UC Irvine (OOS) vs UC Davis (OOS) vs Skidmore (full ride) for psychology

I’ve gotten into both UC Irvine and UC Davis (planning to major in Psychology), and I don’t know which one to pick. I only got to visit UC Irvine and I really liked it, but wasn’t able to visit Davis due to scheduling issues. I know UCD ranks higher in psychology, but UCI ranks higher in general. I also just really loved the atmosphere at UCI, and want to know if UCD is similar. Also, I’m an out-of-state applicant and have to pay in full for both schools.

The tuition for both schools is also pretty terrifying to me. I don’t want to leave college with thousands in debt, but I really want to go to a UC school. I heard it’s possible to just take a gap year to establish residency in Cali to get the in-state tuition (or to stay home and work for some $ before I start college, which I’m not really considering taking a gap year and staying at home because being here is detrimental to my mental health).

What should I do?

Unless you count as an independent student (e.g. age 24, married, military veteran), it is very difficult to get California residency for tuition purposes without you and your parents moving to California and doing various actions indicating intent to stay for purposes other than attending college and staying for at least a year. If you graduated high school in California after sufficient years of attendance, you can get non-resident tuition waived (AB540 provision).


If you are under 24 years of age, then your state residency is based on where your parents live so taking a Gap year and trying to establish residency will only work if you show you are independent. No financial help from your parents and show proof you are able to support yourself. As a Psych major, you should also consider Grad school costs in your decision. What are your other options besides the UC’s? $67K/year is a steep price to pay.


Just wanted to add 1. I’ve been corrected on the residency thing, my bad! and 2. I’m not 100% sure if I want to stay in the psych field and might swerve over to business, but will likely still go to grad school anyway.

I’ve gotten into Skidmore and they’re giving me a pretty much full ride, but I visited their campus today and really didn’t like the atmosphere there. I’d also rather just not go to such a small school, and Skidmore ranks lower than both UCs.

So what is your budget since as a student, you cannot take out more than the student Federal loan limits which is $27K total for 4 years? Parents willing to cosign on the difference?

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Yes, they are.

What did you like about UCI?

UC Davis is surrounded by rural farmland about 20 mins from Sacramento. It is the quintessential small town where town and campus are highly integrated. The campus is large and flat with bikes as the main mode of transportation. Plenty of cute shops, restaurants and cafe’s downtown. The students are down to earth, hard workers but collaborative. I would say many aspects of UCD are opposite of UCI.


Forget about ranking. It does not matter.

Skidmore is also an exceptionally good college. LACs often rank lower than universities just because the LACs are small, and have fewer students, fewer professors, fewer publications, and so on. However, you can get a very strong undergraduate education at a good liberal arts college. Graduate admissions will know how strong Skidmore is.

A bachelor’s degree in psychology is a major which can be paired with a relatively long list of grad school options, but that is typically paired with some form of graduate school. You would be best off to save some of your college money for grad school.

Would you need to take on any debt at all to attend either University of California? If so, then how much debt would you need?

I am worried that you may be setting yourself up for a BIG problem with too much debt, although I do not think that we have all of the details.

To me it sounds likely that you need to find a more affordable option, regardless of whether this is Skidmore or something else.

What other options do you have?


Also make sure you can take a gap year At a UC while maintaining your acceptance. Some for sure make you reapply the next year.

What didn’t you like about the atmosphere there?

Parent-cosigned loans are generally a bad idea for both the student and parents.

So you got a full ride at Skidmore, a FANTASTIC school but you want to go to an oversized bureaucratic school for $260k+?

Do you know how long it will take you to make $260K which is more like $350-400k in taxes ?

So why are you worried about rank ? A degree in psych will lead to a low level corporate job or grad school.

And Skidmore is a very impressive name. You must have need aid. Their scholarships aren’t large.

In life sometimes you have to do what you don’t want. A college like Skidmore, which is high level for free trumps UC full pay each and every day if the week…especially if your family has financial issues.

You’ll learn to love it. And if you won’t then why did you apply ?

Assuming your grades are super strong, you can still apply to Arizona or Alabama and get huge merit, giving you a large school for cheap.

You seek rank. Btw in psych all three are ranked on the 50s (niche). Don’t crush yourself or your family $ wise. It will strain you mentally for years.

In fact you never should have applied to UCs. You have no chance to attend financially. You can’t afford them.

Skidmore is doing you a huge favor. Be grateful.

Good luck.


