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Torn between UCLA and UCB for English major transfer! Advice?

lunalunlunalun Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
I'm transferring from a CCC as an English major and choosing between UCLA and UCB is really stressing me out. UCB was my first choice, but I truly did not think I would get accepted. But I did. Now I'm just really confused, because I started to like the idea of UCLA. I've read almost every thread regarding these two schools, but always end up with more questions than I began with.

1. Is the quarter system at UCLA *really* so much better than the semester system at UCB, or is this all based on personal preference? Is the semester system a leading cause of the infamous rigor Berkeley students face?

2. I've read that UCB graduates earn more per year than UCLA graduates. Is this because a degree from UCB looks better and will most likely land you a better job - or are these stats subjective?

3. Almost everyone seems to prefer UCLA - even those who have attended UCB in the past. Whenever I read news regarding UCB, the information tends to be negative and hints towards a long awaited decline in prestige. A lot of you are going to shake your head at this, but the primary reason for wanting to attend UCB was *because* of its high status. Is that even valid anymore? Would I be better off going to UCLA - where the education is just as stellar and less painful? I don't plan on pursuing my Master's. So the school I attend now is the end-all, be-all. However, my career path does favor people who have earned degrees from more "prestigious" universities.

Both are offering me a full ride, and both have relatively similar requirements to fulfill an English degree. I've had a lot of people tell me to simply choose the campus I like better, but I don't feel particularly drawn to either one (landscape wise). I've heard UCB is more conservative, and I definitely lean liberal, but I've heard UCB politics won't interfere with your school life unless you actively engage with that community. (Hoping this is true).


I've become neutral to both campuses instead of passionate towards either one...which sucks. I know I'm going to have an amazing experience no matter which school I choose, but I'm hoping someone can lend me some insight on which path I should choose based on my personal concerns.

Replies to: Torn between UCLA and UCB for English major transfer! Advice?

  • preppedparentpreppedparent Registered User Posts: 3,351 Senior Member
    UCB is more conservative? I don't think so.

    re #3: yes I am shaking my head.

    They're both good, but historically, Berkeley has been ranked higher, and worldwide has a higher level of regard/distinction (and no not just for grad programs). UCB is ranked #1 for English undergrad education with Harvard and Yale.

    I think to large degree it DOES matter where you think you will be happier. Visit both campuses again if you can before you decide.
  • ScipioScipio Registered User Posts: 8,935 Senior Member
    1. I've gone to colleges with quarter systems and ones with semester systems. I prefer semesters. With quarters everything always seems to be hurtling forward at breakneck speed. With semesters you have more time to catch your breath and keep up with the reading and assignments.

    2. I suspect that the in practical terms the differences between salary/job prospects for graduates of similar majors with similar grades between UCB and UCLA are tiny to non-existent.

    3. I don't prefer UCLA. If it were me I'd pick Berkeley, although picking it for prestige alone is not avery admirable reason.

    "I've heard UCB is more conservative, and I definitely lean liberal,"

    Huh? I'd say that UCLA is more conservative, although only a little more.


    " ...but I've heard UCB politics won't interfere with your school life unless you actively engage with that community. (Hoping this is true)."

    It is true. The vast majority of kids at UCB are focused much more on going to class and getting their educations. There's plenty of politics at Berkeley (and UCLA too for that matter) if you want it. But if you want to stay focused on school and learning you wan't have much trouble achieving that.
  • warblersrulewarblersrule Super Moderator Posts: 10,121 Super Moderator
    They're both good, but historically, Berkeley has been ranked higher, and worldwide has a higher level of regard/distinction (and no not just for grad programs). UCB is ranked #1 for English undergrad education with Harvard and Yale.
    I don't know of any rankings of undergraduate English programs. The only rankings I'm aware of rank graduate programs or the department as a whole, and Harvard, Yale, and Berkeley are tied in none of them.

    USNWR - US only (2017)

    #1 Berkeley / Chicago
    #3 Columbia / Penn / Stanford
    #6 UCLA / UVA

    NRC - US only (2010)

    #1 Harvard / Columbia / Princeton / Stanford
    #2 Berkeley / Yale
    #3 CUNY Graduate Center
    #4 UCLA

    QS - Worldwide (2018)

    #1 Oxford
    #2 Cambridge
    #3 Harvard
    #4 Berkeley
    #5 Yale
    #6 Stanford
    #7 Princeton
    #8 Columbia
    #9 UCLA

    In any case, no undergraduate will notice a difference in quality between the English departments at Berkeley and UCLA. Non-academic differences between the two universities are worth far more consideration.
  • lunalunlunalun Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    @preppedparent Oops, I meant to say that I've heard conservative groups at UCB are more active (and in your face) than at UCLA. I forgot to go back and edit that, sorry. Also, re:re #3: I am also shaking my head at the importance I put on something so trivial. But I had to be honest. Thank you for your help!!

    @Scipio Oooh, I was thinking the same thing regarding the quarter/semester system but couldn't tell if I was just being biased due to the fact that I've only experienced the semester system. I'm glad to have some insight from someone who has been through both. Also very glad to know that the salary discrepancy was just a coincidental statistic I read a couple of places. Thank you for your reply!
  • lunalunlunalun Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    edited April 2018
    @warblersrule For some reason, I was also under the impression that UCB was noted for its English department more than other schools. I think I've just been hearing it from random people over the years and it stuck. It's nice to see the stats, anyhow. I'll definitely be focusing more on the non-acedmic aspects of each campus here on out - which actually concerns me a lot more at this point.
  • mikemacmikemac Registered User Posts: 10,369 Senior Member
    In any case, no undergraduate will notice a difference in quality between the English departments at Berkeley and UCLA. Non-academic differences between the two universities are worth far more consideration.
    What I was going to post...

