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UC Davis (University Honors Program) vs UC Berkeley

GoldCarnaGoldCarna Registered User Posts: 13 New Member

I am a chronically ill (important detail) incoming Environmental Science/Policy undergraduate with an interest in going to graduate school. I am in quite of a bind currently, and I sincerely require assistance. After getting various results back from college admissions all over the US, my top two choices are now UC Berkeley and UC Davis. This may look like a clear choice to some, but there is a certain factor that makes this all the more difficult: my admission into UC Davis’ University Honors Program. And there are plenty of other extraneous factors as well.

UHP represents the top 3% of incoming undergraduates at UC Davis and offers various benefits, such as prioritized class registration (which I know is a HUGE bonus), completion of specialized honors projects/capstone, wide variety of open internship opportunities, personal connections with universities and alumni (and thus a support network for future jobs, etc.), and so on.
While UC Davis is a top veterinary, agriculture, and engineering university, their Environmental Policy/Science major is quite good as well (#6 in the world, #2 within the UCs). In addition, considering my interest in policy, Sacramento is right there. That’s a definite bonus, especially knowing that students have the ability to intern in the capitol itself.
In addition, the flat and relatively small campus is a huge bonus considering my arthritic conditions, which are incredibly painful and have landed me as a physically disabled student. This means that I will put less strain on my body and will have more energy to focus my attention on academics. UC Davis also is very clear about their solid disabilities assistance, which is also important.

However, here is the biggest con; I don’t feel like I want to go there. Perhaps it’s because the days where I visited the campus were rainy and devoid of students (compared to Cal Day), but I just don’t feel the pull. I simply don’t feel like I’d be happy there. While being surrounded by nature is great for my mood, the city of Davis is unbearably small and silent, and the campus doesn’t have the energetic aura of drive and passion that I felt at Berkeley. It feels almost dead, like I’m in the middle of nowhere. It just… Feel off. I feel as if I have barely a reason to go to UC Davis other than the UHP program I got into.
On the contrary, UC Berkeley immediately grabbed me as I walked in. I saw two demonstrations within the first 10 minutes of me walking in (which I determine is an accurate gauge of student drive/activism), and the campus is beautiful with a wonderful balance of trees, rolling hills, and buildings-- enough to satisfy me, at least. The student body is noticeably diverse and I just feel so much better there, like I’m amidst something meaningful. In terms of campus and student body aura, UC Berkeley 100% takes the cake. Because my father previously worked at UCB and I was born there, I have several groups of family friends that I could turn to if I find myself in need of assistance. While I am a relative introvert with absolutely no desire to party or involve myself in hivemind activities, I do feel more comfortable in a bustling city than one that is empty and dead.
UC Berkeley is #1 within public universities for Environmental Science and is world-class in the field, which is an immediate plus to me going there. In terms of academics, the College of Natural Resources is relatively small compared to the rest of the campus, so I will have far more access to peer advisors, scholarship opportunities, etc, which I hear is a problem for those who are pursuing more impacted majors. Compared to UC Davis, UC Berkeley has a stronger (and according to rumors, more flexible) edge to environmental fields. That’s a good enough reason for me to go there, at least at first.

Unlike UC Davis, UC Berkeley is very hilly and mildly geographically extreme, which is not a good sign for me being there; even being there for just Cal Day hurt my joints, which is concerning. To make matters worse, UC Berkeley has far less resources for physically disabled students (I checked the department myself, and was shocked). My physical health absolutely affects my school performance, as does my mental state. Similarly, because of spending half of my life in hospitals with chronic illnesses and a side of personal life problems, I have grown to be more dependent than independent on others and have untreated mental health issues that absolutely affect my academic performance.
The reason I mentioned all of this is that UC Berkeley has a reputation for being a breeding ground for depression. Or at least, it is far less warm towards students with mental health problems and offers little assistance. If this is true and I fail to find a therapist soon after moving, I may be in trouble. Even so, the alleged cold nature of UC Berkeley is combated with the fact that there are in fact several groups in Berkeley that offer counseling to those who have the niche main issue that I have, while Davis does not-- if there is, it’s most likely in Sacramento, and I’ll have to travel all the way over there.

TLDR: Everyone -- from my parents to UC Berkeley/UC Davis graduates to famous professors like Mark Juergensmeyer (who I have a personal connection to) -- are telling me that UC Davis is the right choice. Academically, futuristically, etc.

But I am filled with nothing but cold dread when I imagine FORCING myself to go to UC Davis. I feel like I will regret going.

Do I go to the school that is logistically the most fitting academic choice but makes me feel dread and preemptive grief, or go to the school that I feel better at but at the cost of the UHP and all of the input from people who know me and the system better, not to mention the troubles that I know exist at Berkeley?

Thanks for listening… or reading, that is.

Replies to: UC Davis (University Honors Program) vs UC Berkeley

  • claystar9claystar9 Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    There is a Sutter hospital on Covell Blvd in North Davis.
  • GoldCarnaGoldCarna Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    1. I have several autoimmune conditions, such as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, and have several conditions after that (Fibromyalgia, organ dysfunction, sudden bouts of immobility, etc). I prefer to be near a strong emergency clinic since I find myself in the ER at least one a year (last year was a lovely bout of Anaphylactic Shock). My conditions are definitely serious, but as long as specialized doctors aren't over an hour away, I believe I can settle with Sacramento.
    2. Wheelchairs aren't a common occurrence to me yet, but I often find myself needing help going up stairs, hills, etc (and by help I mean for someone to partly drag me up haha). UC Davis' flat campus is a definite plus in that sense, because I was having quite a bit of trouble on UC Berkeley's campus.
    3. Thank you so much for your input on the campus/social life aspect. I'm glad that it isn't lonely, since that was one of my concerns when I visited UC Davis and looked at where it was located in junction to other large cities. I'm no party animal by any means, but I'd like to spread my wings and become more social rather than stay inside, so I'm definitely excited for a change.
    Could you perhaps elaborate on what the social scene is like at UC Davis? Fun or quirky places to go to in the city? Advice, observations, etc? I'd like to know!

