UChicago or Brown for undergrad?

This is my take on both schools – please let me know if I am wrong or missing anything.

Brown – very chill undergrad where I would be able to explore areas without the pressure of it tanking my gpa (p/f), laid back experience, very nice 4 years, not that competitive when applying to jobs (ppl know brown is easier) and not as much of a network in finance.

UChicago - hard 4 years, will struggle, not a lot of a work-life balance, will probably kill myself in the process of getting a 3.8 GPA, better perceived than brown, has more alumni in the finance industry

I care a lot about alumni because I am under the impression that it matters a lot in finance since that is how one gets pulled in. I feel the quality of the alumni matter as well, by this I mean the position they are in. I don't know if alumni still matters 2-3 years into the career. Say I want to get a promotion, would sharing a college matter more or do people skills matter more? From my lurking around in LinkedIn I am under the impression that UChicago has more alumni in banking and that might help me (I am not sure about the extent of this help). Brown would be a more traditional college experience and chill. If I were to go I would take philosophy courses just to learn how to think ( but I know UChicago does a better job at teaching this).

Any input is appreciated!

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Comments (65)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 19, 2020 - 11:57am

Not true at all that UChicago places primarily in Chicago, specifically if you look at the past few years. Most placements now are actually in NY. True though that UChicago is more prestigious but much harder with grade deflation, will need to grind. Clubs are more competitive at UChicago, but top students there kill it with how strong in finance they are (surprising considering it's liberal arts). At UChicago you can also take classes at Booth, which could be very beneficial to OP. Brown will be more fun, easier, and less people interested in finance. Would argue therefore that UChicago gives you the resources and competition (if you thrive off that) to be stronger in finance, but on average most students won't know how to navigate that. OP, if you end up at UChicago, let me know and I'll give you advice on finance at UC.
Ultimately, there is no place that will interview a UChicago student but not a Brown one, or vice versa.
source: I recently graduated from UChicago, cousin goes to Brown

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Jun 19, 2020 - 2:41pm

I feel that maybe straight out of both schools I could land similar jobs but somehow I feel that trying to climb up the professional ladder would be better aided by a stronger network (?? correct me if I'm wrong).

Someone tells me that GPA does not matter that much in recruiting since usually I am being compared to people of any school? If this is the case then it should not be that much of a problem?

  • Analyst 1 in HF - Other
Jun 19, 2020 - 2:49pm

Completely wrong about Chicago. Barely anyone from UChicago is going into Chicago banking at this point, maybe that was the case a few years ago but now UChicago has a pipeline to the NYC office of almost every Bulge/EB. Banking in Chicago in general has been wound down quite a bit fwiw with a lot of firms closing offices.

UChicago has also made its course offering more palatable to people who are not looking to get crushed by coursework for 4 years. They added a business econ track which gets rid of some of the tougher math requirements of the econ major, which most finance track people do at this point. The school is somewhat difficult, and won't be an easy ride like Brown, but the student body is super driven and the name is super respected by most firms at this point.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jun 19, 2020 - 2:54pm
Analyst 1 in HF - Other:

Banking in Chicago in general has been wound down quite a bit fwiw with a lot of firms closing offices.

Which banks have closed offices or decreased in size in Chicago? I was under the impression of newly opened offices (PWP/Rothschild) and most were growing.

  • Prospect in IB - Gen
Jun 19, 2020 - 3:18pm

is it a lot harder to get EB than BB at UChicago? I see strong pipelines for bulge, but not that strong representation from EB. Is it because EB is more technically demanding, like someone mentioned below, and you have to self-study everything at UChicago (and Brown)?

Jun 19, 2020 - 3:00pm

also I am not sure if Brown offers the same jobs afterwards because I did some googling on LInkedIn and there are definitely more Chicago alums in the major banks in comparison to Brown – should this factor in

Jun 19, 2020 - 3:05pm

do you really think I could land the same job out of both schools? I know that in Uchicago I can take some classes in Booth so that would prepare me – also there are some "prestigious" clubs that I could join that would ben useful.

