What are some cool things a LWer can do at Yale, Brown, and UChicago?

post by InquilineKea · 2012-02-05T05:00:29.170Z · score: 3 (10 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 13 comments

So I'm applying for grad schools right now, and am visiting Yale, Brown, and UChicago this month (I already got accepted into UChicago, and also got invited to expenses-paid visits to both Yale and Brown). I'm visiting Yale in just 2 days.

So what are some cool things a LWer can do at those places? And which professors do research that a LWer could potentially find very interesting? Which universities would a LWer find himself/herself most at home at?

Also, is there anything else I need to know about those places?

I'm still waiting for decisions from Columbia and MIT (and got rejected by Caltech). 

13 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by falenas108 · 2012-02-05T17:22:16.116Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

(Bias warning: I'm a student at UChicago.)

Over half of the student population at UChicago is atheist/agnostic, and from my experience as a first year undergrad people seem open to conversation about most things.

There are also a ton of student clubs for almost anything you want to do, and if you find enough interest in something you can get funding to start you own club. For example, there's a parkour club, a performing circus, a dragon dance team, a free hugs group, and many other random fun organizations.

Also, I personally plan on starting a LW meetup at UChicago sometime between now and the end of the school year, which will hopefully spawn regular meetings here. Sadly, my schedule prevents doing this for the next few weeks.

comment by InquilineKea · 2012-02-05T22:28:20.857Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh wow - that's so interesting! I would love to join a LW group there if I end up coming.

"Over half of the student population at UChicago is atheist/agnostic"

Isn't that true for most elite universities?

comment by orthonormal · 2012-02-06T01:14:06.524Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

UChicago alum speaking. I loved the school, for reasons very similar to why I love Less Wrong. More students there are philosophically inclined, idiosyncratic, and generally willing to entertain strange arguments than at any other school I know of. LW meetups at their best remind me of the dining hall conversations at the U of C.

The proportion of atheists may be also high at some of the Ivy League schools, but that atheism generally has a relativist flavor rather than a rationalist one, and people there are less willing to deal with ideas contrary to that worldview. The traditional UChicago student will actually give an absurd but well-argued idea a genuine hearing!

Major caveat, though: graduate departments are always very different from the undergraduate college.

comment by InquilineKea · 2012-02-06T14:12:47.000Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wow - very nice. :) And very good points. :)

Do you know if PhD students are allowed to join these dining hall conversations?

comment by orthonormal · 2012-02-06T16:10:54.907Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That would be a bit unusual in the dormitory dining halls (and it should also be noted that their food is terrible), but pretty feasible at Bartlett Commons or the Reynolds Club. Or you could crash conversations at one of the campus coffee shops.

I don't want to make it sound like all U of C students have conversations like this, but I could almost always find one happening. (It helped that I made friends with other people who liked abstract arguments.)

comment by InquilineKea · 2012-02-07T01:18:59.730Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Oh okay I see.

Just wondering - are people in the dormitories somewhat cliquish? Or are the cliques less extreme than at other schools? And do they open up more easily than most students at other schools? In public universities, people often largely stick with their peer groups from high school (so I can never really join). And I've heard that people often become cliquish in the other elite schools too. Stanford undergrads even mistreat Stanford grad students (see http://www.quora.com/Why-do-Stanford-undergrads-mistreat-grad-students ). But Chicago seems like it would be the least cliquish, based on the limited stuff I know about it so far.

comment by orthonormal · 2012-02-07T02:58:49.815Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I almost never found it cliquish, which is different from what I've heard of other elite schools. People are either notably shy or willing to talk to anyone, anytime, about their favorite intellectual topics. (I guess what I'm saying is that the UChicago autism bell curve is a few standard deviations to the right of the usual one...)

comment by InquilineKea · 2012-02-07T05:08:51.190Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for that excellent reply - that pretty much describes my social life too. :)

The one school that Chicago seems comparable to is Caltech, but Caltech students do seem to be more cliquish (due to the house system) and also probably less "intellectually promiscuous".

comment by TimS · 2012-02-07T03:52:54.853Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Another UChicago alum. FWIW, my experience as an undergrad was that there wasn't all that much social mixing between the undergrads and the graduate students. I'm sure it occurred some, but the difference in life stage between those two populations was sufficiently large that mixing did not occur naturally. My impression was the grad students were aloof from the undergrads, not that the undergrads were hostile to grad students (undergrad hostility would surprise me, since many undergrads at UChicago thought they would be graduate students some time in the future).

Most student groups I participated in were overwhelmingly undergrad, such that a graduate student would stand out. But I mostly participated in academic competition groups (Mock Trial, Parliamentary Debate) that wouldn't have allowed graduate students to participate in the actual competitions.

comment by InquilineKea · 2012-02-07T05:07:02.412Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks very much for that reply! And I think you're right about that. There are very few non-LAC schools where the undergrads actually expect to be grad students in the future. So that's probably enough to make Chicago unique. Whereas at a place like Stanford, they might disdain the grad students since there is so much social pressure to join startups rather than grad school.

comment by falenas108 · 2012-02-07T13:51:12.929Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, the biggest interactions between grad and undergrad students occur in the various clubs on campus. I know about 6 grad students so far, all from clubs. If I hadn't participated in clubs, or just ones that are undergrad only, I wouldn't know any.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2012-02-05T16:20:35.312Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

While some of these guys are getting old, the artificial intelligence and machine learning group at Brown was once truly remarkable: Mumford, Geman and Geman, Grenander, Bienenstock, and Charniak were/are all top-notch researchers with unique perspectives on how intelligence works.

comment by 911truther · 2012-02-05T05:55:23.422Z · score: 0 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Make sure to wear your rationalist sneakers when you go!