You have started another discussion questioning if Psychology is the right major to pursue. Regardless of intended major, the best thing you can do is to avoid a large amount of Undergrad debt. Both my son’s have thanked me for persuading them to attend schools that were affordable and where they did not have to immediately worry about paying back any student loans. This allowed them to pursue jobs that were lower paying but gave them great life experience.

Do yourself and your parents a favor, accept the full ride at Skidmore and then consider some of the California schools for your graduate studies.


It doesn’t matter how prestigious the school is or how much you want to go there, if you can’t afford it. It wouldn’t be thousands in debt. It would be around 200k, assuming you could get the financing to do it. That kind of debt would be financial suicide. Unless the degree has M.D. next to it, it’s just not worth it for a psychology degree.

If you have a full ride, take it and run. If you’re doing psychology, I’m thinking that graduate school is a possibility. That being the case, coming out of undergraduate debt free is a huge asset. The types of professions that deal with psychology aren’t the most lucrative, so it’s in your best interest to keep the debt at a minimum.

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Yes. We had a similar experience.

Before my older daughter went to university we had what one might call an ongoing series of discussions and arguments about budget. I insisted that she must not take on any debt at all. This pushed multiple schools out of consideration.

Then she got her bachelor’s degree at a university that had given her quite a good merit scholarship and that had a very good program in her major. She graduated with no debt, and with something (very little) left in her 529.

Then she got a “dream job” that was wonderfully interesting for her, set her up really well for her future, but that paid terribly. She could only take this dream job because she had no debt at all. This dream job led to a second job, which in turn was very valuable in helping her get accepted to the graduate program where she is currently studying.

And like your sons she also eventually thanked me for not letting her take on any debt at all.

Graduating university with no debt will open up a lot of options that might not otherwise be available.


You and your parents would be utter and complete fools to plan to take out the loans you’d need, in order to go to school in California. Thank the gods for that full ride at Skidmore, and go there.


You should have applied to schools you could financially afford.

Go to Skidmore. Graduate. Move to California.

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FYI, California is not the only state that has large schools.
Additionally, if you received full funding for Skidmore, your parents will probably NOT be able to borrow $200K over 4 years.
Plus, the kinds of loans available (Parent Plus) to your parents are often sold and resold which means that some loans may be “Pay as you go”. Your parents may be asked to pay several thousand dollars per month as you go to UCI or UCD. (I personally really LIKE Davis over UCI.)

Plus, at some point, your parents may not qualify for additional money in your Junior/Senior year which means you wont be able to pay to continue onto graduation. That does happen, often, for a number of students who just “have to go to a UC”.

It will “suck” going to school in California if you are on a limited budget because California is VERY expensive and there are lots of things to do that you wont be able to do.

  • Our transportation in SoCal (Davis is a wee bit better) is awful and we have a LOT of freeways.
  • You won’t be able to contribute for gas money and a lot of students drive. It’s $6 per gallon and if you want a ride to anywhere, it’s expected that you will pitch in to help with the ride. Uber can get expensive.
  • You wont be able to fly back home during breaks and at UCI, it’s a ghost town during breaks.
  • You wont be able to call out for pizza or other foods because it is expensive and you will be on a strict budget.
  • Your mandatory health insurance fees are expensive and you will be required to purchase insurance that covers California rates.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, if you use the term “Cali”, it immediately lets the locals know that you are from out of town. The locals do NOT like the name “Cali”; it’s a tourist term. We’re “California”, (or SoCal, NorCal, Bay Area, LA, Orange, SF, Sac,) etc.

The UC’s are unaffordable for you. You are targeting a major with low-paying prospects, so you wont be able to help your parents pay back your ridiculous loan payments-they will add interest-assume about $3-4K per month, minimum for about 20 years. California has too many psych grads, so the pay is low. Also you would need to go to grad school to get a PhD and go through licensing, so I haven’t included that in your payback rates.

We will take your money, however, since the State needs dollars from OOS students who are easily willing to part with money they don’t have.


I have heard of a few cases of students dropping out part way through their bachelor’s degree program because they ran out of money and could not borrow enough to finish. They were left with massive debt and no degree. One was a guitar teacher who I had at one point. He had to give a LOT of guitar lessons to pay off the debt from the very good university that he had NOT graduated from.

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I had a friend whose parents sold the house and moved into a trailer so she could go to Syracuse. Two years in - she transferred to U of Montana.

So she finished…but couldn’t finish at Syracuse.

People need to look into the future - not take it year by year - and many economists think we’ll be in a recession in two years - so it’s very possible when these kids graduate that the job market won’t be robust like it is today.