right arrow
Informational Message Stay on top of the information you need to navigate the admissions process amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We've got articles, videos and forum discussions that provide answers to all of your test prep, admissions and college search questions.   Visit our COVID-19 resource page.

Introducing Kai!
Your College Confidential guide bot.


Kai can provide tips and support as you research and apply to colleges, and explore majors and careers.





Chat with Kai
here, 24/7!


or Skip Forever

Get all the info you need to know to complete the FAFSA during our LIVE webinar Thursday, Sept 24, at 7pm ET. Hear from financial aid experts on deadlines, what documents you will need, and how your info will be used to calculate aid. REGISTER NOW and share your questions.
PARENTS4PARENTS: AfroPuffMom is the mother of two boys, a college junior and a high school junior. She has extensive experience reviewing applications for high-achieving, first-generation students. ASK HER ANYTHING!
Make sure to check out our September Checklist for HS Seniors. Consult these quick resources to get you started on the process this month.

Berkeley vs Northwestern vs Rice

pandapple1234pandapple1234 3 replies1 threads New Member
I am trying to decide where to apply ED (I realize Berkeley does not have this option) and plan on majoring in computer science in their respective engineering schools.

Berkeley is ranked higher in this field, close to Sillicon Valley, and has plenty of alumni networks, so I'll probably have no problem finding a job after graduation. But I don't want to be part of a cutthroat environment where it's sink or swim, grade deflation, and finding opportunities and classes I want will be difficult. Also, I'm from California so I want to explore somehwere else.

Northwestern has been my dream school for super long. I visited their campus, loved the vibe, and the suburban area. Although it is ranked #30 in CS, I didn't really care because it is still a well-known school. However, my mom says I shouldn't ED because any of the top UCs would be a better choice than Northwestern, as these schools are better in CS and cheaper. But again, I want to escape California, be part of a collaborative atmopshere, meet people outisde of engineering, and I believe Northwestern's prestige will open as many opportunities as Berkeley has for me. However, my mom seems to underestimate Northwestern and says Berkeley is far better.

Meanwhile, Rice has been a school I had my eyes on for a while. It's supposedly better than Northwestern for CS (according to ranking) and in a large city. Also, it's small, so I will be able to receive some attention. It's the between of Northwestern and Berkeley where I will be able to escape California, not cutthroat, but has a fairly well-known CS program. I've never visited, but I think I'll like the collaborative, tight-knit atmosphere.

Which school do you think would be the best choice for me?
17 replies
· Reply · Share

Replies to: Berkeley vs Northwestern vs Rice

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 84563 replies750 threads Senior Member
    I am trying to decide where to apply ED (I realize Berkeley does not have this option) and plan on majoring in computer science in their respective engineering schools.

    Berkeley is ranked higher in this field, close to Sillicon Valley, and has plenty of alumni networks, so I'll probably have no problem finding a job after graduation. But I don't want to be part of a cutthroat environment where it's sink or swim, grade deflation, and finding opportunities and classes I want will be difficult. Also, I'm from California so I want to explore somehwere else.

    UCB EECS is direct admission to the major, so there is no incentive for cutthroat competition (unlike for pre-meds). Also, the introductory CS courses that L&S CS majors need to earn a 3.3 GPA in to enter the major are not graded on a curve, so there is no incentive for cutthroat competition in those courses.

    However, UCs should be expected to be more economy-class than wealthy privates like Northwestern and Rice. UCs will also have different student demographics in being less skewed toward students from higher SES backgrounds.

    What is it that you do not like about California? Note that different parts of California can be different from each other in many aspects.
    Which school do you think would be the best choice for me?

    The one that admits you and which you can afford, if any of them do admit you. All should be considered reaches; you need to include affordable safeties that you like in your college list.
    · Reply · Share
  • merc81merc81 12047 replies205 threads Senior Member
    edited August 14
    Have you consulted reliable rankings of CS undergraduate programs (in which a college such as, say, Harvey Mudd might appear) for your figures above? If not, I'd disregard them as counterproductive to your decision process, in that all three of your listed schools offer top-level CS programs.
    edited August 14
    · Reply · Share
  • mommyrocksmommyrocks 1222 replies14 threads Senior Member
    edited August 14
    I think your mom may be pushing Berkeley because it's cheaper. Have you had a thorough discussion with your parents about the cost of college, and what they're really willing to pay? Too often students get accepted into their dream university, only for the parents to say they won't pay for it. Even if parents have loads of money and resources, it doesn't mean they want to spend it on tuition and housing.

    As for as prestige of a university opening doors for you, I'd say it's more important what you do and accomplish at whatever university you attend that will open doors. You should plan to pursue CS internships, develop your computing skills outside of your classes, take on leadership roles and participate in (and hopefully win) competitions while you're pursuing your CS degree. These are the things that will open doors for you, and they are all within your reach regardless of which university you attend.

    The best university for you is the one that is the best fit for what you want (out of state ideally), and what your parents feel good paying for (affordable to them). If you're really a competitive applicant for the prestigious universities you mentioned, then you are also probably a competitive applicant for scholarships at a less competitive university that is out of state. I suggest considering universities that might offer you scholarships, where you could be happy leaving California while also keeping your parents happy.

