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UC Berkeley vs. Stanford: Which College is Right for You?

As both boast easy access to major cities, close proximity to Silicon Valley, and sterling reputations for delivering a world-class education, it can be hard to know which school‒UC Berkeley vs. Stanford University‒is right for you. Choosing between these two U.S. News nationally ranked universities can be quite challenging, but understanding some key facts about the two can help make your decision clear. Here’s what you need to know if you’re trying to decide between two exceptional schools: Stanford vs. UC Berkeley edition. 


UC Berkeley vs. Stanford: A Quick Overview


  UC Berkeley  Stanford
Location Berkeley, CA Stanford, CA
Campus Type Urban  Suburban 
Undergraduate Enrollment 31,780 6,996
Acceptance Rate 17% 4%
U.S. News Ranking 22 6
Middle 50% SAT 1330-1530 1440-1570
Middle 50% ACT 29-35 32-35
Sticker Price

In-state: $42,460

Out-of-state: $72,214

Need-blind, no-loan, or meets 100% demonstrated need? N/A



Meets 100% need


UC Berkeley vs. Stanford: A Closer Look


Location and Weather


Located in the Bay Area of California, Berkeley is a quirky smaller city boarding major metropolises like San Francisco and Oakland. Its position allows students to enjoy all the benefits of a big city— including its arts, dining, and cultural hubs—while also offering the chance to retreat to quieter spaces. Berkeley’s weather is much like the city itself: diverse, with four seasons and a generally mild weather. 


Just 40ish miles away on the other side of the bay is Stanford. When comparing Stanford vs. UC Berkeley, Stanford is much more self-contained, with a campus that often feels like a city unto itself. The campus is home to two museums, an “art district,” and a variety of live performances. Stanford is in the heart of Silicon Valley and, like Berkeley, is treated to four seasons including an equally mild weather. 




UC Berkeley is home to 31,348 undergraduate2 along with 11,856 graduates for a total enrollment of 43,204 students. The student-faculty ratio at UC Berkeley is 19:1 and 52.9% of classes have fewer than 20 students in them. 


One major difference between Stanford and UC Berkeley is student body size. Stanford’s total enrollment is just 20,102 students—6,994 undergraduates and 9,310 graduate and professional students. Another noticeable difference is class size; Stanford has an impressive 5:1 student-faculty ratio and almost 70% of classes have fewer than 20 students in them. 




UC Berkeley offers 150 undergraduate majors and minors across its five colleges and one school. Those colleges and schools are:  


  • College of Letters and Science
  • College of Chemistry
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Environmental Design
  • College of Natural Resources
  • Haas School of Business


UC Berkeley offers 150 undergraduate majors and minors and is regarded for its cutting-edge programs, including electrical engineering and computer science, molecular and cell biology, and economics, along with its well-regarded business classes. Its faculty have won Eight Nobel Prizes to date (fun fact: UC Berkeley Nobel Prize winners receive a free lifetime permit to park in the coveted spaces near the central campus). 


Stanford is noted for its seven schools and contiguous campus which creates a multidisciplinary learning environment. Its seven schools are:


  • The Graduate School of Business
  • School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences
  • Graduate School of Education
  • School of Engineering
  • School of Humanities & Sciences
  • School of Law
  • School of Medicine


Considering Stanford’s proximity to Silicon Valley, it comes as no surprise that computer-focused majors, as well as degrees in mathematics and engineering are popular at Stanford. Additionally, global citizenship is a point of emphasis for the school—about 50% of Stanford undergraduates study abroad as part of the Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP). 

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Undergraduates at UC Berkeley are free to choose where they would like to live, whether it’s on campus in a high-rise residence hall, apartment-style living arrangement, or off campus. The school also offers a handful of themed housing options including cultural and special interest houses.


First-year students make up the majority of undergraduates living on campus. Roughly 95% of freshmen live on campus at UC Berkeley, although only about 27% of the total student population lives on campus. 


Housing is another place where the two schools diverge when comparing Stanford to UC Berkeley. Contrary to UC Berkeley, first-year Stanford students are required to live on campus and the majority of undergraduates remain there; 97% of Stanford students live on campus, where housing is guaranteed all four years. 

