UCSD vs UC Davis vs UCI vs Pitzer vs Scripps - Neuroscience

My D applied in neurscience major. She got in UCSD, UC Davis, UCI, Pitzer and Scripps(with founder scholarship). We would like to know which is best of all this. She is an international student.

The “best” school is one that she can afford, that she can acclimate to, and that suits her needs for a university.

Only she can tell you which one is the best for her.

The UC’s are large public universities which are on the trimester system. They are expensive for non-residents since they are funded by the State of California’s public taxpayer dollars.

Pitzer and Scripps are smaller, private campuses in the suburbs of LA County. They are funded by tuitions paid by the students’ parents and any research funding provided by alumni, fundraising and any government subsidies for research and activities.

Every one of those schools is different in location, style, students, weather, cost, and size.

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Thank you for your reply. They all are expensive. Even after scholarship fee still very high. Would like to hear if undergraduate studies are better at one place over the other. Her interest is currently neuroscience/biology

Every school on that list is good and strong. I don’t think one school is “better” than another. That’s really not how US students/parents view the schools. They look at how each student will thrive and grow in four years at that university.

US students look at location, size, internships, access to professors/research, diverse social activities (yes, it’s 4 years of living which includes having a social life-clubs, work, sports, leisure trips, friends, connections, etc.).

She wont be studying every night and day because that would make her miserable, lonely and isolated. Students need each other. They help each other in study groups, with the laundry, with rides to the grocery store, with homework, job leads, campus locations, etc.

Each of these schools has it’s own unique strengths in the various areas of neuroscience/biology.

This should have been researched before applying to these schools. As a parent, you need to back off and let her drive the decision. Please don’t select the school for her because then it would be your choice and not hers and that doesn’t always work out well. (Lots of personal experience with former students on this factor.)

My children all went to very different universities in different parts of the country. We told them what we could afford and what factors would appeal to us, but they had to decide on their own affordable decisions.

The UCs, except UCB and UCM, are on the quarter system.

Yes I totally agree. She is the one who will make decision. Given we haven’t visited these place we can only rely on internet about the feel of these school.

Does she want a large campus within a larger city? Small campus with a suburban area? Large campus in a small town but a city nearby? What is her goal in studying Neuroscience? Is she looking for diversity in the student body?

As an International student, access to a nearby airport is a requirement.
For UCI, you have the smaller John Wayne airport or farther is Los Angeles.
For Pitzer/Scripps, you have the smaller Ontario airport or farther Los Angeles.
For UCSD, you have San Diego airport and for UC Davis you have Sacramento Airport.

She can Uber from these airports to the schools and some have shuttles but transportation to get around while in school should also be considered.

UCI: UCI Transportation and Distribution Services
UCSD: https://transportation.ucsd.edu/
UCD: Campus & Community Transportation | Services for International Students and Scholars
Scripps/Pitzer: Transportation | Pitzer College Transportation

Scripps/Pitzer would be the least desirable in terms around the community transportation. The suburban area of Claremont really has no specific student transportation available and many students will need cars to get out of the area for activities.

She needs to answer some questions and also ask some specific questions about each campus to help determine her best fit.

As stated by @aunt_bea, all these schools are very different with different student populations and locations. I have visited all of the campuses so I can give some input with specific questions.


The UCs, where this student has been admitted, and were being referenced for attendance, were not UCB and Merced. The UC’s referenced ARE on the quarter system. The parent appeared to want information on how to go about selecting from those schools.

Yes, but you said they were on the trimester system. They’re not.

Regarding Pitzer vs. Scripps: for a bio/neuroscience major, the coursework in the major will be very similar, as Keck Science is a joint venture. The general ed requirements will differ somewhat. Another thing to look at is whether it’s possible that she might be interested in a Cognitive Science major, which is also neuroscience-adjacent. At Scripps, she could do Pomona’s CogSci major as an off-campus major. At Pitzer, she wouldn’t have the Pomona option, because Pitzer has its own in-house CogSci major.

I don’t know how much the Founder’s Scholarship is at Scripps (presumably somewhere in the 15-20K range?) but I would be reluctant to pass up a merit award from Scripps to full-pay at Pitzer. Both schools offer access to nearly all the same resources. “Fit” factors are a matter of preference, but students socialize and participate in extracurriculars across all campuses anyway.

The UC’s are no bargain for an international student. If she doesn’t have a Regents offer that confers priority registration, getting the classes she wants can be a hassle. Lower-division classes will be large, and forming relationships with faculty will require a lot of initiative. Majors like bio/neuroscience that are full of aspiring pre-meds can involve a lot of competition for grades. They are excellent schools, but you’d be paying close to private college prices for the drawbacks of a crowded public university. For in-state students, the ROI is still excellent, but in your situation, I’d give the Claremonts very serious consideration. But it does of course depend on the temperament and preferences of the student!

