Help me decide: Columbia vs. Harvard vs. Yale

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Sep 5, 2018
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Hey all, I was pretty lucky with my admissions cycle and have at least two great schools to choose from (Yale and Columbia), and recently got a sort of "under-the-table" tip from a prof I work with at Harvard that I would have good news from them soon. Not to count chickens before they hatch, but I am trying to decide which of these three schools would be best for me. I received a half-tuition merit scholarship from Columbia and am waiting to see need-based aid. No word yet on Yale's financial aid package.

I almost guarantee that I want to pursue a specialty related to brain function and health. I am interested primarily in neurology, specifically neurocritical care, but could also see myself doing psychiatry, neuropathology or neuroradiology, depending on my experience with these specialties in rotations. I never want to do neurosurgery. I have great respect for those that go down that road, but it's just not a lifestyle I want to pursue.

I am very interested in continuing to do research while in med school, so having fewer "time wasters" would be a bonus. Basically, having a school be chill as long as I pass courses and meet all requirements is a huge plus.

As far as geographic prefs, I currently live in Boston and work for HMS but don't know many people, I have some ties to NYC (lived there for a year) and love the city, and am a Yale College alum so I have strong ties to New Haven and love it, but only a couple of my close friends are left there nowadays. I see positives and negatives to each place.

Would love to hear people's opinions and experiences of these schools. Please let me know if I can supply any additional info to aid in making this decision. Thanks in advance for the advice!

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harvard unless >aid elsewhere
congrats u crazy person
Have to agree. All good places to be, but unless you have a strong reason to be one of the other two places (significant difference in financial aid; significant difference in proximity to family/support, if you feel that will be important for you), I think it's difficult to pick either Columbia or Yale over Harvard.
I think you'd probably be fine no matter where you went so it's maybe a matter of looking at which environment will be easiest for you to succeed in. As far as Harvard, you mentioned that you already live in Boston and work there so maybe attending HMS would make the transition to med school easier + you can leverage existing relationships to get shadowing or added research experience which is probably pretty valuable. At the same time, I've heard anecdotally that the HMS curriculum and the "flipped classroom" style can be really annoying but if you don't foresee that as a problem and are okay with the added time spent then I guess you're good.

I can't really speak to Columbia, but as for Yale, I also got in this cycle and it does seem like an amazing school to do exactly what you said you wanted to: have as much flexibility, do enough to meet requirements, and use the extra time to do other things like research. It'll probably be hard to turn down the chance to go to Harvard, but I feel it's worth mentioning in case you truly feel like it could be a tipping point for you!

One final point I'd add is that if you already have a strong inclination as to the specific kind of work you'd like to be doing in med school and beyond, it's worth considering the strength of each specific department at each of these schools and potentially reaching out to a faculty member at each to see if they'd be willing to take you under their wing.

Overall, great job!!! There's absolutely no wrong choice for you to make and I'm sure that each school would probably give you equal opportunity to do whatever you want in med. In that sense, it may then be better to focus on FA and reducing your debt burden by attending whichever school can wipe away your tuition the most!
Didn't apply to Harvard but got into Yale and Columbia so I can speak to them. They both had nice and friendly environments, although everybody is like that on interview days lol. Regarding research, they're functionally equivalent in all ways...esp neuroscience. So you'll have more than enough resources from either school.

Don't have to tell you about New Haven bc you lived there for college. NYC is NYC, youre currently living in Boston. Assuming you get into Harvard, ultimately I think it'll come down to money and which city you like more.

No individual school will provide you more opportunities within neurology than the other. For psychiatry, I will say that Yale has a very storied program and obv you'd have a greater chance of going there for residency if you go there for med school. Can't go wrong with either choice, good luck!

Edit: Just noticed you pointed to being interested in an environment where they're chill and you really can't get more chill than Yale with the Yale system...which brings up another point. Harvard has mandatory classes for part of the day, can't remember Columbia's setup. But Yale is SUPER flexible. If you want super chill, flexible, and good psychiatry, Yale might be the move. But again, finances and location are important too. Sounds like you have support in all 3 areas