UCLA vs Cornell

Hey guys! Congrats on surviving this admissions season!

After narrowing it down, I’ve settled on two choices, UCLA or Cornell and I need some help deciding which one.

UCLA Pros:
In state tuition
Major has opportunities in comp sci which I want (computational systems biology) + good job opportunities
#1 dining hall food!!!
school spirit!!!

very close to home (I want to explore new things)
my major is also focused on molec biology (not really my thing imo)
a reallyyyy big school
quarter system

Cornell Pros:
I love the science portion of my major (Public Health in CHE)
out of state, excited for a change on the east coast!
LOVE the cold (esp the snow!! and skiing!!)
smaller school but not too small
my best friend of over 11 years will be joining me in one year (she got the transfer option) :wink:

Cornell Cons:
not sure if I love the rural setting
not sure if my major has many viable job opps
heard that cornell curriculum is very hard
heard that it is difficult to do college to college transfers (I want some sort of flexibility just in case)
$$$$$ (expecting to get some financial aid though as my sister went to UPenn and it eventually became affordable (I think))

  • hoping to get off the WL at Cal/northwestern/dartmouth though, because it would change my plans completely. For now, I’m just going to send a LOCI and focus my efforts on the schools that loved me back <3

Would appreciate any input-- Thank you!!!

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Ithaca is great so I wouldn’t worry about the “rural” setting - you’ll have no short of campus, town, and nature activities.

College is hard. It’s hard at competitive and non competitive schools - often major dependent.

And btw - I suppose it’s based on your definition - but Cornell is not smaller or small - but it will have a heavy grad mix.

So you say UCLA you take a major which you want - but then in cons you say it’s focused on what you don’t want. You then claim good job opportunities but not from Cornell- which is it? If UCLA has good job opportunities, Cornell certainly does. And you should study what you want.

As for UCLA, food is important - but Cornell’s also gets an A+ (from Niche). It’s ranked 15th - so it’s likely strong too.

Ultimately, you need to afford where you go - not to bankrupt your family. So that matters too. But it sounds like Cornell is your preference if possible.

As for your friend joining you, go meet new friends. Many HS friends at many schools end up not hanging out at all in college. They just develop into different groups, etc.

As for WLs, those are rejections - do your LOCI and move on. Emotionally check in elsewhere as you say you will do.

Just to give you an idea - NU doesn’t publish totals. Dartmouth in the last CDS offered 2669 WL spots. They only admitted 879. It’s obscene schools do this but they are businesses and they need to ensure they have seats filled and WL will have very very low yield. So if they are 20 short, they may need many hundreds to fill them. Oh yeah of the 2669 - they admitted 0.

So move past WL -besides, UCLA is a way nicer place to spend four years than CAL.

Good luck.

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I can’t compare these schools as I know nothing about UCLA but I can address some of the cons for my alma mater.

Ithaca is a great college town! Doesn’t feel rural at all. There is so much going on that you will have more things to do than you’ll have time for.

You should easily be able to find the first destination survey for your major to see where grads go after graduation. If you can’t, email the Hum Ec admissions office and ask them for that data.

Cornell is no joke in terms of difficulty but I can’t imagine that UCLA is going to be a walk in the park either.

It’s very straight forward to switch colleges at Cornell unless you want to get into Dyson.

Hopefully aid packages are released soon!

(Oh, and the food at Cornell is amazing!).


FWIW, I liked the quarter system at UCLA. I could take more classes and there was slightly less pressure for finals. Another bonus for UCLA is the Education Abroad Program (EAP), which I think is the same for all UCs. When I was there, there were tons of options and it was a very well run program. Studying abroad your junior year might ameliorate your wanderlust a little at UCLA. It was a transformative experience for me.

Cornell seems like a great school, but I don’t think it’d be worth paying twice as much as UCLA. Still I totally understand the desire to get away and think it can be very valuable. It’s why I, a Bay Area kid, chose UCLA over Cal. It wasn’t super far away, but it didn’t feel like my backyard either.


without finaid from Big Red, you really can’t make a decision.

Were you a direct admit to your major at UCLA, or is it impacted such that you have to apply after taking the pre-reqs?


What’s your parents’ budget and is Cornell within budget (had you run the NPC and did it show sufficient financial aid?) If the FA package hasn’t been released early next week, perhaps contact them.
Ithaca may be a bit remote but it’s a fantastic college town. I wouldn’t worry about it at all.
You discuss the differences between your 2 majors but forgot to mention which are those.
Also, can you add a minor to your Cornell major to make it closer to your UCLA major??

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sorry it’s a little confusing in regards to majors!
basically I’m looking for something that will allow me to explore science AND stats/comp sci/math and for UCLA I can do that, but I don’t really like the “science” portion of my major.
For cornell, I absolutely love the “science” portion of my major, but it’s missing kind of the stats/comp sci/ math portion of it, and I’m also worried about the job opportunities that public health will provide me in the future
I also want some level of flexibility, but I heard that its difficult to switch at both schools (but I’m not sure about this one…)

and yes :wink: I’m just going to send in some LOCI and move on! People on here say to love the schools that love you back, and I stand by that!

oh yay!! really? If it’s straight forward to switch into another college (just in case :wink: ) then that definitely makes me favor cornell a little bit… I had a dream last night that they gave me lots of financial aid LOL but again, we just have to wait…

From what I hear, public health requires further schooling. I know a Tulane grad from last year who is now back for an MPH Will sue have a job - I don’t know.

