My own public and private school exp. (Cal, Columbia, and Stanford)

Hello C.C. world! With degrees in math, statistics, engineering, economics, and business/management from UC Berkeley (UG), Columbia (G) and Stanford (G) respectively, here is my observation:

*Top 25% Student Quality: (UG): S > B = C; (G): S = B > C;
*Lower 25% Student Quality: (UG): S = C > B; (G): S = B >> C;
*Academic Rigor (i.e., how hard a student has to work to earn a good grade): B >> S > C;
*Depth and Breadth of a Class: B = S = C;
*Faculty Resources Availability: S > C = B;
*School Resources Availability: S > B = C;
*Tuition and Expense Affordability: B >> S > C;
*Faculty Teaching Quality: S = C = B;
*Friendly Faculty: S > C > B;
*Housing and Dining Services: S > B > C;
*Campus Architectures & Environment: S > C > B;
*Campus Neighborhoods and Safety: S >> B > C;
*Level of Student Peer-to-Peer Competition and Intensity: B > S > C;
*Academic Reputation (as a whole): S = B > C;
*Student Bonding and Alumni Connections: S = C > B.
*Location for Tech Jobs Availability: S = B > C;
*NYC IB Offerings: C > S > B;
*VC Offerings: S >> C = B;
*Career Center Resources: S >> B = C;
*Liberal Arts Education (UG): C > S > B;
*STEM Education (UG & G): S = B > C;


Note #1: B = Berkeley (Cal); C = Columbia; S = Stanford;
Note #2: My GPAs: S > C >> B;
Note #3: While at B, I was very stressful but it did train me to be more competitive (both physically and mentally) and proved to be quite useful later at C and S and in the real world.
Note #4: S is quarter system; B and C are both semester system;
Note #5: UG = Undergraduate; G = Graduate

OP: Do you think that your category “Friendly Faculty” was influenced by your status as a graduate student at two of the schools ?

If you could go back, would you have made the same choices for UG and G programs? Would you recommend all three, especially UCB for ug?

@Publisher: I did not know at the time when applying to GS that private schools tended to have “friendly faculty” than the public counterpart. Moreover, when you apply to GS, you are determined to dive deeper in that particular graduate program. You don’t care about the “friendly” factor.

Understanding what it is like to be an undergraduate at a school that you are attending as a graduate student is very difficult. Evaluating grad school as an undergraduate is near impossible.

@Mwfan1921: Good point. If your can get a full scholarship or your family is super rich to support you(with wealth> USD 10M), then I’d definitely, with all my heart, recommend you go to Stanford. Otherwise, it’s indifferent to me that both B and S do offer the same quality level of UG education in STEM program. And if you really want to be independent and have a taste to the one of a kind, international super city, welcome to the Big Apple.

Side Note: Believe it or not, I was either too stupid or too confident to apply just ONE school at the time: B during high school senior year; and C after graduation of B; and S, after graduation of S, all in different disciplines. And yes, I was fortunate enough to be accepted by each school at different time period with nothing but LUCK!

Correction: Line 9 - and S, after graduated from C with a couple of years at “work.”

And add to the fact that some/many of Columbia’s Master’s programs are cash cows, and thus are not all that selective. Depending what program OP was taking in Morningside Heights, s/he may not have received a representative opinion.

As an aside, many undergrad programs appear ‘harder’ than grad programs, particularly when comparing a public undergrad. Grad schools grade on a much more generous curve, as a B- is tantamount to a fail in the class. In contrast, undergrad publics award plenty of C’s and even D’s.

@Eeyore123: I was able to make such assessment due to the fact that:

  1. As a graduate student at C, I also attended some UG classes (economics), and Ph.D classes (business school operations research, LP and NLP);
  2. As a graduate student at S, I was a H/W and test grader for UG math (e.g., Calculus, Linear Algebra, PDE, and Deterministic Models) so I could easily make a comparison of student level at B and S

Again, it’s just my observation based on experience at B, C, and S!

@Mwfan1921: to cont. our last conversation, if I could start all over again in HS senior year, I would added Cal Poly SLO and UCLA on the list.

@bluebayou : I agreed with you that both C and S are more “selective” than B in terms of UG acceptance rate except B’s EECS, MET, CS, and CE (CoE) programs.

You are making some serious generalizations, based on a limited sample size. As an undergrad, you rarely have any opportunity to interact enough with students outside your major to have an informed opinion. Even within a major your sample is likely non-representative in schools like Berkeley, if you are attending a university the size of Berkeley.

As @Eeyore123 wrote - an an undergraduate students your interaction with graduate students would be far too limited to form any informed opinion, and you would also lack the tools to make a judgement, even if you were interacting with enough graduate students. Of course, there is absolutely no way that you would have the ability to do so outside of your major.

As a graduate student, again, as @Eeyore123 wrote - your interactions with undergraduates is limited, unless you are a teaching assistant over multiple years in multiple courses. Again, your ability to judge undergraduates and graduates of other majors is essentially zero. If you are a Masters students, it is difficult to judge PhD students, even in your own major.