Financial Aid


The costs of attending these schools differ greatly, particularly if you are a California resident. For in-state students, UC Berkeley is about half as expensive as Stanford. Roughly two-thirds of Berkeley students qualify for financial aid. The average cumulative debt for graduating seniors is $18,225—not bad for a school Payscale ranked 29th nationally for salaries earned by bachelor’s degree holders. Qualifying California residents are eligible for “the University of California Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan,” which allows students from families with annual incomes below $80,000 to pay no tuition at all after grants and scholarships. 


At Stanford, approximately 47% of students receive need-based aid, with the school awarding an average of $52,030. Stanford itself awards aid to about 58% of students and with 47% of students receiving need-based aid—the average need-based scholarship or grant is $54,400. Even if you do need to finance part of a Stanford education, it’s a great investment—U.S. News ranked Stanford sixth in the nation for colleges with the best return on investment.  


Sports and Extracurriculars


UC Berkeley and Stanford both play in the Division I Pac-12 conference and while both are better known for academics than athletics, they each have a well-decorated athletic history. Because the schools are so close in proximity and standing, there is a friendly rivalry between the two schools—their annual football game is known as the “Big Game.”


Internationally, alumni and students from both schools have excelled in athletics. Stanford alumni have won more Olympic medals than almost any other school (with 270 medals, only second to USC’s 309), while UC Berkeley is fourth on the list with 207 medals won. At home, Stanford has won a record 123 NCAA championships and 149 national titles overall, while UC Berkeley has won 97 national team titles and has a combined 312 championships across team and individual sporting events. 


Greek life is also prevalent at both UC Berkeley and Stanford. About 3,600 students—roughly 12% of undergraduates—are members of one of the over 60 fraternities and sororities on UC Berkeley’s campus compared to about a quarter of students at Stanford. Nine fraternities and sororities currently call Stanford’s campus home and the university recognizes 30 Greek organizations. 


Culture and Diversity


The student body at UC Berkeley is diverse, and the majority of the school’s undergraduates identify as people of color. Its proximity to San Francisco—often the called the “Gay Capital of America”—and long-standing left-leaning beliefs make UC Berkeley an inclusive environment for LGBQT students. 


Undergraduate Ethnicity Percentage of Undergraduate Population 
Asian 39%
White 24%
Chicano/Latino 15%
International 12%
African American 3%
Native American/Alaska Native <1%
Pacific Islander <1%
Decline to State 4%


Stanford is home to an extremely diverse student body as well—U.S. News placed it sixth among national universities in its diversity rankings. An equally inclusive campus, Stanford routinely ranks among the nation’s top LGBTQ-friendly schools.


Undergraduate Ethnicity Percentage of Undergraduate Population 
White 32%
Asian  23%
Hispanic or Latino 17%
International 11%
Two or more races 9%
Black or African American 7%
American Indian or Alaska Native 1%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander <1%
Unknown <1%


How to Decide Between UC Berkeley vs. Stanford


Deciding a winner in the UC Berkeley vs. Stanford showdown is a challenge. Both schools have decorated histories, produce exceptional graduates, and earning a degree from either school is sure to open a pathway to a fantastic career. Often, the right college is a matter of fit—that is, how the college meets a student’s interests, expectations, and desired outcomes.  


UC Berkeley is especially strong for students who:


  • Reside in-state and can’t help but notice UC Berkeley is roughly half the cost of Stanford—U.S. News ranks UC Berkeley as the country’s #2 public university. 
  • Want to attend school in a small city while having access to a larger city and its perks. 
  • Want a school that provides an outstanding multidisciplinary education—the school has graduated tech stars like the founders of Intel and Apple, the actor Gregory Peck, author Jack London, and activist Abbie Hoffman.
  • Are unsure of their career path—the school’s vicinity to San Francisco and Silicon Valley puts graduates in prime positions for jobs in everything from international business to tech to consumer goods. 


Stanford is especially strong for students who:


  • Want a career in tech—Hewlett Packard, Google, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, PayPal, YouTube, Yahoo, all boast Stanford alumni as founders or co-founders.  
  • Are entrepreneurial—the school’s star-studded alumni network and student-started incubator create an incredible environment to launch a company. 
  • Are pursuing a STEM education—over half of Stanford’s undergraduates major in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. 
  • Want to attend a school with exceptional academics and athletics. 
  • Have a wide range of interests—Stanford’s quarter system lets you explore more subjects and take 50% more classes than students attending semester-system schools.


Thinking about your odds of acceptance at Stanford vs. UC Berkeley? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.