I have not spent enough time researching Brown but they don't seem to make as much of a focus on finance and I don't see many clubs that support it. Would it mean I would have to learn it myself?

Jun 19, 2020 - 8:19am

I would definitely go to Brown. I went to Princeton which is like a more prestigious UChicago, in that it has really fucking difficult classes and grade deflation. I just graduated, and I'm happy where I'm at, but I wish I would have gone to a school where I didn't have to grind all the time and could explore my interests outside the classroom more and focus on recruiting.

Jun 19, 2020 - 8:55am

Full disclosure: I go to Brown. My first two choices when I was a high school senior were UChicago and Brown, so here's my $0.02

It's been a very laid-back last few years here and I've managed to go out at least twice every week while still maintaining a 4.0 in math/econ, and I know I'm not the only one. I don't want to say it's crazy easy here, but it's definitely very doable.

UChicago is a bigger school and more people do go into finance as a % of the student body than Brown, no doubt. It's a really good school, but a friend who currently goes there says it's very competitive to get into the top clubs & environment is pretty depressing – they're a tough school.

At Brown, it's pretty easy to get into basically any club you want (with the right amount of effort and networking) and there are definitely alumni at every BB and EB you could think of in NYC (take this from me, I'm networking rn). Not only that, Brown's environment isn't very competitive and people WILL still help you, even if you're 'competing' for the same spots. There are definitely networks at Brown (even outside the traditional business clubs) that will set you up for recruiting.
It's also really important to think about actual number of competitors: and surprise, at Brown there won't be that many. I can talk more re: my experience if you have any more questions.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jun 19, 2020 - 6:16pm

No, it just means you have to compete with less people for the same spots. It is in no way a disadvantage, only an advantage (i.e. would you rather have 200 people going for 10 GS position, or 20 people going for 5 positions).

Also, Brown -- from what I know -- has student-run finance organizations that will help you through recruiting. A lot of this stuff can be learned outside as well through online courses, which will set you up perfectly for interviews. Finance isn't too difficult if you stay persistent. Good luck!

Jun 20, 2020 - 7:13am

Exactly what the above commenter said. It comes down to the sheer # of people you're competing with. One other thing I'd say is the quality of the competition at Brown and UChicago isn't the same. And this is not saying my classmates aren't incredibly smart people; they're just not the biggest finance hardos – the people I've met here are nice and some are well-prepared, but there's a very small number of crazy amazing kids who want to go into finance. Here, it's almost looked down upon if you have the talent/ability to 'change the world' or whatever and choose to go down the path. Which could be a bad thing for some, but I think it's pretty good because you meet more than just 'finance bros'.

I can't say anything about 'learning enough' about the job as I have non pre-professional academic interests, but banking isn't rocket science, and there are definitely finance-related classes at Brown – take a look at the Business Economics concentration. At UChicago a lot of what you learn through the core isn't necessarily going to prepare you for banking either. Also yes re: finance organizations, though I will say I found them more helpful for the network than anything, like most finance clubs.

  • Analyst 1 in HF - Other
Jun 19, 2020 - 9:12am

I also chose between Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia, Chicago, and Duke when I chose my undergraduate school and from everyone I talked to, any of those schools will get you where you want to be and its a lot easier to maintain a high GPA while still having a fun college experience at every school except Chicago (from my personal list) here. Chicago is a great school, but its constantly overrated by prestige whores from USNews rankings. Go Brown and have a fun time.

Most Helpful
Jun 19, 2020 - 11:57am

Go to Brown, especially given you think it will be a better culture fit. The schools are comparable enough that fit should be the biggest determinant of where you spend your next four years.

College is a good time to explore and try a bunch of different things without too much pressure. I do agree that you'll want to keep your grades up, but aside from that, you should be encouraged to try new/different things, as opposed to being solely focused on what will give you the best outcome for your first finance job.

