My god. College Confidential can be incredibly blinded by prestige sometimes. $100,000+ in debt is not a position anyone (especially someone considering med school) should be in.
Go to Berkeley, and think of it this way: you are good enough to go wherever and do whatever you want. Don't compromise your future by taking on all that debt (or having your parents take it on). Berkeley is a pretty cool school and you'll hopefully enjoy it.
I'm on my iPod so can't find the study, but it turns out postgraduate success is better predicted by what colleges people get into than the ones they actually attend. In other words: it's you, not the name of the degree. I honestly find it ridiculous to discuss the finer points of prestige between two enviable institutions, but when people say things like "It's Stanford!" to justify unnecessary and crippling debt...
Choosing a low-cost undergraduate education that's still at a fabulous school vs. one you really can't afford at another fabulous school -- if you have to have choices, that is a very nice set of them.
You'll do well at Cal, and the Regent's Scholarship will ease the way for you to get into the classes you want. At the end of it you'll have a degree from a great school with an excellent reputation, and not much in the way of debt, particularly if you do some work over the summers; at least a few of them. You'll be able to do a study abroad program for a term (your financial aid will follow) and will generally find that the financial freedom leaves you tremendously better off than you'd have been worrying every single term whether your non-custodial parent will really come up with the money Stanford expects him to contribute, and what you'll do if he doesn't -- and none of those options are very good.
Maybe Stanford is in your future for a paid PhD program, or perhaps you'll do something else. Either way, you've clearly done the hard work to ensure that you have an excellent option that you can afford. Congratulations.
For all the 10s of thousands of students that applied to colleges this year and got multiple offers (as OP did) I'm sure you all asked yourselves, "Which school really wants me?"
Regents is a big deal for the UC system; they can't do much more to tell you that they want you. I suspect Stanford would take you if you want to pile on the debt but I'm certain that they went out of their way for some of their admits, i.e. you may not have been on their list of must haves.
Either way, great choices. You've got a few days left....
In the situation of money right now, I think UCB would be a better option.
Someone has mentioned this before, but I'll emphasize the fact that you can send in your financial situation, stating that Stanford is wayy tooo expensive (and then ask them to match UCB's financial aid/support). Most of the time, schools tend to match or even give a better financial packet. If you really want to go to Stanford, don't let money be the issue.
Cal definitely has its share of problems, but is it worth paying $120K to avoid them? That's for you to decide. My biggest complaints about Cal were
* Severe grade deflation, especially in the maths, sciences and engineering. Most lower-division classes are curved to a B-/C+ mean, and upper-division grading distributions are only slightly more generous (usually B mean.) If you're planning on going to medical school, set expectations accordingly and understand that you will have to work hard to beat the curve.
* With regards to choosing majors, I don't know how easy it is to switch majors at Stanford (as an undergrad) but I have heard it is much easier. If you are admitted to Cal's College of Engineering or College of Chemistry, you're officially in that major from day one unless you switch out. Switching majors at Cal means fulfilling a list of prerequisites, attaining a minimum GPA and applying to the major before your junior year...and for the most popular majors, some students will be turned down.
* The Tele-BEARS signup process is annoying. You'll get a 15 minute window to register for your classes, and you can only signup for something like 10 units during Phase I and the rest during Phase II. As an engineering student, I tried to register for a bunch of UGBA (business) classes and I couldn't get into them. If you stick to classes within your department, you might not experience as much trouble as I did.
On the other hand, I vastly prefer the semester system to the quarter system. The quarter system moves too quickly and is much more exhausting, and the fact that a lot of classes are only offered once per year makes schedule planning more difficult.
* You'll have to deal with an inflexible bureaucracy at both schools.
* The quality of education you'll receive is about the same.
Personally, I would NOT pay $120K to attend Stanford over Cal.
Go to Cal if Stanford fin aid doesn't come through. You're really lucky to be choosing between these two schools! Be excited wherever you go!
This is coming from a person whose been at Stanford for five years and loved his time here! Stanford isn't worth that much extra from berkeley especially not in engineering. Both schools have amazing engineering and seriously both are fantastic. It's really a no brainer in my opinion (unless fin aid does come through and then I think you should enroll at stanford!)