As for judging faculty, well, I am sorry, despite the weird belief that undergraduates can actually judge the teaching abilities and outcomes of their professors, this is, in fact, a myth which administrators like pushing, to pander to parents and future donors. An 18 year old, just out of high school, whose still not mentally an adult, and has absolutely no understanding of what “teaching” actually entails, is the absolutely worst person to judge a faculty member.

Students judge their professors on physical appearance (proven by multiple studies), gender (also proven), race (ditto), how much they felt that they learned or accomplished (in the best case scenario), how much “fun” the class is (in the worst case scenario), and how the class made them feel. Whether a class was effective, and whether the student themselves did enough to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the class, is something that a student only discovers a few years post-graduation, if ever.

If your graduate school included a PhD with extensive TA experience, and some experience as an instructor, I will accept your judgement of the faculty’s teaching abilities. Otherwise, you lack the tools with which to provide this judgement.

Food - seriously? What are you, a restaurant critic that you think that your personal tastes are an objective judgement? Same for campus architecture. You can say which you liked better, but you cannot claim some sort of value judgement, based on your personal preferences.

Affordability - again, that is based on what a family earns, and what was affordable to you may not be affordable to other families. The costs themselves are on the websites of the universities in far more detail than you can provide here. So that bit on=f information is superfluous.

So take a step back and scale back on your claims and generalizations. If you want to actually help other people with your advice, you really should make sure that your advice is applicable to the people who you wish to help.

For example, your experience is absolutely useless to a person who wants to decide which of these schools is the best of a Biology or Chemistry undergraduate. I mean, how would you actually know anything about the faculty, undergraduates, graduate students, etc of these departments at any of these schools you attended? What about history? What about most social sciences? Etc, etc, etc.

@MWolf: Thanks for your comments. Again, it’s just my personal experience based on my observation, judgment, and personal aesthetic view (on food, campus architecture), in the degree areas of math, statistics, economics, MBA-finance, management science & engineering for BA, MA, MS, MBA, and Ph.D respectively, nothing more and nothing less.

@bluebayou: Regarding to the academic rigor part, I meant B has higher degree of “academic rigor (level of effort to earn a good grade)” than the private counterparts based on some UG classes taken at Columbia and my H/W and test grading experience at Stanford. Again, just limited to subjects aforementioned. As to certain upper div. math classes (i.e., abstract algebra, real analysis, etc), high level of efforts does not necessarily guarantee to a good grade, but that is another story.

Have you thought about why do “grad schools grade on a much more generous curve?” That’s because UG grading is functioning as a filtration process that separates high caliber students from less qualified ones. You don’t really want to apply for an advanced math degree if your overall undergraduate major GPA in math, for example, is 2.5 /4.0, right? You know you won’t get in, it’s as simple as that. And the ones who get accepted to the graduate programs are the ones who are proficient in that particular discipline. It’s not that graduate schools have more generous grading policy.

@CalCUStanford, I might point out to you why @MWolf and others reacted very critically to your post. Your intention may be to offer help to potential applicants of these schools, but your message comes across as self-serving and “braggy”. What might be helpful would be for you to give some reasons as to WHY you ranked the schools in their order in some of your categories, as opposed to simply stating an opinion, and then providing no context. For instance, I’d be curious as to why you feel that the architecture at Stanford is superior to that at Columbia or Berkeley, when the latter two schools are known for their diverse and world-class architecture, and Stanford has often been the criticized for adhering to one style of architecture for the entire campus. When I don’t see an explanation for such an unpopular opinion, I’m not going to give much credence to the rest of your post. I know this sounds harsh, but if you are going to create a new thread on this site, with lofty schools mentioned in the subject, it’s going to get scrutinized.

Subjectively speaking, my observation aforementioned, is merely a snapshot during that particular time-span of late 90s to early 2000s.

@Scrambro: Thanks for your constructive suggestion. It’s my first thread and my original intention was to elaborate on the matter later (TBC) if time allows.

In line with several of the comments above, I did not read this thread as offering anything but one person’s opinion on various aspects of that person’s experience at each school. In essence, I read this as a thread of personal impressions rather than as a thread offering meaningful insights. And that is okay. Interesting to read.

I agree with publisher, and appreciate OP’s impressions of the schools across a variety of criteria.

I think the clue is in the title of the post “My Own…”. Personal perceptions may not be general reality or other’s perceptions. It doesn’t mean that OP’s perceptions are of no value.

I also disagree with the generalization that undergrads are not equipped to evaluate the quality of instruction. Any criticisms my D ('20) had of her Berkeley educational experiences did not include what the professor wore/how they looked, or whether the class was “fun”. She was more critical if the instructor was disorganized, didn’t test on the material taught, dumbed down the material/pace of the class, etc. Kids who value their education don’t want to feel like their time is being wasted. I don’t think she’s an outlier.

Regarding post #s 7 and 12, I can attest that as a former Haas student, for the exact same undergraduate course taken at Haas, MBA graduate students were graded easier or with a more generous curve than the undergraduate students.