    My daughter dreamed of leaving Atlanta and attending a university in a snowy place. While she was admitted to Georgia Tech for a CS major and even had a full tuition scholarship there, she cried at the thought of going there. Instead, she wound up at the University of Minnesota with a stack of scholarships (and had her choice of many other universities with scholarship offers). She wound up choosing a different major in the end, but did so much computing on the side that she was offered a fellowship to pursue a PhD in Computer Science at another Big Ten university, even though she'd never even taken a CS course at her university. Once again, she chose a different major for her PhD, but is doing computing all the time. I share that to let you know that it is what YOU do in college that will open doors for you.

    Go ahead and apply to your dream university of Northwestern as well as the other places you named, and also look into some places that might offer you a big scholarship.
    edited August 14
    · Reply · Share
  • PrdMomto1PrdMomto1 647 replies7 threads Member
    All 3 schools are great schools and you'll get a great education and opportunities. As others have stated, I would have a serious talk with your parents about finances and run the net cost calculators for each school. If you apply ED at NW or Rice can/will your parents pay for the tuition if you're accepted? I would also recommend you look beyond the CS programs. Students change majors all the times. My D is a sophomore at Rice in Engineering but she avoiding applying to schools where should she decide to change majors she would not have good options.
    · Reply · Share
  • Busy_MommaBusy_Momma 123 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Love NU, which is where S24-5 is attending. However, I just posed your question to my University of Washington CS S20 who now works at Amazon. He said it doesn't matter what he thinks, but objectively, Carnegie Mellon, Berkeley and Stanford have the best programs. He said NU isn't even mentioned in CS circles and isn't going to bring the prestige that NU would bring in other circles, as it would for my non-CS NU student, who is a dual degree music and liberal arts. My son said employers won't really care where you're CS degree comes from although there's an advantage to attending colleges on the East coast if you wanted to go into finance; West coast, however, is where you want to be for the big tech jobs and connections.

    In terms of financial aid, NU is need-based, no loan so we still qualified for aid even though we didn't think we would. I'm actually pushing for S25 to apply to NU because with two in college, it may be cheaper for him to go to NU than to our state college.

    Last thing, S20 didn't get into his dream school and ended up in his last choice school which led him to CS (even though he just was in pre- med). He is so happy! If you do apply to your dream school, allow yourself to explore other interests. Make sure wherever you go has endless options for you just in case you change your mind. It happens often.
    · Reply · Share
  • CU123CU123 3740 replies77 threads Senior Member
    Sounds like you want to go to Northwestern so if your mom is OK with it, apply ED there.
    · Reply · Share
  • mikemacmikemac 10642 replies154 threads Senior Member
    As for as prestige of a university opening doors for you, I'd say it's more important what you do and accomplish at whatever university you attend that will open doors.
    This. The name on the diploma pales in comparision to what *you* do while in college for CS.
    · Reply · Share
  • Twoin18Twoin18 2259 replies21 threads Senior Member
    You haven’t said anything about finances. Unless money is no object, then if you are full pay I can’t imagine paying $70K+ for NU or Rice compared to $30K or so at Berkeley. $160K difference over 4 years is a deposit for an apartment in Silicon Valley or would pay for most of an MBA.
    · Reply · Share
  • randomPeoplerandomPeople 26 replies4 threads Junior Member
    I am trying to decide where to apply ED (I realize Berkeley does not have this option) and plan on majoring in computer science in their respective engineering schools.

    Berkeley is ranked higher in this field, close to Sillicon Valley, and has plenty of alumni networks, so I'll probably have no problem finding a job after graduation. But I don't want to be part of a cutthroat environment where it's sink or swim, grade deflation, and finding opportunities and classes I want will be difficult. Also, I'm from California so I want to explore somehwere else.

    Northwestern has been my dream school for super long. I visited their campus, loved the vibe, and the suburban area. Although it is ranked #30 in CS, I didn't really care because it is still a well-known school. However, my mom says I shouldn't ED because any of the top UCs would be a better choice than Northwestern, as these schools are better in CS and cheaper. But again, I want to escape California, be part of a collaborative atmopshere, meet people outisde of engineering, and I believe Northwestern's prestige will open as many opportunities as Berkeley has for me. However, my mom seems to underestimate Northwestern and says Berkeley is far better.

    Meanwhile, Rice has been a school I had my eyes on for a while. It's supposedly better than Northwestern for CS (according to ranking) and in a large city. Also, it's small, so I will be able to receive some attention. It's the between of Northwestern and Berkeley where I will be able to escape California, not cutthroat, but has a fairly well-known CS program. I've never visited, but I think I'll like the collaborative, tight-knit atmosphere.

    Which school do you think would be the best choice for me?

    For CS, I will choose Rice over NU. Cal is totally different, kind of apple to orange.
    · Reply · Share
  • aquaptaquapt 2516 replies54 threads Senior Member
    I assume you'd be full pay at all three schools?

