Jump to content

ADP: Another Decision Post (UC Berkeley vs Northwestern vs UC Santa Cruz vs CU Boulder)

Recommended Posts

I've read through a few of these threads, and the common theme seems to be people who clearly (from an outsider's perspective) already know what they want coming to that realization on their own by hearing input from others.


So...here I am. Possibly already decided, but certainly don't feel that way.

I've been accepted to UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, Northwestern, and CU Boulder for CS PhD programs. As far as I can see, here is how things breakdown. Stipends are comparable at each school:

UC Berkeley

  1. Area: I don't love NorCal (I lived in the area for ~7 years so I'm pretty familiar), but there are a TON of opportunities to get involved with startups in the area.
  2. Research fit: AWESOME, I'd work on super wacky stuff the likes of which I haven't seen at other places. I also love the prof BUT he can be EXTREMELY difficult to get in touch with. That's been a problem for me in the past - I'm independent, but I don't like to be completely abandoned.
  3. Prestige: Super high obviously.
  4. Long-term prospects: Name recognition through the roof, plus I'd likely already develop relationships with awesome industry companies.
  5. Focus: Developing new platforms.

UC Santa Cruz

  1. Area: Again, NorCal, not my fave, but off in the woods seems like a better fit for me. Still plenty of great access to the startups and so forth in the area.
  2. Research fit: Also AWESOME. I'd be working with a professor who does super wacky stuff that's right up my alley. I've felt the strongest "gut fit" with this prof.
  3. Prestige: Not so great?
  4. Long-term prospects: I'd develop some strong relationships that could take me far, and doing research that I'm super interested in sounds excellent.
  5. Focus: Playful technology / user-centered design / games

CU Boulder

  1. Area: My absolute favorite place by far, hands down. Living here would be a joy every day. Some tech startup activity in the area, but probably not much compared to the Bay Area.
  2. Research fit: EXCELLENT. Very interdisciplinary campus, new program ramping up (I tend to thrive in slightly chaotic environments like this as long as I'm given the power to change things).
  3. Prestige: Not so great?
  4. Long-term prospects: Craft technology / schools


  1. Area: Chicago, big cities just aren't my thing. BUT, they do have opportunities, and I'd do work in museums, and possibly with some amazing performing groups there.
  2. Research fit: Great, I think? I'm questioning my commitment to the focus here, but until super recently I was way gung-ho about it.
  3. Prestige: Excellent.
  4. Long-term prospects: I'd build relationships with museums, since that's the main focus of the lab.


Anyway, there's no clear winner here to me, at least. I...I'm not even sure what I'm asking for... I guess I'm just hoping that if I type this all out, someone will be able to hold up a mirror to what I've said and help me see my own hopes and dreams more clearly.


Here's a question I guess: How does CU Boulder rank as compared with Santa Cruz or Northwestern?

Link to post
Share on other sites

If stipends are indeed comparable, then I'd consider cost of living. Berkeley is probably the most expensive of the four places. Personally, I think Chicago is fun but I hate winter so I wouldn't want to live there. The UC Santa Cruz option sounds like a good mix of access to startups and a surrounding environment you'll like. Then again, I have no clue what the rankings in CS look like or what you want to do after the PhD...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh thanks for the quick reply!

I'm not actually sure the stipends are comparable (I was actually assuming they'd all provide me with similar lifestyle, not that the actual amounts were the same, but that they were scaled appropriately based on what I'd be spending my money on in each region, if that makes sense). Not all schools have given me information, and those that have all give it in different formats. One school specifies that it's for 4 years, and the other schools don't indicate, so I'm not sure if I'm meant to assume that it's only for 1 year or what. Either way, I'll ask for more details at the various visit weekends and that should help inform my decisions.

And you ask good questions...I guess I honestly don't know what I want to do after the PhD... I've never been the type of person to plan more than 5 years in advance, but I HAVE been the type of person to create interesting opportunities wherever I go, so I didn't really worry about that too much. But I guess your point is that thinking about that will inform my decision.... you're right - I should spend some time thinking about that. Thanks!


As for rankings I know that Berkeley is very high (top 3?) and CU Boulder is 45th in the nation. (Now's where I feel like I'll sound a bit like a jerk). 45th in the nation sounds....super low to me. Am I being ridiculous?



Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.