Sorry, this is another one of those annoying college choice questions. If you don't want to read the whole thing, skip to the bottom (TLDR).
I am super lucky to have been accepted to both the University of Chicago and Dartmouth College. I know it is early, but I am interested inas a possible career. I know both these schools are night and day when it comes to culture and social life, and I will be staying overnight at both and doing a lot more research of other factors before choosing. The most glaring difference is the social life in my opinion (UC being quirky and rather antisocial, Dartmouth for being the fratty, partying Ivy); I am a less social guy in an incredibly social group, and I embrace both my nerdiness and extroversion, so I think I can fit in at both schools (again, I haven't stayed overnight at either yet, and can only speculate right now). PS, I can handle the cold at both schools.
The University of Chicago has shot up in the rankings (I honestly didn't expect to get in) recently, and it is (in)famous for its academic rigor. As someone who is looking for a stimulating intellectual environment, UC definitely passes with flying colors. I am also going to study economics at both schools, and given all the Nobel winning faculty and renowned lecturers at UC, there seems to be no better place in terms of pure academic quality. Another huge pro about UC is that it has changed its administration and seems to be erasing its stigma of being the place "where fun goes to die." Also, I appreciate the large amounts of diversity, and I also know that there will be relatively less IB/consulting competition at UC, since so many students are interested in getting PHDs. Also, I like Chicago as a city.
However, I do have a friend at Chicago who is only a first-year, and is starting to regret choosing the school. Although it isn't as notoriously difficult as in the past few decades, I know that UC definitely doesn't have much grade inflation like most Ivies. I want to be challenged, but also want to have fun in college and not be pushed to the brink of depression from all the stress. Plus, I am rather interested in Greek life, and I know the Greek scene at UC is lacking.
Yet despite these cons, I have an admittedly prestige-whore concern. My parents told me how Stanford had less prestige in the past when they were younger, and then gradually became the school it is today. Is UChicago going to be the next Stanford, given that UC has been doing so well admissions-wise in recent years? When I tell people today that I got into UChicago, they think it is a state-school; will that change in the next few years, by the time I graduate?
Dartmouth College was the first school that I fell in love with. I love its isolation, its Greek life (although there has been administrative policy in recent years that have restricted Greek life), its work-hard-play-hard mentality, its collaborative and undergrad-focused atmosphere. I know that I will be most likely working in the city as an adult, and I have grown up (and probably will live in the future) in the suburbs. Spending my college years in rural Hanover, New Hampshire sounds very attractive to me. Its economics program, although maybe not as prestigious as UC, is absolutely no slouch. Its tight alumni network is a huge selling point to me as well. I'm not scared off by the preppy culture; I'm a bit preppy myself. If I were to choose without thinking about job opportunities, I'd give the slight edge to Dartmouth right now, but am definitely considering both.
However, I worry that while UC is moving in an upward trend, Dartmouth is on the decline. I have heard on WSO that while 10-20 years ago Dart's Wall Street presence was only challenged by HYPSM, today it is seen as "just another lower Ivy" (which is still awesome, don't get me wrong). I also heard that Dartmouth is attracting less applicants in the past few years, and that it isn't considered a tier 1 research school by some major rating agency (sorry for the lack of source). This might hurt Dartmouth's ranking and perception, which has been hampered by recent news regarding Greek life. Also, as a minority, I worry about discrimination in frats.
TLDR: I love both schools for different reasons, and am a good mix of nerdy and extrovert to fit in at both schools. I am attracted to Chicago because of its unmatched econ department, its commitment to academic rigor, its diversity, and its potential for even further improvement in the coming years. I am turned off by Chicago's strict grading, by the negative reviews I've heard from a friend who is attending, and by the complete lack of Greek life/sports. My biggest fear is that I will attend UC, be stressed for all 4 years, and spend my life thinking of how much better my experience could've been at Dartmouth.
I am attracted to Dartmouth because of its undergraduate focus,by its Greek life, by its social scene/culture, by its location, by relative grade inflation, and by its alumni network. I am turned off by the potential for Dartmouth to fall further in terms of prestige, by the rumors that Dartmouth doesn't have as strong representation in the fields I am interested in anymore, and by the relative smaller amount of minorities (which really isn't that big of a concern). My biggest fear is that I will attend Dart, see UChicago become even more of a top target, and spend my life regretting not making that choice (or that I find out I don't fit into Dartmouth culture as well as I think I do now).
I apologize if I offend anyone with my pompous, prestige-whore comments and concerns. Again, this is one factor in my decision, and I just wanted to hear what experts in the field think of these schools because I can't find this information from other sources. Again, I'd pick the "less prestigious" Dartmouth over Chicago currently. Thanks for reading and responding!