    Between Rice and Northwestern, Rice has a lower sticker price (by about 10K I believe) and also a stronger CS reputation, so on objective measures it seems like a stronger choice. The residential college system is a huge plus, and the fact that Rice is very undergrad-focused is a plus too.

    Evanston and Houston are very different places, though; and the schools have different personalities, so it depends what you prefer.

    Rice also has particularly good flexibility to move between majors (more easily than at a UC) but not as much of an interdisciplinary bent as Northwestern (which makes a point of cultivating "CS+X" pursuits), if blending areas of interest is a desire.

    How sure are you about CS in particular? Any particular focus within CS? What alternative majors would you consider if you changed your mind about CS?

    Do you hope to come back to CA after you graduate, and just want a different experience for college, or are you trying to "launch" in a different region? It won't matter so much in CS, because it's relatively easy to be recruited across regions; in some other majors, it's harder to get a job far away from the school. (My daughter who attended Rice spent three years working in Houston after graduation, which hadn't been her plan or desire, but that's where the job was! But she wasn't a CS or engineering major.)

    If you would like a smaller program with more individual attention *within* the UC system, consider the College for Creative Studies at UCSB. There's an additional layer of competitive admissions for CCS. The Computing major is research-focused and allows you to specialize in an area of interest. https://ccs.ucsb.edu/majors/computing
    · Reply · Share
  • 1NJParent1NJParent 2576 replies37 threads Senior Member
    Even though lots of arguments can be made to favor elite privates over elite publics when the costs are the same, in this case UCB wins hands down even if their costs were about the same (UCB should cost much less if you're CA resident). You should take a deep look at the CS program at each school to see what they offer in the area of CS you'd like to specialize (presumably you'd like to be more than a competent programmer).
    · Reply · Share
  • MrSamford2014MrSamford2014 407 replies4 threads Member
    My SoCal daughter was admitted at UCB (which she actually had no interest in attending) and UCLA (where a lot of her acquaintances enrolled). She ended up attending Rice. She preferred the more intimate, personalized atmosphere at Rice, but another key factor motivating that decision was cost: Because we were not a full-pay family, and because Rice had a generous financial aid policy that more than offset the benefits of in-state tuition at UCLA, Rice actually turned out to be cheaper for her than UCLA.

    Hence I would suggest that before you dismiss either NU or Rice as cost-prohibitive vis-a-vis UCB, you consider the impact of likely financial aid awards on the total cost of attendance. (Of course, if you are a full-pay family, then UCB will almost certainly be cheaper, given the advantage of in-state tuition.)

    I would add that DD's lack of interest in UCB stemmed in part from reports that her mom (a CC instructor) had received from local kids who went to UCB: It is a large school which has, despite its leftover "hippie" reputation, a very driven, very competitive student body, and an administration ill suited to provide much personalized support or attention. Major aside, UCB has a sink-or-swim vibe (more so, I think, than UCLA) that does not suit every potential student. On the other hand, if you can make it as a CS major at UCB, you will be very well positioned career wise. Good luck!
    · Reply · Share
  • 1Rubin1Rubin 56 replies9 threads Junior Member
    edited September 14
    All three are solid schools so it’s a tough choice to make. UCB and Rice may work better for CS, if you are sure about your major. It may come down to your personal preferences and need aid or merit based scholarship eligibility.

    Unless UCB is much cheaper, I would eliminate it for undergrad due to its size. You can always go there for a graduate degree.
    edited September 14
    · Reply · Share
  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 3099 replies5 threads Senior Member
    as ucbalumnus posted, given EECS is direct admit so not a weedout program, you should seriously consider Berkeley. If you do want to leave CA then looks like you prefer NU to Rice, even though I'm not a fan of ED, that may be the best way to get in.
    · Reply · Share
  • pandapple1234pandapple1234 3 replies1 threads New Member
    I'm not completely set on being a CS major at the moment. I want to explore when I go to college. But I'm also thinking about CS+Econ or Stats because I like math and that type of stuff.
    · Reply · Share
  • pandapple1234pandapple1234 3 replies1 threads New Member
    Our family doesn't qualify for any financial aid. My mom said she would be fine with paying my tuition if I were to be admitted to Northwestern, however I feel bad about it.
    · Reply · Share
  • aquaptaquapt 2516 replies54 threads Senior Member
    Have you considered Northeastern? You might like their blended majors (one example: https://www.khoury.northeastern.edu/programs/bs-computer-science-economics/ ) and you might get merit aid. Their CS core is very well thought out and front-loaded so that students have a functional skill-set before their first co-op.

    Also, if you are of a more interdisciplinary bent and not dead-set on a deep dive into the theory and practice of computer science, but rather more interested in *using* computational methods to perform complex analyses, you might consider Data Science or Data Analytics rather than CS. Berkeley's Data Science major requires a Domain Emphasis, which can be Economics among many others https://data.berkeley.edu/degrees/domain-emphasis UCI's Informatics program could be worth a look too.
    · Reply · Share
Sign In or Register to comment.

Recent Activity