UCLA vs UW vs Cal Poly SLO for Biomedical Engineering/pre-med

My OOS son got into UCLA bioengineering at $71k, University of Washington bioengineering at $55k and cal poly slo biomedical engineering at $53k. He is thinking of going to med school after undergraduate. Which do you recommend and why? We are from Hawaii and wants to get off the island.
He also got into Uc irvine, Uc San Diego and Uc Davis ($13 scholarship). Any feedback for these schools as well?

For reference, I’m linking to the previous thread comparing UW, SLO and Davis.

I personally can’t see why you’d pay the full 70K+ OOS sticker price for UCLA, UCSD, or Irvine, when you have UW, SLO, and Davis all in the mid-50’s per year.

Med school admissions for CA students are a bit rough. UW might position him the best in this regard.

Great student quality of life at all three of these campuses, but they differ in climate and “vibe.” They’re all quarter-system schools so the calendars should be similar.

I assume you’re comparing curricula - the emphases of the majors at the different schools will vary. UW’s bioengineering has some interesting sub-options.

Congrats on great results, and good luck with the decision!


For the Fall of 2026, SLO will be converting from quarters to semesters. So senior year for the OP’s son.


What are the benefits or drawbacks for these changes? Thanks

There are many people with different opinions on the change. My suggestion would be to create a separate thread to discuss that.

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Quarter system: academic year is three 10-week quarters, plus a summer that is another 10-week quarter.

Semester system: academic year is two 15-week semesters, with summers typically being 8-week terms (but with variations).

Basically, the quarter system typically means more smaller classes (e.g. 4 classes per term = 8 classes in a year on semesters, but 12 classes in a year on quarters), although some colleges on quarters have classes that are equivalent in content to semester classes while having students take fewer of them.

The semester system is much more common than the quarter system. However, all three of the schools in the title currently use the quarter system.

Transfer credit between semester and quarter schools may be awkward for parts of series courses. For example, calculus 1 at a semester school may be equivalent to calculus 1 and part of calculus 2 at a quarter school. 1 quarter hour credit = 2/3 semester hour credit, so 180 quarter hour credits to graduate is equivalent to 120 semester hour credits to graduate.

Changing from one system to another can be disruptive and costly. It is likely that colleges prefer semesters on an ongoing basis due to lower overhead costs (have to do class scheduling and registration one fewer time per year). Note that the CSU system and the California community colleges (including the ones closest to CPSLO and UCLA) are predominantly semester. However, the UCs switched to quarters in the 1960s; UCB switched back to semesters in the 1980s while UCM opened as a new campus on semesters, but the other UCs stayed with quarters, perhaps because the one-time cost and disruption to change would be high.

The student will most like retain his Hawaii residency even if he chooses to attend a California school. As Hawaii has a very strong in state preference, I wouldn’t let that dictate his college choice between CA and WA. And will give the typical caveat of most kids changing their minds on med school anyway.

The University of Hawaii medical school policy on state residency for admission is given at Residency Screening – Office of Admissions .

However, residency for tuition purposes in Hawaii is different and given at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa - Undergraduate - Investing in your future - HAWAII RESIDENCY and http://www.hawaii.edu/offices/bor/adminrules/chapter04.pdf . The latter document does say that “Hawaii residence shall not be lost solely because of the absence from the State … while a student at any institution of higher learning, provided Hawaii is claimed and maintained as the student’s residence.”

One other thing to note about quarter versus semester system is that the academic year in a semester system is usually about 4-5 weeks earlier than in a quarter system, if the school aligns the fall term to end at the winter break (as most do).

This means that if the student attends a college that changes from quarter to semester system, the summer between the last spring quarter and the first fall semester will be shorter than typical. This can have an impact on common summer activities like jobs / internships or summer classes.

Compare the academic calendar of CPSLO (quarter system) to CPP (semester system):
CPSLO: https://registrar.calpoly.edu/academic-calendar
CPP: https://www.cpp.edu/academicplanning/academic-calendar/documents/2022-2023_academic_calendar_10.20.21.pdf

For Cal Poly, there are several summer session options: 1st-5 week session, 2nd 5-week session, 8-week session and a 10-week session.

UCLA also offers several summer options. OOS students pay in-state fees for summer courses at UCs. Is it the same at SLO?

OOS students pay $264 more per unit.

UCLA’s website says,

  • Fees are calculated based on student type and units; there are NO additional out-of-state domestic student fees during the summer (international students may incur additional fees i.e. health insurance).

The academic calendar for the 2026-2027 school year has not been posted, but finals week for the Spring 2026 quarter at SLO is June 8-12. If I were an administrator, then that first Fall semester would probably get pushed back a week or so and then make adjustments to calendar during the remainder of the school year to minimize the adjustment from quarters to semesters.

But we’ll shall see.

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