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Santa Barbara vs. Boulder vs. Ann Arbor vs. Newark, DE

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I've gotten into the schools mentioned above (UMichigan, CU Boulder, U Delaware, UC Santa Barbara) for engineering PhD and would appreciate input about living (cost, quality of life, socialness, parking) from anyone who has attended these schools. Any input helps!

 

Thanks

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Boulder is an amazing place to live--it's beautiful and fun! BUT, that does mean it comes at a cost. It's really expensive to live here. However, I think it can be manageable if you have roommates and live a little further out from campus (the bus system here is incredible). In terms of parking, it is tough to find free parking in this town! Parking permits for campus cost around $70 a month. Let me know if you have any other questions :) and congrats! 

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I've heard Boulder is beautiful, but never been. Ann Arbor might be the cheapest to live in (not sure). Santa Barbara (Goleta, actually) would be the most expensive for housing, but not by too much. Boulder isn't cheap, and although Santa Barbara is quite expensive, Goleta isn't too bad by California standards (traffic is pretty light compared to LA/SF, too). But CA involves a lot of driving and gas is very expensive there. Parking is pretty easy at UDel and UCSB (but not free). I'd imagine socially, UCSB > Boulder > UMich/UDel. Perhaps you can be specific about your field, but it seems like UD is a notch below the other three, and UMich would be the most prestigious school on the list.

When people talk up UD's quality of life, they give pros of it being near so many great places (NY, Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC). Well maybe so, but Newark is pretty boring. Goleta isn't the biggest city in the world, but it's got great beaches and mountains. It's a few miles from Santa Barbara for some nightlife, and a couple hours from LA/Anaheim if you want a lot more to do. It's also a reasonable drive to San Diego, or even San Francisco. Boulder has Denver for more nightlife, but Colorado is pretty isolated. If you had 8 hours, you could probably drive to Salt Lake City or Albuquerque (which aren't the most exciting cities), but it's really far from everywhere.

But honestly, I think you should decide based on career opportunity, not social life. This isn't college. You can find things to do for fun.

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I'm a student at Delaware, and honestly, I really like it. If you're a city person, it may not be your speed, since it is a small town (plenty of bars, restaurants, college students, and strip malls, but that's about it downtown). However, it has everything I need, it's very safe, convenient, walkable, and affordable (no sales tax)! I know a lot of people in my program coming from places like NYC or London like to trash Newark, but it's just small. If you can handle small, it's great. There's no airport nearby (closest is Philly, about 40 minutes away), but lots of East Coast cities are within a day's drive, and the beach is just 90 minutes away!

cost = average/good? I rent a room in a house for 500/month, apartments run about 700-1000 in downtown Newark, but likely cheaper if you're willing to drive. I think food and gas are cheaper than many other places in the US.

quality of life = great! not much crime, plenty of nature, easy access to groceries/movies/target/car dealerships/doctors, no complaints.

socialness = for a grad student I'd say this really depends on your program. My social life is plenty since I should be doing research most of the time anyway, but apart from other grad students, you might have trouble finding a lot of age-matched locals to hang out with. There are a lot of undergrads. We have a graduate student government ("GSG") which plans events for grad students, and a speakeasy that just opened which is only for grads and faculty (but really mostly grads). Plus, close enough to Wilmington or Philly if you are looking to go out on weekends or something.

parking = parking on campus is pretty expensive. I have a yearly pass for around 600$, but it's right across from my department and I can park anytime. Parking downtown is mainly metered, and it can be a little tough to park during the day in prime spots. there are also a few city lots which are occasionally full.

feel free to ask me any questions about the area! I wish I could stay after I graduate, but there aren't a ton of jobs outside the university.

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i went to undergrad at UD ('09 grad). i know it's great for engineering since a bunch of my friends and my boyfriend were in the engineering program. i'm from NY originally (long island) and i prefer to live in a cultural/outdoorsy/liberal place.

delaware is GREAT if you're from delaware. everyone knows everyone. you can always run into someone you know, especially down the beach. it's comforting and it's just nice to see friendly faces everywhere. people from delaware think delaware is really great. i had a great time in college there - parties/bars/restaurants are all awesome. i go back a lot because my boyfriend is from there. it has grown on me.

however, i personally would not move there for grad. it is not the experience i'm looking for. college is great, so are the professors, but i'm looking for a life experience along with grad school. the surrounding area is not great, but the main street on campus is awesome - also full of drunk college kids. rent is obnoxiously expensive considering nothing else is going on (small nice one bedroom apartment near campus will be over $1,000). i refuse to settle down there because the public schools are shitty and the perspective is too narrow. there is not much going on in wilmington (it's also like the rape capital of the US). philly is great, but you won't be going there - you're an hour from downtown. 

but, again, it depends on your preferences and what you're looking for. if you're more of a small town mindset, foodie, binge drinker, hard core academic... you'd like it. i LOVED going there for undergrad. but i'm in a different place in my life now.

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