    To throw in a bit more, if you are the kind of person willing to seek out guidance from some of your profs then you will have a great experience at either of these schools (and in fact at most colleges). If you just show up and turn in the papers on time, take minimal part in class discussions, your experience will reflect that too.

    As for the semester vs quarter, I attended college on a quarter system and it goes by fast which may be a disadvantage for papers and the like. On the other hand in a semester school maybe they assigne more papers per term, wiping out any advantage. I suggest posting on the Cal forum to see what students there say about the pace in English classes.
  • dustypigdustypig Registered User Posts: 926 Member
    edited May 2018
    Re quarter vs. semester: yes, the quarter system goes by at breakneck speed. My youngest kid is at UCLA and they start taking midterms in week 3 (some classes have two midterms, one in week 3/4 and one in week 7/8). The entire quarter is 10 weeks long (finals week is the 11th week). You barely have time to settle in and get used to your new class schedule before you have to start preparing for midterms.

    Now, a lot of students like this. The rapid pace means that they never have time to fall too far behind in their reading, and they like the fact that if they find out they hate a class, hey, it'll be over in 3 months! Also, because you're fitting the same 4- or 5-unit class into fewer weeks, you take fewer classes at a time -- my kid has taken only 3 classes per quarter during freshman year.
    2. I've read that UCB graduates earn more per year than UCLA graduates. Is this because a degree from UCB looks better and will most likely land you a better job - or are these stats subjective?

    You should not take this seriously at all. Broad statistics that apply to entire student populations (assuming it's true) have absolutely no applicability to you as an individual. The overlap in range of graduate salaries between these two schools is almost certainly greater than the difference.
    3. Almost everyone seems to prefer UCLA - even those who have attended UCB in the past. Whenever I read news regarding UCB, the information tends to be negative and hints towards a long awaited decline in prestige. A lot of you are going to shake your head at this, but the primary reason for wanting to attend UCB was *because* of its high status. Is that even valid anymore? Would I be better off going to UCLA - where the education is just as stellar and less painful? I don't plan on pursuing my Master's. So the school I attend now is the end-all, be-all. However, my career path does favor people who have earned degrees from more "prestigious" universities.

    This is also nonsense. Of all the ways in which Cal and UCLA are different, prestige is the LEAST significant. Both of these schools are very prestigious, and for an undergraduate education they are essentially identical in terms of prestige. Make your decision based on other factors.

    Cal has a reputation as being higher stress and more competitive. I don't know how much that's true, or if it is, how much it's limited to the STEM majors. I do know one student who's a junior at Cal majoring in biology (she plans on medical school), and she comes home every weekend just to get away from the stressful atmosphere.

    Cal also has a reputation as being more about the "life of the mind" than UCLA. As an example, when we went to admitted students days at both Cal and UCLA campuses, the UCLA program for the day was mostly about "campus life," touring the dorms, checking out the various activities, etc. The program at Cal had several fascinating-sounding seminars where notable experts spoke about arcane academic subjects (my husband nearly ditched me & the kid in order to go sit in on a couple of those). Which sounds more like the kind of campus you'd like to be at?
  • lunalunlunalun Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    @mikemac I was thinking the same thing in terms of quarter/semester systems dishing out papers. This actually brought up another college-specific question that I'll have to make a new post for. Thank you so much!
  • lunalunlunalun Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    @dustypig I think I would prefer the quarter system as well, based on your college kid's info. I prefer a busier schedule, and it seems like it would definitely be easier for me to work while taking classes! As for q#2, it was more of a curious question rather than a selling point, and I'm glad that you were able to further clarify for me!

    I've heard of Berkeley's infamous high stress aura time and time again, but based on what I've read, the difference between stress levels in English departments is minimal. STEM majors seem to have it a lot tougher, as you mentioned! On the other hand, I would definitely be in the same boat as your husband during the campus visit. I feel like I'm left equally as torn as I was to begin with but your insight has taught me a significant amount, so I want to thank you. Hopefully, something will dawn on me soon and I'll be able to make a confident decision.
  • 1Dreamer1Dreamer Registered User Posts: 515 Member
    I can’t add anything other than what others have said except for my take on quarters vs. semesters as someone who has also experienced both.

    I may be in the minority (because usually I see people badmouthing quarters) but I much, much preferred the quarter system. Yes, they do move fast, and you can find yourself taking your first set of midterms in your third week, but it forces you to keep up and stay on your game. You’re also taking only 3 to 4 classes instead of 5 to 6, so you can focus more on the classes and subject matter without being spread so thin.

    You also get around 4 weeks off over Christmas instead of six, which was a plus for me. After 4 weeks off, I was more than ready to get back to school. Once I moved out into an apartment where I didn’t have to move out over break, I only went home for about a week to 10 days over break. Also, Spring break falls between quarters, so you have no assignments or tests hanging over your head and can enjoy the time off.

    Semesters were just too long for me. At about the 10 to 11 week mark, boredom and lethargy were setting in. I found myself feeling “over it” and just wanting to be done. There’s no time for boredom or lethargy in the quarter system.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. :-) YMMV
This discussion has been closed.