Welcome to Columbia—let the self-recrimination begin!
Seriously, if we can posit one common thread throughout a student body that is diverse in just about every conceivable dimension, it is that we all overthink things. Debates between eating dinner at Deluxe or the Heights will take half an hour; whether to major in History or Poli Sci (or Comp Sci or Applied Math) will take up the other half of your time here. And you’ll still wonder if you made the right decision to begin with—the decision to come to Columbia.
We could tell you all the reasons why you chose correctly, but we’re confident enough to believe these to be implicit. You’ll get it; you’ll know you did well by yourself. So, in the interest of paving your road to eternal regret, Bwog staffers Marc Tracy and Avi Zenilman present arguments in favor of elsewhere: six schools that may have given you a better college experience. Or not.
Best of several worlds: you get to be Bay Area without living in a city, you get great weather that is nonetheless seasonal, and you get Ivy-caliber academics without Ivy-caliber winters and Ivy-caliber classmates without Ivy-caliber pretension. Plus, redwoods.
What they have that we don’t: Major league hook-up to Silicon Valley. Berkeley and San Francisco are not far off, and Yosemite’s only a few hours’ drive. Also, we really get the feeling that everyone there has great skin. And their quarter system allows for greater personalization of your studies. Plus, redwoods.
What we have that they don’t: Palo Alto plays SoHo to Berkeley’s Village. All that Silicon Valley stuff still has to go through Wall Street. And at the end of the day, you still can’t get a decent knish. See our point?
Hook-up factor: If nothing else, the better weather means that you don’t pass through the winter months forgetting that the opposite sex exists. Plus, redwoods.
University of Michigan
Gorgeous campus, fun-loving and smart kids (Michiganders and out-of-staters alike), top academics…depictions of these things occupy about half of their recruitment video. The other half is devoted to football. The Wolverines are always near the top, and the Big House on an autumn Saturday is the place to be, not just in Ann Arbor, but in, well, the entire country.
What they have that we don’t: A great football team, with an accessible stadium—that could house all Columbia undergrads back to 1940 at the same time—to boot. A functional Greek system. Five times the kids for half the tuition: quite a bargain.
What we have that they don’t: You think it gets cold here?
Hook-up factor: True, the football players and cheerleaders get dibs, but they just cancel each other out, leaving Average Joe and Jane with far-from-slim pickings to choose from.
Deep Springs College (before going to Columbia)
Unlike the other schools on our list, Deep Springs lasts only two years; costs nothing; and has only men. Located in the California desert, Deep Springs’s educational philosophy rests on three pillars: Academics, Labor, and Self-Governance. There are roughly 13 students per class; ten times that number apply each year. Graduates go on to such lousy institutions as Harvard, Oxford, and Columbia, and count among their ranks such unimpressive figures as CNN honcho Walter Isaacson, celebrated author William T. Vollmann, and renowned geophysicist Raymond Jeanloz.
What they have that we don’t: A ranch, complete with cattle herd. Also, it’s fucking free.
What we have that they don’t: Girls.
Hook-up factor: They make do.
Being in Vermont, Middlebury students are allowed to take advantage of the awful weather. Their snow doesn’t turn to muddy slush; it achieves a pristine, romantic quality. Likewise, they take advantage of their smaller size (around 2300 students, all undergrads) with a close-knit campus community where everyone knows everyone. This is an idyllic, lovely place at which to matriculate.
What they have that we don’t: A huge, wonderful, privately operated ski slope. A winter semester that’s actually supposed to be lots of fun. Fleece—lots and lots of fleece. Homogeneity. We hear the bud is dank.
What we have that they don’t: A more lenient language requirement. The Core. Corduroy—lots and lots of corduroy. Heterogeneity. We hear the coke is killer.
Hook-up factor: Fair. You’ll spoon with everyone in your dorm, but that will be by November, and you won’t dare venture outside until May.
Yale boasts an unbeatable rep, a classically New England setting, and lots of kids still in the closet. On a typical night, the Eli eats dinner with the other editors of their reader-friendly (if largely unread) magazine, takes in a grad school production of Uncle Vanya, drinks heavily with other English majors, accidentally hits on Garry Trudeau’s daughter, asserts that Andrew Bujalski is our generation’s Noah Baumbach, and goes home alone. Party at 39 Lynwood!
What they have that we don’t: Real hipsters, unlike those pretenders in Brooklyn.
What we have that they don’t: Souls.
Hook-up factor: N/A.
City University of New York (CUNY)
CUNY actually has eleven “senior colleges”—e.g., undergraduate schools— ranging from Baruch (for future bankers) to John Jay (for future lawyers) to Hunter (for current hipsters). No matter where you are, though, you’ll have small class sizes, stellar professors, freedom to design your own course of study, and not that much tuition—the university is heavily subsidized by both the city and the state. In short, you’ll be treated like an actual adult, and pay less for the privilege. You actually should’ve gone to CUNY.
What they have that we don’t: Eleven undergraduate colleges—at least one in each borough.
What we have that they don’t: Well, for one thing, New York City…oh wait.
Hook-up factor: Adequate; you’re never more than a subway ride away from Barnard.