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Cal Poly SLO Engineering v UC Berkeley Engineering v USC Viterbi

stewpopstewpop Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
My S is deciding between these three. Cost is comparable as he has a scholarship at USC. We are in state. All have a great college life and the campuses and locations all have many pros and some cons (not so excited about downtown LA). All have great reputations and if he does well, he will have excellent job options. So we know all of that...

What really matters is: WHERE WILL HE LEARN THE MOST? Here is what I understand:
UCB - World-renowned, great faculty, lots of "weeder" classes, competitive, less focus on undergraduates. Will he have the chance to do hands-on learning on a regular basis? Will he just be a number? Are the other engineering students collaborative?
CP SLO - Highly regarded "Learn by Doing" curriculum. Every engineer I know really likes this place. Said to be highly collaborative. Is that true?
USC - Great all around school and network. Well-respected engineering program. They seem to really care about their students. But what is it like to learn there? Don't have a good sense of that.

Please give your thoughts if you have experience with any of these schools.

Thank you.

Replies to: Cal Poly SLO Engineering v UC Berkeley Engineering v USC Viterbi

  • stewpopstewpop Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    No one?
  • 1998parent151998parent15 Registered User Posts: 116 Junior Member
    Three great options. I will give an opinion but I don't have the best first hand experience. I think they are very different socially. Did he have a strong reaction visiting? He will learn best if he feels comfortable. Berkeley is likely the best option if he can advocate for his interests or is generally self-motivated. USC is likely the best option if he wants an undergraduate community that he can invest in as they will be there for him long term. CP SLO is likely the best option if he is a bit more focused on the "learning by doing" reputation. That all said, Berkeley has the best name recognition which can't be discounted. If my own child were blessed with those choices and money were equal, I would encourage him towards Berkeley.
  • stewpopstewpop Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    Thank you for the thoughtful and insightful reply and you are right that he is very lucky to have this choice!

    We continue to seek input from more people with experience, so please share if you have thoughts!
  • letsshareletsshare Registered User Posts: 205 Junior Member
    @stewpop I am unfamiliar with SLO, but my son is also deciding between Berkeley and USC engineering. It is hard to discount the academic reputation of Berkeley, but it is also difficult to discount overall reputation. At first i was leaning towards Berkeley because if its ranking, but taking into account my son's personality, quality of life and overall experience, I find myself thinking that USC would be a better fit for him. He enjoys collaborating with others, which USC does, it also offers research opportunities pretty early on (something i am not sure how much he would get at Cal). They really try to provide a wide spectrum of opportunities for its students. It is 50/50 theory and hands on so he would get that experience. Also at USC there won't be the concern of budget cuts or possibly classes not being offered and having to stay an extra semester or two. Students at USC just seem happy.
    Did he visit all 3 campuses, did he like the vibe of one over the other?
  • CaliDad2020CaliDad2020 Registered User Posts: 1,010 Senior Member
    @stewpop I have a freshman D doing Mech at Viterbi. Just spent the morning with her. I can give you a sense of what she says about what she's learning, fwiw.
    1) apparently USC math is a bit harder than she expected. Or so she and her friends claim. Not "impossible" hard, but "had to really bust her hump to get an A-" hard. How does that translate to what she learns? I dunno, but a number of her HS friends who are also decent math kids agree it's a challenge. (For reference, she was a 750 SAT Math, 750 SAT subject Math II, AP A/B + B/C calc: A/A-'s w/ 4's on the AP - so a good, but not incredible math student.)
    2) Took Chem for Engineers (Material Science) instead of the general Chem first semester. Loved it (and wasn't a huge fan of AP Chem in HS) Small class (unlike the big general chem lecuture that gets all the pre-meds etc. as well.) Really dug her female prof on this one. Learned a lot that she felt she would use.
    3) Likes her intro engineering, although she had done the Hopkins summer "intro engineering" in HS which purported to be JHU's frosh engineering intro course and she confirmed there was a lot of overlap, though she was fine to have it reinforced and for one class be fairly easy.
    4) has taken 2 english GE's. First one was fine. This semester's is fine. English will never be her passion, but she muddles through and has read some interesting literature as a result.
    Her MatLab is coding this semester. 1st semester she did a lot of solidworks (not sure in which course) and 3-D CAD type stuff. Doesn't love coding, but find the course helpful and knows it will be useful next year. She finds this course better than the AP CS she took in HS.

    That's course work. Otherwise very involved around campus. Tutors math at local middle school. Involved with some engineering clubs (had to drop a couple because they actually take time if you want to contribute.) Has made good friends, really likes that engineering at USC seems to select well-rounded students (and nearly 40% women).
    Viterbi is fairly small and students there seem to have access to different educational resources - or perhaps just more access since there are less students. I think she said there are 100 students in the ME program in her class, and probably 80 of those will graduate ME, some will change (apparently systems engineering requires a few less engineering classes so a couple of kids switch over there every year.) Says she has good access to advisor.

    D is very into design as well and will do a 3D design minor that has most classes in the tech/animation school with a prof who used to teach at Arts Center in Pasadena. She is excited about that.
    Has a big decision at the moment whether to do a semester abroad as it will affect her Soph year class selection and she has to register in a couple of weeks.
    She will probably do the "progressive" Masters that allows you to get your MS in 5 years total.
    She picked USC in large part because she wanted a school with good engineering that was integrated in a large college experience with a wide range of students, not "just" engineers. (She didn't like Mich as much, for instance, because the engineering migrates to north campus after the first year or two - and she was afraid of the cold, I think!)

    I'm not much of an engineering expert. What I was told is that due to ABET requirements all ME's basically take the same core courses, so it's all about who you take them from and with and what else you get to do while taking them.

    I don't know anything about SLO or UCB save that their programs are supposed to be awesome as well. I will say that I think the campus and the LA world around it is a big part of USC's "vibe" so if he won't be happy there, to me that would be a consideration. They have to work very hard (at least my D does to get the grades she wanted.) so it's probably helpful if they like their environment. Hope this helps.
  • stewpopstewpop Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. He has visited all the campuses and is in the process of doing an overnight at each as well. Hopefully he can get a strong feeling for one of the schools and embrace it. Clearly he can't go wrong--they all have so much to offer.

    More experiences welcome, if you have them! Thanks again.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 73,762 Senior Member
    edited April 2017
    stewpop wrote:
    UCB - ... lots of "weeder" classes, competitive

    "Weeder" courses and unhealthy levels of competition would mainly apply to pre-meds. Engineering students are directly admitted to their majors, and there is no intentional weeding out to reduce enrollment (unlike at some other schools where frosh enter as pre-engineering students and must compete by GPA to get into their majors*, or where more frosh are directly admitted to majors than the departments have capacity for and must be weeded out*). However, because all engineering majors are enrolled to capacity, changing major is not guaranteed, even if one is already in the engineering division (and it is much more difficult for students outside of the engineering division to change into a major in the engineering division).

    *These are more common at schools outside of California.
This discussion has been closed.