To revisit the Cognitive Science question… that’s a very strong department at UCSD, and not impacted, so that path would be an option. There’s a neuroscience specialization within CogSci B.S. Spec. Neuroscience that is worth a close comparison with the bio-based path. For bio/neuroscience, Davis has a lot of really great options.

No bad choice here, but as you say, no bargains on the list either! Congrats on having good choices, though!


I agree that Pitzer and Scripps will have a very similar (almost identical) feel in the classroom for a neuroscience major. If she wants a 5C, I’d go with the school that is less expensive. At both schools, the classes will be small and she will get plenty of personal attention from her professors. More importantly, she won’t struggle to get into classes, which is a real concern at all of the UCs, especially for first years and sophomores.

Here in California, UCI has a reputation as a commuter school where lots of students are local and go home for the weekend. That might be a challenge for an international student who is looking for a peer group. The kids I know who have gone to Davis have LOVED the community and the student life there. (I don’t know anything about UCSD.)


totally agreed about Irvine’s reputation. I wouldn’t send an international student there because I think it would be harder to acclimate/make friends. (Even friends from Northern California have kids struggle there because they are deserted on weekends by local students going home!)

Between UCD and UCSD - both are excellent, but I think UCSD probaby wins in terms of the cog sci program. However, they are both very well regarded. Davis and San Diego are college town vs a bigger city, mountains vs beach…

Personally, if I were an international parent, I would encourage my child to go to Scripps or Pitzer (attend the cheaper one unless they really want a women’s college). Smaller and will have more support and it will likely be more nurturing. That said, if they want a bigger school, then I’d do UCSD.

Good luck, all great choices!

I stand corrected. Meant quarters!

“Here in California, UCI has a reputation as a commuter school where lots of students are local and go home for the weekend. That might be a challenge for an international student who is looking for a peer group. The kids I know who have gone to Davis have LOVED the community and the student life there.”

Absolutely agree with this information.
Davis is huge but has such a variety of activities, 40k bikes on campus, green campus using newer technologies, international cuisine, free tutoring, and a great student community.

Re UCSD, yes it has good academics, but the social life there is lacking. Local students avoid going there. It is known as UCSD=University of California for the Socially Dead.

The school has tried to change that reputation but it’s been hard. It’s in an expensive area where rents are ridiculous. The school is always lacking student housing. Public transportation is nearby, because there is always ongoing construction, but getting around, outside of the campus, can be rough-crossing those very busy, large intersections, to get to the shopping center, is a pain. You will need to get rides to go anywhere else. It’s not a very walkable community.



Thanks guys. This is all very informative. Now we are trying to connect alumni from scripps and pitzer so see what is the real feel.

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My DD attends Pitzer and is a Neuroscience Major! She’s currently a Sophomore and loves the campus, students. Professors. She gets one on one time and takes courses at all the 5C’s. She studies hard, but has multiple study groups - collabrative environment, great social life, clubs and dining hall! Students can eat at any campus. Ontario Airport is a 10 min uber ride. She will find friends for life at Pitzer or Scripps! Congrats!


All of the schools you listed are obviously good schools. UCSD neuroscience is basically second to none. I am speaking about their graduate program and research reputation. I don’t know about the undergraduate program, but I would think that’s also excellent.

However, in general, I don’t think that undergrad majors in neuroscience are a great idea. They restrict in a way that is unhelpful for future directions and job searching. They are too niche, and do not serve the student nearly as well as a broader degree with a concentration would. Something like a biochem major with a neuro minor is great. You don’t even need an official neuro concentration if they don’t offer one–you can just take a bunch of neuro electives. I guess it’s fine to do a neuro major if you are positive you want to do a neuroscience PhD later, but it wouldn’t really give you much of an advantage in that scenario either.

That said, I would make an exception for doing an undergrad neurosci degree someplace like UCSD, which is widely regarded (by neuroscientists) as the top neuroscience institution in the US. I still think it’s prudent to do the more generic degree, but at least a UCSD neurosci degree would have some cache (amongst other neuroscientists). If she’s not at UCSD, the marketability of the neurosci degree goes way down. The Claremonts are wonderful schools but there is nothing special about neuroscience there. Davis is a great med/bio school, but again, nothing super special about neuroscience there, nor at Irvine.

Unless she has some overwhelmingly compelling reason to do a neuroscience major specifically, I would encourage your daughter to consider pursuing a more general major degree (chem, bio, physics, bioengineering, or psych) with a neuro minor/concentration. A double major would also be fine (such as bio/neuro). Best of luck!

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Now she got into Berkeley and Duke. So choice have changed

It would’ve saved everyone’s time if you had asked after all decisions came out.
Spent 30 mins to read all the comments until now. :frowning: