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More prestige and stress, or less prestige and more relaxed? (UCSF vs UCSD)


dorpedo
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Specifically, I am deciding between UCSF's DSCB program vs. UCSD's BMS.

 

UCSF's program is amazing. Brilliant professors; a true incubator of academic talent. But I got the overwhelming feeling of an elitist environment. I could tell speaking to the grad students that the place is very academically rigorous, and I can't help but fear that I won't be able to keep up with them.

 

On the other hand, UCSD was completely laid back, and the grad students there were relaxed and happy. But I worry that the name-recognition won't be as good, and I might get distracted by the weather and the more laid-back/partying atmosphere.

 

I am equally interested in the research at both places.

 

I'm stuck, and the deadline is next week! Help!

 

 

 

*I posted this already in decisions, but then noticed the freak-out forum, and thought it would be more appropriate here. Sorry mods

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You were admitted to UCSF's program because they were confident you would be able to successfully complete your degree there. If UCSF is truly the academic powerhouse that you say it is in your field and if it will help you accomplish your career goals then it should be the obvious answer here.

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Don't know anything about the programs, and obviously haven't had the experience you have, but I'd be somewhat wary of judging the rigour of a program just from a visit and talking to some people. There are all sorts of reasons why department cultures might differ, and just because the students seem 'relaxed and happy' I don't think you should necessarily assume that the program is less demanding or not as serious.

 

I think perhaps a better indicator are any 'hard' facts you can find: placement records, course syllabi, looking at any available exams, etc. Plus, since you voice your doubts, you should also consider what kind of environment is more likely to be to your ultimate benefit, in terms of a conducive environment in which you'll actually finish your degree. Doing a PhD is 90 percent motivation and emotional perseverance/stability, which to me depends a lot on the prevailing atmosphere. Everyone who's there has the intelligence to be there. Not suggesting any particular choice here, just a couple things to think about. 

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^ Agree with wtncffts. Just because the students at UCSD seem more relaxed, does not mean the program is easier. I think you need to choose where you will succeed based on your personal needs. On one hand, if UCSF stresses you out, maybe not a great place for you. On the other, the department obviously thinks you have what it takes to succeed there or else you would not be admitted.

 

Just as an aside, UCSD does not necessarily have a party atmosphere to be concerned about (just speaking from experience as I went there as an undergrad).

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Thanks guys. The thing is, I think I got lucky at UCSF. I happened to be interviewed by a guy that went to my undergrad, and he took a liking to me. I didn't even talk much at the interviews. I am worried that I'll be extra stressed at SF. Thanks for your thoughts, though!

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Thanks guys. The thing is, I think I got lucky at UCSF. I happened to be interviewed by a guy that went to my undergrad, and he took a liking to me. I didn't even talk much at the interviews. I am worried that I'll be extra stressed at SF. Thanks for your thoughts, though!

 

Don't let what might be a textbook case of impostor syndrome hold you back from the best school for your career, especially since you're studying biology. You want to maximize your chances of getting an academic position. UCSD Scripps is very good at biological sciences as well but from what you say it appears that UCSF has the better track record for academic placement. Talk to your professors and advisors. I'm currently grappling with my own insecurities about my ability to keep up at a very mathematical program I was admitted to, but my professors assured me that they wouldn't offer funding to someone if they weren't absolutely sure they'd succeed. Just because someone went to the same undergraduate college doesn't mean they'll risk that much money. 

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