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Masters in Computer Engineering - UCSD or USC?


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I've been recently admitted to both (Computer Science & Engineering - UC San Diego, Computer Engineering - U Southern California). I have trouble deciding which one I should pick, so I will lay out what I have discovered so far.

1. A little bit of background
I received BS Computer Engineering from Purdue University. Being an out-of-nowhere campus, I am hardly able to land jobs that I really like doing. I ended up working for a traditional company in a tiny town. Although the money is really good and the technical challenge is just ok, I don't really have passion for my work and I hate the town I live in. So I set out my eyes to California looking for better opportunities.

2. Academic
USC is private school, and according to startcollege.com it has lower student-to-faculty ratio. This means smaller classes, which I prefer.

3. Research
I have designated my preferred research area in my Statement of Purpose, although I have no idea whether I could check which I'll be assigned to at the moment (or can I?)

4. Location
LA has a ton of opportunities. San Diego is not as big, but still much better than my current town.
USC campus, as far as I heard, is located in not-so-safe neighborhood. The nearest beach is 30 minutes of drive away on interstate.
La Jolla, where UCSD is, lays along beautiful beach. Granted, as much as I like jogging along coastal lines and swimming, being enrolled in highly competitive graduate program means less time for such recreation. They also have modern architecture which I prefer, and great natural preserves.

5. Funding
Funding is not an issue. I'm an international student. Even with higher private school's tuition fee, I am able to cover the first year with my own saving and my parents are willing to cover the second year's cost.

6. Start of Semester
USC offered me summer start, which mean I can leave my job earlier.

7. Industrial Connection
My guess is USC, being in LA vicinity, has wider connections. At this moment, I'm still split whether to continue with PhD or to return to industry.

8. Prestige
I totally have no idea about this. But being Asian, prestige and rank are important factors (not to myself personally, but more to parents, relatives, and potential mating partners).

9. Other options
I haven't heard back from UT Austin, UCLA, UC Irvine, and Stanford. But having been rejected by Berkeley 1 month ago, I'm not expecting too much from Stanford.

Please help by voicing your opinions. I've been scrounging Quora for articles regarding UCSD and USC but couldn't find something decisive to tip the scale.

Thanks beforehand.

Edited by gbudiman
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2. Don't know about Engineering, but in CS, USC's classes are huge. Their algorithms class has like 500 students! They basically admit as many students as possible, especially internationals. According to Wikipedia, USC has 18k undergrads and 23k postgrads. That should be awfully telling. They're one of the biggest private schools in the country, so don't let "private" fool you.

4. USC is in a horrible neighborhood. San Diego (and La Jolla) is beautiful. Fantastic weather. USC is very far inland, which means hot summers. It might be half an hour from the beach with no traffic. Realistically, you won't be that lucky most of the time. UCSD seems to have a stronger name when applying to industry. I've met plenty of people from UCSD/UCLA in SF. Don't know anyone from USC.

6. ...and you can save more if you work an extra couple months. UCSD is also on a quarter system, which may let you graduate faster (5 quarters, possibly even 4, instead of 4 semesters).

8. Who cares? USC has a good football team. UCSD is a better school.

I'd avoid USC at all costs and pick either UCSD or UCLA or UT Austin (if you get in), depending on your interests.

On the flip side, USC may be cheaper to live at since it's in a terrible area. UCLA area housing is really expensive. UCSD area housing is kind of expensive. UT Austin would be the lowest COL though.

UCSD is probably also the best school for getting recruited to Qualcomm if you're interested in them. I'm not on the engineering side but I imagine they have some pretty good opportunities.

Edited by svent
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