There's a good reason why a movie based on Caltech students was called Real Genius. After all, the average Caltech student can discuss Stephen Hawkings' books, recite pi to ten decimals, and talk about Schroedinger's cat-for fun. "Caltech is consistently ranked as one of the top ten universities, and easily one of the best places to study engineering, science, and math. If you are unfamiliar with Caltech, academically speaking, we are MIT on the west coast, and professionals are aware of this and treat us accordingly," explains Ryan, a freshman. Marybeth, a physics major, discusses the perks of academic life at Caltech: "Students collaborate on homework and there is no competition, which is wonderful. No spiting, no envy. We are smart enough to realize that there's no point. Everyone does their best. The work is so hard it simply cannot be completed alone."
A typical day on campus consists of going to class, studying, playing computer games or hanging out with friends, perhaps an extracurricular activity, and then logging in more study time before hitting the sack. Especially for pre-meds and engineers, the workload at Case will pile on if students don't stay on top of it. Students welcome the work and, it seems, prefer to stay in and keep to themselves anyway. "Math professors are incredibly smart, but can be difficult to learn from. Case's classes are generally difficult, but not impossible. Education, at least in engineering, prepares you excellently for the real thing," says Kevin, an engineering sophomore. Some students burn out, however, and decide that they need something else out of college besides studying, classes, and more studying. Krista, a freshman, admits, "My first semester here was dedicated to being pre-med, but Case changed my mind immediately. Speaking from one semester of experience, the science and math curriculums here are rigorous. I absolutely hated it because I had so much homework and studying to do."
With arguably the best science programs in the Ivy League, Cornell attracts bright young scientific minds who desire both a career-driven and well-rounded education. "A lot of intro classes in engineering are pretty large and anonymous, but as I start taking smaller specialized classes I have more professors who I know and get along with well. I think my classes are very, very challenging and it's much harder for me to maintain a good GPA then it was in high school," claims Melanie, a sophomore. Departments like biology, physics, and engineering are widely considered some of the toughest at any school, and, as would be expected, these courses at Cornell are no joke. Shawn, a sophomore, admits, "Honestly, after surviving 4 grueling semesters as a physical science major here, I can appreciate why the Cornell name seems to vet candidates- Cornell will push you to your limits, academically and emotionally, and you (as a typical Cornellian) will react by pushing yourself even harder."
If each Ivy League school has its own unique personality, and Dartmouth is the 'eccentric living alone in a log cabin' of the bunch. That's not to say that students at Dartmouth are the oddballs of the Ivy League (that's Brown), but the isolation of being in Hanover, NH in the middle of February means that students are focusing almost all of their attention on academics. Students seem to enjoy the serenity of the White Mountains though, and enjoy academic life at their school. Frances, a senior, says, "The Chemistry dept is FANTASTIC. The profs are hilarious and so smart and so quirky and wonderful. People here study a lot, especially for major classes." According to Molly, a sophomore, "Profs in general aren't there to screw you over, nor are they handing out A's."
Stanford is perennially ranked as one of the best universities in the nation, but unlike its eastern counterparts, the campus is lined with palm trees instead of ivy. The biology and engineering departments at Stanford are both extremely well-regarded and popular, and students wishing to earn a degree in one of those fields better find a comfortable chair in the library. "The academics at Stanford definitely live up to the standards you would expect from a top university. The science and humanities classes all ask a lot from a person, especially as the quarter system is fast-paced," says one freshman. The professors at Stanford are some of the best in their field and students often have the chance to interact with them outside of class, despite large class sizes. Tate, a senior, says, "When I took Math 51, a multivariable calculus class, there were perhaps 300 other students in the class. However, the Professors and TA's had a lot of experience teaching the course because of its size and the frequency it was offered. They had extensive office hours so any motivated student who wanted face time with the professor could easily get it. In fact, Professors in large classes often complain because no one comes to see them during office hours!"
WPI is a small private university that attracts some of the brightest young science and engineering student s in the nation. "WPI has excellent name recognition as well as an excellent reputation in science and engineering industries. In other words, the people who matter (the ones who hire college grads) DO know about WPI, and they hold it in very high esteem (some even prefer to hire WPI grads than MIT grads)," explains one sophomore mathematics major. Students who graduate from WPI may have plenty of high-paying professional options awaiting them, but they have to survive the school's rigorous academics first. Morgan, a junior, says, "Because of the exceptional amount of class hours that we have over other universities, engendered by our 7 week terms rather than the normal semesters, there is a lot of student teacher interaction and class participation, as well as many lab hours within most majors."