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Thread: My dilemma: USC or UCLA?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    My dilemma: USC or UCLA?

    Pretty much like the title says, I have a week left to decide and I'm not able to make a comfortable decision yet (although I am leaning towards UCLA very slightly due to the more familiar and comfortable location and environment). I'm going for my masters degree, with a specialization in either transportation or environmental planning.

    Initial cost/tuition isn't a deciding factor for me. Due to a 1/2 tuition scholarship at USC and a 1/2 professional fee fellowship at UCLA, the two schools would have almost identical tuition costs for me. Based on '11 to '12 data, UCLA would cost around 15k per year and USC around 18k a year. But this doesn't take hikes into account (there are rumors of a 9% hike at UCLA). The cost of living at UCLA is slightly higher though.

    One of my main concerns is professional and career services at the respective schools. From what I've seen, USC is better than UCLA in this regard. But is USC significantly better in job and salary stats for planning students after graduation? Similarly, is the likelihood/quality of paid internships superior at USC?

    Also, like a lot of students I'd be looking for paid research or teaching/grading assistantships. Both schools have ample opportunities, but I'm having trouble finding info on which one is better in that regard. Would USC be better due to increase funding availability?

    Pretty much two main concerns are getting a good job after graduation, and opportunities on campus for paid research or teaching assistantships for Masters students.



    What would you do in my position?

    Thanks for any help, peeps!

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally posted by MSahimi View post
    What would you do in my position?
    That's a good question. That tough to answer though. Imagine I have two apples - one is a Granny Smith, the other a Red Delicious. They are both fine apples in their own right, and depending on who you talk to you'll get drastically different views. Are either wrong? Not nessasarily. Are either right? Not nessasarily. Both are going to be incredibly biased. Here's what I have for you - I've known folks that went to USC and have had amazing success getting a job. Likewise, I've had friends that have has similar success at UCLA. Both programs are top 10 in the nation. You can't go wrong. Many people, myself included, would be incredibly pleased to have your 'dilemma.'

    Personally, I lived a few blocks from UCLA a couple years back and loved the area. I loved how walkable it was, how interesting the planning scene in the area was (think subway to the sea), and my favorite thing about the area - Benito's Burritos (great for a 2am burrito fix). The thing I found curious while living in the area was the number of USC students living around me. I don't mean former students, current students. Something is to be said for that. The other USC students I knew lived in Pasadena. Not exactly convenient.

    Just my 2 cents. Take it or leave it. Good luck! And make your choice fast to free up space on that wait list .

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    MSahimi, I just sent you a PM responding to your dilemma.

  4. #4
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    That's a really difficult decision. I was also accepted to both UCLA and USC, and they were also the two schools at the top of my list. I visited both of their open houses, and they're definitely two very different programs. I think that if your costs are comparable, you should really go for what feels like the best fit for you.

    I agree that USC's career services are stronger, and USC also seems stronger to me for anyone with international interests. UCLA's strengths seem more geared toward non-profit work and any topics related to social justice. In my case, I'm planning on doing a transportation concentration, and in that area I was more impressed by UCLA's faculty and research opportunities than I was by USC's. The UC budget situation is always a concern, and I think that USC has more to offer in the way of administrative support due to the fact that they have the money to spend. In terms of second-year funding, my impression is that official RA-ships and TA-ships are probably equally difficult to obtain at both schools, but a UCLA faculty member indicated that getting a research assistant job (not necessarily with tuition-remission) at one of the research institutes was a strong possibility for good students who qualified for graduate work study.

    Personally, I chose UCLA because I was impressed by their transportation program and opportunities, their commitment to social issues, and also because they offered me full tuition + a one year living stipend, while USC offered tuition only (about an $18k difference in cost). I honestly don't know what I would have decided had their offers been as similar as yours are; because I will have a drastically decreased debt load from what I was expecting, I felt more comfortable choosing a school without quite as extensive of a career services program.

    One last thing to consider - USC's tuition awards only cover 48 units, and after that they charge full-price by the unit. UCLA has flat tuition, so if you plan on taking additional classes that's an extra cost to consider when comparing the two.

    Good luck, and I'm sure you'll make the decision that's right for you. I honestly think you can't really go wrong with either school.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    It sounds like you can't go wrong in either case. I only applied to USC so I can only speak to my knowledge there. I remember seeing a stat at the presentation at USC that said the median starting salary for students was something like $56-$58,000 (can't remember which). The latest Planetizen guide has these numbers for UCLA: 90% of 2008 students employed 1 year after graduation, median starting salary of $50,000. Not sure what the internship situation's like at UCLA, but USC students seemed to be able to take internships during the semester and in the summer. Also, at either school there are research centers you can find work. Based on what I've heard from other schools, it seems if you're persistent and make connections you can get an assistantship. One thing to consider for USC is that being in the Price School there are a lot of professors you can try to work for in closely related fields like public policy, public administration, and real estate development. I know the most recent number I have for UCLA tuition put it at $10,768 so state budget cuts are surely taking a toll that will raise tuition. But, honestly, you can't go wrong either way. I think you should go with your gut and for your peace of mind go where you think you'll be happiest. Best of luck! Let us know what you decide.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally posted by NickSticks View post
    MSahimi, I just sent you a PM responding to your dilemma.
    NickSticks, is there anyway I can message you with questions about USC? I recently found this forum and I am in a similar dilemma, but I can't send any PM's since I'm new on here. Thanks!

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Sure! I went ahead and sent you an email through the link on your forum profile. Hopefully you got it.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    I would advise people to take all statistics with a grain of salt. Of course the schools are going to say that 90% of their students are working after a year. But where are they working? I look at these threads and think it's odd that people take things like that into account when applying and deciding where to attend school. Attending USC doesn't mean you'll have a job and doesn't make you more likely than if you attended UCLA. Typically, the people in HR don't give special weight to the school you went to. Thye just check the box about degree and pass the resume on. The important part to remember is to make the most of being in school and learning, please don't rely on "School X" to get you a job.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by sheepie View post
    . UCLA's strengths seem more geared toward non-profit work and any topics related to social justice.
    question for anyone, what other programs seem geared the same way?



    by the way, I'd love to be in your shoes next year choosing between usc and ucla

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