UC Davis vs. UCSD. Very important. Please Help.

So I had planned on attending UC Davis this upcoming fall semester, but recently UCSD has accepted me off of their waitlist. I have visited Davis, and I plan on visiting UCSD tomorrow. I plan on majoring in poli sci. or history and eventually going to law school (I’m still uncertain about what I want to do). Here’s where the issues lie:

UCSD is known for being better academically and is ranked higher. However, many have claimed that the campus life is disappointing.

UC Davis also provides good programs (I believe) but is ranked lower. I do enjoy the college-town feel, but some claim that Davis is too “in the middle of nowhere”.

UCSD is about 2 hours from home while UC Davis is about 6 hours. (Driving)

Now here’s where things get complicated: My girlfriend will be attending UC Davis, I’ve already settled my housing and chosen a roommate, and everyone is expecting me to go to Davis beside my parents. I’m fairly serious with this girl, but she understands that I shouldn’t choose college based off of a girl. Unless Davis is utterly dull and boring compared to UCSD, I’d easily take the campus life of Davis because she’ll be there.

Here’s where I need help: I care about my education and the opportunities for future careers over having some super party-like college lifestyle. UC Davis is apparently good for poli sci. majors because it’s right near Sacramento which means it’s somewhat easy to get shadowing or internship opportunities. Will these same opportunities be easily available at UCSD? Is undergrad education super different/important between these two schools? Does ranking really matter between these two schools for jobs, internships, and grad school? Does the joy of being with my girl in a good college outweigh going to a slightly(?) better college alone? I’m torn apart trying to think this through so any help/info about these schools is much appreciated. Thanks.

Both campuses would be good for you then. UCSD has a “socially dead” reputation, but I’m sure it’s overexaggerated (much like Davis’s “boring/middle of nowhere/cow town” reputation). Still, neither are huge party schools, and I can’t speak to how the party scene is at UCSD, but at UCD it’s very easy to avoid the scene entirely if you want to. At the same time, it’s there if you want it. I’ve avoided it for the past four years and still have a good social life.

In the vast majority of cases, including the majors you’re considering, no. However, proximity to Sacramento is a serious advantage for UCD if you want to go into politics.

If you’re still not sure, flip a coin. Pay attention to your thoughts/feelings as the coin is in the air. Go with the one that you’re hoping the coin lands on. Or alternatively, once the coin lands take into account how you’re feeling about it. If you’re relieved/happy it landed on one side, or if you wish it had landed on the other side, then you know. And if you don’t have any of these feelings, then the coin made your decision for you.

My dd is from San Diego. She attends Davis and will be graduating this June. She loves the bikeability of the university (40K bikes), the people, the camaraderie of the university community. As parents, we feel that the university has been a good environment for her.

One of her friends told us that the reason he picked Davis was because of the facial expressions on the students on campus. He said everyone seemed to be smiling. He didn’t see that either at UCSD nor at Berkeley. He did see that at UCLA, but didn’t get into that school.

My dd, an NPB major, has had multiple internships and worked in various Davis labs while a student. She has been actively involved on campus with multiple student organizations. Her internships started at end of Freshman year. She has been a student clinician at a student-run clinic. Davis is ½ hour from Sacramento. Her internships have been in Sacramento and Woodland. She’s loved her time at Davis.

Thanks for the responses! I’m very torn at this choice, and it means a lot to have this advice!

That is how they get you. You have the privilege of studying with us. Read up on the best schools for your study area. Schools should be begging for you to attend, not the other way around.

In case you are wondering, no one knows about UC Davis except for the UC part. Where is Davis? They will be asking you that.

^ That’s an overexaggeration. Yes, a lot of people outside of California (and even some people outside of NorCal) don’t know exactly where Davis is. But to say that nobody knows about UC Davis is inaccurate. I was at an on-site interview in San Jose with several students from Wisconsin, and they all knew Davis as an agricultural school with a good vet program. There was a guy from New York who mentioned the same thing when I said what school I went to. Clearly at least some people from out of state know about Davis. What does it matter that someone doesn’t know exactly where the school is? And employers within California know exactly where Davis is, regardless; I know this from personal experience.

That, and nobody particularly cares where you went to school once you have work experience. They care that you have the skills and experience to do the job, and that you’d be a good cultural fit for the company/team. You can get the initial skills and experience you need at any school, and likewise going to a name-brand school doesn’t guarantee you’ll get those things.

They are both outstanding schools, separated by one slot in the USNews ranking.


The difference in ranking and educational quality between UCD and UCSD will be inconsequential in your career and life.

There are programs that Davis leads (food science for example) and others where UCSD has a lead (perhaps life science/biotech). As you mentioned above, the proximity to the State Capitol makes it ideal for Poly Sci students like yourself.

Clearly the city of San Diego has more international recognition and cachet than Davis. That’ is not true of UCSD vs UCD. Stop some guy/gal on the street in Amsterdam, Rio, Beijing, or Boise ID and ask them to name all the UCs. Many will get UCB and UCLA and probably name UCSF (though no undergrad courses are offered there) but, few will know top of mind that there is a UC in San Diego or Davis (not to mention Irvine, Santa Barbara, etc).

Those that say Davis is in the middle of nowhere are simply misinformed. I’d argue it is in the middle of everything. The campus is alive with activities, clubs, frats, etc most days. There are plenty of things to do in town, all major retailers are represented within 20 miles or so, Every major sport has at least one team within 90 minutes +/-. There is tons of diverse entertainment on campus, in the city of Davis or downtown Sacramento. Tahoe and all it offers is about 2 hours away. If you get bored as a student at UCD, that’s on you.

San Diego has lots to offer as well - including a beach nearby and most days better weather. The city and county of San Diego are large area employers so, there is access to Poly Sci in action.

Spend some time on both campuses and see where you feel most at home. If that’s Davis, you have no apology to make to anyone. Same is true for San Diego.

Some people claim that they don’t know where Riverside and Irvine are. A number of Californians don’t know where Merced is, but they know about it.

UC Davis has been around for a while, and it’s Medical school and Medical Center are well-established. Every Jr and Sr student applying to colleges in the California school systems know about Davis.

The funny thing is, as a native Californian I didn’t even know UCSD existed until I was applying to colleges; when I heard people mention a UC in San Diego, I thought they were taking about SDSU (back before I knew about the UC and CSU systems). And many people from NorCal that I’ve mentioned it to mistake it for SDSU, unless they have some connection to the school. Imagine my relatives’ confusion when I mentioned applying to both UCSD and SDSU!

That could be because I grew up in the Bay Area, but I’ve never heard of someone from anywhere in the state not knowing about UCD, unless they just plain don’t know much about the universities in the state at all. And hell, I don’t know exactly where Irvine and Riverside are now that I think about it, but I know their general location and sure as heck heard about them growing up.