Would I be crazy to pick USC over Columbia?

Hello everyone!

So I’m super excited because I just received my acceptances to both USC (MS Electrical & Computer Engr- Machine Learning) and Columbia CVN (MSEE). I plan on doing both programs online. I got into USC first and was so set on attending it but when my Columbia acceptance came in, everything feels different and now I’m torn about what to do.

I’m located here in Los Angeles and I currently work for a defense company that will cover 10k of tuition a year. The advantages that come with attending USC are that I can crash lectures when I want to, network with other students, and work in a research lab if I wanted to as well. I wanted something similar to a college experience, although, I realized I will not get it because most of the classes are in the middle of the day so online it is. It will take me 3.5 years to complete the degree and I will end up paying 20-25k out of pocket. USC raises their tuition every year so it may be more than 25k.

Moreover, I think it’s safe to say that I would get a better education at Columbia given that they can recruit top professors. Also, the name recognition will open doors for me and given that I went to a local state school, this will be advantageous for me. However, I do miss out on the on campus opportunities that come with USC. I may move out my last year to NYC to finish my degree though that’s up in the air. If i can stretch the degree to 5 years, I’ll pay 10k out of pocket. If I do 4 years, then 20k.

Anyways, any advice about what to do would be greatly appreciated. Especially if you attended one of the two universities. The length that it takes to complete the degree isn’t relevant to me; I don’t mind staying in school. I also plan on sticking with industry work post graduation. Thanks in advance!

If you take 4-5 years to complete a MS and you are working in that industry that entire time, I think that your work experience will be much more important than the name of your graduate school.


And USC is top 20\25 in most rankings I’ve seen. Once you’re past MIT/Stanford/CMU/Berkeley, I don’t think “name recognition”, reputation, etc., is much different among other top tier schools, in which I would include both of your options.

I also wouldn’t agree that “ it’s safe to say that I would get a better education at Columbia”. You’ll get out what you put in, and that variance would be greater than school differences in facilities, professors, etc., IMHO. Especially if you can do some work on site at USC vs. purely remote.

Hey there,

Thanks for your response. I had other colleagues point out that industry experience will mean more than a college name. I guess since I went to a CSU I feel like i had missed out on many opportunities due to my college being subpar. For example, it was difficult working with other students that didn’t really put in much effort. So it is very much what you put in.

It’s really a tough decision to make and I will wait until I get a response about financial aid at USC. If they give me a nice package, i will consider it a sign from the universe. Thanks again.

I have a Masters in Industrial Engineering from USC. The name of your school doesn’t matter that much for an engineering degree. It is true that your work experience will matter much more than what school you went to.

I also strongly disagree with the idea that you’ll get a better education at Columbia than USC. I’ve taken classes at lots of colleges, from Stanford to community college. You’ll always get a mix of good and bad professors no matter where you go. And as mentioned, you get out of school what you put into it, especially for an engineering degree. The only reason I would pick Columbia in this case is if I wanted to move to New York City to attend school.

I’m not a big believer in school rankings other than they’re fun to look at, but I happened to look at the US News ranking of graduate engineering schools, and USC is at #10 and Columbia is at #14.

Columbia>USC. Period.