    Thank you for your response!! ^u^
  • hophop Registered User Posts: 856 Member
    My vote (just a stranger on the internet) would be for UC Davis as well.

    The first reason is that even if UCB has the most wonderful support services in the world, the landscape would still work against your physical condition and would put you in a vulnerable spot, both physically and mentally, if you're in constant pain. How would you be able to concentrate and do your best work?
    The other reason is the Honors program, which provide substantive benefits that will allow you preferential scheduling and housing -- two massive challenges that many freshman grapple with.

    As to the vibrancy of the Davis social life, it's there if you look for it. It sounds as if you toured on a quiet day.
    When comparing Davis with the dog and pony show that is Cal Day, I'm not surprised that it felt somewhat lackluster.

    Regardless, you seem like a person who is both astute and introspective, with a healthy attitude toward your 'interesting' physical considerations. Because of that, I would feel confident that you're the type of person who will bloom wherever you're planted.
  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 Registered User Posts: 612 Member
    @GoldCarna "But I am filled with nothing but cold dread when I imagine FORCING myself to go to UC Davis. I feel like I will regret going"; "I just don’t feel the pull. I simply don’t feel like I’d be happy there."

    IMO, you answered your own question and will always have regrets. Go to UCB...it's a fabulous school...
  • GoldCarnaGoldCarna Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    Thank you for your kind words! Yes, the geography of the campus is very much a concern for me, and really the entire geography of Berkeley itself. When I imagine myself going up and down hills for academics, shopping, etc., I can definitely see why Davis would be better.
    I suppose I'm also grappling with what I know about the prestige and reputation of UCB, but I'm encouraged not to think about that as much.
    Would employers and graduate schools take me more seriously if I perform well in UC Davis UHP or if I simply go to UCB? Does undergraduate school prestige make a large difference in employment and admission in the future?
  • GoldCarnaGoldCarna Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    @socaldad2002 Yes, I know that UC Berkeley is a great school-- it's among the top 5 in the entire world, after all. However, the days I went to visit UC Davis were rainy and on the weekend, so I feel that I didn't give it a fair shot as much as the gun-ho Cal Day. Overall, I just don't want to regret anything. Even if I go to UCB, there are several things that may happen to make me regret going there, too, such as the terrain vs my arthritic conditions. It's a mess.
  • hophop Registered User Posts: 856 Member
    Chronic illness is no joke and it can mess with your head.

    For your particular major, employers will recognize Davis as an equal to Berkeley.
  • GoldCarnaGoldCarna Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    Thanks hop! Considering that I will be going to graduate school and I need a solid income to pay for my medications and operations, I'm glad that I will be viewed equally if I perform well at Davis vs Berkeley.
  • OhWhatsHerNameOhWhatsHerName Registered User Posts: 815 Member
    I say this as a Berkeley resident and not a student.

    The campus is tough. It is a great school, but the campus and city is not very accessible. I have trouble getting around it sometimes and I’m just out of shape. That’s a concern reading your post. I’m not going to decide or tell you what you can’t do, I just know if I had health conditions I would not want to go!

    I agree with all reasons for Davis, just thought I’d re-emphasize.
  • aquaptaquapt Registered User Posts: 1,382 Senior Member
    Even without the disability issue, I think your undergraduate experience/opportunities would be better at Davis, with the enhancement of the honors program and all its perks, than at Berkeley where you will get much less faculty attention in your lower-division classes. Berkeley's "top 5 in the entire world" reputation is based on its graduate programs. There's a vibrant community at Davis - don't let one off-day turn you off to a great opportunity. You'd have housing in the Honors LLC, small classes from the beginning... it's a fantastic offer.

    Berkeley has a reputation as the birthplace of the disability rights movement, but they're really not living up to that anymore. It's gritty and hilly and the housing is cramped and inconvenient.

    My opinion is, do your undergrad at Davis and milk the honors program for everything it's worth. Take the shuttle bus to Berkeley for events from time to time, when you're up to it. Maybe even do a summer session at UCB and see how that goes. If you are still feeling the UCB love after a few years and some firsthand experience with the real day-to-day there, then go there for grad school, which is really its strength anyway.

  • aquaptaquapt Registered User Posts: 1,382 Senior Member
    P.S. Just in my own kids' circles, I know multiple kids who turned down Berkeley and UCLA to go to Davis, and haven't regretted it for a second. You would not be an outlier for making this choice, disability or no. My daughter and I had a long conversation with the older sister of one of her friends, who is at Berkeley. She and her best friend both got into UCB, but the friend chose Davis. They visit each other on the shuttle bus, and neither has any regrets. And as happy as the Berkeley girl is, she acknowledged that if she'd chosen Davis (which she actually did, because the particular program she wanted was so strong at UCD, but then changed her mind a day before the deadline) she is certain she wouldn't have regretted that path either. Further, it was clear to us that the level of both extroversion and physical energy that this girl has was key to her ability to be happy at UCB. It's a taxing place in so many ways.
  • ScipioScipio Registered User Posts: 8,701 Senior Member
    edited April 30
    @GoldCarna - so which one did you pick?
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