Bottom line, you're going to get a good education at any of the UCs. I suggest visiting all three campuses and just see where you get a good vibe. This is the next four years of your life so it's all about where you feel comfortable. I have visited all three schools and I plan to do bio and pursue a career in medicine as well. Here's what I have to say about each school:
UCI is really quiet and a little stand offish. The people there aren't super friendly and everyone seems to be doing their own thing. The town is nice. It's upscale suburbia. But the school itself is more of a commuter school. I personally don't like the idea of most of the so cal kids going home every night or even every weekend. It takes away from the schools culture. Not too much of a college feel. The fact that UCI has a med school (it's not on campus, it's actually in a different town) can be good and bad. Good: opportunities are available. Bad: grad students will most likely take these opportunities. It's going to be hard to compete with actual med school students for research opportunities and just overall work in the hospital. So yes, having a med school is great and all but with a med school comes all the grad students. So it'll be pretty competitive if you want to get opportunities.
UCSC was a really strange campus. It's in it's own little area of Santa Cruz which I think is cool. I like the idea of the college students having their own side of town. But the area that the campus is in is quiet different. It's covered with beautiful trees and all but it's almost too wooded. I was driving through campus and most of the buildings I saw were made out of old dark wood. The admissions building looked like a barn! (correct me if I'm wrong, I was only there for about 20 min). I didn't like it at all. It felt like a campsite. No one rides bikes because it seemed pretty hilly. Everyone walks or takes their bussing system. The campus was pretty, if you wanted to go camping. It didn't have a college feel at all. And let's face it, UCSC is not prestigious at all. You'll do better at either UCI or UCSB because the competitiveness will push you to do better.
I'll save the best for last, UCSB! Everytime I go to this school I get such good vibes. Last time I was there, I was walking around on the beach and students would just come up to me asking what I thought of the school and if I was considering going there. They would talk to me about their dorms and which ones are the best and all that. Everyone was just super friendly. Don't be intimidated by the partying scene. I don't party and I plan on attending UCSB so you won't be the only one that doesn't party there! Wherever you end up, you'll find your niche. At UCSB nearly all of the students live on campus or in the nearby community, Isla Vista. Because no one really goes home (except for breaks) the school can get a little rowdy at times. With all the student together, you're bound to have a whole bunch of parties. UCI on the other hand doesn't have many parties because no one is there to party, they go home every night! It's simple though, you can choose not to party. It's an extremely healthy school so most people spend a lot of their days outdoors. Lots of students play beach volleyball or frisbee or etc. I'm a runner and when I went down there I saw so many people out running, which is a huge plus for me. The campus is stunning. Most dorms overlook the ocean. I don't know about you but just having the ocean right there and hearing the waves crash kind of puts me in a better mood. It's so relaxing and it just smells fresh hah. It would be amazing to say that you lived right on the brim of the pacific ocean for four years of your life. Alright, so for the academics. UCSB is probably the most prestigious out of the three. They have an extremely intelligent faculty (most profs from east coast ivies come to UCSB to get ready for retirement. So you'll have some amazing faculty). They have the most Nobel laureates on the faculty out of any university in the world! The lack of grad students there makes it easier for undergrads to get internships. They don't have a hospital near campus (but none really do except for UCLA) but there are plenty of places to get medical experience in Goleta and SB. They have a new honors health science program at UCSB which features medical seminars and advising from pre med faculty. Overall, this is clear choice to me. It's more prestigious, it's absolutely breathtaking, the student body is extremely friendly, and it has the most opportunities.
I'm a little biased. But this is the next four years of your life. Make the right decision.
Last edited by iwantanswers; 04-01-2012 at 12:51 PM.