hard-working and vaguely obsessive individuals whose idea of a good time is book-shopping, building a small but perfectly-scaled mechanical circus, or arguing about the relationship between Beethoven and Eminem, you will find a scene difficult to replicate elsewhere.
posted by willbaude at 6:13 AM on May 17, 2005

Response by poster: To be clear: The social scene at Chicago is "weak" if your idea of a good time is a frat party, a varsity sports game, or a princeton eating club.
Good to know - those things are by no stretch of the imagination my idea of a good time. And smart, socially awkward and vaguely obsessive individuals sounds like a pretty good description of "my people."
posted by puffin at 6:49 AM on May 17, 2005

I'm a Brown Grad. The Pros

1. it really is a college not a university

2. providence is a great town that will grow on you

3. the beaches of rhode island and cape cod are incredible

4. access to boston and ny

5. good exposure to interests and people that you would otherwise not experience

6. Most Brown grads are happy to have gone there

The Con's

It Rains. Every third day. A lot.

By the way, even if you could get a single room wherever you go. Don't.
posted by vega5960 at 7:21 AM on May 17, 2005

Best answer: I'm a transfer student at Brown right now (just finished my junior year). I spent freshman year at a state school near home that was all about partying, and transferred here because I am shy and nerdy and hate the whole "party scene" and felt like I was stuck in a rut at my other school.

Don't worry about housing. Transfer housing at Brown does indeed suck (I was put in a double with another transfer in the worst freshman dorm on campus, and have friends who were put into suites of 5 or 6 non-transfer roommates), but you can sign up for a housing waitlist and be in a single by October. But, honestly, housing should be the last thing on your mind when it comes to choosing a school.

On preview, it doesn't rain that often in Providence. Really.

The Brown Curriculum is a mixed blessing. I love not having to take requirements, but you also need to be able to really motivate yourself. I'm a naturally lazy person and it's been tough for me to sign up for classes that I'm not sure I'll like, or to really put significant effort into classes that are S/NC (pass/fail). On the other hand, I'm having tons of fun exploring topics I'm passionate about.

Brown is not hippie-esque. It has that reputation, but it's not at all accurate. Liberal? Yes. But not hippies.

I adore Providence. It's also 45 minutes and 7 bucks from Boston, or 3 hours and 33 bucks from NYC (and they show a movie!). I have never been to Chicago, so can't really say.

Make sure you get financial aid. Word has it that incoming transfers will be getting financial aid this year, but when I transferred two years ago that was not the case. Brown might be worth it to you even 100% on loans — but make a 30-second call to the financial aid department just to make sure.

I can't make a recommendation for you to transfer to Brown or UChicago, because I really know nothing about UChicago — but Brown has been absolutely awesome to me as an introverted transfer student who doesn't smoke/drink/party/et cetera. It really helped me break out of my shell in ways I hadn't freshman year (some of my closest highschool friends went to the state school with me) and has offered me endless opportunities (the faculty is great). I'm sure I'm leaving tons of things out, so feel free to email me and I'll tell you more about my transfer experience.

Oh, and wherever you go, be prepared to miss your freshman year friends. A lot. Even if you only had a handful of loose acquaintances, you're going to miss them.

Best of luck.
posted by rafter at 9:18 AM on May 17, 2005

Also, re: single rooms. They're available in the Chicago dorms (although a lot of upperclassmen live in apartments instead-- the apartments and the dorms are both relatively intermixed throughout Hyde Park, so living "off campus" in an apartment building with a lot of students is a social scene quite similar to living "on campus"), and some of the dorms offer both single rooms and private bathrooms (which I had when I lived in the dorms my first two years).

The cost of this is that it's easy to shut yourself in your room and get away from people if you want to, AND you're living with a bunch of people who value their personal space and their privacy, so they may be a bit hard to get to know. The benefit, of course, is that you get your personal space and your privacy, so you're spared a lot (but not all) of the unpleasant drama that normally comes with communal living.

Oh, another cost of a private bathroom is that, of course, you have to clean it.

Anyway, if you're the kind of person who wants some space to yourself, take a single room your first year at Chicago (if you decide to go, as you should); then if you meet some people you want to live with the rest of the time you can either get a dorm room or dorm suite that you'll share, or get an apartment together (less expensive, more of a hassle) in Hyde Park.

The notion that being forced to share a bedroom with a randomly-selected human being will make you in any way happier or more sociable is totally falsified by human experience.
posted by willbaude at 9:24 AM on May 17, 2005

Hooray, a thread full of Brown folks!

