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Prestigious Private School vs Honors at State Flagship

  1. Mar 31, 2013 #1
    Over the last week, I have been beating myself up over picking which undergrad school to go to. I have been admitted to the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern and the College of Science and Engineering and the Honors Program at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. The main majors I am considering at the moment are Math and Computer Science. Here is the situation at both schools.

    University of Minnesota:
    + only would cost about $8000 per year
    + honors adviser
    + honors dorm
    + honors Math, Physics, and Computer Science classes
    + very few requirements not already met by AP credit
    + if interests change, I will have enough free classes to pursue new interests
    + fairly high ranked
    + girlfriend of 2 and a half years will be attending (different program though)
    + giving me a scholarship to do freshman or sophomore research
    - classes much larger
    - not sure about quality of academics vs Northwestern

    Northwestern University:
    + Applied Mathematics major looks interesting
    + many certificate options
    + engineering first curriculum
    + strongly ranked industrial engineering (I am possibly interested in Operations Research)
    + small class sizes
    + peers with high intelligence
    + prestige
    + amazing co-op program
    + quarter system allows me to take more classes
    - have more requirements (engineering first curriculum, humanities/theme requirement)
    - if decide pure math instead of applied math, may be difficult to change
    - not sure if research is as easy to get
    - cost (~$22,000 freshman year, ~$32,000 years 2-4 when my sister leaves undergraduate school)

    Now before people tell me to follow the money, my mother has told me not to worry about finances, as she and my father will be able to afford it. While I am very grateful that my parents are so generous, I am a bit uncomfortable with making them pay so much (though the co-op would earn me quite a bit of money to put towards my tuition).

    Overall, I know I will be happy at both schools, but I am trying to make the best choice I can. I have thought about this as much as I can by myself, but I thought some advice from others would be a good idea. Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 31, 2013 #2
    Wow this seems real tough for you. I am going through a similar trouble at the moment (albeit with lower tier schools) and I understand the stress this causes. One thing that I would like you to find out, however, is if the University of Minnesota's honors program really does contain large class sizes. I was sure that most universities' (even state ones) honors programs contained much smaller class sizes. This may not be a whole lost of a difference but I saw that it was a negative on your list and changing it to a positive may help you make up your mind if any.
  4. Mar 31, 2013 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Have you visited either or both schools?
  5. Mar 31, 2013 #4
    As Vanadium said, you should really visit these schools. With both you could probably get a tour of the department you are interested in and talk to students that go there. That will be so much more helpful than anything people on here could say.
  6. Mar 31, 2013 #5
    I took a number of math classes at the University of Minnesota during high school before going to MIT. The math classes at the University of Minnesota were definitely easier than ones at MIT but some of them (5615-6H honors analysis and 5285-6H honors algebra) were still fairly challenging so unless you are extremely good at math I think you will get a very solid mathematical education there. The University of Minnesota also has several programs for advanced high schools and some of those students are both very advanced in math and matriculate at the University of Minnesota so there are more high ability math students there than one might otherwise suspect.
  7. Mar 31, 2013 #6
    I have actually visited both schools. Northwestern was a while ago, but I remember I did enjoy what I saw very much. I am hoping to make it to one of their admitted student days in the next few weeks.

    I also just recently visited the University of Minnesota for their admitted student day for people in the College of Science and Engineering and in the Honors program, and I do have to say I was rather impressed with all of the attention. Granted, they were trying to get me to enroll there. Overall, I think it was best summed up by one of the professors at the event: "You have all been admitted into wonderful schools aside from here, and no matter where you go we know you will be successful. We hope you go here, and if not, we wish you the best of luck."

    As to the honors classes being smaller, it does seem as if most honors classes are limited to 30-40 students which would be awesome. I am more concerned about upper level courses that do not have honors variations.

    My math abilities I would say are far above average, but nothing compared to taking Analysis or Abstract Algebra in high school! I made it through Calculus III, however, considering the highest math class at my school is AP Calc AB, I consider myself good at math. Not a genius, but talented.
  8. Apr 1, 2013 #7
    Class sizes will generally get smaller in your upper level courses by default. The lower level courses are usually bottlenecks and depending on the class required for multiple majors. As you get to your upper level courses they will start to be electives and major only which will make them smaller.
  9. Apr 1, 2013 #8
    Here is some more info for both of the programs I am looking at.

    Math at University of Minnesota:
    Requirements for BS
    Honors Program Courses ( I would take Honors Math I-II and both Honors Analysis and Honors Algebra)
    http://www.math.umn.edu/ugrad_honors/ [Broken]

    Applied Math at Northwestern University:
    Requirements for BS
    Sample 4 year Schedule

    I guess my main concern is that I am not sure if I will go to grad school or industry right away, and I want to have both options. At Northwestern, I think it might be hard to fit in required courses (like analysis and algebra) as many of these are 3 quarter sequences, and there are not a whole lot of elective options. Any opinions?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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