Both are great schools, as you identified, U Chicago has more of the grinder/academic mentality with a slightly more rigorous academic experience (in general) whereas Brown is more likely to be more relaxed. Brown is still an Ivy with plenty of kids who aspire to top Banking/Consulting careers. It's not like you're settling for a state school to goof around.

I'd only go U Chicago if you have some specific tie to the midwest or greater Chicago area or if money was a factor (Chicago gave you a big scholarship, Brown didn't). Sounds like neither of those are the case though.

Edit: For the butthurt U Chicago students that downvoted this post. I have nothing against U Chicago, I think it's a great school that will place into pretty much all top banking/consulting jobs out of undergrad. I do think it's safe to say that the focus is more on academics vs social and that a more rigorous academic experience is likely to be experienced vs Brown. That's not to say that if you majored in Sociology at UC vs Math at Brown that the experience couldn't be flipped, but as a generalization UC will be a more academic experience.

Based on the OPs initial post and him valuing being able to explore and try things in a low pressure environment, while still keeping options open for post-grad, Brown is likely a better options given the lack of grades and no core curriculum.

Jun 19, 2020 - 2:48pm

I am somewhat attracted to Uchicago's rigor – people always say that the core changed how they think and I think it would be cool for that to be the case but I don't know if I would make it through the core.

Arguably I could take philosophy classes in Brown as well (without the pressure) but I am pretty sure it would not be at the same level as UChicago.

  • Analyst 1 in HF - Other
Jun 19, 2020 - 2:51pm

It's really what you want out of college, and how driven you are and certain you want to be in finance or some other competitive field. Brown will be fun, UChicago is better regarded though and generally has more resources and a student body composed of a lot of kids who turned down other Ivies to attend. UChicago also isn't a total grindhouse like it's made out to be, you can do well and still have a good time.

Disclosure: Got into both, picked UChicago, didn't regret it.

Jun 19, 2020 - 2:57pm

I wouldn't be too scared off by the school being super hard. I think some current U Chicago students have pointed out that they've softened it up in the past few years.

Ultimately, I think it'll end up being more shades of grey than you expect. Brown won't be a cakewalk and U Chicago isn't going to grind you into the ground.

I say this on pretty much every college decision post I write on, but you should ultimately go where you feel most comfortable. Maybe you've gleaned that through college visits, interactions with students, how the school presents itself online, location, etc.

Brown is a great school and an Ivy league, but honestly U Chicago is great as well. I felt like a few decades ago it was slept on, but now it's getting more recognition as an elite school. The strip of bars/shops/restaurants near Brown is super quaint and I'm sure you'd have a great time there, but being is the heart of Chicago would also be a lot of fun. Chicago is a great city and there will be a different set of opportunities going to school in an urban area vs a suburban one.

Go with your gut, make the best decision you can with the info you have and worst case, you transfer after a year.

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Jun 19, 2020 - 1:29pm

OP - I was accepted to both Brown and UChi in high school, and ultimately chose UC. I graduated this year, and can provide color on a few points addressed above.

First, the biggest misconception about UChicago is that it's difficult to get a high (3.7+) GPA. Grade deflation isn't really an issue anymore, and anyone from here who says it is, is just finding excuses. If you major in econ like ~95% of the students who go into IB from here, there are ample opportunities to take easy classes to pad your GPA. Plus, with SA recruiting happening earlier and earlier nowadays, it's likely that you will not have taken a single class for your major by the time recruiting kicks off ( I personally know a few recruited athletes who went into this SA recruiting cycle with 4.0s). This isn't to mention the new bullshit "business economics" major that doesn't require any quant-heavy courses. In the coming years, those who go into IB and "understand the game" will graduate with the world-renowned UChi Economics Degree, having earned a 3.9+ GPA with minimal effort. This could be you lol

Second, you can easily place into any "tier 1" city from the school. Do a quick LinkedIn search for incoming analysts, and you'll see strong representation in NYC, SF, and CHI. NYC has the most number of alum, but on a per capita basis, the alum network on the west coast is probably strongest. Chicago firms actually tend to favor IU/Michigan from what I've seen (likely because of culty state-school alum). I can't speak to Brown's network, but there are multiple UChi grads at every BB, and most of the EBs. The network will only grow stronger in the next few years, as recent classes have been killing it with placement into top firms.