I went there and LOVED it. Almost every Brown alum I have ever met has loved the school.

But it sounds like you've already been to visit both schools, and you really liked Chicago and the people you met there, and you thought Brown was okay. So why not go to Chicago?
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:54 AM on May 17, 2005

All my old Brown friends are here! Hi everyone! Don't believe the semio snarks. It's not filled with any one kind of group (other than liberals, I suppose): a few hippies in the co-ops, a few random (smartish) jocks in the three frats, a few indie semio artish folks, a few computer geniuses like my friends upthread, a few pre-med workaholics. It's not overly a party school, it's urban enough (and close to Boston/NYC), a real campus college where you can actually run into people and not bus all over town, and yes - the professors actually pay attention to you. Seriously, my undergrad thesis had more face-time than I get from some profs as a grad student.

If I had to to the whole thing over again, I'd still choose Brown. It had an amazing assortment of people, I personally came to love Providence, and the school itself has the perfect on/off campus lifestyle (for me). There was a study a few years ago, and something like 95% of the graduating seniors would have fulfilled even the most demanding distribution requirements, but we all did so on our own accord, and with no strings attached. You take classes because you want to, and you can take classes (particularly those way outside of your comfort zone) for pass/fail to encourage you to stretch yourself a bit. That's the type of student Brown attracts, and for me, that kind of decision marks the kind of person to whom I'm the most attracted.

The housing arrangement was fine for me - as others have said, you do live on campus (generally) for the first three years, but there are varying styles of housing (some suite-type situations). Sometimes transfer students were given the okay to live off-campus after their second year, if that matters to you. I'm still in touch with lots of my friends and profs there, and wouldn't change much about my undergrad experience. I don't know that much about U of Chicago, but I do have some friends (at grad school) that went there and had an okay experience in the end. I don't think I personally would have gone there as an undergrad, and as a nerdy/shy student, you'll have lots of company at Brown, but also have the benefit of lots of people who are more outgoing than you, but used to AND enjoy people like you. I'd say Brown over Chicago, but I'm biased. Don't make your decision based on your one friend at Chicago and not knowing anyone at Brown, or your visit 5 years ago. Go visit again if you think it will help you, but Good luck!
posted by fionab at 11:21 AM on May 17, 2005

From three years as a law student at Chicago -- all three years lived in Hyde Park -- let me say that I've never seen a less happy or less attractive group of people than Chicago undergrads.

Let me also say that the most soul-crushingly sad thing I've witnessed in my life were the kids who were so nerdy and unattractive that they were social outcasts at Chicago -- the ones who were not only in the Reg on Friday night, but who were sitting alone there, looking wistfully at the tabled of kids who were studying their together.
posted by MattD at 11:29 AM on May 17, 2005

I'd say Chicago. This is, of course, based partly on my prejudices. Chicago was my second choice, and I came very very close to going there [and thus very very close to following in the footsteps of both of my parents. Instead I ended up at MIT.] In any case, I did a lot of research on the place, and it sounds like you might have similar taste.

A lot of the people who're suggesting Brown sound like they have tastes rather different than yours. I was warned by plenty of people that there would be no social life at MIT, or that the undergrads were all ugly and unhappy, all that kind of stuff. Thing is, I love it here. It may be incredibly difficult, it may kick your ass sometimes, but it's worth it in the end. I've heard the same from friends at UChicago.

Will you work hard? Of course. That doesn't mean you have to do nothing but classwork - most of the people who live only for work would be doing the same thing at other schools [and you probably already know if you're that kind of person.] While scheduling required classes can be annoying, the Core does give you room for choice, and required classes often expose you to stuff you'd've never encountered on your own. One of the best classes I've ever taken is one that I took solely to fulfill a requirement. In any case, it's not like the Core means you'll only get to take classes in your major and a bunch of huge classes with every other freshman - there's choice within the Core, and you'll still be expected to take a bunch of electives as well. You'll also have professors teaching essentially everything, smaller classes than you'll find at other top schools, and lots of opportunities to join in research as an undergrad, if you feel so inclined.

Chicago is a great city, certainly far more interesting than Providence [and downtown Chicago is much closer to UChicago than Boston and New York are to Providence.] Hyde Park itself is dominated by the university. It's pretty readily accessible via bus or El. Some of the dorms are a little distance from campus - most of my friends lived in the Shoreland, a building that used to be a hotel that's a 15 minute walk from campus.