I also know there are different levels - science, policy etc.

Either way you’ve got great options. Congrats.

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I ran the NPC and it seems affordable… but again, I won’t know anything until the actual financial aid comes out.

my major is still “pre” at UCLA. I don’t think it’s impacted? I’m not sure what the process looks like for declaring the actual major (other than satisfying the prerequisite classes). I’ll have to look into it.

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Are you majoring in public health? It can lead to direct job placement if you add a math/computational/data science minor or even just a few courses in any of those and link these to an internship.
You don’t say what college you were admitted to but it seems like all Cornell majors&colleges offer the option of adding a “CS/computational/stats” minor:


There are even classes in computational biology:
You could also email the person in charge of undergrad education within your major or college and ask whether you could double major with that:

You don’t say what your UCLA major is so it’s a bit harder to look for info. Generally, because UC majors are impacted, it’s harder to get into in-demand classes but it’d depend what you’re considering.
I’d pick Cornell simply because being pre-major can be a problem if it’s impacted. If it’s not then there’s no wrong choice.

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oh sorry! Just realized I didn’t respond to the other parts of your message

UCLA Major: Pre-Computations and Systems Biology
Cornell: Global and Public Health Sciences in CHE

I think I can add a minor? Good point actually I’m going to email admissions! Thank you!!

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I might just do a minor in data science!!! thank you sm!!!

now we wait for the financial aid packet…

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based on all the information you have shared to this point:

Do Cornell with a minor, unless they lowball the financial aid. Meaning, don’t sign on until you’re confident your parents are committed to whatever the four year cost would be.

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hey guys! I received the cornell fin aid letter and it’s as expected. The cost of cornell v ucla is only a couple thousand off, not enough for it to be an issue. Here’s where it all changes. I was originally not really in love with my UCLA major but after I went to Bruin day, the major ambassadors talked to me and I loved all the career opportunities and chances to study engineering courses my major offers. One even said that if I wanted to, I could switch into the college of engineering a little easier since all the prereqs are already in my major.

At cornell, I still don’t like my major and if anything, I’ve fallen out of love with the science part of it as well. I like how my UCLA major gives me so many different opportunities (and there’s even a 5 year masters program!). Cornell Global and Public Health Sciences doesnt give me many job opportunities, and I’ve spoken to people and they say transferring out of CHE is not guaranteed. Idk if I want to take that risk.

I guess my question is if Cornell’s “Ivy League” status is worth risking my major. Will the Ivy title make up for a lack of gphs job opportunities, or should I stick with UCLA (which is a great school anyways!) An ivy league was always the dream. Also one thing to note is that it’s my dream to work in NYC, and I’m scared being so geographically far from NYC, it’ll make it much harder to get a job there.

Go to the school you feel is right for you. Period.

Yes it’s nice to be Ivy but you have to be there four years, day after day.

So go where’s right for you. Neither will give you an advantage to NYC. UCLA to NYC - not an issue - you’ll just find jobs to apply to.

Best of luck.

As decision day gets closer, it sounds like you are getting some cold feet about Cornell despite a stellar aid package that makes the cost nearly same price as UCLA. So I’m softening my stance from the last note (the one that basically said pick Cornell).

Congratulations, you got into an Ivy, which you state above was a long time dream. But now, you have to decide to actually go, or stay closer to home and attend a school that is a “public Ivy” in most people’s eyes. Lots of students go through this process – our own dreamed of John’s Hopkins as her ideal, and then after she got in, she realized she could meet (and wanted to meet) her goals by attending school a three hour car ride away. On reflection, she realized that ‘getting into JHU’ had been her goal all along, but that based on her educational and career goals, she really would still hit her targets without moving halfway across the country.

Your assessment of how you will meet your end goals might be different than hers, but in the end, it needs to be your assessment. Especially since now the potential for a huge financial difference (for your parents) is off the table.

I attended Cornell. I started in one school there and transferred to another. It was not hard to do, but that was also many years ago. That said, the CHE is kind of it’s own thing, and I would ask LOTS of questions about transfer path if you are at all concerned about being stuck in your current major. If you cannot get clear answers from someone on what to do to start the transfer process into desired major, I’d probably walk away from this option altogether.

Also, I do need to ask: Being from California as you are, how much experience do you have with bitter / bone-chilling cold? Ithaca is super cold in the winter time. (In my opinion, The entire finger lakes region is like paradise in the Summertime, but you presumably won’t be there then…)

One friend of my S18 was in exactly this situation. His parents pressured him to take the “more prestigious” option of Cornell over UCLA, and I think he regretted it (especially the depressing weather coming from CA).

Another friend went to UCSB and had the option of guaranteed sophomore admission at Cornell. Again she was pressured by parents to take the Ivy prestige but in the end refused to transfer.

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6 kids from my son’s school are freshmen at Cornell, two are freshmen at UCLA.
The kids who are at Cornell are all happy, both kids at UCLA feel like they made a mistake:
their feedback was: “School is massive, you get lost. Getting into classes is very hard. Unless you are part of the greek system, social life is difficult”

Anecdotal evidence …

Either way money aside, both choices are fantastic.