I will agree with above sentiment that the social scene isn't fantastic at UChicago. There's not too much school spirit, and the school doesn't really care to build it. Going downtown with friends is always a great option though. I doubt being in Providence, RI for 4 years is significantly better (was a huge concern of mine during HS).

While I do believe a UChi degree is more well-regarded and "prestigious" than one from Brown, at the end of the day, both schools are good enough to open up opportunities to 99% of high finance. It's on you to make use of whichever platform you choose.

  • Analyst 1 in S&T - Other
Jun 19, 2020 - 1:45pm

Regarding GPA, I'd say qualms about deflation aren't always driven by lack of knowledge that it can be padded. You can pad your GPA at any school with the right moves. Rather, people want to take intellectually challenging classes but may be driven away especially at places like Chicago because of difficulty. Yes, the bulk of your degree value comes when you get accepted, but I'd still feel like it's a gigantic waste to have spent my time not even taking the 200 series as a bus econ major.

Agree on second point, the Chicago brand is only getting stronger as far as employment goes. For social scene, I'd argue it's a question of cultural fit. There's plenty of school spirit, just not football spirit or the like. Most traditional IB candidate personalities would do well to avoid Chicago unless you want to spend four years in a tiny bubble of other kids who are also focused exclusively on recruiting. Alternatively, if you're willing to challenge yourself and meet a variety of intellectually diverse people (and if your definition of fun is spending time chatting in the library) while also having access (albeit "toned-down") to the usual college experience, then I think you'd do well to consider the school.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jun 19, 2020 - 2:01pm

Am an incoming freshman who chose UChicago over Columbia and Brown earlier this year and this was very helpful. Can you speak more to your experience and your classmates' when it comes to recruiting? I've heard that you have to be in ultra competitive clubs to have a chance, everyone told me to get into the stock investment club Blue Chips, but that it's extremely hard and exclusive. Also I haven't noticed that many EB placements, mostly BBs like CS and JPM, but I could be wrong because I've only been doing Linkedin searches and don't actually go there yet. It seems like EBs have technically strong students, which is why you see so much Wharton representation at Evercore/Moelis/Centerview, does UChicago place the same? What is your general advice for UChicago and recruiting? Thanks!

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jun 22, 2020 - 5:21pm

Am a current student here at UChicago. It honestly depends on where you want to be post-graduation. If you want to be in NY, Columbia would've been the better move. I will say that UChicago has been getting better and better in terms of IB recruiting, especially with BBs. With EBs however, we have some representation but aren't really a target school per say with OCR teams at all the EBs. By the time you start recruiting, you shouldn't have a problem since we've seen an increase in credibility over the past few years. UChicago is a good enough school that it adds value to having it on your resume, but we aren't as heavily recruited as some of the other Ivy-league caliber schools. My advice to you would be to spend the summer reading up on investing and make sure your interest in finance is somewhat genuine. As others have echoed, it's not that hard to prep for these interviews as the questions you get are high-level conceptual stuff. There are a lot of clubs on campus for you to involve yourself with and all you need is strong business acumen when you start out. While clubs like Blue Chips are helpful, there are plenty of kids who receive great offers and aren't in it. Make sure you keep a high GPA by taking easy core classes as well as attain relevant internships if you're set on recruiting. Most importantly, don't be a "finance hardo" and try to come off as personable. UChicago has a reputation of being a nerdy and academic oriented school and other people think we are miserable all the time. Proving them wrong by having developed interests shows that you have social skills and aren't a weeb, which is a huge differentiator. You have a lot of time before you have to start worrying about this stuff so don't stress out too much.

Jun 19, 2020 - 2:55pm

I plan on double majoring with econ spec data science and computational & applied maths (yes I am aware both of these majors are hard). Given this, I don't think keeping a 3.7+ GPA will be particularly easy. At brown I plan on doing applied-maths econ and a 4.0 would def be doable.