Definitely go for a single. I've had roommates in the past, and I had no real problem living with people, but I've never become particularly close to any of them, nor have I really been part of their social circle. I can't imagine having no private space for at least two years. Though I've only visited, I didn't get the impression the social life is as bleak as people claim it is. If you're looking for huge drunken parties and lots of people hooking up, I suppose it would look pretty bad. But I'd rather do low-key, often geeky activities with people I like - smaller parties, movie nights, stuff like that. And of course there are a few amusing larger events like ScavHunt. It reminded me a lot of the MIT social scene, which I'm of course more familiar with [yes, that's a complimentary statement.]

If you're the kind of person who'd recoil in horror at the idea of a library being a social hub, sure, UChicago's probably not for you. But hey, I can only wish that my school had a library like that... Point is, UChicago's not for everyone, while I'm sure most people could have an OK time at Brown. But if you, as willbaude said, you want to "meet a bunch of smart, socially awkward, hard-working and vaguely obsessive individuals" who don't care about how geeky hanging out in the Reg is and who like to things a little differently, it sounds like Chicago might be a pretty great place for you. And, of course, on the academic side of things, you'll certainly find yourself challenged there.
posted by ubersturm at 3:56 PM on May 17, 2005

Brown students (even the CS majors) have no computer hacking skills. Why would I edit such a long post in Safari aka 'Sir Crashalot'?

Forgive the derail, but I wrote an epic post today in the 'I Hate Myself' thread, one that, trust me, was of truly great quality, something that would have undoubtedly solved pretty much every problem on AskMe single-handed, but hey. You're just going to have to trust me on that.

Always copy before you preview....

And in an attempt to actually make this relevant: I think that the differences between colleges tend to be exaggerated. Some of the differences are real in terms of the lean of certain departments and so on, but your education essentially comes down to what you put into it. Attending a first-rate school is not necessarily any guarantee of getting a first-rate education if you hate the place; but a supposedly second-rate school where you click with a program of with a professor may well be where you will thrive. Between Brown and Chicago? I'd talk to your professors, actually, who may be able to give you valuable advice based on who are you as a student and as a person.
posted by jokeefe at 12:10 AM on May 18, 2005

...no way those are _college students_, vega5960. Depending on the bus line, it's $10-$20 each way [as long as prices have dropped in the past few months], unless you have the money to pay for a car's upkeep in Boston [also not cheap.] Maybe well-to-do couples have the spare change to go on a jaunt to Providence or New York whenever they get bored of Boston cuisine, but I can't think of any college student I know who'd pay that much to travel to a restaurant. Most students I know wouldn't even pay $15 or $20 a meal. Speaking as a bona fide broke Bostonian, I'd never go to Providence just to eat, or even to see a show - all the Providence bands come down to Boston regularly, and I can't think of many bands that choose to tour in Providence rather than Boston.

Sorry, but I don't think that article has much to do with the kind of things a college student is going to care about, or be able to afford. There are plenty of arguments one could make for Brown, but saying "Providence is a cultural mecca and better than Boston" is just silly.
posted by ubersturm at 3:09 PM on May 18, 2005

while it's a silly article, there is some truth in it. i ate at several of the restaurants mentioned in the article during and after college. nick's, julian's, and seven star bakery for example are affordable (and are regularly frequented by students who venture off campus) and very good. some might require a bike ride/walk across town, or a friend with a car to reach however. the risd museum is a 5 minute walk from brown's campus.

you can get from boston to providence for $5-6 one way on the commuter rail.

are flocks of people fleeing boston for providence- i doubt it, but sometimes driving from boston to providence and eating can take just as long as driving through downtown boston and parking and eating.
posted by ry at 7:40 AM on May 19, 2005

Response by poster: Update:
So I visited Providence this weekend, liked the Brown campus, and handed in my "acceptance of admission" card to the Admission Office. So I'll be at Brown next year.

Thank you, everyone, for all the advice. It was a really hard decision and it ultimately came down to Brown's Open/New Curriculum (really didn't want to make up a whole bunch of Core classes sophomore year) and people's comments about happiness at each school. As one might have guessed, I had a depressing year at GWU and just really want to be content next year. It seems like at Brown there is a better chance of me being happy and less stressed, and coming out of my shell. Hopefully I made the right choice! (Although I don't think I really could have gone wrong at either place.)
posted by puffin at 10:01 AM on May 24, 2005

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