UC Berkeley or UC San Diego?

Hi Everyone!

I’m a high school senior who recently got accepted to UC Berkeley and UCSD (among a few other schools) for Chemical Engineering. For UCSD, I was admitted as a Regent’s Scholar, which comes with a lot of benefits.

I’m having a lot of trouble figuring out which school to attend. On the one hand, UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry (which is where the Chemical Engineering department is) is very highly regarded, and its Chemical Engineering program is considered one of the best in the country. Its research opportunities are also fantastic. However, I’ve heard many, many horror stories about UC Berkeley, mainly about the terrible housing situation, the hyper-competitive atmosphere among students, and the terrible grade deflation in many of the lower division classes. I’m honestly not sure how much of this is exaggerated, but I don’t particularly want to sacrifice my mental health for a degree.

On the other hand, UCSD seems to have a good engineering program, although I’ve heard that its Chemical Engineering program is not too great (I could be very wrong about that though). Furthermore, I wouldn’t have to deal with some of the issues that I would have to go through at Berkeley. As a Regent’s Scholar, I have guaranteed housing all four years, priority class enrollment, and research opportunities (among some other things). Although I would have a lot of benefits at UCSD, I’m worried that I’ll be missing out on a lot of opportunities that I can only get at Berkeley.

If anyone can provide some advice, or even share their experience on either of these schools, it would be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Are both programs approved by the American Chemical Society(ACS)? That’s the only (relatively) objective standard I can think of.

What is the total COA annually for each school? Does that make any difference for your family?
Have you visited both schools; if so, which did you like better?

Both are fine schools, but Berkeley does have an amazing academic reputation.

What opportunities do you feel that you would be missing out on that you can only get at Berkeley?

@oldlaw, I am not sure if both programs are approved by the ACS, but I will make sure to find out. The cost of attendance for each school is around 30K annually, but it is not really an issue for my family. I visited UCSD a few years back when my older sibling was applying for college, and honestly did not like it too much. That said, I visited when the weather was awful and there weren’t many people around to talk to. I have not visited UCB. My family and I had planned to visit (if I got in) in the spring, but now doing a campus tour is not really an option with the coronavirus.

@lkg4answers, UC Berkeley’s College of Chemistry, which is where the Chemical Engineering department is located, is quite famous and well regarded. I suppose by opportunities, I meant the fantastic research opportunities and the ability to work with professors who are real experts in their fields. I haven’t heard much about UCSD’s Chemical Engineering program, so I worry about passing up an offer to study at a school that is known for its chemistry program.

@pixel2002 I agree that Berkeley’s CoC is very highly respected. Look into how easy or difficult it is for an undergrad to get those fantastic research opportunities with the experts in their fields. I don’t know the answer.

It’s very tough not being able to make additional visits to these schools.

There’s no question that UCB has the better reputation, as it’s a nationally recognized university. That doesn’t mean UCSD has a poor reputation at all; it just isn’t as famous. Berkely is recognized everywhere as an academic powerhouse.

Any idea how tough it is to get classes-as in, how long does it take to graduate from the two schools?
What sort of benefits do you get being a Regent’s Scholar?
And do you know any chemical engineers, to see if they have any opinions?

@pixel2002 Facing a similar dilemma! I got Regents at Berk, but accepted to UCSD.

Not sure if this helps, but I asked my dad which school he thinks would be more beneficial. My dad is a chemical engineer. He says that it’s really a toss-up and depends on what specific area of chemE that you want to specialize in. Take a look at the labs each school has. He says Berkeley is generally regarded as more prestigious, but with regents at UCSD it is a very close call. Good Luck! Maybe we will be future 2024 classmates!

@oldlaw, I’ve heard some mixed reviews on how difficult it is to get classes at Berkeley. Some people say it’s literally impossible to get the classes you want, while others say it’s not too much of an issue if you plan well. Since Berkeley is a big public school, I can imagine that getting classes can be a challenge–but it’s an issue at most schools so… The grad rate in 4 years is a little over 75%; I checked out Stanford’s grad rate in 4 years too, and it’s slightly lower than Berkeley.
As a Regent’s Scholar, I get priority class enrollment, guaranteed on-campus housing for four years, and 5k per year. They also mentioned something about ‘cutting-edge research opportunities’, but I wasn’t able to find much information regarding such opportunities. I’m definitely attracted to the priority class enrollment and housing guarantee; those perks would definitely make my undergrad experience a lot easier and less stressful.
I don’t know any chemical engineers, but I spoke with my chemistry teacher who went to Berkeley as an undergraduate. He loved it there, and said that there is literally no better place to study chemistry. I also spoke with my dad who went to UCSD as a bio major, but even he is pushing me towards Berkeley a bit haha

@lizjohnson254, I am really interested in going down the sustainability route, though I am interested in material science too (polymers and stuff like that). I’ve looked into labs at both schools, and each have labs and centers that fit my interests.
And good luck to you too!

Hi what have you decided ? UCB or UCSD ?

While Berkeley is more academically prestigious overall than UCSD, UCSD is probably more prestigious than at least half of the public flagships in the US – it is believed to be a very good school in its own right.

Assuming both are affordable, I would go where I felt more at home. It’s obviously a hard decision for you, so I would make the campuses/housing/cities/culture the deciding factor.

You will fail to exhaust the academic brilliance of either school or Chem department.

If you still can’t decide which one feels more like home, and you are unable to discern which will provide greater access to research opportunities or the classes you want to take, then I would choose UCSD due to the Regents benefits.

But on paper this is a hard decision, and both offer outstanding opportunities, so you can’t really make a bad decision.

Wow I haven’t been on this website in a long time! I ended up choosing UC Berkeley! I went to online events for both schools, and talked to a lot of students, and felt like I connected more with UCB than UCSD.

@pixel2002 Thanks for coming back and updating. How is it going? Did you move to Berkeley or are you learning from home?

ACS approves chemistry majors, not chemical engineering majors. (Both UCB and UCSD chemistry majors are ACS approved: https://webapplications.acs.org/Applications/CPTASL/app_list_search.cfm ).

The relevant major-specific accreditation for chemical engineering is from ABET. (Both UCB and UCSD chemical engineering majors have ABET accreditation: https://amspub.abet.org/aps/name-search?searchType=institution&keyword=university%20of%20california ).