I am not so worried about placement since I think finance is more heavily concentrated in new york.

I'm both scared and excited about the core (more like 70-30). I am not strong on writing nor reading but I think would be interested to learn about the greatest thinkers of human history and be able to have a conversation with someone about them.

I am not sure I would thrive in a school where I am competing with so many more people while trying desperately to get into RSOs while trying to have a decent GPA.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jun 20, 2020 - 1:36pm

Both are great schools, but everyone is overrating UChicago like crazy.

Basically everyone at Brown who wants IB gets it, plus the environment is more collaborative and relaxed while still obviously having to work hard. You also get to explore academically more without worrying about GPA.

You have your whole life to grind in the finance world. Why not have a better college experience without decreasing your recruiting prospects?

I go to Brown.

Jun 20, 2020 - 3:33pm

I didn't go to either school. c.20 years ago when I was applying, both schools would have laughed at my application, and back then it was a lot less competitive to get into undergrad. I did go to Booth though so I do have that bias. I offer up the following having spent many, many years recruiting junior professionals:

Where you go matters and what you study matters. As you can tell from the posts on this thread, it is widely known that UChicago and Brown are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of difficulty. The individuals that are recruiting at banks and private equity firms (and business schools) are all very aware of this. It is the same reason that engineers are given more slack when they have lower GPAs. While banks are generally more than happy to recruit any major, the bar is going to be set a whole lot higher for someone who majored in underwater basket weaving at Harvard vs. Computer Science at MIT.

Similarly, at one of my former PE firms, we scrutinized transcripts pretty heavily. We once had a candidate who had a high GPA, but had really low grades in all the math-oriented classes. This person would have received the offer, but their transcript buried them. This may be a point for Brown vs. UChicago, but be warned that padding your GPA with easy classes may end up hurting you when it comes time for PE/MBA recruiting.

Regarding competition, I admitted don't know how the bulge brackets do it for undergrad. At least in the middle market, there are no "quotas" from each school. The banks don't say: "We need 5 guys from U Chicago, 5 from Brown, 5 from Princeton, and 5 from Harvard!" You are recruiting against the student body at every school combined. Just because there are fewer kids recruiting at Brown doesn't mean you aren't going to lose the slot to a Wharton guy. It may be easier to secure an on campus interview, but don't expect you're going to get handed the job because only a few people at Brown are interested in banking.

Finally, and you touched on this a little in one of your posts, there is a benefit to having an education in a field related to investment banking. It has been said thousands of times on this forum - the job isn't rocket science, but it is time consuming. If you start the job with a very solid knowledge of accounting, finance, and economics, this will save you time (at least in the beginning). It will also be beneficial when you're preparing for PE interviews just months into the job. Lastly, it will put you in a better position to make a positive first impression. All of this can be overcome with time, but I'd say there is a really important knowledge gap between a fresh Wharton grad and a fresh philosophy major. I say this as someone who didn't major in a related field myself and had to play catch up when I started the job.

Now - despite ALL of the above - don't forget that college also should be fun. If you hate your life and your education saps your energy, you won't do well with your studies nor with recruiting. Do not lock yourself away in your dorm for four years to maximize your GPA to the detriment of your social life. College should energize you - if you graduate and say "whew, I need to take a break after four years of hard work" - then you probably overdid it.

Hopefully the above is helpful. It is based strictly on my personal experience and may differ materially from other professionals. I can promise I offer this guidance with as little bias as I can - I'm in the second half of my career and my life isn't going to change in the slightest regardless of where you choose. Ultimately the decision is yours. Both schools are terrific and you're definitely well on your way to a great career with either.


  • 5
Jun 20, 2020 - 6:11pm

wow thank you for that.

I don't plan on taking easy classes in Brown by any measure. I want to major in Applied Maths - Econ and possibly double with CS?? (not sure about that). I have seen that Brown offers a couple finance classes that I definitely want to take as well.

Side question – how would the industry look at my transcript if I have p/f classes for things completely unrelated to my major?? (eg. art, philosophy)

How heavily do banks care about the school I went to and its difficulty?

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jun 20, 2020 - 7:03pm

Side question – how would the industry look at my transcript if I have p/f classes for things completely unrelated to my major?? (eg. art, philosophy)

How heavily do banks care about the school I went to and its difficulty?

1) Doubt they would care for p/f, more so just looking at GPA.
2) They don't care about the school's difficulty, they just want to see the GPA. They care about the school (hence why there's target schools), but both Brown and UChicago meet that bar.

Jun 21, 2020 - 3:43am

There is no universally accepted way of evaluating an applicant's credentials in the industry. Outside of some guidelines that individual banks / PE firms set for their own recruiting processes, it comes down entirely to the person reviewing your resume, conducting the interview, or the committee in charge of making the final decisions (if that is indeed their process).

The poster above me has stated that they don't care about the school's difficulty, they just want to see the GPA. I think it is fair to say that if they were reviewing your resume, they wouldn't care about the differences in difficulty between UChicago and Brown. Personally, I'm on the other end of the spectrum where I care a lot about the difficulty of one's program. In the recruiting processes that I've led, an individual with a more rigorous academic experience has a distinct advantage over someone who chose an easier route.

To me, it is the same concept as playing a sport, participating in a lot of clubs, or working multiple jobs while at University. I'm impressed by someone who worked three jobs, played a sport, and managed to secure a high GPA. I'm also impressed by someone who took on a very ambitious academic curriculum, challenged themselves, and succeeded. You're candidacy is based on your holistic profile and no single aspect. This includes charisma, personality, and ability to articulate yourself, among dozens of other things, including the difficulty of your academic program.

Remember, you're competing against others for a limited number of spots. There is no cutoff line where you're given a job if you cross it. The stronger your profile, the better odds of achieving the desired outcome.

Finally - as for the pass/fail question. I'm not personally bothered by someone doing pass/fail regardless of the class. I'd say go for it.


  • 2
  • Analyst 3+ in IB-M&A
Jun 20, 2020 - 7:32pm

Can you provide more color on this previous PE firm that scrutinized transcripts? I've never heard of firms doing this.

What does "really low grades" mean in this context? C's and lower? Thanks in advance.

Jun 21, 2020 - 3:15am

One of the firms I used to work for requested transcripts from finalist applicants. Part of it was just to verify GPA, but it was also intended to better understand an individual's scholastic achievement. A few times we would get surprised with new information, such as the student transferred to a different school junior year and avoided telling us.

Our interviews covered a lot of areas, from modeling / maths to softer things such as scrutinizing an industry or talking about the business model of their deal. Often times a candidate scores very highly in one area but is weaker in the other. In one particular case, a candidate had a relatively high GPA (3.5+). When we got their transcript, the math related courses were all in the B- or lower range while the As were in courses such as religion, philosophy, psychology, history, etc. This was the major factor in dinging the candidate, combined with relative underperformance in the modeling/math aspects of their interview which led us to question their mathematical capability.


  • 2
Jun 20, 2020 - 8:41pm

Chicago has the "wow!" factor for sure, but from what I heard from friends who have attended both schools, Brown definitely seems like the more fun college experience. Student organizations seem to be much better run at Brown too. Regardless of prestige, you will have the same opportunities upon graduation at both schools, so go where you feel you will enjoy and can succeed at. Congrats on getting into both schools and hopefully see you on the street soon!

  • Analyst 3+ in IB-M&A
Jun 20, 2020 - 11:42pm

Brother, a kid from Brown will not do better than a kid from UChicago, and vice versa, just because of the school they went to. Stop basing this decision off of which school you think will prepare you best for a job, because neither school will do that. The curriculum at neither school is that of a Wharton/Stern, where they specifically focus on this type of thing. It is up to you to learn (plenty of external resources), not Brown/UChicago to teach you.

Pick which culture you prefer (extremely hardworking vs laid back). I have known incredibly successful people from both schools, and they both will get you where you want.

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